Palmerston North-based plastic goods manufacturer Click Clack says it will add a business-to-business e-commerce element to its recently installed ERP system within a year.
Click Clack says it has implemented an end-to-end ERP system from SAP, using no other supplier's applications. When the company went looking for applications to supersede diverse systems inherited from its own operation and acquired companies, “I said from the start that we didn’t want a custom-built system,” says managing director John Heng. “We wanted to adopt a vanilla package system, and we were willing to change the way the company did things if necessary.” Long-term, customised systems require in-house changes to keep up with the state of business and the technology, he says.
Selection of a supplier was left to the small team under newly recruited IT manager Ibrahim Simiyu, "and they should be given the credit" for the successful choice. There were a lot of bidders, says Heng, but many "tried to please us, instead of identifying our needs”. They were particularly hesitant to raise possible problems in the "medium-sized" company’s operations that might handicap development and implementation.
SAP wasn’t in the “first cut” of bidders, he says. “They put out an image of being larger than we needed.” Eventually SAP became aware that Click Clack was in the market for an ERP system, though at the same time, Click Clack responded to an SAP advertisement.
The contract originally offered by reseller Supply Chain Consulting did not meet Click Clack's view of the relationship. “We rewrote their contract totally,” says Heng, to reflect a partnership rather than an old-style vendor-client relationship. “And we wanted it fixed-time and fixed-price.”
When Simiyu looked at the big sites that had had troubles or taken a long time to implement SAP, the problem was in the implementation, not the product, he says. Click Clack therefore looked for a strict methodology for implementation, and settled on SAP’s own Accelerated SAP (ASAP).
The process of bidding and responding refined Click Clack’s ideas of what its precise needs were. “In a way, SAP was lucky to come along last,” Heng says.
Click Clack is also one of the first local companies to use the mySAP facility, which allows it to download any extra modules it needs directly online, and pay for the software on a per-user basis.
Click Clack originated from publicly listed company Salmond Smith Biolab, which had interests from plastic to fisheries. In 1995, the fisheries part of the operation was acquired by Maori interests under a Waitangi settlement.
The Malaysia-based Tiong group, a minority shareholder, took control of the rest and there was a divestment and rationalisation of the company’s business units. It was left with the plastics and brushware operations. In December 1995, the company went private and acquired Click Clack in Christchurch, deciding on that name for a company-wide brand. From a computer point of view, “we had an IBM System/36; they had nothing”, Heng says.
One of the first steps was to establish a US presence, in Chicago. In 1996, Click Clack acquired two brushware companies in Australia, and transferred their manufacturing operations to New Zealand. This brought more incompatible computer systems, but the company deferred a grand re-equipment plan until its structure had settled down.
Implementation has taken two years, and early this month reached the stage of having a wide range of SAP applications throughout the country. Australia will come next. That implementation will be directed from New Zealand, but as Click Clack moves into e-commerce, the Australian offices will establish themselves as subsidiary B2B centres serving local customers and suppliers online.
To connect ERP with e-commerce, data will initially be put into and extracted from an intermediate database. But eventually, the communication will be direct. “We’ll end up paperless,” says Heng, but the progress to that target must be deliberate, working down to lower and lower levels of the company.
B2B development in New Zealand will take place over the first six months of next year. “We have the plan all laid out on critical path method charts,” says Heng. “We will progress it in New Zealand first, with customers like The Warehouse, and we expect to take 18 months to roll it out internationally.”