The implementation of Microsoft BizTalk Server 2010 at TIM SA – one of the leading companies on the distribution market of electrical goods in Poland – has created the 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 in a nearshoring model by Fild.NET.
The initial situation
TIM SA is one of the leading companies on the Polish distribution market of electrical goods, 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 sqm, located in Siechnice, and 30 wholesales scattered across Poland. The number of electrical goods in the TIM’s offer counts tens of thousands, of which several thousand are a permanent storage items.
TIM SA has won its position by consistently realized a 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 an US company called QAD. It has been modified several times since the implementation 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 corrected in several places by skilled programmers, which was associated with high costs and it took time. For this reasons, gradually we had lost the ability to quickly respond to changing market situation. So we have taken steps to develop a new concept for the development of business applications in our company”- says Tomasz Nowowiejski, Head of IT in TIM SA.
After analyzing all the options, TIM SA has decided to implement specialized, best in its 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 others areas have been left to the previously used the MFG/PRO ERP system. Integration of the new systems with MFG/PRO has been 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, which functionality met the expectations of TIM SA. In addition to Microsoft’s BizTalk solution, there were products from Oracle, IBM and open platform Mule ESB on the “short list” of TIM SA. The choice fell on BizTalk Server as the platform with the lowest TCO whiles ensuring a high level of security.
The most important requirement for new IT systems was that they were to be made in the Service Oriented Architecture (SOA). It was a necessary condition to allow their seamless integration with MFG/PRO. In the first stage of the integration project there were prepared 25 Web Services, which enabled the integration of MFG/PRO with specialized new IT systems. Created groups of Web Services have been cataloged in the UDDI registry to allow easy use of them. The data, which were to be exchanged between MFG/PRO and specialized IT systems, has been written in the canonical schema standard OAGIS 9.4.1 (in XML). The use of the canonical data model allowed to determine common to all systems data exchange format, which was necessary for the smooth integration process. In the second stage of the project there was the integration of MFG/PRO with WMS (Warehouse Management System) carried out. Integration with other specialized IT systems – CRM (Customer Relations Management) and MDM (Master Data Management) – is scheduled for next year.
“Operation of the new solution to the greatest simplification 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 powerful functionality of new applications without complex and costly modifications to the MFG/PRO ERP system, treating it as a system of recording transactional data” – explains Andrzej Biesiekirski, CEO of Fild.NET Sp. of o.o.
High availability of the new solution is ensured by installing it on VMware. It is also noteworthy that there have been implemented the standards of error handling and monitoring activities of BizTalk Server, which provided the use of the ESB Management Portal tool, part of the BizTalk ESB Toolkit.
TIM SA has gained a number of significant advantages from the integration of specialized IT systems with the MFG/PRO ERP system using BizTalk Server. The most important are: the recovery of 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
The implementation of Microsoft BizTalk Server in TIM SA caused that the company regained the ability to automate their business processes and 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 its 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. It is worth noting the high stability of the created solution. It is assured by adopted architecture of the new solution – based on a VMware environment, and by using BizTalk ESB Management Portal for error handling and monitoring activities of BizTalk Server.
A very important benefit is also the cost effectiveness of the solution. Cancellation of an expensive and not very flexible an ERP system for specialized IT systems integrated with MFG/PRO using BizTalk, reduced implementation costs, additionally spreading them in time. To reduce the cost of the project also contributed the nearshoring model of cooperation between Fild.NET and TIM SA. Fild.NET’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 Fild.NET, using the tools for project management, document exchange and video-conferencing. Also the servicing of the new solution is to be handled in the nearshoring model 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 taking and giving away the assigned goods.