Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Case Study: Bridging The Database Divide

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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.

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 davidneedle@yahoo.com.

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