Growing at the Speed of Light

March 26, 2008 by Christine Macfarlane

Lighting typically consumes 25 percent of the total energy used in commercial buildings, second only to space conditioning, the single biggest energy drain at 30 percent. But installing more efficient lighting can cut energy costs for illumination by 50 percent. DECO Lighting’s mission is to help energy-conscious companies with innovative lighting technologies that improve both lighting quality and lighting economics with reduced energy consumption.

The research and development teams at DECO Lighting and its parent company, DECO Enterprises, work in conjunction with public utility companies and institutions to develop efficient lighting solutions. To date, DECO Lighting professionals have created the standard in reflecterized fluorescent products; they designed the first fluorescent high-bay to replace high intensity definition (HID) fixtures; and they were the first to integrate lighting controls and motion sensors, to bring the “Day Lighting” product to the market, allowing a built-in light level sensor to hold lights off when natural light levels are above the preset.

Seeing the opportunity clearly

With global energy costs rising, DECO Lighting stands to profit handsomely from the growing worldwide demand for energy-efficient lighting solutions. But in order to do so, company executives determined that they needed to invest in an enterprise management solution that could help them achieve their goal of expanding worldwide, providing high quality lighting fixtures and related products to global commercial and utility markets, and positioning the company favorably for an initial public offering.

They knew that without significant upgrades and modifications they couldn’t manage into the future with the US$8,000 solution they’d installed in 2006, just the year before, to replace their spreadsheet, database, and sneaker-net approach. Sam Sinai, DECO Lighting president, says, “Like many mid-sized companies, our capacity for growth was limited by our ability to do all the paperwork. We knew we needed more automation, greater visibility into the whole operation, and the flexibility to change as our business model changes.”

Sinai led the decision-making process and from past experience recommended SAP. “I had known about SAP for a long time but only recently found that there was a version we could afford,” he says. Covient, Inc., an SAP Channel Partner in Beverly Hills, California, showed the management team just what they wanted to see, an affordable, integrated business management application that the company could grow with.

“I really liked it that our employees could optimize their own interfaces for the particular way they interact best with the application. We don’t have to bring in expensive, credentialed outside support, as we would have if we had chosen the Oracle solution,” says Sinai. “Covient also showed us how they would migrate our data so that we wouldn’t lose any of our vitally important information.”

Flipping the switch to go live

Go-live took place over an intense couple of weeks approximately one year ago. “Covient delivered our SAP Business One application on time and on budget,” notes Sinai. “They went above and beyond with their support, teaching users the new functionality – and doing a lot of hand holding. They also set our expectations well in advance so that we could prepare for each implementation phase.”

Highlighting results

It wasn’t long before benefits became tangible. Significantly, Sinai notes that with the greater control that SAP Business One provides they can now sell outside the U.S. and they can manage orders and invoices in local currencies. While the parent company has been selling materials and sub-assemblies internationally for many years, DECO Lighting is now selling fully assembled goods, as well. “We can work with our factory in China and drop ship in the Middle East,” says Sinai. “This means we can grow our name worldwide now.”

DECO Lighting has an extensive catalogue of products, with hundreds of part numbers. They like to drop ship from suppliers as much as possible. Sinai says, “Our new system is set up to give us visibility into products available in any of our suppliers’ locations and to determine quantities in the warehouses.” This insight into inventory enables management to forecast and plan for higher volume sales. “And SAP handles our increasing transaction volumes with ease,” Sinai adds. “I no longer have to stay late to try to cross-reference sales orders.”

Shining in every department

Benefits accrue in all departments. Citing an example, Sinai points out, “The way SAP is integrated sets people up to do their work carefully and successfully. For instance, when accounts payable sends ten checks to print, the system asks for confirmation. People are less likely to make mistakes.”

Sinai says that he personally appreciates the convenience of the patented Drag & Relate functionality in SAP Business One, which allows users to drag information from disparate data stores and link them on the desktop. “I can highlight any kind of data with a mouse click and drag it to just about any menu item and get a report,” explains Sinai. “Say a customer calls and wants to buy a product that DECO customized for another customer. I can go into inventory and drag it to relate to his profile. I negotiate a deal with him in real-time because I see the manufacturer, how much it cost, how much we sold it for previously.”

Sinai also notes that the SAP Business One search function works to great advantage. If a sales person is on the phone with a customer who wants information about the delivery status of an order, all he has to do is go to the search field and type a few characters of a purchase order number plus an asterisk. The system makes suggestions for him to choose from. “He selects the purchase order and the delivery tracking number comes up immediately, complete with links to our DHL or UPS accounts,” he says.

Because he and his team can find things quickly and have confidence in the quality of the information, Sinai points out that their customer service is highly professional. “SAP Business One is good for growing our name and increasing customer retention,” he adds.

As for reporting, Sinai says, “We know what’s outstanding, who owes us what, and how many days past due they are,” he says. “Without alerts for collection it would be easy to miss $50,000 or more in past due accounts.”

Lighting the way to the future

Through efficiencies and productivity improvements DECO Lighting is growing 110 percent faster than before – and the company recovered its investment in SAP Business One in less than one year. “And I can sleep at night now,” adds Sinai. “My sense is that by putting SAP Business One in place we are saving millions of dollars on our way to becoming a Fortune 500 company. In the days ahead, our primary competitors will have to deal with their barriers to operating more efficiently, a challenge that we have already overcome. We have a big advantage.”

There’s still more to come. To fulfill one priority, Covient is working with DECO Lighting to develop a marketing and sales tool for SAP Business One that will provide field representatives with real-time access to inventory and other information. With this tool a rep will be able to sit with a customer, summon up pertinent information, and place orders on the spot. With SAP Business One, DECO Lighting is building its reputation as a very easy-to-do-business-with company.

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