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A Complete Customer View

Eaton Steel and Regal Beloit cut costs and broaden access to customers.

by Tony Kontzer, May 2009

Few periods in recent history have presented more challenges to IT executives than the current economic downturn. Globally, organizations are making hard decisions on spending priorities. They’re shelving plans for expensive technology deployments and instead focusing on smaller investments that can cut costs and increase revenue and efficiency.

Increasingly, companies are using Oracle Fusion Middleware to achieve maximum value from their software. Whether the goal is to automate electronic data interchange (EDI) transactions, tap new business intelligence (BI) functions, or use Oracle’s service-oriented architecture (SOA) technology with Oracle E-Business Suite, Oracle Fusion Middleware is proving an ideal tonic for companies striving to remain healthy in an anemic economy.

Broadening Access to Customer Information

“All of our projects that are focused on making better use of information and helping us make better business decisions have taken on a bit of urgency because of the downturn,” says Joe Machak, vice president of information systems at Eaton Steel Bar, a Michigan-based maker of highly engineered steel bars. “We’re in the same boat a lot of companies are in, making sure we use our information as carefully as possible so we can get through the next year or so and be poised to move forward in the future.”

 

As a result, Machak has been leading an effort to use Oracle Fusion Middleware to extend the reach of Oracle E-Business Suite and many other applications across six operating units. The goal, he says, is to broaden the sales teams’ access to customer information. In the past, providing salespeople with a complete view of the customer was a challenge for two reasons. First, there are two separate sales teams: an internal team dealing with order processing and supply chain issues and an outside team handling face-to-face contact with the customer. Second, with so many separate entities supporting different functions—from manufacturing to logistics to metallurgical analysis—synthesizing customer information into one picture was tough.

To address that challenge, Machak and his four-person IT team, backed by consultants from Oracle partner eAlliance, started their middleware work on the BI front. They deployed Oracle BI solutions to create custom data marts that pull information on invoices, revenue, sales, and inventory from Oracle E-Business Suite and from desktop productivity applications such as Microsoft Excel. With data marts in place and populated, they began using embedded tools in Oracle BI solutions to build dashboards that consolidate multiple sources of information into a single view. Salespeople can customize those dashboards or even build specialized dashboards themselves. Initially, the outside sales staff was reluctant to embrace the change, but Machak says they soon saw the value in knowing how much Eaton Steel has sold to a given customer, what prices the customer has paid, or a customer’s shipment, invoicing, and complaint history. “They want to go to our customers armed with information,” he says. “They’re asking for things they’ve never asked for before.”

It’s not just the salespeople who are benefiting from the new BI capabilities. Eaton Steel is building custom dashboards by business function as well as by operating unit. The accountants need a dashboard that breaks down companywide revenue by month or by state so that they can more accurately estimate state taxes, while the purchasing staff needs to track how much product is being sent back or scrapped by customers so they can make accurate claims against Eaton Steel’s vendors for defective materials.

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