Onwards and Upwards

Further ROI is on the cards for the future; with Bookham expecting additional returns from performance improvements in partner, supply chain and customer interactions within two years. UK-based SAP value added reseller (VAR), Ascent Technology, used its SAP-certified mySAP Connect & Go solution to deliver the industry-specific pre-packaged processes, functionality, documentation and training material Bookham needed for its new Global Enterprise Management System. Under the guidance of Ascent, the system went live in just seven months – an incredible achievement given the scale and complexity of the business. In this short time, mySAP Connect & Go replaced no fewer than seven legacy systems and was seamlessly integrated with Bookham’s specialist Promis production management system. To complicate matters, early on in the implementation process, developers also had to cope with Bookham’s acquisition of the optical components company, Marconi. The takeover of much larger scale Nortel Network’s optical components businesses followed close behind, requiring integration of an additional number of sites into Bookham’s infrastructure. And all this at a typically ‘telecom-meteoric’ rate of growth…

The sky’s the limit

Growth is at the very heart of Bookham’s business and a key driver for the future. Driven by consolidation in the market and customer demand for fewer, larger optical component and subsystem suppliers, Bookham is strategically pre-disposed towards growth and has been on the acquisition path for the past couple of years. Founded by the current chairman, Dr. Andrew Rickman, in 1988, the company started small but its rapid growth has been combined with many technical firsts. Bookham was the very first company to volume manufacture single-chip integrated optical and electronic processing components. The enterprise now designs and manufactures cutting edge, optical and RF solutions for a variety of industry applications, including telecommunications, data communications, aerospace, manufacturing, and the military. The company has more than kept pace with the innovation and speed of the high tech industry – coping along the way with large rises and falls in demand, particularly within the telecommunications sector.

This was the backdrop to Bookham’s decision to revamp their IT infrastructure back in 2002. The firm’s IT and business process set-up at that time was no longer able to support the company’s expansion plans. Systems and processes had been built up and ‘built on’ over a long period of time. Different systems and different databases had resulted in inconsistent information and a high reliance on manual administration. The situation was complex – with financials and logistics running on disparate systems, a lack of structure in forecasting, multiple cross-system batch processes, and particularly poor visibility across raw materials and subassembly inventories. Chris Ayers, Information Systems Manager comments on the situation pre-SAP. “Our systems were not capable of allowing the company to grow. We had multiple, disparate systems and manual links between databases. And our logistics and financial systems couldn’t be backed up without being taken down, so we weren’t available 24×7.”

Less fuss, more flexibility and speed

So when Bookham Technology went in search of a new IT solution in 2002, their requirements were clear-cut. The company needed an IT function that could support high-pace innovation and growth reliably and robustly – coping with 12-18 month product development cycles and 6 month sales life cycles. Systems also had to be able to provide fast, real-time information, and perhaps most importantly, have the flexibility to change quickly when the market dictates.
Bookham president and CEO, Dr. Giorgio Anania, sums up what the company was looking for, “We needed a system that would let us see inside logistics, production, stock levels and so on immediately… We had to have flexibility and speed… When you’re burning significant money every day, you can’t afford to wait three extra weeks to get the numbers.” The company set out to find a pre-packaged software solution that incorporated best practices, wouldn’t require lengthy business process re-engineering and yet would still be big and flexible enough to cope with their business. After three months of due diligence involving senior management from across the business, Bookham selected SAP’s and Ascent Technology’s pre-packaged mySAP Connect & Go solution over providers such as Oracle, PeopleSoft and JD Edwards.
Ascent Technology got to work quickly planning and implementing a virtually ‘out-of-the-box’ system with pre-configured templates and industry best practices. Bookham’s business was gradually mapped to a prescribed platform with tried and tested business processes.

Strength in numbers

Fifteen months down the line, the results speak for themselves. Materials Resource Planning (MRP) can now be executed in 5 seconds – a vast improvement on the previous batch run which used to run overnight. Purchase requisitions that could have taken days to sign off in the past can now be processed almost instantaneously. Visibility is optimum and data transfer between functional areas is real-time and instant.
Efficiency is undoubtedly on the up and not just in production. The month end close is a clear indicator of enhanced business efficiency – with what used to take 15 days now ticking over in a period of only four days. This not only brings improved decision-making across the company, it also reduces costs. In total, business process streamlining adds up to cost savings of around £1 million. And Chris Ayers is confident of further gains in the future. “There are even more efficiencies to be gained as the company matures with SAP, and because the software is flexible, it will provide a platform for growth. I’m convinced that the solution we have now will enable us to integrate other companies as we move forward with our acquisition path.”
So far this has held true. The company acquired Ignis Optics Inc in October 2003 and most recently announced a proposed agreement to acquire New Focus Inc, a leading provider of Photonics and microwave solutions. This latest proposed acquisition marks the expansion of the company’s non-telecom business and looks set to provide significant integration challenges in the weeks ahead.
Source in part: Manufacturing Computer Solutions www.mcsolutions.co.uk.

Lindsay Johnson
Lindsay Johnson