News

Integration crunch time for biscuit firms

Arif Mohamed

United Biscuits is embarking on a massive IT integration project following its acquisition of  rival manufacturer Jacobs from Danone in September 2004.

United Biscuits, which owns brands such as McVitie’s, Penguin, Jaffa Cakes and KP Nuts, will integrate Jacobs’ SAP and other systems into its own SAP R/3 set-up.

By standardising on one IT system, United Biscuits said it aims to cut costs, increase business agility and improve service.

The company signed an agreement with IT services firm Atos Origin last week to integrate the systems. SAP applications used include finance, manufacturing, sales and distribution, business warehouse, supply and demand chain management. The firms also use some bespoke applications.

Last week, a team of 20 Atos Origin personnel and 20 United Biscuits staff began a change management project to determine how to bring Jacobs’ IT systems in line with United’s. They plan to complete the integration by mid-2006.

The deal with Atos Origin is in addition to two contracts with Atos Consulting for the design and implementation of post-merger business processes and systems. In total, the contracts are worth more than £3m.

Clare Blackburn, European IS director at United Biscuits, said United and Jacobs use SAP in different ways, and structure their data differently. Because of this, integrating the data will be the biggest challenge. "The quality of the data is a bit of an unknown," she said.

One example of how the firms use SAP differently is Jacobs’ use of repetitive (ongoing) manufacturing, whereas United uses discrete manufacturing, raising production orders in batches.

The Atos contract also covers migrating the desktop infrastructure. For both United and Jacobs, this involves Microsoft operating systems and software, and Lotus Notes for e-mail and groupware.

"The desktop integration is moving at a faster pace. There is really good synergy, and no user training required. The application integration will happen in a much longer period of time - 18 months - and is more complex," said Blackburn.

United Biscuits’ outsourcing deals

2001
United Biscuits signs £8m, six-year outsourcing deal with Atos Origin to manage its SAP R/3 user support, and develop SAP applications.

2002
United signs £8.3m, five-year deal with Atos Origin to manage and develop all UK business apps, and run Manugistics and Lotus Notes.

2004
United Biscuits retires its only mainframe, running a legacy payroll application. Buys Jacobs from Danone.

2005
United Biscuits signs agreement with Atos Origin to integrate Jacobs’ SAP systems with its own SAP software and other systems.


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