Dr Catt, we presume

Lighting Direct logistics manager Peter Catt is on track to become one of the first graduates of Unitec's doctor of computing course.

Lighting Direct logistics manager Peter Catt (pictured) is on track to become one of the first graduates of Unitec’s doctor of computing course.

The doctorate, the only one in New Zealand specifically related to computing, was offered for the first time by the Auckland tertiary institute last year.

Catt, who earned an MBA from Henley management college, is in his second year. He says he chose the course because of its computing-specific nature.

“I finished the MBA two years ago and it was a logical progression from there to look at a doctoral programme. I considered a traditional PhD, but the difficulty there was that there was insufficient support.

“The other option was a doctor of business administration, but having already done the MBA, I’d be covering what I’d already learned. It didn’t have the level of specification I was looking for.”

The first year of the degree is concerned with the broad historical and philosophical background to computing, the second year with research methodology and a literature review relating to the student’s research project, he says.

The thesis resulting from the research project will take approximately four years, an understandable time given the course is designed for those working fulltime, he says.

“By the end of the year I’ll have a full research proposal, ready to start next year.”

The research project will be in the field of IT-enabled supply chain management. “I’ve done quite a lot of work around ERP, advanced planning and scheduling and CRM.”

Catt started out as production supervisor at Pacific pharmaceuticals 15 years ago and completed a postgraduate diploma in industrial production at Massey University before studying for his MBA.

“All my studies have been extramural or part time.”

He has also worked for Fletcher Challenge Building as manufacturing manager and Fletcher Challenge Forests as scheduling manager for North American consumer solutions. Immediately before joining Lighting Direct he was site manager at Carter Holt Harvey’s Tokoroa sawmill, which closed at the end of last year. In all those roles he dealt with SAP systems and says Lighting Direct’s implementation SME business package mySAP All-In-One is progressing well.

“We’ve made strong progress re forecasting-based procurement, but we’ve still got some configuration options we need to work through. Financials are working well, but there’s further work to do on the supply chain.”

In New Zealand corporates in general, Catt says, the utilisation of SAP is “extremely poor” regarding anything above financials.

Many big New Zealand companies don’t make the most of the operational side, he says.

“I’ve never seen anyone using the human resources module and production and planning are generally poorly utilised. There seems to be a spreadsheet mentality, which really undermines ERP systems.”

Asked what’s behind this lack of use of SAP to its full potential, Catt says his industry experience in New Zealand — Lighting Direct aside — suggests that it comes back to top management support.

“Research would validate that — there’s top management support for financials but not for operational modules.”

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