The Reluctant Customer

Feature Article | December 10, 2003 by admin

In the small and midsize business (SMB) world, there’s no relationship between size and complexity. Goff’s Enterprises, with 16 employees working in a 20,000 square foot facility in Pewaukee, Wisconsin, is living proof of this statement. It’s not just about number of users, number of locations, or even revenue. It’s also about complexity – and Tony Goff has a very challenging set of requirements.
Manufacturing at Goff’s Enterprises (www.goffscurtainwalls.com) is a mixture of make-to-stock for sub-assembly products and make-to-order for vinyl safety and containment partitioning systems (curtain walls). And with over 400 distributors, managing the lead referral process was complicated. Furthermore, creating and maintaining thousands of bills of materials (BoMs) was an overwhelming task. No one had the time to do it, and that affected the accuracy of inventory.
Tony Goff, general manager of Goff’s Enterprises, wasn’t looking for new software. His production and management teams had come to terms with his existing systems. “The systems weren’t perfect by any stretch, but we had been around the block with them. I just didn’t want to rock the boat.”
A chance meeting on an airplane in April 2003, a product demonstration in May, and a trip to SAPPHIRE ’03 Orlando in June were some of the events that turned a reluctant customer into a committed champion of SAP Business One.

Manual labor, fast turnaround

Goff’s Enterprises relies on its distributor network to sell its curtain walls throughout North America. Using fax and e-mail, designers at Goff’s Enterprises communicate with distributors, who review the design documents and quotes with customers, making design modifications on the hand-drawn paper document. Once the customer approves the design and quote, the distributor faxes the documents back to Goff’s Enterprises, where the information is entered manually into the existing systems as an order.
Until Goff’s Enterprises installed SAP Business One, designers relied on pencil and paper to create the production documents. The BoM hierarchy often went five or six levels deep, and complicated formulas based on costs and other factors determined the final price for each curtain wall. Despite the labor-intensive nature of the design and order process, Goff’s Enterprises could produce a unique, highly configurable curtain wall in just a few days.

No business disruption

Tony Goff became convinced that his business needed the power of SAP Business One to support his complex make-to-order operations. “We want to automatically create our own documents – the pictures we need for production – and build the BoM dynamically. Plus we want to be able to edit them ourselves.”
But he was concerned that the enhancements to SAP Business One would not allow him to reach his goals for the installation: no business disruption, no proprietary software, and no expensive code modifications.

SAP Business One can handle it

“Thank goodness for the flexibility of SAP Business One – and the SAP Business One Software Development Kit (SDK).” According to George Yankovich, manager of the implementation and development project on behalf of SAP business partners Business-First LLC (www.business-first.us) and Praxis Software Solutions (www.praxissoft.net), there is no need to have detailed, intimate knowledge of the database and underlying business logic.
The SAP Business One SDK handles all the technical details of communicating with the business logic layer and the database management system. This means that developers can concentrate on building the functions they want to add. And any enhancements developed with SAP Business One SDK are virtually upgrade-proof. Yankovich states, “I don’t know of any other software in the SMB space that can do what Goff’s Enterprises needs. SAP Business One can handle it.”

Picture perfect process

Starting with specifications from the customer, employees enter the details about the custom curtain wall, such as dimensions, material, color, and hardware needed. As soon as the information is entered into SAP Business One, the sales manager can produce the design drawings, BoM, and a quote.
To ensure that both the customer and production have the most accurate and complete picture of the curtain wall, two different views, in color, are created dynamically during the quotation process: top-down for the customer and a side view for production.
When the customer approves the quote, it’s converted to an order, and the final production documents and BoM are passed on to production. The system automatically captures the quantity and cost of each item needed to manufacture the curtain wall and reduces inventory.
When the completed curtain wall is ready to ship, delivery documents and an invoice are printed. In addition to the schematic that the customer received with the original quote, the delivery note contains a picture of all the connectors and hangers that are shipped with the curtain.

Power tools for small and midsize businesses

Yankovich knew that SAP Business One includes a wide range of customization and integration features that do not require specialized technical knowledge or programming skills. Customers can easily add new fields and tables, create custom lookup lists, define field validation rules, design custom alerts, and set rules for populating the default values of fields. But he wasn’t 100 percent sure if SAP Business One could handle the complex manufacturing requirements of Goff’s Enterprises.
However, when the SAP Business One SDK was released in the United States in August 2003, Yankovich had the chance to check out this powerful set of tools – and he was won over. “I have more than 30 years in IT, manufacturing, and materials management, and I’ve never seen a software package with this much flexibility, especially for small and midsize businesses.”

A simple solution for complex enhancements

The SAP Business One SDK provides a comprehensive set of tools for software developers. It maximizes a company’s IT investment – by enabling a company to tailor SAP Business One to its particular needs, streamline and automate processes, and integrate external applications.
Built on a standards-based platform, the SAP Business One SDK lets a company leverage its development team’s existing skills and quickly build solutions that deliver tangible value. The SAP Business One SDK eliminates the need to rewrite business logic and ensures the integrity of data. There are no proprietary languages, tools, or development environments to learn and no need for extensive training or lengthy ramp-up time.

A supplementary product

The SAP Business One SDK is shipped and licensed separately. Runtime components are included with SAP Business One, which means that all customers who purchase SAP Business One may run enhancements and add-on applications that are built using the SAP Business One SDK. This would include customer-specific enhancements, such as those developed for Goff’s Enterprises, as well as solutions developed by SAP business partners.
The SAP Business One SDK is available in both an implementation version and a development version. The implementation version includes the User Interface API, which allows customers to modify windows in SAP Business One (for example, hiding or disabling fields), add new menus, insert message boxes, and add status bar messages.
The development version of the SAP Business One SDK includes all the functions delivered in the implementation version, plus the Data Interface API and the Java Connector. This version also provides additional tools and utilities that facilitate the development and maintenance of software.

Real business benefits

When it came time to implement SAP Business One, Goff was bracing himself for disruption to his business and significant downtime of key team members. But it didn’t happen. Instead, even before his team started to use SAP Business One, Goff’s Enterprises was benefiting from improved business processes.
The enhancements that were implemented with SAP Business One and the SDK are delivering significant benefits.

  • Accurate determination of item availability, because inventory is committed at quote or order entry and decremented at production, in real-time. Everyone has an accurate, up-to-the second view of what’s available. Out-of-stocks are rare occurrences, which improves planning and purchasing strategies.
  • Dynamic calculation of the margin for each order and each item on the order when the BoM is created. For the first time, Goff can see the margin for each line item on each sales order, and for each curtain, which puts him in a more competitive pricing situation.
  • Production of a pricing document that adds up all cost components and delivers a single price. “We had a few customers that would want to negotiate every item. That took a lot of time, for not much gain.” Most customers know that Goff’s Enterprises delivers a fair price for a custom product, and are pleased with the product documents that are delivered.
  • Immediate access to live data, through a wide range of standard reports and ad hoc queries. This was the biggest breakthrough for Goff. “With our former system, every time we wanted a new report, I had to pay a consultant to create one. Now we can do it ourselves.”
  • Improved lead generation process supported with alerts and workflow. The sales manager no longer has to track the status of each quote. He receives alerts when it’s time to take appropriate action – not before and not after.

What about your company?

Not every company has the unique, complex requirements of Goff’s Enterprises. For many small and midsize businesses, the customization features that are delivered standard with SAP Business One more than meet their requirements. However, as your business grows, your requirements may become more complex.
A growing business never outgrows SAP. Consultants from SAP business partners can use the SAP Business One SDK to extend its capabilities to meet your requirements with upgrade-proof enhancements. And you’re secure in the knowledge that you can stay within the SAP family with its transition path to other SAP products – like mySAP ERP and mySAP Business Suite.

Brenda Mackay

Brenda Mackay

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