Planning a safe journey to ERP in the cloud
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Changing ERP systems can feel like a Hail Mary pass for manufacturers. When it goes right, the move can pay off almost instantly. When it goes wrong, however, it could mean game over.
When the playmakers at sports collectables manufacturer Aminco International Inc. decided the time was right to loft a pass from an in-house system to a cloud ERP environment, they chose the Trek Cloud ERP system from Trek Global Corp. It ended up being a winning move, despite some initial connectivity fumbles.
Based in Lake Forest, Calif., Aminco makes emblematic jewelry and accessories for major league and collegiate sports teams. According to its president, Edward Wu, the company came to be a Trek Global customer through a previous relationship with Joel Strangeland, now CEO of Trek Global. Wu and Strangeland started working together seven years ago when Aminco adopted Compiere, an open source ERP and customer relationship management (CRM) provider and Trek Global partner, and Strangeland was a consultant on the implementation. "[For us], Trek Global was the next iteration of Compiere," Wu explained.
In 2013, Aminco decided to move from the on-premises Compiere ERP to Trek Global's Trek Cloud ERP. "In the last few years, we looked at different ERP systems, but we stuck with Compiere and then Trek Global, because we're familiar with it and it gets the job done," Wu said. "I also really like the cloud aspect of Trek."
For Aminco, this wasn't just a transition to a new ERP system -- it was also the company's first foray into cloud computing. In preparation for the move, Aminco ran extensive system testing to ensure that all data and custom coding would be migrated correctly, Wu said. The entire implementation took roughly five months, a process that was mostly led by Trek Global representatives.
Improving customer experience through cloud ERP
The allure of the cloud was one of the reasons Aminco was in the market for a new ERP system at all and a main factor in its decision to adopt Trek Cloud ERP, Wu explained.
"There were a lot of additional features that we wanted to implement, and it seemed like it would be easier [to do so] with Trek Global -- things like EDI [electronic data interchange] and shipping integration," he said. "We also eventually want to have our customers be able to access our system directly, so they can place orders and look up invoices." Having the company's ERP accessible through any Web browser makes this goal a real possibility for Aminco as soon as six months down the road.
"Businesses are moving to a Web-based type of system," Wu said. "We want to get on board sooner rather than later." In the future, he hopes to expand the system's customer-centric functionality even farther by adding a custom CRM module on top of the Trek Global ERP.
The decision to switch to a cloud ERP system didn't come without reservations, according to Wu. There were initial worries that the company's data would be less secure in the new hosted platform than it had been on the in-house servers. "We still do [worry about that], as we haven't started implementing a lot of the security features yet, but we plan on doing so," he said. "Security means things like limiting access to IP addresses, making sure that everyone has good passwords and things like that." Prior to implementing Trek Global, employee training courses on cloud ERP use and security protocol began with departmental leaders, who then shared their knowledge down the ranks.
Cloud ERP takes weight off IT, increases accessibility
Today, Aminco is using Trek Cloud ERP to store manufacturing data from every step of the manufacturing process -- from order entry and shipping to purchasing, invoicing and financials, Wu said. Every employee is using the Trek system on a daily basis, including remote employees. The cloud system is also accessible via mobile device, which has been particularly helpful for Wu and others in the company who travel frequently.
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One of the more immediate benefits of moving to the cloud was the burden it lifted from Aminco's support staff. "We have a real bare-bones IT department here," Wu explained. With a hosted system that is maintained off-site, time-consuming daily software and server maintenance no longer rests squarely on the shoulders of a few employees.
Another positive change that came from the Trek Global implementation is the ability to access the ERP system outside of the office without having to log onto a virtual private network, according to Wu.
System alterations and problem solving are also easier in the cloud, he added. "Before, we had to have a consultant work with us for any sort of troubleshooting or upgrades, which is always sort of a pain, especially on weekends and off-hours," Wu said. "Trek Global has people working all over the world at all hours, so it's very easy to get back up and running." In the beginning, there were some connectivity-related "hiccups," as Wu said, but those are now infrequent and rarely last more than an hour or two.
To other manufacturers looking to adopt Trek Global ERP or another cloud ERP system, Wu has a few words of wisdom. "From our experience, you need to take your time and really do your homework," he said. "Make sure to demo the [cloud ERP] system according to your own needs and workflows."
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