Following the Rules

August 25, 2011 by Tim Clark

The right SAP software to meet regulations. (Photo: J.J. Keller)

The right SAP software to meet regulations. (Photo: J.J. Keller)

J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc. is a privately-held company headquartered in Neenah, Wisconsin that helps businesses across North America deal with complex and constantly evolving regulations related to transportation, plant safety, OSHA, hazardous materials, environmental, food processing, homeland security and HR regulations.

The company offers about 6,000 different products and services, and has over 400,000 customers, with over one million buying contacts. And with 1,100 employees, J. J. Keller falls firmly in mid-market terrain – but the many business requirements and processes it supports mirror the activity of a much larger organization.

Other organizations may manage a large volume within a small number of business processes, but J. J. Keller actually deals in a small volume (averaging around 2,000 orders per day) with a larger number of business processes such as publications with update services, custom and stock forms, manufactured products, resale products, brokerage products, software and professional services.

Flexible growth

According to Thomas Hupf, vice president of Information Systems at J. J. Keller, technology is core to his company’s ability to deliver solutions to customers. An order-to-cash project, for instance, is currently in the blueprint phase, and is intended to replace J. J. Keller’s legacy order-to-cash process, which was designed and developed in-house over 30 years ago.

“Our existing system is very efficient and effective within its limitations, but not flexible or able to integrate for growth. As a result, SD sales and distribution and customer relationship management functionality from SAP, along with additional financial and controlling and materials management functionality, are being implemented,” said Hupf. Robert Keller, chairman and CEO, added, “Our large Keller customers use SAP for supply chain and we want to be a supply chain vendor to these firms.”

Optimistic outlook

In a down economy, IT projects oftentimes get shifted to the backburner, even though analysts recommend they remain front and center in order for companies to be better prepared during the recovery. J. J. Keller is no stranger to this challenge, and after a brief hiatus, the company’s IT objectives are back on track.

Said Hupf, “In 2009, this project was put on hold because of the economy’s impact on our business. We have restarted this project, redefined the implementation approach, and are committed to its implementation in summer 2012. This project will modernize our order-to-cash systems and processes, enable tighter integration with the global supply chain, and allow us to be more nimble and responsive in satisfying our customers’ needs. We expect this to drive higher revenue per associate and higher customer satisfaction and loyalty.”

Roughly 40 percent of J. J. Keller employees are in marketing or sales. The company heavily utilizes the phone for customer contact, and averages nearly 60,000 incoming calls and about 300,000 outgoing calls per month.

Eye on analytics

J. J. Keller is also relying on SAP to streamline its financial and data analytics. In January 1999, J. J. Keller implemented FI/CO (primarily for general ledger and accounts payable), MM (for inventory and purchasing), and HR (for payroll and basic HR employee data). Bob Keller stated “We cut our inventory several million dollars while at the same time we reduced back orders significantly and reduced our average time to ship an order to under one day.”

In 2008, the company implemented business intelligence (BI) for marketing and sales analytics/reporting, and SAP Modification Assessment service for employee self-service and manager self-service. The reporting and analytical capabilities provided by BI have become integral to the company’s ability to reach its customers and meet their needs. “Employee and manager self-service has allowed us to automate processes that were labor intensive and slow, allowing for faster turnaround time,” said Hupf.

“SAP’s integration, market presence, R&D and breadth of ability to meet our business needs are not single focused. These are key enablers for our product portfolio and business to continue growing.”

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