TIM SA regains the ability to automate its business processes with BizTalk Server

The implementation of Microsoft BizTalk Server 2010 at TIM SA – one of the leading companies on the market of electrical goods distribution in Poland – has created an integration platform on which the selected areas of the MFG/PRO ERP system have been replaced with specialized IT systems. Thus TIM SA has regained the ability to further automate its business processes using best-in-class IT systems and also has secured a great deal of flexibility in carrying out the integration of its IT environment in the future. BizTalk Server was implemented on a nearshoring basis by the Euvic Group.

Client

TIM SA is one of the leading companies on the Polish market of electrical goods distribution whose shares have been quoted on the Warsaw Stock Exchange since 1998. The company’s distribution network consists of a logistics center with an area of 30 thousand m2, located in Siechnice, and 30 wholesale outlets scattered across Poland. The electrical goods in the TIM’s offer number in the tens of thousands of which several thousand are permanent storage items.

Challenge

TIM SA has won its position by consistently pursuing its development strategy, innovation and business process automation. Since 2001 the implementation of TIM’s strategy has been supported by the MFG/PRO ERP system, created by the US-based QAD. It has been modified several times since its introduction to enable the smooth operation of TIM SA on an increasing scale. But as TIM grows – and there have emerged new areas of activity, new sales channels and requirements for customer service, access to information and automation of business processes – the restrictions of MFG/PRO have become increasingly apparent.

“It was very difficult and more and more costly to reflect in MFG/PRO even the slightest changes introduced in some of the business processes in our company. The system had to be adjusted in several places by skilled programmers which involved high costs and took time. For this reasons we gradually had lost the ability to quickly respond to the changing market situation. So we have taken steps to develop a new concept for the development of business applications in our company,”- said Tomasz Nowowiejski, Head of IT at TIM SA.

Solution

After analyzing all the options TIM SA chose to implement specialized best-in-class IT systems to replace the selected areas of MFG/PRO. It was decided to gradually implement the systems in the following areas: WMS (Warehouse Management System), CRM (Customer Relations Management) and MDM (Master Data Management). The other areas have been left to the previously used MFG/PRO ERP system. The integration of the new systems with MFG/PRO was performed using Microsoft BizTalk Server which served as an ESB platform.

The choice was preceded by a thorough analysis of several commercially available integration platforms with functionality meeting TIM SA’s expectation. In addition to Microsoft’s BizTalk solution the company short-listed products from Oracle, IBM and the open platform Mule ESB. Finally BizTalk Server was chosen as the platform with the lowest TCO and at the same time ensuring a high level of security.

The most important requirement for new IT systems was that they were to be built in the Service Oriented Architecture (SOA). This was a necessary condition to enable their seamless integration with MFG/PRO.

At the first stage of the integration project 25 Web Services were prepared making it possible to integrate MFG/PRO with the specialized new IT systems. The created groups of Web Services were cataloged in the UDDI registry to enable their easy use. The data to be exchanged between MFG/PRO and the specialized IT systems was written in the canonical schema standard OAGIS 9.4.1 (in XML). The use of the canonical data model made it possible to determine a data exchange format common to all systems which was necessary for the smooth integration process.

At the second stage of the project MFG/PRO was integrated with WMS (Warehouse Management System). The integration with the other specialized IT systems – CRM (Customer Relations Management) and MDM (Master Data Management) – is scheduled for next year.

“The greatest simplification offered by the new solution is that Biztalk provides specialized IT systems with data from MFG/PRO as a web service. This also works the other way – through BizTalk Server data from specialized IT systems are transmitted to MFG/PRO. It makes it possible to use the powerful functionality of the new applications without complex and costly modifications to the MFG/PRO ERP system, which is treated as a system for recording transactional data,” explained Andrzej Biesiekirski, representing the Euvic Group.

The high availability of the new solution is ensured by installing it on VMware. It is also noteworthy that standards have been introduced for error handling and monitoring the activities of BizTalk Server, ensured by the use of the ESB Management Portal tool, part of the BizTalk ESB Toolkit.

Benefits

TIM SA has gained a number of significant advantages from the integration of the specialized IT systems with MFG/PRO using BizTalk Server. The most important are: the recovery of the ability to respond rapidly to changes in the market environment, securing flexibility to implement changes in the future and the cost-effectiveness of the new solution.

The ability to quickly make changes
With the implementation of Microsoft BizTalk Server in TIM SA the company regained the ability to automate its business processes and to quickly make changes in response to what is happening on the market. The most urgent needs were addressed by the implementation of the WMS system and its integration with MFG/PRO. Also IT needs from other areas of the company – as customer service or logistics – became possible to meet in the foreseeable future.

Flexibility and stability of the solution
The solution adopted by TIM SA has provided the flexibility that ERP systems do not provide. It results from the extensive functionality of the selected specialized IT systems which often exceeds the capabilities of ERP solutions available on the market. Selected systems are also continuously developed by their manufacturers in order to meet the changing needs of their users. On the other hand, TIM SA has retained the ability to easily change any of the implemented specialized IT systems or to implement a new one, if the need arises in the future. The high stability of the created solution is worth noting. It is assured by the adopted architecture of the new solution – based on a VMware environment, and by using BizTalk ESB Management Portal for error handling and monitoring the activities of BizTalk Server.

Cost-effective implementation
A very important benefit is also the cost-effectiveness of the solution. The replacement of an expensive and not very flexible ERP system with specialized IT systems integrated with MFG/PRO using BizTalk reduced implementation costs, additionally spreading them in time. Also the nearshoring mode of cooperation between the Euvic Group and TIM SA contributed to the cost reduction. Euvic’s consultants appeared personally in TIM SA only if it was really needed. The rest of the work was done remotely, mostly in the Bialystok programming center of the Euvic Group, using tools for project management, document exchange and video-conferencing. Also the servicing of the new solution is to be handled on a nearshoring basis, as well as the implementation of subsequent stages of the project.

Logistics services to external partners
An important benefit of implementing the new solution is the fact that TIM SA can provide logistics services to third parties. The BizTalk platform provides an easy flow of information between IT systems of TIM SA and external companies, providing data from warehouses necessary for the smooth implementation of the processes of picking and distributing the assigned goods.

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