Garant, based in Saint-François, Québec, dominates the Canadian market for snow shovels and garden tools. But a highly seasonal business is unforgiving. If a storm is predicted in one part of the country, customers will order large volumes of shovels and expect to receive them quickly. If the spring is warmer than usual, then people will start yard work sooner, and they'll want to find the right tools when they walk into their local hardware store. For Garant, missing a delivery window by even a day means missing sales and conceding market share to someone else. "We don't get a second chance," says Christian Lebeuf, IT director, Garant.
By 2004, the company was looking at an unstable, 20-year-old legacy ERP system. At the same time, Canadian hardware chains such as Rona (670 stores), Canadian Tire (455 stores), and Office Depot (157 stores) were expecting their partners to adhere to more-rigid compliance regulations and demanding stronger IT interfaces and faster turnaround times. Meanwhile, to expand their business opportunities, Garant wanted to do more business with food and drug retailers, which have even more-stringent IT and compliance regulations than hardware stores.
With 80 percent market share in its current businesses, Garant had to find new markets, new businesses, and ruthless efficiencies if it was going to grow, but the old ERP system held the company back. Garant's system couldn't handle different currencies, nor could it handle business from different divisions within the company. This hampered the company's ability to make acquisitions, develop new businesses, and import and export goods. It needed advanced IT to support its growth strategy. "If you don't have a strategy to drive business growth, the IT system won't do it for you," Lebeuf says.
After much deliberation, the company turned to Oracle. "We were really scared about Oracle at first. We thought that it might be too big a solution for us. But it's not," Lebeuf says. Garant started the implementation in October 2005, and it was completed in July 2006. "The whole thing was a very big success," says Lebeuf, who has just four people on his IT team.
The company has already seen benefits in its ability to better manage both its inventory and overall customer service levels. "We want to provide customers with the perfect order—the right product at the right time and the right price," says Lebeuf. "That's the main advantage that the right IT solution can provide." For example, Garant can now handle high volumes and faster order cycle times without resorting to manual processes. The order entry department and shipping department share a single integrated Oracle system, so each department can share accurate information. And, unlike the legacy system, the Oracle installation is highly stable, with a recovery plan in place. "The old system was really at risk," Lebeuf explains. "If we had a major crash, the party was over."
Garant's users were comfortable with the old system, so there was some adjustment to the new one. To help in that process, many company employees have become active in Oracle users groups. "People are discovering what they can do with Oracle, and that's nice," Lebeuf says. And, the company has been able to move ahead on its corporate growth strategy. "We can start approaching acquisitions and move into other markets now." Something that was impossible just a few years ago.