The Company is an apparel manufacturer for babies, toddlers, kids, and women based in Portland, Oregon that employs close to 5,000 employees spread across mail-order, online, and retail stores. They operate two centers in Portland and Louisville. 

 

The Company first hired another integration partner to implement AX. Due to a number of unnecessary modifications and poor implementation strategies, the Company called in SSNW for project recovery. Initially, we worked with this integration partner to solve critical issues, and as the project moved forward SSNW was hired to handle further implementation of AX and integration of third-party solutions. This case study focuses on that initial project recovery phase. 

 

Challenges 

 

  • Smooth out previously implemented AX solutions 

  • Provide a flexible, scalable infrastructure for warehousing with limited need yet high capacity for supplemental systems and customizations 

  • Perform transformation while maintaining current operations 

 

Solutions 

 

  • Re-implementation of Microsoft Dynamics AX as ERP platform with customizable third-party integrations and add-ons 

  • Move client’s in-house servers to the Azure cloud 

  • Replacement of legacy custom code and unnecessary third-party solutions 

 

Results 

 

  • Realized a 4X increase in product flow through warehouses 

  • Reduced daily data upload time from over 12 hours to under 2 

  • Freed up manpower to focus on gestalt processes  

  • Through training, provided a competitive structural advantage for all employees 

 

History 

 

The Company had recently gone live with Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012. Following this, they had a variety of performance issues due to many unnecessary customizations, their servers had not been moved to the cloud, and they couldn’t keep up with orders because inventory was inaccurate. Due to delays in daily financial data uploads from their retail stores and warehouse stock, they were often unable to close the books at the end of each day. A large amount of AX functionality itself had not been implemented in favor of custom code or third-party integrations. Interfaces in the distribution center that were slow, pushing inaccurate information between systems, and the Company found themselves adding staff to the distribution center to support these inefficient processes. 

 

The beginning of our project recovery was essentially a rush to stabilize the Company’s daily workflows so their day-to-day business could retain enough normalcy for further integration and implementation solutions to begin. They primarily needed help with warehouse management, email campaign software, and EDI. Following our project recovery, SSNW was also contracted for further customization and improvement. 

 

The Company’s website was hosted by Demandware, an e-commerce platform that was not integrated with their management softwares.  

 

SSNW’s customizations and built software 

 

Dynamics AX Point of Sale module for retail 

 

  • Provides a single run-time engine for commerce, allowing both online and brick-and-mortar stores to be fully integrated 

  • Orders can be placed online and picked up in-store 

  • Product 

  • Point-of-sale terminals can be centrally managed and updated with minimal effort 

  • Allows for trend-tracking and detailed data points for analytics 

 

Call center 

 

  • Integration of existing AX interface with Five9, a contact center software 

 

Previous customizations to this software had slowed down this capability without adding significant advantages over the out-of-the-box solution, so we pared it back down while tooling it for the Company’s workflows. 

 

Cloud based data warehouse for PowerBI analytics 

 

SSNW built a data warehouse in Microsoft Azure to facilitate PowerBI analytics. The Company had analytical tools ready to draw inferences, but their data was not collected and due to delays in uploading financial data, were often out of date. This data warehouse allowed them to conduct more precise PowerBI reports, and parse through sales data down to the hour. 

 

Warehouse movement 

 

SSNW implemented a voice picking software that relayed picking instructions over headsets directly to warehouse pickers. This greatly sped up workflows in the warehouse, speeding up training time and boosting accuracy. 

 

SSNW also implemented inbound receiving processes, allowing for faster workflow over the previous strategy that involved pickers tagging and handling one package at a time. 

 

Third-party integrations 

 

DataMasons EDI 

 

  • Integrated across all Microsoft Dynamics products 

  • No customizations required for advanced EDI requirements 

  • Scalable 

  • Comprehensive support for Dynamics AX Advanced Warehouse and Transportation Management System functionality 

 

Cheetah Digital 

 

  • Allows marketers to create targeted email campaigns with cross-channel messaging and loyalty strategies 

  • Integrated with Dynamics AX 

 

Demandware 

 

  • Develops and manages e-commerce platforms for growing businesses 

  • Run by SalesForce and integrated with Dynamics AX 

  • Scalable and reliable 

 

Game Plan 

 

The project recovery phase stretched over two years from 2017 to 2018. Initial recovery involved warehouse processes and email management, though smaller and continuous changes to the previously implemented AX code occurred in parallel. 

 

As compared to other project types, recovery is rarely a gated approach. Teams are dispatched to deal with problems as they surface since recovery is largely a controlled re-implementation. With the Company, SSNW found that a lot of custom softwares were in place, essentially doing what the company had done before implementing AX, instead of using AX to absorb those processes and cut down on workflow management. 

 

In 2017, the major projects SSNW undertook were integration with DataMasons EDI, financial reporting to Dynamics AX, and integration with Cheetah Digital. In 2018, we managed continuous recoding, improvements to previously re-implemented softwares, and enhancements to software used in the distribution center. A significant achievement was in reducing data upload time from over 12 hours to under 2, ensuring that daily financial data could be uploaded well in time. This in turn increased the effectiveness of PowerBI analytics. 

 

 

Strategic Solutions NW 

 

Strategic Solutions NW is a tight-knit tech management company headquartered in Beaverton, OR with clients around the world. A Microsoft Gold Certified Partner, we specialize in integrated software implementation and recovery, approaching every solution with a business-wide approach. Our repertoire includes creating and managing accounts software for 500 million dollar manufacturers, specialized forest product experience, and longstanding partnerships with a swathe of major software vendors. Led by three partners with decades of experience in software and business solutions, we approach each client with a long-term relationship in mind, providing continued support and communication beyond project timelines. 

Unable to even take orders, SSNW addresses critical issues and boosts morale, turning around a failed implementation

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