Project Description

“Stay as close as possible to the standard ERP System”

All Brake Systems migrates rapidly with Pulse

ABS_logo

Importing 25,000 different aftermarket car components from all over the world and selling these in various European countries is the cores business of ABS All Brake Systems. The company has 70 employees. No easy matter, from an IT perspective. It demands numerous interfaces between ERP system Microsoft Dynamics AX and both technical information systems and systems that optimise internal operations. Based on these constraints, how do you perform a migration? Pulse Business Solutions answered that question for ABS.

ABS All Brake Systems in IJsselstein in Utrecht was founded in 1978. The company focussed on supplying braking systems to distributors and wholesalers for the aftermarket of passenger vehicles. Whereas suppliers at that time imported from one specific manufacturing country, ABS decided to cater for the entire breadth and depth of the market by importing from all manufacturing countries. “Our catalogues were another unique selling point, the knowledge transfer of the products”, operations director Wouter Kothuis told us. ABS now considers its wide knowledge of the market and of the manufacturers within that market as part of the company’s added value.

Pulse-Client-ABS

25,000 different products

“As in every market, there are inferior manufacturers. We supply all products, except for those of the A brands Brembo and Textar, under the company’s own ABS brand, so we cannot afford to be associated with inferior products. Fortunately we are very familiar with the market and the quality standards. We often work with manufacturers that also supply to Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM). And we are very cautious when we select new manufacturers.” Although the company already exported, the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 boosted export activities, which now constitute around 35-40 percent of the turnover. “The fleet of vehicles in the Netherlands, as a country without a native automotive industry, is extremely diverse. That implies that if you can serve a large proportion of all car makes and models in the Netherlands, you can do the same throughout Europe”, Kothuis concludes. Around six years ago, ABS expanded its product range, adding steering and suspension parts. The company now also supplies wheel bearings and the range is even wider and consists of 25,000 different products.

Numerous interfaces

There are a huge number of transactions and the logistical process are highly complex. This type of situation logically requires a high degree of computerisation and automation for the 70 employees to cope. “We were an early adopter of Axapta, the predecessor of Microsoft Dynamics AX”, says Kothuis. “At the time, ERP systems were still quite inflexible; you resolved that by adding customisation. When I joined ABS two and a half years ago, I had already gained Dynamics AX experience with my previous employer. I didn’t even recognise the system at ABS! Both companies had so much customisation, the systems were completely different.” For example, ABS has many – necessary – interfaces with other systems. Examples of this are standardised message exchange through an EDI protocol. In addition, there are one-to-one EDI and systems for additional information about parts, such as TecDoc and Aldoc. “That is just the external side. For us internally, an interface with stock optimisation system Slim4 was crucial, as was the business intelligence system Targit, which allows us to analyse trends very quickly. And that isn’t the end of it, because the ERP system then also has to be linked to driving systems, the webshop and a market analysis system. In short: numerous interfaces, quite a complicated set-up.”

“If you can serve a large proportion of all car makes and models in the Netherlands, you can do the same throughout Europe.”

Preferred architecture

Unfortunately customisation makes it difficult to update systems which explains the current trend reversal; the standard system can do much more and companies want to stay as close as possible to that standard. Nowadays, additional functionality can fortunately be gained through standard modules. Kothuis: “That trend was apparent when the migration of Dynamics AX 3.0 to Dynamics AX 2009 was tackled in 2009. It signalled a significant improvement, which really did necessitate a new start. The idea was to continue with our then partner. However, the scope of the project was considered important enough to warrant inviting two other parties, including Pulse Business Solutions, to examine our business processes and tender for the migration.” The specifics for ABS: stay close to the standard program, replace existing customisation with standard modules and find a specific solution to correctly manage the deposit system. Kothuis: “One party offered just reasonable fulfilment of those requirements and soon withdrew from the tender process. We were very impressed by the added value offered by Pulse in terms of their pragmatic problem- solving approach. For instance, in just two to three weeks a solution to the deposit problem had been devised within the standard, whilst our partner of that time was only able to come up with a customised solution. Pulse’s proactive, direct approach appealed, because it mirrors our own style. Pulse also offered the preferred architecture combining basic software, plus AXtension solutions, whilst the other partner proposed a whole shell with some unnecessary functionality. Pulse was the obvious candidate.”

Rapid migration

In November 2009, both parties prepared an ambitious migration programme, with a completion deadline of spring 2010. Kothuis: “We wanted a fast-track route, but failed to take a third party into account. An interface with AX 2009 was not yet available for TecCom, the standard communication protocol for the automotive aftermarket, and TecCom was in no hurry to develop one. After a prolonged wait, Pulse ultimately produced the interface. But the delay meant the interface was only ready in November, as opposed to May. In the meanwhile, Pulse suggested we continued testing and so on, which was an excellent idea.” Migration took place in November 2010. “The big day was 8 November and by mid-December we were operating without a hitch”, Kothuis recalls. “With five to six weeks of resolving issues, it was the fastest migration I have experienced. The speed was down to our decision to stay close to the standard and to Pulse’s approach. A lot of moaning and groaning went on during the migration, but in hindsight everyone agreed the transition was swift and competent.” The after-care phase of the project ended on 1 July 2011. “In the fine-tuning up to the end, some basic customisation was added. That’s an inevitable part of my approach: introduce standard solution first and if customisation is unavoidable, add it at a later stage. The system is running smoothly, including the important TecCom interface.” Apart from the software migration, Pulse also oversaw the associated restructuring of the server park at ABS. Wouter Kothuis concludes: “Their server specialist standardised everything to a Microsoft Hyper V environment. We are now totally up-to-date in all respects with all the correct software versions. To state it simply: total peace of mind.”

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