Based in the Pacific Northwest, Emerald Home Furnishings is a wholesale supplier with clients on five continents. When a company is fulfilling orders around the world, real-time, accurate information is essential.
When Josh Henkel started with the company in 2010, the ERP system in place was already 20 years old. Although his official title is IT Director, Henkel actually serves the role of CIO, involved with board decisions not just for technological projects but to improve the business workflow.
First priority was updating the ERP in order to lay the groundwork for overall objectives. Working with Vision 33, an SAP partner, Emerald Home decided on SAP Business One, a management platform designed specifically for SMBs.
Looking towards the future, Henkel and his team meticulously cleaned up the back-end infrastructure, and upgraded Active Directory and Exchange, the standards for secure communication access and sharing data from anywhere.
“Scrubbing the data took a lot of time but was well worth the effort,” Henkel said. Now the updated ERP is the one source of information, whereas previously bits and pieces of data could be found in various places, without a seamless way to see everything.
It’s in the Report
After implementing SAP Business One in 2012, Henkel then set out to look for a business intelligence tool, one that could manipulate data as needed and automate info for workers in the field, via easy-to-use dashboards.
Working with Mantis Technology Group, a third-party software solution provider, Emerald Home reviewed three solutions, “just in case there was something out there that we were missing or was a better fit or more cost effective,” Henkel said, because a small business can’t take any of those considerations for granted.
After a careful review process, SAP Business Objects made the most sense. An employee with expertise in the solution was then hired to help move forward with the company’s goals.
With Business Objects Mobile for iPads, sales and management now have the ability to get information on the fly, on the road. Staff members are issued corporate-owned iPads while outside contractors are required to provide their own devices. (Android is allowed, it’s just not that popular among the reps. A few are also now using Window Surfaces.)
Designed specifically for mobile screens, requested reports provide the critical information needed to make forward-thinking and smart decisions. Take trends in upholstery for example. With furniture, similar to clothing, there are huge swings in what’s popular. What’s in two years ago is definitely dated today. What’s going to take off next season? Instead of just a best-guess judgment, quantified intelligence can show a clear projection for decision makers to order or push the items likeliest to sell.
“There is always going to be that human piece to it,” Henkel stressed, referring to industry knowledge. Perhaps a client bought an item in bulk, for example, then promptly went out of business. That large purchase would affect the statistics, and has to be taken into account.
Speaking of statistics, Henkel has also seen a real progression towards furniture being purchased online. Just a few years ago, most consumers preferred visiting a store and feeling the fabric in person. But the trend is rapidly moving towards internet shopping, even for couches and other items. Because of that, customers are requesting real-time inventory feeds and the SAP system enables that, allowing Emerald Home to stay ahead of the curve or adopt business models as needed.
The intelligence tool also eliminates extra work for marketing employees who previously needed to sift through a data dump, changing formats to use with different pieces of software (invites, email blasts, etc.). Now, it’s automated, and data is true to form. “I only want to pull information on large email customers, parameters are set, and it’s produced exactly as needed,” Henkel explained.
One of the other tool’s benefits is the direct container reports which provide detailed information on transit status, important when cargo is constantly shipping.
Going forward, Henkel see Emerald Home Furnishings adopting single sign on and even faster data access through shortcuts. In addition, there are plans this year to implement SharePoint for a one-stop shop.