SSL International, the UK-headquartered manufacturer of Durex and Scholl footcare products, has completed 75% of its global SAP roll out.
Peter Whitehurst, chief information officer at SSL, said that only 225 users still need to be added in Australia, Thailand and Greece, in a project which has helped the company improve its forecasting and planning.
"We have succeeded in our goals of achieving reduced risk by eliminating legacy systems, common information, complete visibility and increased flexibility of the supply chain, improved separation of duties controls, and improved decision making," said Whitehurst.
The only goal SSL has not yet achieved is reduced operational costs, but Whitehurst said this is not that surprising considering the already lean structure of the company.
Whitehurst took the decision to simplify the company's IT infrastructure after starting in the role in 2005 .
"Mergers in the late 1990s had resulted in a complex infrastructure made up of ageing systems with little or no commonality," he told the SAP UK and Ireland User Group Conference 2009.
Determined not to repeat a failed PeopleSoft implementation in 2000, Whitehurst called together all regional managing directors to get their commitment to a single, standard, global system.
"Each had to nominate a senior representative in selecting the most appropriate ERP software because it is never a good idea to let IT be responsible for the decision alone," said Whitehurst.
Based on the agreed criteria, SSL was able to narrow down the choices to SAP and Oracle within eight weeks.
"The final choice of SAP was obvious because at the time it was able to offer ten reference sites where the software was working in similar businesses, but Oracle had none," said Whitehurst.
Sticking to the standard SAP implementation as far as possible has been key to the project's success, said Whitehurst.
SSL's global SAP template allows for around only 15% regional customisation, but that means that the bulk is a solid and common core of best practices to which the company has adapted its processes as necessary, he said.
Any company rolling out SAP should also invest enough time to create a good implementation model, said Whitehurst.
"If the model is good, deploying the software and going live is relatively easy," he said. But Whitehurst emphasised that user support in the form of clinics, forums and refreshers sessions is essential to ensure changes in business processes become embedded quickly.