Raising Flags and Fortunes

As official flag supplier to the United Nations, Annin & Co. can certainly do some flag waving of its own. The oldest and largest flag manufacturer in the world, Annin & Co.’s flags have flown at every US inauguration since 1849, as well as to the moon on Apollo missions. The year 2001 marked another milestone in the company’s history when a sudden increase in patriotism after 9/11 tripled US flag demand. Adding to that was the previous acquisition of a large competitor. As a result, Annin & Co.’s 18-year-old manufacturing resource planning (MRP) system began to show its age as the company grew and ramped up production.
“We needed more robust software to keep up with our growth,” says Vice President of Manufacturing and Business Systems Carter Beard, a descendent of the original family owners. “To keep up with demand, we needed multi-plant MRP functionality, more integrated financials and more powerful customer service capabilities.” Annin & Co. chose a mySAP ERP solution with end-to-end functionality for finance, production planning, materials management, warehouse management and sales & distribution. Instead of a long-term phased implementation approach, Annin & Co. opted for a more aggressive, yet successful, cutover.
“We went from running the entire company on our old software to running it on mySAP ERP in one weekend,” Beard says. “We called it our ‘big bang,’ simultaneously rolling out five major modules to 100 users at five sites. With help from SAP Business Partners, we came in on time and within our budget range.” Beard says the SAP solution will adapt and expand to keep up with the company’s growth. “With our mySAP ERP solution, we can grow to be as large as we want and the software will scale to handle it.”

Freedom from complexity

SMBs are often hesitant to adopt new software for enterprise resource planning (ERP), even when it’s sorely needed, because they consider the implementation process too lengthy and complicated. Like most small and midsize businesses (SMBs), Annin & Co. didn’t have the expertise in-house to take on the implementation. Annin & Co. engaged SAP Business Partners to make the experience less complex and reduce time to benefit. SAP business partners AnswerThink and CIBER, Inc. assisted Annin & Co. throughout the process, from sales to implementation and support. AnswerThink helped Annin & Co. define and analyze business needs, recommended the SAP software and scoped the solution. CIBER stepped in as implementation partner to guide Annin & Co. through the 12-month configuration and implementation schedule that would prepare Annin & Co. for the September, 2003 go live date.
A team of CIBER consultants worked closely with Annin & Co.’s own internal cross-functional team, comprised of representatives from finance, sales and distribution, purchasing and production. This work took place during Annin & Co.’s off-season, allowing internal resources to continue their duties while offering their expertise to the project. Training also took place during this period, keeping users productive through the busy season while they readied for the upcoming switch. CIBER employed SAP’s proven implementation methodologies – based on best practices and preconfigured templates – to speed implementation, reduce risks and ensure reliable results.
“Considering I expected a very bumpy ‘go live’ experience, the smoothness of the transition exceeded my expectations,” says Beard. “The consultants were extremely knowledgeable about how to configure the system and manage the project. There’s no way our company would have gone live without a good SAP implementation partner like CIBER.”

Keeping productivity high

Today, 10 months after rollout, Beard says the mySAP ERP solution has had a tremendous impact on Annin & Co.’s business. Multi-plant functionality means Annin & Co. can plan resources for each plant individually. As a result, they can buy materials and plan more accurately. “It all adds up to getting the right materials to the right plant at the right time, which means more timely shipments to customers,” he says. Also improving service to customers, is the ability to split a sales order to ship items from different distribution centers, rather than from a centralized location. This not only saves time, it allocates stock to customers at the time of order entry. It also sets customer expectations right from the start. If an item is currently unavailable, they know immediately and also know when it will be available again.
Rather than doing finances offline, all financials across the company are tracked and integrated within SAP. “With more accurate reporting, clear profitability by sales distribution channel and more accurate information across cost centers, we’re able to analyze our business better,” Beard says. Further, Beard says Annin & Co. benefits from the forecast-driven nature of mySAP ERP. As sales people enter their forecasts, mySAP ERP turns the information into relevant business data that provides keen insight into the business. “SAP runs MRP every night and tells us, based on what the sales forecast is, what we’re selling, what we should be buying and what we should be making,” he says. “It’s an extremely dynamic system that lets us know what we need to change on a daily basis, which makes us a much more productive company.”

During the next year, the company plans to leverage the business-to-business capabilities within mySAP ERP to extend the solution to dealers, allowing them to check inventory availability and order products on a 24×7 basis. For Annin & Co., it all translates into a higher level of customer service, which has differentiated the company from competitors for over 150 years. While business growth continues, Beard says the company will depend on mySAP ERP as the future unfurls – and encourages other SMBs like Annin & Co. to do so, as well. “There’s a lot of small and midsize companies out there that run on antiquated software because they think SAP is just for bigger companies. It’s not. For Annin & Co., I can’t imagine doing business in the next 10 years without it.”
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Susan Twombly
Susan Twombly