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CASE STUDY - Hunter Douglas Streamlines Complex Supply Chain

Commentary by Aart Van Leeuwen, Manager, Information Systems Service, Hunter Douglas Europe

Hunter Douglas is the world market leader in window coverings and a major manufacturer of architectural products. Its head office is in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Hunter Douglas operates its own trading exchange, where it buys and sells aluminum alloys and bauxite. Its global operations range from sites that work with raw materials to distribution centers of finished window fashions. The Hunter Douglas Group comprises 166 companies with 65 manufacturing and 101 assembly operations and marketing organizations in more than 100 countries; it employs about 20,000 people and had sales in 2006 of USD 2.6 billion.

Hunter Douglas manufactures and assembles against customer demand, making its supply chain extremely complex and far-reaching. Traditionally, it has conducted business with its supply chain by phone, fax, and e-mail—inefficient communication methods that created long delays due to numerous time zones and vast amounts of information to share accurately.

A Need for Greater Integration throughout the Supply Chain

Hunter Douglas deployed SAP R/3 to run the main production process: planning and managing order intake, purchasing, supply, and, of course, financials. To deliver a complete business solution, Hunter Douglas needs to provide rapid and easy access to critical information located in its enterprisewide SAP R/3 and other back-office systems.

Additionally, SAP is critical to Hunter Douglas’s strategy for greater integration throughout its supply chain. The company’s European headquarters is currently the only site outside of the U.S. that relies upon SAP; other distributors and manufacturing and assembly sites use a variety of ERP and back-office systems.

We could not tolerate anything that would interrupt or cause aslowdown in our production environment, which depends totallyupon SAP maintaining its high levels of performance. Fortunately,we discovered Data Integrator from Business Objects, an SAPcompany. It was clear that Data Integrator offered us the perfectlink between the Web and the SAP system. It also proved that itcould provide us with the speed we desired—without impactingthe performance of the ERP system. —Aart Van Leeuwen, Manager, Hunter Douglas Europe

Aart Van Leeuwen, manager of information systems service at Hunter Douglas Europe is responsible for the European headquarters’ e-business strategy and implementation. “Our supply chain is immense and highly complex in its structure and interaction. Our e-business strategy initially needed to benefit both Hunter Douglas’s internal and external customers on a global scale,” stated Van Leeuwen. Order placement, confirmation, and supply between manufacturing and assembly plants were still manual processes. As orders arrived, they were re-keyed into the order processing system.

“We were looking to cut administration time from hours to minutes,” said Van Leeuwen. “We could do this only by integrating requests coming across the Web with our live ERP environment.” This is where Hunter Douglas perceived a rapid return on investment. The complexity of its heterogeneous global IT infrastructure also needed to be integrated. “Each company in our group takes an independent and entrepreneurial approach to their IT infrastructure,” commented Van Leeuwen.

Data Integrator: The Perfect Link between the Web and SAP R/3

Data Integrator, offering one of the few ways to rapidly and intelligently catch information, provides rapid deployment for a fast return on investment. It enables the extraction of information from any combination of ERP, supply chain management, or other enterprise application. Data from these applications is critical to an enterprise as it generates constantly changing data, affecting inventory levels, account details, delivery dates, and financial reporting. Assembly sites were provided with a direct-connect Web site where staff can build and validate custom configurations, check prices, receive accurate promise dates for delivery, and check the precise status of outstanding orders in real time. With this stage of the supply chain automated, assembly plants gain faster access to order information.

Improvements in Service Speed and Efficiency

The deployment of Data Integrator at Hunter Douglas has revolutionized how the company accepts, processes, and confirms orders. “Our customers can now submit orders straight into our system and receive order confirmation,” Van Leeuwen said. “Behind the scenes, Data Integrator obtains the data, translates it into XML, validates it, and confirms delivery timelines.”

“We have been marketing this capability to our larger customers, those that place bulk orders,” Van Leeuwen added, “and this has been a resounding success, since they have realized improvements in both service speed and efficiency.”

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