Case Study: Bridging The Database Divide

Blount International's Sporting Equipment Group had a lot of great customer information in two disparate databases and no simple, secure way to consolidate. The company turned to Silvon Software, a maker of business intelligence products.
Blount International, Inc. had a problem. Blount's Sporting Equipment Group (part of the company's three manufacturing divisions) had a lot of great customer information in two disparate databases and no simple, secure way to consolidate without a lot of IT people being involved and access to its team sales team limited. Sales people typically had to wait for weekly sales printouts to be delivered -- not exactly "Internet time" for the Alabama-based Blount, a diverse industrial company that distributes products to over 100 countries.

The need for more streamlined access to customer and sales data was obvious. SEG has six manufacturing operations that produce ammunition for law enforcement and sporting, reloading equipment and components, gun care accessories, telescopic sights, mounts and binoculars, shooting sports accessories and industrial powerloads. Add to the mix 10 brands, and customers that include two-step distributors, cooperative buying groups, mass merchants and government agencies.

SEG maintained two separate and incompatible data pools. Data for certain brands was held in a JBA-based ERP system, while the rest was located in a custom-built database. A data management challenge to be sure, but one that needed to be undertaken if Blount was to maximize its sales effort.

Enter Silvon Software, a leading developer of business intelligence software solutions and analytic applications for manufacturing, wholesale distribution and retail enterprises.

After researching various solutions, Blount chose Silvon in June 2000. Both databases were consolidated on an IBM AS/400. The first users were trained by December, 2000 and Blount's been expanding its Silvon licenses ever since.

"Manually converting and consolidating our data to do any kind of analysis used to take forever," says Rose Kagel, director of Information Systems for the SEG. "The time savings alone is phenomenal. But more important, our salespeople are no longer making decisions based on guesswork."

Currently all SEG sales data across all its brands, customers and regions is fed into the Silvon system where it is consistent and accessible as a single data source. "Our biggest hurdle during deployment was merging data from two databases, settling on standards like product classifications, customer classifications and codes for sales regions," said Arden Jacobson, senior programmer analyst at SEG. "That preliminary work was the biggest issue, but from there everything went smoothly."

Silvon gives Blount salespeople more timely information, but perhaps more importantly, lets them manage customer information in ways it never could before. For example, knowing which products are best sellers in a specific region means a sales rep can better promote those products to those regions. SEG's Silvon data is updated nightly, which means sales teams can access reports and customer histories at any time and know it's valid information.

"Silvon came in and we spent two days planning the structure of the datamart," recalls Kagel. "They came up with 26 different dimensions which was incredible because we never had anything like that before."

A Citrix server at Blount provides fast dial-in access for remote internal users, while external rep groups access the system over the Web.

In addition to its sales users, SEG's finance, marketing and customer service teams are beginning to tap the Silvon system. It will help the marketing group manage and track promotions, such as those that take place during the industry's major show season from January to March each year.

The finance group is also beginning to use the system to calculate gross margins and determine which products and customers are most profitable for the company. This will help guide product development on the one hand, and the phase out of unprofitable products on the other.

Silvon gives Blount improved data management and business intelligence to target its customers and plan for growth in a far more timely, cost-effective way than it did previously. The software is available in modules such as Sales, Purchasing, Marketing, Manufacturing and so on.

"Our customers typically start with one or two modules and grow from there," says Silvon CEO Mike Hennel. "A lot of customers want to do as much themselves as they can, so we develop a project plan and audit the data and help with education. A standard project is 25 to 35 consulting days over 90 calendar days. Our aim is to make it easy for users to manipulate the information to get what they need without having to go to the IT department for it."

David Needle has covered technology for 20 years and is based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at

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