Edinburgh Crystal – the UK’s leading £22 million revenues crystal glass brand – has integrated its manufacturing and logistics systems with an Internet-based global customer sales facility, and it’s working brilliantly. As of last month, the site was Number One on Yahoo’s Scottish gifts search – and the firm has seen sales rise a staggering 10-fold. Why? Edinburgh Crystal did e-commerce the right way. IT manager Andy Thompson says the key is having good, accurate foundation manufacturing and business systems (ERP) in place, and then thinking carefully about the integration with the Web front end. For Edinburgh Crystal this meant linking its new Web sales system to its McGuffie Brunton Impact Encore ERP system and, via its Event Management system, developing automated processes to drive independent payment and distribution management company systems. Impact Encore was installed two years ago at the firm’s Edinburgh site, replacing an earlier Unix-based bespoke green screen system, and handling financials, aggregated demand-driven manufacturing and warehouse management, stock control, work in progress, etc. It was a somewhat complex implementation, having to handle the vagaries of mixed craftsman- and machine-based manufacturing (with issues like scrap and rework), and a sales order processing front end managing some 120 concessions and 12,000 customers – plus a separate forecasting system. Thompson says the firm had gone for largely ‘vanilla’ software, reducing its bespoke content from 60% to 5%, and involving considerable business process re-engineering to achieve this. He also says that following go-live and the usual bedding in, the system had been augmented with ODBC links to a Microsoft Access database to allow for easier user queries and ad hoc reports. It all meant that stock accuracy had been raised from 96% to 99.8%, reducing inventory from £6.5 million to £4 million. Also, the lengthy material ordering process cycle from sales order entry through weekly MRP and purchase order raising – which previously took two weeks – was reduced to overnight electronic transactions; and the Edinburgh Crystal store product replenishment cycle moved initially from six weeks to two and then down to four days. In short, manufacturing and business management was slick. And that provided firm foundations for the latest implementation – the new e-commerce sales site, with its requirement for automated internal and external systems (order processing and dispatch) to make Web-based buying and product delivery work. This is how it works. Consumers place orders on Edinburgh Crystal’s ‘on-line store’, and all credit card transactions – authorisation and processing – are automatically undertaken via a link from the site to the Netbanx (Internet banking) site. Orders are collected by the firm’s Internet service provider (ISP) UUnet and, at the end of each day, all data (held in an Access file) is e-mailed to Edinburgh Crystal. The file is then imported into the ERP system where the orders are processed: 30 minutes later the picking lists are released. Also, through Encore’s Event Management module (which enables users to monitor triggers in Encore and associate actions to events), a Visual Basic routine is triggered. This collects all order detail information – product price, duty, weight and customers’ addresses – and feeds it into a local Federal Express PC, using ODBC. This creates a manifest file and prints off the FedEx shipment documentation ready for the next morning despatch. It also dials up and downloads the manifest into a secure site on Compuserve, accessible by FedEx’s central US computer which in turn provides FedEx with invoicing and despatch information and instructions for product pick up. Finally, the invoice generated by Edinburgh Crystal is used as despatch documentation and for ledger update. The Netbanx site sends credit card details back to Edinburgh Crystal – which are processed by another Visual Basic programme to update the sales/general ledgers. There is more to come. Edinburgh Crystal is now looking at integrating real time shop floor data collection using IEGL’s Total Factory to get better plant visibility, production scheduling and stock control. It’s also set to improve manufacturing accuracy, costs and responsiveness by driving demand directly from EPOS terminals at its concessions, 75 of which have already been installed. “While the rapid take-off of e-commerce has created the opportunity to increase our global market presence, it is the implementation of Impact Encore, with its additional functionality, that has provided us with the internal capability to maximise this opportunity,” says Thomson. It’s done so “by enabling us to effectively integrate an e-commerce operation into our existing business framework.”