Replacing several older, unwieldy software systems with a single instance of Microsoft Dynamics AX, Kent Watersports brings advanced agility to six watersports product companies. With the new ERP system, the entire family of companies benefits from higher efficiencies and better control in finance, manufacturing, distribution, IT, and sales. Global distributors, retailers, and vendors can engage more productively with the Kent Watersports companies. Business owners, with access to real-time, comprehensive financial and operational information, can direct products, brands, distribution channels, and go-to-market initiatives, to give each company the best chance of success. For such highly regarded brands as O’Brien, HO Sports, and Connelly, Kent Watersports will have an increased ability to grow and thrive in a highly competitive market.Business Needs
“All of us here are passionate about watersports,” says Sharon Zimmer, Corporate Vice President, Systems and Technology atKent Watersports. “The company’s ownership group has assembled some of the best-known brands in the industry and is committed to the success of each of the six independent companies that owns and markets them.” Companies in the Kent Watersports family include Absolute Outdoor, Connelly, HO Sports, Kent Sporting Goods, Liquid Force, and O’Brien.
Kent Watersports maintains a complex business model in a highly competitive market. The business owners, who are based in New London, Ohio, aim to effectively support each of the companies in going to market with the right offerings, at the right cost, and producing the desired revenue results. Accomplishing this requires a consolidated, real-time view of each company’s finances and activities. The Kent Watersports companies, in turn, have to be able to productively manage their business activities and relationships, including distributors and contract manufacturers, or, in the case of the companies that manufacture in the United States, optimize their materials management and manufacturing. Many business partners are in other countries and time zones, which can complicate matters.
|With Microsoft Dynamics AX, we will realize huge gains at each of our companies individually and from a consolidated standpoint. The wins will be obvious and very drastic.|
Corporate Vice President, Systems and Technology, Kent Watersports
Through many years of successful growth for the Kent Watersports brands, technology systems were unable to keep up. Eventually, they became difficult and costly to maintain and operate. Says Zimmer, “My task is to help our companies succeed through best IT practices. That demanded a technology upgrade. The legacy systems in the six companies had only minimal distribution and warehouse management capabilities. They were difficult to adjust to changing business needs and reporting was a cumbersome task. Any system change required custom programming, and employees often had to enter data repeatedly, causing errors. We decided to replace these technologies with a single ERP system for all companies to support manufacturing, financials, distribution, warehouse management, and other lines of business.”Solution
When Kent Watersports reviewed vendors, the ability of an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system to run multiple companies and sites was a critical criterion, as was multicurrency capability for international business. A selection committee with key people from each company reviewed in-depth demos from the three technology providers that received the closest consideration: Apprise Software, Epicor, and Microsoft with Microsoft Dynamics AX. “The three top vendors exceeded our functional requirements,” explains Zimmer. “We wanted a solution that would stay current with evolving innovation from a vendor that was also a strong technology leader. With that in mind, we were ready to bet our future on Microsoft continuing to be a powerful technology leader. For us, Microsoft is the partner and Microsoft Dynamics AX is the ERP system that can continue to move forward with us.”
Hands-on experience with the new Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 confirmed the decision. “We were completely blown away when we saw what was possible with Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012,” notes Zimmer. To complete the implementation, Kent Watersports is collaborating with a Microsoft partner with extensive experience with distribution and warehouse management.
To ease the transition, a subsidiary of the technology partner is hosting a single instance of Microsoft Dynamics AX while the six companies come online with the new solution. The first deployment phase focuses on distribution, warehouse management, sales, and financials. The second phase will add manufacturing, payroll, and portals for customers and vendors. To extend Microsoft Dynamics AX, Kent Watersports is adding RF technology in the distribution centers and specialized software to facilitate the electronic data interchange with key business partners.Benefits
As the implementation of Microsoft Dynamics AX is underway, Kent Watersports expects a smooth adoption and many advantages throughout operations. “Employees are incredibly excited about Microsoft Dynamics AX,” Zimmer says. “They know that almost everything about the way they work will change for the better by using a comfortable ERP system that looks like the Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Outlook software they are already familiar with.”
Simplify Technology Management, Reduce Cost of Technology Ownership
For the IT team, working with Microsoft Dynamics AX means they will be able to efficiently translate business requirements into ERP system functionality and keep the costs of technology ownership low. “I can help more people and go home feeling like I really accomplished my job,” Zimmer comments. “In fitting Microsoft Dynamics AX to our business, there’s nothing I can think of where I won’t be able to say, ‘Yes, we can make that happen.’”
A small team of four IT professionals will support the solution and its users in the six Kent Watersports companies. Because the team has the skills to configure and manage the Microsoft technology, it will no longer be necessary to incur the delays and costs of custom programming by hard-to-find contractors who know their way around the legacy technologies. Says Zimmer, “We will be able to take effective action on opportunities for improving operations. One small example is reducing freight costs for us and our customers. It is an easy task to interface our new ERP system to a more economical shipping service. Earlier, this would have been almost impossible for some of our companies.”
Introduce Agility and Efficiency into Business Operations
“By using Microsoft Dynamics AX, we have many different ways to gain efficiencies and improve operations,” says Zimmer. “Because of this we anticipate being able to grow and evolve without a lot of additional headcount.” Examples of operational improvements include:
Effective business planning. “Business owners will be able to comprehensively review brand performance, distribution channels, product positioning, financials, and more so that they can make adjustments and improvements at the corporate level, as well as that of the individual companies,” Zimmer states. “Owners and managers can use executive dashboards and get practical, timely reports from the ERP system, whenever they like.”
Streamlined finance. Financial managers look forward to a reduction in data entry and related errors, and the ability to greatly simplify financial reporting and consolidated finance management across all companies. “Most of the manual data entry will disappear from finance management,” Zimmer comments.
Connected distribution. In Microsoft Dynamics AX, Kent Watersports integrates distribution with financials, manufacturing, and sales, eliminating many informal or individual processes with unprecedented control, consistency, and flexibility in distribution management.
Control in manufacturing. Manufacturing managers will have automated, streamlined tracking of such critical factors as work-in-progress, materials, and costs. “We find that Microsoft Dynamics AX can easily adjust to our business model, enabling us to incorporate best practices into our manufacturing processes,” notes Zimmer.
Enhanced sales effectiveness. Representatives in the field who access Microsoft Dynamics AX through their tablet computers or smartphones will be able to enter and track orders while they meet with customers. Sales managers will more easily be able to observe and optimize sales activities.
Make Key Relationships More Productive
Kent Watersports will set up the ERP system to closely follow the business interests of customers and business partners. By using the portals in Microsoft Dynamics AX, distributors and retailers that purchase from the Kent Watersports companies will be able to check on order status, shipping details, invoicing, and other information, at any time and from any browser. Vendors will also be able to access a portal to provide their Kent Watersports clients with manufacturing, freight, or invoice updates, or to find the answer to an important question, such as order or shipping details. “Our customers and business partners around the globe will be able to get information immediately,” explains Zimmer. Providing our vendors with instant access to order information and shipping details means we will be able to respond more quickly to our customers’ needs.”