You're probably familiar with Maggy London, the popular dress, suit and separates brand that's been around since 1979, but did you know that brand owner Maggy London International Ltd. also operates under seven other labels - London Times, Donna Morgan, Suzi Chin for Maggy Boutique, Muse, Anthracite and Shani? (It also designs some private label brands for its retail customers.)
Yet until recently, each of its eight divisions was tracking production, in Excel, in its own format, says Lisa West, director of manufacturing. Additionally, all information passed to Maggy London's Hong Kong-based sourcing arm had to be re-keyed into that office's FoxPro database, because Maggy London's ERP system, which runs on an AS/400 operating system, was incompatible with the database, says Jerry Sholtz, CFO and senior vice president of finance/administration.
Because of the inconsistencies in procedure and the lack of communication between systems, the company was wasting a lot of time and money on redundant and error-prone procedures. Disparate processes and multiple versions of information in different files made for especially difficult situations when employees were out sick, or moved on to other jobs. "We couldn't pick up the pieces quickly to be able to keep the flow moving," says West.
A couple of years ago, the company decided to get a handle on the problem by standardizing business practices, so that everyone was working "in the same way."
Most importantly, it wanted to eliminate the duplicative processes between its offices, and began searching for a system that would allow its offices - as well as its factory suppliers - to share real-time information in one system, and maintain one version of the "truth" for all involved.
Selecting a system
During its search, Maggy London looked at about six software solutions, including systems from Blue Fox Porini, Business Management Systems (BMS), Dynax, GCS, New Generation Computing (NGC) and Xperia.
The company looked at some systems once; some two, three and even four times. On its first go-round with NGC, "we didn't love it," says West.
In fact, after an extensive search process, Maggy London had almost made its final decision to go with another vendor, when NGC came a-knocking again with an updated solution. "And thank God they did," says West. The enhanced offering, which encompassed e-SPS and e-PDM, was just what the doctor ordered. "We loved it. We realized it was absolutely much better for us," she says.
At the end of the year-long search, Maggy London selected NGC's RedHorse, e-SPS and e-PDM to help streamline its core business processes, including global sourcing, supply chain and calendar management, technical and quality assurance, inbound logistics and inventory control.
One of the key selling points was the NGC staff, whose members all have very strong manufacturing backgrounds, says West. NGC understood Maggy London's business from the get-go, and the company didn't lose a lot of time and effort in explaining its processes. Together, the companies were able to map out its workflow process in a quick, smooth way.
"We're a CMT company," says West. "Although we do a lot of FOB, we don't consider ourselves primarily an FOB organization. We needed to work with a company that really understood manufacturing, and that's a major priority for [NGC]. They hire people out of the industry who have that background."
And then there was the product itself. The system was very appealing from a visual standpoint, says West, and was overall the best match for the company.
As with any out-of-the-box system, the solution required some tweaking to fit the company's business model. "We think the tech pack in the e-PDM package can do with a little bit of an upgrade," says West. "Nobody is going to meet your needs totally. But when you look at all of the solutions, NGC best encompassed the needs of our business."
For example? Many software companies will "write reports for you any way you want," says West. But Maggy London didn't want to go through the work of developing dozens of reports with a software company. "We wanted to see what reports they had, and try to live with their reports. Otherwise we could have written our own solution." NGC's tracking reports fit well with the company's needs.
The company liked many other aspects of the system, including the way it enabled its suppliers to enter their information online. Additionally, the easy accessibility of the whole e-PDM package was a big plus. Everything from the bill of materials, to the cost sheet, to the spec sheet was "right there," she says. NGC allows the company to publish its tech pack on the web, so that customers or suppliers can access the information and integrate it with their systems.
Other attributes included the ability to put attachments onto "any particular document, any page, any module," and the exception reporting. Its "my calendar" functionality was well suited to the company's focus on timelines. "When a person goes to his or her desk every morning, there's no mystery about what has to be done," says West.
On the front end, the system will help manage cutting tickets and raw materials tracking, she says, while designers will benefit from the visual organizer, which stores images, sketches, embroideries and fabrics and can be set up individually by design department, by season.
Designers will also benefit from the information flow of the system - the way "you can grab images," says West. "Everything you touch, from a cost sheet, to a tech pack, has a sketch [associated with it]. That's really nice, because some people are more visual than number-oriented."
The company also favored the system's SQL environment, which mimics the look of Microsoft Office products and also allows the company to export its documents to Microsoft Word or Excel - systems with which the staff is already familiar. The implementation process Maggy London is still in the process of implementation, which it began in July 2006.
The company recently finalized its required modifications, and is in the process of loading data from its systems, including building libraries of raw materials components, building templates and so forth, with a goal of going live with its Maggy London brand in April. From there, after it "works out the kinks," it will roll out the solution to its other divisions.
A trial run of the system with five of its design styles yielded a few process challenges but overall went "pretty smoothly," says West. Its first trial was primarily to analyze business processes, and as of press time, the company planned to start beta testing in mid-January.
The primary goals the company expects to achieve from the implementation are to reduce e-mail communication, streamline workflow processes, improve turnaround times and eliminate errors caused by multiple versions of information.
"The information is out there now for anybody to grab, and we can see where something went wrong, immediately, [before it] falls through the cracks. We'll know about [any problems] right away," says West.
As with any implementation, it's a challenge to work the process in with ongoing day-to-day responsibilities, but the company is confident that the benefits it will reap from the new system will make those daily tasks far easier, concludes Sholtz.