As with PepsiCo, geographic diversity is a key element of Minerals Technologies’ growth strategy. The billion-dollar global company does a kind of alchemy, mining and producing a variety of natural and synthetic mineral products that gild its customers’ bottom lines. Minerals Technologies is the largest supplier to the global paper industry of precipitated calcium carbonate (PCC), a synthetically produced mineral filler that reduces the cost of making paper and results in a higher-quality and environmentally friendly sheet. It also produces a line of refractory products for extending the life of steel furnaces, ladles, and other equipment used in the production of steel.
In 2005 Minerals Technologies’ management looked to shared services and standardized processes to mine and transform enterprise data for better decision-making and improved efficiency. Today the company has implemented global business intelligence strategies throughout North America, made enhancements to other business processes in several parts of its global operations, and in January launched a new Oracle implementation across its European operations in 14 countries.
The primary driver was a growing need to gather and analyze data in an easily accessible platform, tightening the turnaround time for both external and internal reporting, facilitating faster decision-making, and reducing the integration time for potential acquisitions. According to Khem Balkaran, CIO and head of Global Business Services at Minerals Technologies, the company needed tools that would give managers the level of detail they needed to act and respond swiftly to market situations. That process began with a focus on getting the base financial information right, delivering straight-through data for financial reporting. “But to really achieve a robust financial reporting system, you have to get as many subsidiaries and feeder systems as possible connected to it,” says Balkaran. “That’s essential to building a good financial statement, and that led us down the road of looking at all the pieces and incorporating as many as practically possible—procurement, inventory management, things like that—so we could dive deeper into the information that the financials were reporting up.”
Balkaran knew that shared services would be an important thrust, but the company’s structure posed some challenges. While the company has just over a billion dollars in sales, it operates in more than 40 countries, with manufacturing and sales distribution channels in most. But Minerals Technologies only employs about 2,500 workers, so some offices are operating very lean. Deploying an enterprisewide system that enables a shared services center with only a handful of people takes a particular understanding of work processes to meet everyone’s needs. “We have a high level of complexity and diversity across the globe,” says Balkaran. “We wanted a system with a proven track record in delivering broadly on a vision to integrate our entire system.”
Minerals Technologies chose Oracle On Demand to deliver the software, which enabled Balkaran to implement and enhance shared services and evaluate and alter processes to add the highest order of value to the business—essentially implementing global business services.
For Balkaran, the challenge wasn’t so much getting the technology stack and the infrastructure in place; it was investing the time up front to identify what value stream the system would best support. Balkaran and his team turned to the company’s record-to-report process, exploring how it might shorten the number of days required for external reporting, and how many days it was taking to provide key financial metrics and management reports to senior management. “You’re never going to get everything standardized,” explains Balkaran. “You want to identify the types of things that are driving 80 percent of your business decisions and then really work with those.”
Prior to adopting Oracle On Demand, the company had what Balkaran calls a hodgepodge of systems made up of legacy pieces either grandfathered in or added via acquisitions. Going forward, the company wanted a system that could quickly integrate acquisitions on a single platform. “If we have standardized processes around the globe, we can better deal with business changes—organic growth or acquisitions—as well as with other challenges such as employee turnover, training, and technology,” says Balkaran. Minerals Technologies devoted three years to the North American implementation, because it wanted to develop its own in-house expertise. For the long term, management chose to have Oracle host the solution, and Minerals Technologies was one of the first companies to move its IT operations into Oracle’s Austin, Texas-based hosting operation. “When we looked at ourselves as an organization—our size and where we wanted to be in the future—the one thing we knew was that we did not want to be in the business of maintaining the Oracle applications,” Balkaran says.