Operating 15 locations to serve southern Florida with heavy-equipment sales, rentals, parts, and maintenance services, Kelly Tractor represents Caterpillar and other brands. Aging software systems slowed the company’s growth and impeded employee productivity. Kelly Tractor decided to implement and integrate Microsoft Dynamics AX and a software solution for heavy-equipment dealers, engaging with Microsoft Gold Certified Partners Tectura and XAPT Business Solutions to deploy the technologies. Today, Kelly Tractor directs business growth based on reliable, real-time information. The company’s in-depth tracking of the rental-fleet performance increases profitability, and new efficiencies in service delivery generate more value without adding resources. Sales teams can meet customer needs proactively, boosting revenue streams, and employees in all areas enjoy greater control and empowerment.
|Microsoft Dynamics AX delivers far more for our technology spending than what we used to have. We moved from a dead-end street to a wide-open road where we can advance as rapidly as we wish.|
|Nick Kelly, Dealer Principal and Owner, Kelly Tractor |
Founded in 1933 and headquartered in Miami, Florida, Kelly Tractor is the sole Caterpillar dealer in its territory, which comprises the southern third of the state. Kelly Tractor sells, rents, and services heavy equipment that Caterpillar makes and complementary product lines from other manufacturers such as MCFA, Nissan, and Wacker. The company, currently led by the third generation of family owners, operates 15 locations where Kelly Tractor provides services and where customers can pick up rental equipment and parts. Another company the Kelly family owns, Pantropic Power, manufactures, sells, rents, and services power generation and standby power systems, temperature control systems, and propulsion systems for marine environments, hospitals, trucks, and other applications. Kelly Tractor and Pantropic together employ approximately 700 people.Complex Business Model with Intense Information Needs
Equipment sales are just one key component of Kelly Tractor’s business. Offering rental services, the company has several hundred million dollars invested in rental equipment. The company’s service group, which counts the rental operation as one of its customers, performs equipment maintenance on customer sites or at Kelly Tractor locations. Scheduling technicians to service equipment is a complex task because of the wide variety of customer needs, manufacturers’ maintenance schedules and special updates, equipment life cycles, and required technical skills. What’s more, Kelly Tractor provides service not only on the brands of equipment it sells or rents but also on machinery outside of its portfolio, which enables the company to build relationships with more customers and eventually make a bid for all of their business.
Given the broad array of heavy machinery and other equipment Kelly Tractor provides and supports, the company maintains a huge parts inventory. Customers also rely on the will-call desks at Kelly Tractor locations to pick up parts. The Caterpillar parts catalog alone comprises several million items, with hundreds of thousands of parts that are always in demand. The company’s inventory management and sales teams need to know the current inventory status, how inventory items turn over, and the availability of items. If sales associates cannot locate certain parts within the Kelly Tractor inventory, they try to source the part from other Caterpillar dealers and the equipment manufacturers.
Inflexible Software Tools
Kelly Tractor used IBM AS/400 midrange computers to run critical business systems, including software that the Caterpillar company had written to help manage dealerships. The main business database and more than 20 other legacy systems were labor-intensive to manage and did not readily follow Kelly Tractor’s changing business requirements. A large number of customizations added during many years of usage made the dealer management software cumbersome to maintain and manage. As John Rose, Information Services Manager at Kelly Tractor, explains, “The software capabilities did not improve significantly over time, and certainly not at the pace we wanted to move. For example, if we wanted to add a field or change a process detail, it took weeks or months to implement that change because we had to modify the programs written in Cobol or RPG. File changes or integration with other software were even more difficult tasks.”
The company’s software systems performed batch updates after hours to reflect transactions. Because of this, Kelly Tractor employees lacked timely insight into inventory, financials, and other details. During batch processing, customers could not access the company’s online systems to enter orders or check on the availability of parts. Managers had to wait for weekly or monthly reports to perform business planning, or request special support from the IT department if they needed additional information. Inventory managers were not always able to tell which items moved quickly and which items rarely turned over. Employees frequently needed to manually enter the same information into separate systems, and they often worked without safeguards and parameters to prevent them from entering erroneous data.Gaps in Service and Fleet Management
A lack of integration between different software tools resulted in operational inefficiencies. The stand-alone service-scheduling software did not reflect changes in customer work orders and other service needs, which added uncertainty and error to the company’s scheduling of field technicians. Field sales team members were unable to verify the availability of equipment and parts until they returned to the company’s warehouse, forcing customers to wait on confirmation of item availability. Sales staff was not able to review customers’ histories and equipment fleets, so it was difficult to offer maintenance services or anticipate customer requirements proactively. Moreover, Kelly Tractor knew how the entire rental fleet performed but could not assess the performance of individual machines, brands, or types of equipment.
Nick Kelly, Dealer Principal and Owner of Kelly Tractor, says, “We had a vision of moving the business forward, taking full advantage of new technologies that could be responsive to changes in our operations and markets. Achieving this required us to make a change in our business software.”
|Almost immediately after we went live with the solution, we started achieving tremendous bottom-line improvements in rental-fleet management.|
|John Rose, Information Services Manager, Kelly Tractor |
Kelly Tractor reviewed many makers of enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, including Microsoft, Oracle, and SAP, and dealer management system providers, such as PFW. Eventually, the company chose Microsoft Dynamics AX 2009. “We felt that Microsoft Dynamics AX would help us take the business to the next level, with the only constraints being our own requirements,” notes Rose. “We also saw that integrating Microsoft Dynamics AX with other Microsoft products we already used provided further advantages.”
Two Microsoft Gold Certified Partners, Tectura and XAPT Business Solutions, made the case for Microsoft Dynamics AX and engaged with Kelly Tractor to plan the implementation. Tectura furnishes a wealth of expertise in delivering technology solutions to complex, changing business needs. And XAPT had recently performed a comparable project at a heavy-equipment dealership in Hungary and offered software capabilities to enhance Microsoft Dynamics AX for the Kelly Tractor environment. Heavy Equipment Dealership Management for Microsoft Dynamics AX (HEDMAX), the XAPT solution, provides advanced functionality for supporting large dealerships, including management of the rental, service, and parts business.
Kelly Tractor’s innovative ideas quickly outgrew initial expectations for the implementation. “Early on, our main objective was replacing the AS/400 systems and legacy software with equivalent functionality,” says Rose. “However, as we saw opportunities to streamline and centralize our business and technology management, we thought of many enhancements to help us become a more productive and profitable organization.”
In implementing and integrating Microsoft Dynamics AX and HEDMAX at Kelly Tractor, XAPT and Tectura replaced the company’s dealer management system, all legacy software, and a large number of customizations with a single solution and a unified business database. Real-time business and information management in Microsoft Dynamics AX, integrated with Microsoft SQL Server for reporting and data analysis, took the place of both batch processing and delayed reporting. Automated workflows in such areas as financial management, purchasing, and equipment management now keep business processes consistent and moving smoothly. Other highlights of the solution include:
Customer relationships. By using the customer relationship management capabilities of Microsoft Dynamics AX, sales and service employees access complete customer histories with detailed updates on the equipment customers own, purchasing history, and service requirements.
Fleet management. Kelly Tractor gained the ability to review the performance of the entire fleet and individual machines or groups of equipment.
Service management. The solution helps Kelly Tractor keep track of technicians’ schedules and skills for efficient routing of service calls, including mapping software to prepare routes. The company relies on the solution to maintain payments and service segments and a full history of machines’ warranties, service records, parts installations, and location changes.
Rental service. Kelly Tractor employees perform inventory on equipment by using a mobile barcode device. The solution notes an immediate update of the equipment status.
Warehouse management and fulfillment. Processes are no longer paper based; instead, warehouse operations are highly automated and electronically managed, providing employees with real-time inventory updates.
Mobile operations. Technicians who use laptops sign in to Microsoft Dynamics AX from the field to update work orders, order parts, and record notes and hours. While they are mobile, sales associates update customer histories, review customer interactions with the company, verify equipment availability, check customer credits, and note results of customer visits.
Employee time. All Kelly Tractor employees record their hours, the projects they work on, and comings and goings through touch screens placed throughout the locations. The solution enables the company to track employee time in relation to revenue, costs, and task codes.
As part of the implementation process, Kelly Tractor reviewed the data that it transferred into Microsoft Dynamics AX, which provided the company with an opportunity to fix errors and enhance the reliability of its information. With a unified business infrastructure, Kelly Tractor employees enter information only once and no longer need to manually enter the same data in multiple programs because it is automatically reflected throughout the system. With the restrictions and parameters in Microsoft Dynamics AX, employees avoid entering conflicting or incomplete information related to equipment, parts, and transactions.
Microsoft Dynamics AX integrates with Microsoft Excel, providing employees with an efficient way to download business information into Excel for analysis and reporting or upload updated Excel spreadsheets into Microsoft Dynamics AX. By using Microsoft BizTalk Server and the XAPT interface-mapping engine, XAPT created more than 80 interfaces between Kelly Tractor’s systems and those of equipment manufacturers and dealers to enable Kelly Tractor employees to access these networks when sourcing parts.
At the end of the implementation, Kelly Tractor went live with a single instance of Microsoft Dynamics AX for a dozen locations, including Pantropic. The remaining locations will gradually move to the solution. Within Microsoft Dynamics AX, the company maintains separate entities for Kelly Tractor and Pantropic, which has specific operational and regulatory requirements. Kelly Tractor used a train-the-trainer best practice to ease employee familiarization and adoption of the new solution; and XAPT performed thorough training with business area subject matter experts, who in turn passed on knowledge to larger employee groups at Kelly Tractor.Benefits
Today, Kelly Tractor employs its new business management solution based on Microsoft Dynamics AX to confidently chart the company’s growth and generate solid returns from technology ownership. Says Kelly, “Now, we can grow and accomplish more without adding resources. Microsoft Dynamics AX delivers far more for our technology spending than what we used to have. We moved from a dead-end street to a wide-open road where we can advance as rapidly as we wish.”
Empower Employees and Managers
|Business management as a real-time activity has made us much more effective in directing the company. Any action we take is now based on current, reliable reporting through Microsoft Dynamics AX.|
|Nick Kelly, Dealer Principal and Owner, Kelly Tractor |
With the implementation of Microsoft Dynamics AX, the culture of work at Kelly Tractor evolves toward greater readiness in responding to changing customer needs and competitive climates. Says Kelly, “Business management as a real-time activity has made us much more effective in directing the company. Any action we take is now based on current, reliable reporting through Microsoft Dynamics AX.”
Employees now customize screens for the tasks and information they need on their own, without asking for IT assistance. And, with a unified business infrastructure, they can review equipment-related or financial information without negotiating intraorganizational thresholds. Automatic alerts to certain activities and changes by employees, such as adjustments in a customer’s credit status, immediately reach managers in the form of email messages sent through Microsoft Outlook. “Alerts have quickly become an important management tool because they help managers take action at the right time,” says Rose.Streamline Technology Management, Increase Information Integrity
The new solution is far more manageable than the previous technology environment. “Microsoft Dynamics AX has greatly reduced the number of vendors in the computer room,” says Rose. “I manage a single solution, not a multitude of disconnected software tools.” With one-time data entry, firm parameters for information, and highly intuitive interfaces in Microsoft Dynamics AX, the Kelly Tractor help desk spends minimal time responding to routine queries. For help-desk staff, Task Recorder in Microsoft Dynamics AX has become a favorite, efficient training and problem-resolution tool that makes it easy to document and review on-screen actions.
Kelly Tractor finds that Microsoft Dynamics AX helps to maintain a high level of integrity for business information. “The security in Microsoft Dynamics AX is very powerful,” explains Rose. “We can control security at a highly granular level, ensuring that we don’t disclose information to employees inappropriately.” Through Active Directory, the IT team can add or remove user accounts in a single step and find the change reflected immediately throughout the company’s technology infrastructure, eliminating repetitive administrative tasks with a high potential of human error and resulting security liabilities.
Create More Valuable Supply Chain Relationships
By using the many interfaces between Microsoft Dynamics AX and the business systems of equipment manufacturers and noncompeting dealers, Kelly Tractor employees initiate more than a million interface calls a month. Most frequently, Kelly Tractor accesses these connections to locate parts and equipment that are not in the company’s own inventory. Through automatic reordering of parts in the Caterpillar system in response to low inventory levels, the company ensures that it has a sufficient level of inventory on hand to meet demand.
As Kelly Tractor boosts its capabilities and accelerates customer service with direct access to inventory and costing detail in the manufacturer and dealer networks, the company also becomes a more strategic and responsive partner to the companies it trades with. “We put our supply chain to work for us, building more valuable relationships with our suppliers,” says Rose. “In turn, our business partners enjoy streamlined communications and fast transactions that enable them to generate revenue from their inventory.”Make Rentals and Service Delivery More Profitable and Efficient
Kelly Tractor’s fleet managers can review the performance of rental equipment by individual machines, brands, models, equipment families, and other criteria, enabling the company to act promptly to eliminate or improve machines or fleet segments that have subpar performance. Compared to its previous system, Kelly Tractor is poised to generate higher returns on its large investment. Says Rose, “Almost immediately after we went live with the solution, we started achieving tremendous bottom-line improvements in rental-fleet management.” Kelly adds, “From a financial perspective, enhancing fleet management with Microsoft Dynamics AX has the largest impact of anything we have accomplished with the solution so far.”
Advanced fleet management benefits from the efficiencies in the company’s service delivery, which is responsible for maintaining the Kelly Tractor rental fleet and customers’ equipment. These include scheduling service job requests that match technicians’ skills and schedules with service requirements, locations, and travel routes, enabling the most productive use of resources. In addition, Kelly Tractor has the ability to use detailed equipment histories to plan services with minimal interruption to the availability of machines for billable deployments.Exceed Customer Expectations, Boost Revenue Generation
Kelly Tractor customers now can engage with the company in a much more efficient and satisfying manner. In the absence of batch processing shutting systems down, customers can freely check on the availability of equipment and machines. With new fulfillment efficiencies, they can pick up available parts at the will-call desk within four hours of placing an order and spend less time at the rental counter. Salespeople can verify inventory availabilities and customers’ credit during site visits, enabling customers to keep projects moving. By eliminating past confusion, customers receive consolidated invoices for Kelly Tractor services, easing their financial planning.
Kelly Tractor sales and service professionals have visibility into customers’ service requirements and purchasing histories, which enables them to provide customers with timely maintenance services and assistance in replacing or upgrading machines before an outage disrupts a project. At the same time, Kelly Tractor managers can easily review the quotes and commitments that customer-facing employees provide. “Our sales and service teams and their managers now can see all customer touches by our company and anticipate what customers might need before they mention it,” says Kelly. “We also find it much easier to make reliable projections of our equipment and parts needs and the revenues that we expect from sales and service.”Additional ResourcesMicrosoft Dynamics
Microsoft Dynamics is a line of integrated, adaptable business management solutions that enables you and your people to make business decisions with greater confidence. Microsoft Dynamics works like familiar Microsoft software such as Microsoft Office, which means less of a learning curve for your people, so they can get up and running quickly and focus on what’s most important. And because it is from Microsoft, it easily works with the systems that your company already has implemented. By automating and streamlining financial, customer relationship, and supply chain processes, Microsoft Dynamics brings together people, processes, and technologies, increasing the productivity and effectiveness of your business, and helping you drive business success.
For more information about Microsoft Dynamics, go to:For More Information
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