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Acing ERP

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It’s a story as old as data entry itself — garbage in, garbage out. But a Seattle maker of golf-inspired sportswear has found a way to cut the waste, improve accuracy and get products to market more quickly.

Cutter & Buck previously used the “10-finger method” of data entry, says Laurie Crow, SAP sales and distribution functional analyst for the company, a subsidiary of Sweden’s New Wave Group.

“We had to manually type in the data in order to create credit memos, update customer masters and develop pricing and material records,” she says. “It took a lot of time and effort and lots of typographical errors were made in the process.”

In 2005, the company solved the main problem by implementing the SAP system for some 175 in-house users. But it quickly realized there were other issues to deal with.

“We loaded a set of material masters almost immediately” after going live, says Heather Mennell, business systems specialist for Cutter & Buck. “But we had to hire temporary people and it took three or four weeks to get all the data into the SAP system. Then there was a month or two of finding mistakes and fixing the data-entry problems.”

While the company was not losing business because of the process, it was time-consuming and prone to errors, and every department was having the same problems. Even though there was a five-person SAP team within the IT department, “we were on the business side and really couldn’t ask for their help in loading data,” says Crow. “We just had to buckle down and do it.”

Cutter & Buck began looking at several options, including developing custom solutions in-house using SAP scripting tools. This proved unfeasible, however, due primarily to the cost involved and the technical nature of the SAP tools.

The company then turned to outside solutions. “The SAP community is very small and there are user groups where we share information,” Crow says. “So it wasn’t long before we found Winshuttle — plus they were only 20 miles away.”

Easy implementation
Based in Bothell, Wash., Winshuttle focuses on ERP usability and provides software that enables companies to work from Excel or other interfaces without any additional programming.

Implementation took virtually no time because the system is so user-friendly, according to Crow. “The application was just installed on each person’s computer or laptop and now we just teach each other. It’s that easy to use.”

Adopting Winshuttle was a two-step process for Cutter & Buck. “You have to tell them what you want it to do and let their system do the job,” she says. “It’s no different than writing a macro in Excel. Anyone familiar with that will understand Winshuttle. It records keystrokes and repeats them over and over again, reading the data off your Excel spreadsheets.”

Now, Mennell says, “I can get all the data in and audit it myself in two or three hours using Winshuttle. Our accuracy rate is 99-100 percent, and there’s no more fixing mistakes or finding errors after the fact.”

Users simply put Winshuttle in record mode, tell it which SAP transaction code they want to use — such as creating an order or pricing records — then enter the data on the SAP screen. Winshuttle records all keystrokes, so users can map or link their Excel columns onto the keystrokes where the data landed in SAP. Then it can be saved and run for all the rest of the Excel spreadsheet rows.

Users were also impressed with the fact that there was no need to create transports. “Both IT and users appreciated that the application sits outside of SAP, residing on the user’s PC, and does not bypass SAP authorizations,” Mennell says.

Excellent ROI
Asked whether the system has enabled Cutter & Buck to speed up business, Crow says, “We can’t create the factory purchase orders or let the sales reps start selling the garment until the material masters are created. So ... instead of it taking four to six weeks to go to market, it takes us one day. That means considerable incremental volume and profit.”

Overall, the time savings from automation of material master data entry more than covered the investment and resulted in an excellent return on investment for the project, Crow says. Additionally, the company has reported that users have been able to improve productivity because they have time to do other aspects of their job and spend less time on data entry.

The system has worked so well that Cutter & Buck is talking about using an additional Winshuttle solution for transactions.

“They have another product called Query It that would allow us to extract data out of SAP, make changes to it in Excel and then run it back into SAP,” Crow says. “Again, users can do it themselves. Unless I have created an SAP report and we have an external reporting system that can extract that data, there is no way of bringing out the data for a set of material masters and making changes like material lead times.”

Give the current state of the economy, “everyone’s being asked to do more with less,” Crow says. “We have fewer SAP users now due to attrition and we’re not replacing people at the moment. But we don’t have less work or less data to load and couldn’t accomplish what we do without Winshuttle.”