Romance of the Tractor

Tractors from Montana Tractors are a new breed of rugged, reliable workhorses capable of meeting a variety of job needs, from small farming chores to commercial landscaping and grounds maintenance, as well as utility and construction site tasks. Ted Wade, COO at Montana Tractors, says, “To focus on these uses, we offer seven compact four-wheel drive (4WD) models ranging from 27- to 45-horsepower and three larger two-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive models, with engines delivering from 43- to 70-horsepower. The larger tractors, our VIP lineup, offer a choice of open stations with roll over protection systems (ROPS) or a ‘Big Sky’ wrap-around, high-visibility cab.” In fact, the Springdale, Arkansas-based company grew 100 percent from 2004 to 2005.
Components are manufactured in South Korea and Romania. Final assembly and test take place at the headquarters facility in Springdale, Arkansas.

Proud, strong, spirited brand

The Montana Tractors brand radiates the attitude of the American pioneering spirit. Free, proud, and adventurous, it’s the “can-do” way that opened the American West and created a national character that puts a premium on inventiveness, versatility, practical ingenuity, and earthy practicality.
Expressing a cultural connection to its target market, Montana Tractors sponsors professional bull rider Jody Newberry, who won the World Finals Event title in 2003, his first year in a Professional Bull Riders’ event. Newberry uses a Montana 4540 tractor with loader to work on his property, and he now represents Montana Tractors throughout his competitions in PBR events.
As Montana Tractors expands its dealer network, management looks for dealers that resonate with this business style and philosophy. This means they know their local customers well and they establish personal connections to deliver exceptional service.

Cowboy Up!

With the frontier ethic alive and well at Montana Tractors, it’s no surprise that at the beginning of 2006, when the extreme constraints and limitations of their start-up mode applications made it tough to accomplish their aggressive growth and profitability projections. Montana Tractors executives made the decision to “cowboy up,” to face the challenge head on with confidence and a non-complaining spirit. The old software allowed only five concurrent users and the accounting application didn’t talk to the manufacturing systems. It was time to choose and deploy a powerful enterprise management system.
“The challenges of a young, rapidly growing company like ours are very different from large, well established companies,” according to Wade. “For instance, Wal-Mart institutionally has a lot of people, processes, and systems in place that have grown and developed over the course of many years, I retired from Wal-Mart so I can speak to this,” notes Wade, who had been VP of IT at the Bentonville, Arkansas-headquartered retail giant.
“When you’re starting from ground zero, like we were, if you don’t have the right people, skills, systems and attitude you’ll chase yourself a great deal in trying to figure things out. A comprehensive ERP system will take you out of a hand to mouth situation,” says Wade.

Roping in the bids

In the RFP process, the Montana Tractors team gave vendors the 30,000 foot view of their plans for the next three to five years. High on their list: to develop multiple product lines and multiple tractor types.
Wade had prior experience with SAP at Wal-Mart so he recommended that SAP Business One should be one of the solutions Montana Tractors evaluated. And at the end of the process, SAP Business One, presented by LBMC Technologies, an SAP Business Partner with offices in the Southeast U.S., was Montana Tractors’ clear choice.
“LBMC Technologies saw our vision clearly, and their proposal with SAP Business One met our needs best,” says Wade. Specifically, SAP Business One met Montana Tractors’ requirements that included a preference for a modular and scalable approach to support their rapid growth, as well as full integration of all major processes. Key critical considerations included powerful database capabilities, integrated financials, comprehensive manufacturing management, and the management of transportation, warehouse, and inventory.
Additionally, SAP Business One had an edge because of Montana Tractors’ need to integrate with suppliers, the largest of which runs on the SAP platform.

Observations to minimize gnashing of teeth

Change can be difficult in any situation – and it’s a given on a growth path. On an ease-of-implementation scale of 1-10, Wade ranks their experience in implementing their new solution as a 5. Speaking about their go-live on May 1, 2006, he acknowledges, “We could have done a better job of preparing people for the new solution. It’s particularly difficult when you’re asking people to do something they’ve never done before with systems they’ve never used before, if they can’t see how it’s going to benefit them.”
Wades recommends, “Before you do anything, get your test system out there. Run people through the processes two to three times to troubleshoot before you go into production.” He points out that the more people understand about how they fit into the scheme of things the more successful the implementation will be.

Corralling the benefits

The benefits of the integrated management solution were apparent immediately. Gone are the days of separate, disconnected applications and the need to try to manage the business via shared spreadsheets. Gone, too, is the chaos of duplicate entry, data errors and inaccuracies between different applications. Today the Montana Tractors team is taking proactive control of the business through automatic alerts, workflows, and response to key business events and customer needs. Now they have one integrated system that provides visibility into the information as it is entered, with real-time updates of inventory.
And within a short time people began to say, “I understand. I’m starting to see why you’re asking this of me. It’s not just about my part of the business; it’s the way the whole business works together.”
Currently Montana Tractors is in the final stages of testing IronWare’s RFIDs Warehouse Management System for SAP Business One. The RFIDs application processes all warehouse transactions via any wireless communication device that supports the Windows Mobile 2003 operating system with an integrated bar code scanner. Also on the horizon is the implementation of SAP Business One Web Tools to enable CRM and e-commerce functionality.
“In a large company you can minimize or absorb the sins of the past,” Wade observes. ”In a small to medium enterprise the sins of the day and the sins of the past are staring you right in the face. When you make a mistake it’s going to haunt you until you resolve it.” With their SAP Business One solution in place the management team at Montana Tractors can expand the business and take risks with a comprehensive view of their whole operation – for best practice management and decision making.
For more information about Montana Tractors, visit
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Christine Macfarlane
Christine Macfarlane