Spain may be following in the footsteps of Greece, economic growth is slowing down in India, and many businesses would rather hoard cash than spend it, so what is prompting businesses to invest in software? Well, as FSN writer Lesley Meall discovers, this depends on the business – and its location.
In Duke University's most recent quarterly Global Business Outlook Survey it found marked differences across CFOs in different geographical regions. Whilst Asian and US finance professionals seem optimistic about growth, earnings, employment prospects and capital spending, those in Europe were – perhaps understandably – more downbeat. 'Many firms see a significant threat to their businesses if there are bank failures in Europe,' says Campbell Harvey, a finance professor at Duke´s Fuqua School of Business, and founding director of the survey. 'The high-tech industry is particularly worried about how Europe in disarray will impact their profits.' But at the moment, businesses still see software as a good investment.
Atlas Roofing Corporation, a building materials manufacturer, expects its recent deployment of new and improved software to result ingreater efficiency and productivity, and reduced IT costs. 'To help support our continued growth, we needed an integrated and flexible platform that can enhance business operations by streamlining financial and supply chain processes,' says Lorraine McLaughlin, the IT Director at Atlas. So it has standardised its financial reporting processes and optimised its supply chain processes across its16 North American manufacturing sites by upgrading to the latest release of Oracle’s PeopleSoft Financials and Supply Chain Management software.
It´s not the same magnitude of investment as an entirely new ERP, but upgrades don´t come cheap, and Atlas has high hopes of the latest PeopleSoft release. It expects the software to drive efficiencies and cost savings across the supply chain, improving inventory accuracy and customer service levels by synchronizing orders with product availability in real time. It also expects to enhance its financial processes, improve period close, reduce liabilities, further automate compliance and financial control, and increase visibility into business-critical information. Mc Laughlin says: 'We now have a platform that provides us with the financial management and supply chain capabilities needed to operate more efficiently and effectively.'
The need to support expansion was also a factor when the baby food manufacturer Organix decided to replace a system that it had outgrown with something that would enable it to improve its supply chain management demand planning. 'We have invested in Infor10 Demand Planning as part of a drive to future-proof our demand planning processes and we anticipate tangible results when it comes to a reduction in inventory and waste, greater productivity and improved service levels,' says Hazel Lees, supply chain controller, Organix. The system will be used to manage planned changes in demand patterns that are expected to result from sales promotion activities, and to improve the alignment of demand from Organix 15 supply chain partners across the UK, Europe and the US.
For Organix, a product with strong shelf life functionality was esential. 'We supply some of the biggest names in UK retail and each of those retailers demands a different shelf life,' explains Lees, ´so we have a movable feast at the very heart of our supply chain, meaning we have to be proactive and follow best practice.' The new system will enable Organix to proactively manage the minimum life on receipt (MLOR) of each customer order, and provide the business with an accurate insight into potential waste and service levels. It will also make it easier to plan for occasional shortages of ingredients: as the Organix product portfolio is entirely organic, certain ingredients can become rare commodities, so managing a shortfall in these raw materials is business critical.
At Peugeot Netherlands the decision to invest in a new system was about getting better information and insights from the systems it was already using, and enabling decision-makers to access these more quickly and easily, something it hopes to achieve with its newly deployed Business Discovery platform from QlikView. 'We wanted to opimise our services to customers,' says Mike Wesselink, head of fleet sales at Peugeot Netherlands, but this had been proving difficult. The use of spreadsheets, separate data sources, and cobbled-together system links hindered the compilation of internal reports, recalls Wesselink, and prevented well-informed external relations.
'Obviously we want to spend our time on our customers, not on reports,' he says, and the new systems supports this by providing real-time real-time customer insight and enabling Peugeot to proactively inform customers and partners about the status of service-level agreements and orders. - which has created a time gain on reports of at least two to four days a month. QlikView sources data from multiple systems and presents it though a dashboard, combining vehicle-specific data with data on targets and backorders. Wesselinke says: 'We have improved the quality of our information and now we can further optimise our service.'