Big user base pays off for struggling SSA

A vendor's financial stability has been rising steadily up the list of priorities of IT directors, but the size of its customer base may be enough to set some users' minds at ease.

A vendor’s financial stability has been rising steadily up the list of priorities of IT directors, but the size of its customer base may be enough to set some users’ minds at ease.

PSM Healthcare recent upgraded to the latest version of SSA’s ERP package, BPCS, to move into electronic commerce, despite the vendor falling on hard times. The Auckland-based company will start trialling e-commerce transactions with customers in the Australian grocery industry.

Two years ago SSA’s shares were trading at one cent and the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, but PSM Healthcare IT manager Graham Buist says he never had concerns about the Chicago-based ERP software vendor’s financial performance — largely because it had such a large user base.

“Even if the company had fallen over, somebody would’ve picked up the product.”

Unitec, meanwhile, is using another SSA ERP product to teach students about business processes.

SSA GT MAX is designed for small and medium-sized manufacturing companies to give computing science and business students at the Auckland tertiary institute experience in supply chain processes such as order entry, production planning, inventory control and dispatch, right through to financials.

Former SSA New Zealand managing director Graeme Cooksley (pictured), who is now number two in the $US300 million company, says the company had a strong client base but also a huge corporate structure.

“We had to take the cost out and get back to the basics. There is, and will continue to be, huge consolidation in the industrial sector.”

Last August the company went private. Despite its rollercoaster fortunes, the vendor has managed to hang on to its local customers. The local user base — which numbers 125 — includes Marley Plastics, PSM Healthcare, Cloughs Agricultural Machinery and Fisher & Paykel Healthcare.

Traditionally SSA’s ERP package BPCS has run on the IBM iSeries, which has always had a strong presence in New Zealand. About 70% of global customers remain on this platform, though the introduction of Unix and Windows — particularly in New Zealand — has helped the company climb back out of the doldrums.

Last year SSA bought CA’s ERP division, Interbiz; and Infinium, a company which specialises in financials and HR for the manufacturing sector. Cooksley says a factor that has helped the local operation, which he says is profitable, is the presence of many large global customers such as 3M and Heinz Watties. Some of its 20 staff support plant maintenance customers in Asia.

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