Pella is a manufacturer and distributor of windows and doors. It runs a lean manufacturing operation, keeping little inventory in house, so it's important for the company to keep its finger on the pulse of demand so the supply chain is ready to fill those orders without delays.
Its strategy is to use HP (NYSE: HPQ) hardware and Oracle (NASDAQ: ORCL) applications as its IT backbone. HP storage, SuperDome servers and HP blade servers form the hardware foundation for Oracle ERP, CRM, supply chain management and other Oracle apps for manufacturing and delivery. These are organized into a self-service portal.
On the customer relationship management (CRM) side, the company is using Oracle modules for sales, marketing, contact center and the iSupport communication tool for branch offices, as well as Oracle CRM on Demand and the Oracle Business Intelligence Suite Enterprise Edition (OBIEE).
"We had a lack of process on the sales side, such as no way of tracking the steps taken on the sales cycle and no idea on follow up of leads," said Rick Hassman, director of corporate applications at Pella. "If a sales person left, we had no idea of who he had been talking with."
The organization also needed a more effective way to pass leads to the branches; once handed out, visibility was lost. And the call center didn't have a tool to document interaction with customers. Hassman noted that the company had previously focused on channel and distributor marketing. As it hadn't done much in the way of individual marketing, it had no real idea of advertising effectiveness.
Prior to bringing in Oracle, Pella had multiple disparate systems. On the business intelligence (BI) side, for instance, it had Cognos (now owned by IBM) for many years. Hassman wasn't critical of Cognos as such, saying the problem with BI had more to do with the low quantity of reliable data coming from branches and other information sources.
"We build to order and had a short lead time to get orders to customers," said Hassman. "We couldn't expand, as we had so many disparate systems that required a lot of effort to maintain."
A 13-member cross-functional team identified opportunities to improve systems. Their findings were used to look at the market to see what was out there. That narrowed it down to Oracle and another candidate. Both were tried in house to see how they dealt with product configuration online, how they worked in a lean manufacturing environment and the logistical complexity of Pella's multi-plant set up that included the setting of truck routes.
The decision was made to go with one integrated vendor, and Oracle won out.
"We really wanted to be with one vendor, as we had bad experiences trying to keep all of our systems in synch when we were best of breed," said Hassman. "We wanted integrated applications with a vendor who could be a partner for what we were trying to achieve."
Pella found that having everything on one platform significantly eased the support burden. While Hassman thought Cognos was a good tool, only a couple of people in the organization knew how to work with it.
"We have 50 people within Pella who know how to work with Oracle, including the BI side," said Hassman. "They are all familiar with the BI processes and table structures."
The company takes an active role with Oracle. It is a member of its advisory boards, which enables it to provide high-level product input and receive knowledge on product direction.