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Customer Snapshot

Business is Personal at a Family-Owned Company

1st

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.


Company

James Austin Company

Headquarters

Mars, Pennsylvania, USA

Customer Website

www.jamesaustin.com

Revenue

US$75 million

Number of Employees

245

Implementation Partners

CONTAX Inc.

Line of Business

Finance, Procurement

Industry

Consumer Products

Featured Products

SAP Business All-in-One

History

One man’s legacy

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.

 

  • 1880Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania native James Austin was asked by his wife Mollie to come up with a better way to clean carpets.
  • 1889James and Mollie brewed up a carpet cleaning solution on their kitchen stove. Their innovative product became a neighborhood sensation, and the start of the James Austin Company.
  • 1930Their son Harry Austin employed a chemist to create a sodium hypochlorite manufacturing line. This established their signature product: Austin’s A-1 Bleach.
  • 2014 Now in their 4th generation of family ownership, continued expansion at Austin’s results in four present-day manufacturing locations – from Massachusetts to Florida.

Business Model

A family’s dedication

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.

Success Strategy

“Good. Clean. Done.”

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.

 

The company has also pioneered the four-day work week for their employees—inspiring great loyalty and pride in their workforce. With about 245 employees, Austin’s is one modest-sized company that has big aspirations.

The Challenge

Limited visibility and manual processes

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.

Enter SAP

The power of partnership

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.

 

“Many of our clients deal with tier-one retailers,
and when they can walk into a meeting and say,
‘We run SAP,’ it’s a game changer for them.”

– Michael Pearson, president, CONTAX Inc.

The SAP Experience

One weekend changeover

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.

 

“A smaller company like ours does not have the personnel to dedicate to training. So the tips developed from CONTAX’s manual were very useful.”

– 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.

Running Better

Instant business transparency

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.

Benefits

The ripple effect from inventory to customer service

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.

Today

 

The James Austin Company is now in their 4th-generation of family ownership. Today, the company has real-time visibility and a robust, stable ERP platform on which they can continue to grow for years to come.

Journey Ahead

The next generation

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.


“We’d like to design management reports that provide even deeper visibility into the company’s wellbeing.”

–Michael Dunkerley, Project Lead/Assistant Controller, James Austin Company

 

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