Peering across the abyss: Clothing and shoe companies cross the ERP chasm: Page 4

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AFS customers also report trouble with SAP's Accelerated SAP (ASAP) methodology as a road map for rapid implementations. The much-touted set of instructions is designed as a streamlined guide for implementing R/3 in companies with revenues of $500 million or less. But as with many maps, the instructions have been stashed away in favor of improvisation.

Progress report
SAP has sold its Apparel/Footwear Solution (AFS) to more than 28 companies since 1996. Here's the status of some of those projects to date:
(Key: MM = materials management; SD = sales and distribution; PP = production planning)

Annual revenue: $150 million (projected)
Implementation began: September 1998
R/3 and AFS status: Abandoned R/3 and AFS in favor of another product.

Bruno Magli
Annual revenue: $60 million (estimated)
Implementation began: January 1998
Go-live date for AFS: January 1999
R/3 and AFS status: Implementing R/3 financials and the AFS modules SD and MM.
Strategy: Automate its complex business--80% made-to-order, 20% stock inventory--and minimize the amount of time the busy, high-end stores that are its customers have to spend on the telephone.

Florsheim Group
Annual revenue: $250 million
Implementation began: December 1997
Go-live date for AFS: January 30, 1999
R/3 and AFS status: Went live with R/3 general-ledger and accounts-payable modules on June 1. Planned to switch on remaining financial modules and AFS modules MM, PP, and SD by January 1999.
Strategy: Minimal customization. AFS is part of a sweeping system update that includes implementation of SAP retail later this year.

Justin Industries
Annual revenue: $440 million
Implementation began: Not available
Go-live date for AFS: October 1998
R/3 and AFS status: Warehouse module failures led to financial losses, according to papers filed by Justin with the SEC.

Reebok International Ltd.
Annual revenue: $3.6 billion
Implementation began: 1996
Go-live date for AFS: August 1998
R/3 and AFS status: Since going live at its Greg Norman division, Reebok has expanded the AFS initiative and automated the order-entry process in 40 countries. Its Rockport division has used R/3 for several years. Reebok is also a member of SAP's R/3 retail development consortium.
Strategy: Plans a companywide expansion to include R/3 at all European sites.

Sara Lee Hosiery
Annual revenue: $20 billion (parent company)
Implementation began: June 1997
Go-live date for AFS: Late 1999 for the SD module
R/3 and AFS status: Implementing standard R/3 modules. AFS plans have been scaled back dramatically, and manufacturing implementation has been shelved.
Strategy: Plans to broaden its AFS rollout once it deems the code ready for installation.

Superior Uniform Group
Annual revenue: $150 million
Implementation began: January 1998
Go-live date for AFS: April 5, 1999
R/3 and AFS status: Plans to implement all AFS modules as well as R/3 financials and human-resources modules.
Strategy: Use AFS to expand the integration it enjoyed with an efficient if obscure system. An existing warehouse-management system will run 80% of shipments; use of AFS's warehouse management module will be confined to several small distribution centers.

Tropical Sportswear International Corp.
Annual revenue: $440 million
Implementation began: June 1998
Go-live date for AFS: May 3, 1999
R/3 and AFS status: Implementing all of the core AFS modules.
Strategy: Don't customize the software; make it work. AFS provides basic functionality TSIC needs. TSIC will expand its functions as SAP does.

VF Corp.
Annual revenue: $5.2 billion
Implementation began: 1996
Go-live date for AFS: April 1, 1999
R/3 and AFS status: VF Corp. has implemented R/3 financials. Its Jeanswear division will be the site this spring where two AFS modules--materials management and production planning--will be implemented. A third module, sales and distribution, will be implemented in 2000.
Strategy: Implement AFS at Jeanswear division, then roll out to other divisions.

Wolverine World Wide
Annual revenue: $670 million
Implementation began: March 1998
Go-live date for AFS: January 4, 1999
R/3 and AFS status: Committed to implementing R/3 financials, but for now installing only the AFS SD module. With 250 trained users, one of the largest AFS installations.
Strategy: First, jam the system into the business, however possible. Then use the new platform for business reengineering and cycle-time improvements. Wolverine plans to roll out additional AFS modules as they become ready.

Sources: Company statements, SAP press releases

The more than a dozen companies ready to go live with AFS implementations this spring are relying on their own methodologies. And they are moving very slowly to roll out the software. Wolverine originally planned to go live in January 1999 with one AFS module, for sales and distribution, and with SAP's standard financials. But only the financials will be turned on as planned. Wolverine's conservative roll-out of just one AFS module has been halted while the company irons out glitches with some of its interfaces. It plans to implement the module later this spring. As for the other AFS modules, they simply aren't ready, asserts Wolverine CIO Acromite. When they are (Acromite expects them to be ready later in 1999 when SAP releases AFS 1.0D), Wolverine will phase them in. Referring to the implementation, Acromite asks: "Why push it to meet a date on the calendar?"

The Big Bang approach has plenty of support among AFS customers, though. Florsheim Group plans to switch to its new RS/6000 AIX platform on January 30, 1999. When it goes live, Florsheim will dump a dozen mainframe databases in iDMS and COBOL, all of which are being converted to Oracle7. The Chicago maker of men's footwear expects to have all of its wholesale systems off the mainframe by next summer. Support systems for the company's 270 retail stores, which represent half the company's $250 million in yearly revenues, will be running on SAP retail modules by the fall, according to chief information officer Tom Poggensee.

Florsheim is taking the plunge with two modules that other AFS customers have shied away from, materials management and warehouse management. Poggensee says the company has had some trouble with the addition of forecasting to the materials management module, "but overall, we didn't think it was that bad." As for the warehouse management, he echoes the sentiments of many of the smaller companies about AFS in general when he says, "It's a good first step. Where we're coming from, it's a giant step."

Supportive souls

Poggensee expects to do plenty of adjusting even after the new system is turned on. He is holding off on implementing some of the still-unresolved AFS functions, such as the means by which allocations are handled and certain aspects of warehouse processing. "We're not preventing ourselves from going back" and continuing to refine the original vision, he says. "Change is hard enough to do."

For his part, Bruno Magli's Grueterich is pleased with SAP's handling of the new software and its work with the consortium. "They have been unbelievably supportive," he says. SAP agreed to add features to assist Bruno Magli with the custom manufacturing that represents 80% of its business. Superior Uniform Group in Seminole, Fla., will implement all of the AFS modules early in 1999. Vice president of MIS Mark Decker won't comment on the installation, but says his company has worked closely with developers in Germany. "They're a good group and working well," he says.

The enormous scope of ERP can be overwhelming, even when your implementation is on course and appears headed for success. Says one CIO overseeing a $20 million reengineering project that includes adopting AFS, "When I look across the abyss, I don't know if I have the energy to get across it." //

Deborah Asbrand is a freelance writer in Boston. She can be reached at dasbrand@world.std.com.

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