Toshiba International Corporation (TIC) is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the world-renowned Japanese technology pioneer, Toshiba Corporation. For more than 30 years the company has been engineering complex electrical systems and supplying industrial and power plant products, systems and services to Australia’s mining, oil and gas, and petro-chemical industries.

Keeping Tracking of Inventory

TIC’s clients typically rely on continuous processes. Disruption to their production can be disastrous so breakdowns demand immediate attention, no matter how remote the location. This requires that TIC maintain an inventory of thousands of readily-accessible parts across all its Australian branches.

In 1999, TIC needed to find a better way to maintain tight control over its growing investment in inventory. When TIC sought a new ERP solution, it turned to Business Management Solution (BMS) - one integrated system to manage its financials, inventory, distribution, job costing and service activities.

Remy Reinker, Financial Controller at TIC, recalls the evaluation process:

“BMS was a very good match for our business model. The pricing was competitive and their approach – both in software and as a company – was flexible. Modifications were fairly easy and the company was clearly willing to be a partner and help us on an ongoing basis.”

The deployment of BMS enabled TIC to obtain clear information about its inventory status, the value of product at each site, and trends in inventory movement and consumption. It became possible to document and manage the lifecycle of each transaction, from replenishment to supplier orders, delivery status, customisation services, delivery to customers and invoicing. Analysis of historical data and management reporting became far easier.

Dr Milind Medhekar, TIC’s National Manager of Industrial Products, explains how BMS is being used:

“It’s important to understand that our business is not a commodity business. Almost 80 percent of the product that we bring in from overseas needs to be modified or customised. This means that what comes in to inventory and what goes out could be two different things. We specialise in hazardous area products and as per government regulations, we need to keep track of where each part is going. We have to know the serial number of each item, where it was manufactured, when it was imported and where it was sent. We need to be able to track complete products and all their components.”

The software is also used to book in and manage customisation of products, and to provide job costing within the workshop and the service environment.

Driving Sales

The use of BMS at TIC was extended a few years later when Dr Medhekar realised he needed to capture more detailed sales information. His requirement was simple: “We’re not a consumer-product type of company where sales representatives have to make a certain number of calls in a week. Many of our people are involved in very large projects worth millions of dollars. These projects take time for a final decision. What we wanted was a way of recording what was happening with each customer at any given point of time.”

To meet TIC’s need, Sales Account Management (SAM) was deployed. SAM is a solution that automates the business process for mobile workforces and for sales and management teams. Customer data and information about customer visits, commitments or quotations are entered via the sales representative’s laptop while in the remote customer locations and then synchronised with the centralised SAM database at a later time. The system enables analysis and supports strategic sales decisions by providing information on open quotations, their value and the chance for winning the jobs. It alleviates the problem of lost knowledge through staff changes. Dr Medhekar is also keen to use SAM to facilitate the development of templates and automated content for standard forms of sales correspondence.

Project Management - Beyond Products and Services

As TIC management has generated more information about its business there has been a corresponding increase in its desire to use the data to derive business intelligence (BI). Dr Medhekar notes, “We’ve been using BI in one form or another since BMS was originally implemented but the technology has certainly developed as the years have gone by.”

Making Sense of Data

“Dashboards and drill-down functionalities are allowing managers to understand the impact of their decisions and give them the ability to analyse business performance and trends. BI capabilities are being used to understand how a particular product line or even a component may be performing to ensure its profitability.”

For Dr Medhekar, BI’s most important benefits to the business ensuring that the company is never out of stock if a product and that it never carries excessive stock. He marries system-generated stock level, demand and trend data with his own insights into upcoming sales activity to derive efficient ordering levels. Through public dashboard reporting features, the business can gain insight into aspects of the business that was never possible.

Making People Own the Data

“One of the success stories at Toshiba was when we first published the very first BI dashboard several years ago,” says Dr Medhekar. The dashboard’s objective was to provide the business with information on the number of days to deliver orders that were outstanding based on the promise that was made to the customer by the sales representative. This made the sales team take appropriate action on their orders and ensured orders were kept up to date.

Still More to Explore

TIC’s business may have changed markedly over the past decade but the influence of its enterprise resource planning technology solution remains strong. Dr Medhekar says, “In the last ten years the size of our company has changed. The number of employees has increased and we’ve added many more product lines and more advanced products.  At the same time, our professionalism, understanding and capability of servicing our customers have improved tremendously. Markinson’s ERP, SAM and BI software are powerful systems which, even after all this time, we have yet to fully explore.”