Godrej Optimizes ERP; Wireless Plans Top Agenda

by Hinesh Jethwani    Jul 01, 2004

Mani Mulki can be best defined as a no-nonsense CIO with a clear-cut view on the role played by information technology in business: “Use it not because the world does, but only because ’you’ need to.”

Godrej Industries - one of the earliest adopters of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) in the country, has maintained a similar school of thought for years to come.

Speaking to CXOtoday, Mani Mulki, CIO, Godrej Industries Limited, said, “We were one of the early birds to jump on to the ERP bandwagon. After a careful structured evaluation in 1995, we selected MFG/PRO (an abbreviation for Manufacturing Progress) by QAD Inc. The need of the hour was to bring in a sense of discipline along with automation. The ERP today maps 130 locations in all, including factories, CNF, and regional offices.”

With many heavyweight ERP brands available in the market today, does the 1995 ERP system, which was purchased almost a decade back, still deliver for Godrej today? Replying in his classic style, Mulki said, “So what if a dozen new brands have come up today? The basic objective for any ERP is to analyze transactions at the granular level - a requirement that has been duly fulfilled with MFG/PRO.

So how has Godrej benefited from the ERP? Mulki replied, “It has brought us rich dividends by making all processes efficient. In the bill processing unit of our finance department, the ERP has reduced the number of employees by 50% with automation. Processes like the closing of accounts, which earlier happened on the 20th of every month, now typically close by the 5th. We have a better control over our inventory and information visibility of our supply chain has improved tremendously. The coherence of our purchasing system and billing processes is truly remarkable with the ERP. It has provided a stable platform for building a data warehouse and an employee portal”

The initial implementation of MFG/PRO was undertaken by Accenture. Subsequently, Godrej’s own internal IT team took over. The company had started an upgrade initiative to move to version 9 about two years back. A B2B portal meant for dealers was also added to the system in around the same time, and Godrej is now accruing the business benefits from the venture.

Detailing some of Godrej’s more ambitious plans, Mulki said, “In approximately one years time, we plan to equip our sales staff with handheld devices and PDAs. Sales force automation is clearly the future roadmap.”

Describing the company’s latest push towards establishing a true wire-free environment, Arun Mathew, executive - information systems, Godrej Industries Limited, said, “We have already flagged off our wireless initiative, by which we are planning to bring our entire premises under WLAN. The campus wide wireless network will be purely an internal 100 Mbps local area network, and will involve the purchase of atleast 10-15 high area coverage Wireless Access Points (WAP). The project is scheduled to be completed this year, and secure connectivity is our primary focus. As there are other enterprises in the same campus (including the likes of Accenture, Earnest Cap Gemini & Young), we would like to secure our WLAN against any form of unauthorized access from users outside our employee base.”

“The 802.11g standard will be used in the WLAN, and first level discussions are already on with 3Com. Further talks will be held with Nortel and Cisco, and a vendor will be finalized soon. The wireless initiative will solve many problems by removing current mobility restrictions imposed by our wired LAN. Since most employees, particularly the senior management, keep moving around in our premises, a true wireless network will be a boon,” reasoned Mathew.

The company is also planning to move on from CAT5 cabling to CAT6 standards, as part of its networking initiative.

Explaining his side of the ERP story, Mathew explained, “The de-centralized ERP system operates through local databases in eight different branch offices. We are adding more building blocks over our ERP base architecture. The latest additions include CRM applications for our chemical business, SCM applications for our FMCG operations, and an employee portal that extracts some data from the ERP.”

Godrej uses IBM’s WebSphere MQ for business integration, and Oracle OLAP (Online Analytical Processing) for Business Intelligence (BI). The rollout of the BI tool is currently being carried out at key locations, which is assisting the management in viewing crucial information and predicting trends.

To make its mailing system more efficient, Godrej undertook a unique initiative. Mathew detailed, “The consolidation of our mailing system was another key initiative that was flagged off recently. A process to collect and collaborate feedback material from email users was undertaken. The project was called ’Suvidha’, and it involved an extensive survey of what the field staff felt about our mailing system. Information was collected over a period of three months, i.e. from Dec-Feb. After analyzing the results, we had discussions with Microsoft on how we could better our mail systems. With some brainstorming, we came to the conclusion that an upgrade was absolutely necessary.”

Explaining further, Mathew added, “MS Exchange 2003 is better equipped for mobile access vis-à-vis Exchange 2000. In the latest version, a lot of loopholes have been plugged and the form-based interface has been made much simpler. For example, with MS Exchange 2000, we had configure to separate mail domains: mail1.godrej.com, and mail.godrej.com. The former was a high bandwidth option for users logging on from faster connections, and the latter was meant for basic telephone slow modem users. Exchange 2003 has a form-based authentication which allows the selection of bandwidth speeds, eliminating the hassles of maintaining and remembering different URL’s.”

Godrej Industries uses approximately 30 servers, most of which are HP RISC-based machines. A majority of the servers, approximately 15 machines, are hosted at the company’s data center at Reliance. On the client side, Microsoft clearly rules at Godrej. The company has approximately 1,000 Windows based desktops, with most clients running the latest - Windows XP.

On the application server end, the company uses a mixture of Windows 2000 AS and Windows 2003 Server licenses. “Only critical applications, including our mail server, run on Windows 2003. However, there are absolutely no Windows NT 4.0 boxes remaining in our enterprise,” clarified Mathew.

Tags: Godrej, ERP