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Bleach manufacturer to switch from glass to safer plastic bottles
The James Austin Company has helped homemakers keep their families cleaner and safer with products like detergents and household bleach since 1889. Recently, an aging ERP system wasn’t providing the support this now-modern business needed. With an SAP® Business All-in-One solution, Austin’s is now better able to ensure that store shelves are always stocked with the cleaning products that consumers trust.
James Austin Company
Mars, Pennsylvania, USA
SAP Business All-in-One
Austin’s vision is to sell household cleaning products at the best price possible to their customers. It’s something this Pennsylvania-based family business has been doing for more than a hundred years.
The Austin family’s continuing dedication to quality, combined with good old-fashioned hard work, has made them one of the leading producers of cleaning products in the United States. Today, the company manufactures an expansive line of quality products that includes bleach, dish detergents, and windshield washer fluids.
Over the years, Austin's has formulated a strong reputation for exceeding clients’ expectations in the retail, commercial, automotive, and pool maintenance markets. Discerning consumers can buy these fine products at local supermarkets and home goods retailers across the eastern United States.
As a family-owned business, James Austin has a pretty down-home philosophy when it comes to success: “produce quality products for customers and they will keep coming back.”
However, Austin’s also believes in state-of-the-art manufacturing processes and innovative business practices. Austin’s revolutionized the industry when they were the first bleach manufacturer to discard bulky glass bottles and replace them with safer, more lightweight, plastic containers.
Austin’s had an ERP system in the past to help it with critical business processes such as finance, procurement, and supply chain management. But this aging and heavily customized system provided limited visibility and still required many manual operations.
For example, they have four widespread manufacturing plants in Florida, North Carolina, Massachusetts, and the home office in Pennsylvania. The outlying plants had to keep one-off records to track inventory levels, and most purchase orders were done manually. Plus, the company’s bills of materials (BOMs) for individual products were maintained only at the corporate headquarters. This made it difficult for the each facility to manage site-specific specifications for raw materials or product formulas.
Austin’s had not updated their ERP system for 8 years, so the company was ready for a change. Austin’s originally thought SAP software was only for the large Fortune 500 companies. Then the company’s IT manager had the opportunity to talk with the folks from CONTAX Inc. about SAP solutions designed for small and mid-sized companies.
Founded in 1991, CONTAX has been in the business of providing business software solutions to such enterprises for more than 20 years. As an SAP gold partner, CONTAX provides cost-effective and rapid system solutions and services based on SAP Business All-in-One solutions.
– Michael Pearson, president, CONTAX Inc.
With CONTAX’s help, the rollout included ERP software for business areas like finance and inventory, as well as customer relationship management, supplier relationship management, and business intelligence tools. The successful implementation benefited from a high-level project plan and a comprehensive blue-printing phase that determined the specific requirements.
Austin’s leadership also split the various process areas among the company’s super users to assist with any questions that might come from any of the manufacturing facilities. They used CONTAX’s training material to develop tips sheets and step-by step guidance to help the less technically savvy employees.
– Michael Dunkerley, Project Lead/Assistant Controller, James Austin Company
When the company was ready to go live, the project team – which consisted of both James Austin and CONTAX personnel – downloaded information from the old system over a weekend. Come Monday morning, Austin’s new SAP Business All-in-One system was ready for business.
Gone are the days at Austin’s of printing a report just once or twice a day to check on critical operations. Now real-time information is just a few mouse clicks away, and managers can monitor multiple system sessions to gain instant visibility into the business.
One of the biggest benefits for Austin’s is the ability to maintain multiple BOMs for a single product type. This lets the various manufacturing sites identify and track different specifications in the raw materials used for site-specific packaging or formulas.
Each of the four manufacturing plants can also track their own inventory with greater accuracy. In addition, a new purchase reorder report gives Austin’s managers a heads-up before raw material stocks are depleted. If last minute shortages should occur, visibility into material at the other locations facilitates plant-to-plant transfers to help ensure that an order gets filled in a timely manner.
For the first time, plant managers can also identify what products are missing from open orders. This lets service representatives coordinate quickly with customers on determining shipment options. The customer service department also now has plenty of room for comprehensive customer records.
Austin’s expects additional improvements as employees continue to get more familiar with their new system. This includes developing stock levels for raw materials to improve the purchasing report, and adding barcode scanning to help track inventory in the warehouse and SAP system.
All of this should help local stores stayed stocked with the Austin’s cleaning products that generations of homeowners have relied on. So you can be sure you will have enough antifreeze windshield cleaner to survive that next winter storm or Austin’s pine oil in time for spring cleaning.
–Michael Dunkerley, Project Lead/Assistant Controller, James Austin Company