A manufacturing company uses tools
like Web-enablement and SMS integration to connect its
employees. Its WAN is simple yet cost-effective, and
it works. by Rahul Neel Mani & Shipra Arora
New Holland Tractors (India)
Pvt. Ltd., a 100 percent subsidiary of CNH Global, is
a busy manufacturing company that rolls out 45 tractors
a day. It has 400 nationwide employees, and manages
its operations with effective use of IT over a dedicated
A number of its employees need
to visit various parts of the country for regular activities
like marketing, sales, and maintaining dealer contacts.
This incurred travelling expenditure and also led to
problems like maintaining communication with the Head
Office, and ability to access company workflow applications.
To address these issues, the
company deployed a Web-enabled solution complemented
with SMS, to allow flow of information between the company
and its personnel on the road.
The Web helps
The company set up Commercial
Business Units (CBUs) across the country led by CBU
managers to maintain links and coordinate with the travelling
personnel. But that wasn't enough to solve the problems
of communication and data access.
"It was difficult to keep the
dispersed employees connected with the company head
office and its workflow applications. And we did not
want to deploy an expensive and elaborate office infrastructure
at all locations," explained Avinash Arora, Director-Information
Systems, New Holland Tractors (India).
The company deployed a 'Web-enabled'
solution by which the Web-based tools are used to access
the company workflow applications and provide a CBU
work support system.
The workflow applications at
the plant are based on Lotus Notes and have been Web-enabled.
It's hosted at Tata Internet Services Limited's (TISL)
CBUs are present in 14 nationwide
locations where the CBU manager has a team for sales,
service, and tractor spares. The staff at the CBUs can
log on to the company's Website and use the workflow
applications at the Head Office and the plant.
The in-house development team
has created a CBU work support application containing
all modules relating to sales and accounting. The Web-enabled
system is further tightly integrated with the Baan ERP
system implemented in New Holland.
The entire design, business
logic, and system evolvement was developed by in-house
teams in consultation with users. Activities related
to scripting of applications were outsourced.
This was because the company
wanted a solution customized to the unique requirements
of the tractor industry, which is a rural market-oriented
industry, and quite different from a normal auto industry.
The company spent around Rupees 6 Lakh for Web-enabling
Key workflow Features
The Web-enabled application
enables CBU members to do forecast and prepare plans
on a monthly and annual basis. They can also perform
functions like enter collections and orders data into
the system, view the outstanding details of a particular
dealer, and calculate the collections made from a particular
These information are consolidated
automatically at the head office since the application
is integrated with ERP. For instance, as soon as a tractor
invoice is generated, it is dispatched through the Baan
ERP application. The data is then pulled out from Baan
and put into the Web application.
Details on what has been sent
to dealers, is available to every CBU member on the
field, including the CBU manager. Since this is a 24x7
system that's tightly integrated with ERP, any dispatch
that takes place gets published in the CBU system. The
system has other features like follow-ups and certain
processes have been automated to act like a tracking
and monitoring system.
"This system is much more efficient
compared to our previous practice. Previously, MS-Excel
sheets were used to compile lots of data, and two or
three resources had to be dedicated for the job. Currently,
most workflow functions are automatic, and nobody has
to generate manual reports since the system is action-oriented.
The Web-based system has resulted in huge cost savings
for the company," said Arora.
The CBU application is protected
with the help of firewalls and user authentication (login
and password) measures. A CBU manager and his team can
access only specific dealers for which they are authorized.
To further enhance security, the company is evaluating
the use of a dedicated link to its Website.
Over a period of time the company
realized that connectivity was a big issue for CBUs
in remote locations. Despite having a Web-based solution,
CBU members were still calling and registering orders
using their mobile phones. New Holland decided to use
SMS to resolve the problem of connectivity. After evaluating
some SMS solutions it narrowed down on an SMS solution
developed by Osprey UK.
The SMS engine
The back-end infrastructure
of this SMS system includes an SMS engine, which is
a Nokia modem with a SIM card connected to an SMS server.
The company used a high-end PC for an SMS server and
installed a database engine in it. It developed applications
using Java and bought Osprey's proprietary data management
language software. With this basic infrastructure New
Holland started developing the business logics for the
Explains Arora, "The business
logics were developed in-house as we understood our
CBU Web-based application and ERP system very well.
This is very critical, as the SMS system is integrated
with both the CBU application and the ERP system."
The process basically involves
getting extracted information from these two sources,
merging it, converting it into an SMS table, and pushing
this information onto various mobile terminals. Using
the SMS system, the information gets updated into the
CBU application, and from the CBU application it gets
updated into the ERP without the need for Internet connectivity.
In the beginning, the system
used 'push-based' information. Pre-defined information
was flashed to key personnel nationwide. This included
details about dealer outstanding, dispatch status, day-wise
dispatches, monthly dispatches, day-wise production,
and monthly production. In the morning, personnel would
get around eight capsules of information on their mobile
phones. So it wouldn't matter if they've hadn't logged
on to the Website.
This was followed by using 'pull-based'
information. For instance, if a CBU member wanted to
know about the outstanding position of a dealer, he
could enter a pre-defined SMS command and send it to
the mobile number, which was connected to the SMS server.
With this, the information is pushed via the ERP system
into the SMS server. The required information is pulled
out and flashed back to the member.
Presently around 15 applications
run on the SMS system. This includes tracking the dealer
position, the entire CBU status, the outstanding for
a particular CBU, collections, the dispatches to a CBU,
and tracking information on stocks and production. One
can view the entire country's status in terms of outstanding,
collections, and dispatches. The cost of SMS integration
was Rupees 77,000.
Security for SMS system
Adequate security of the SMS
system has been provisioned. The business logic does
not allow anyone to pull and push information unless
the SMS server authenticates the user.
Pull and push information also
occurs through an intermediate database, which has also
been secured. The system requires validation and flashes
back a message to the person concerned that the message
has been accepted, followed by a confirmatory message,
that it has been updated. The time taken depends on
how long it takes for the message to get delivered to
another mobile user.
Initiated five months ago New
Holland has experienced a lot of demand from users about
how they can update information into the CBU and ERP
systems. Though it is in the process of evaluating the
benefits, Arora says that the SMS system has cut down
a lot of communication cost with even the net connectivity
costs coming down.
"The investment in this technology
is low, and the cost and other benefits are enormous.
We only have to deal with capsules of information supplied
by the users. The CBUs have to act based on this information.
So it acts like a decision support system," said Arora.
New Holland is now planning
to extend the scope of the system. It is presently working
on enabling booking of orders through SMS. "Right now
orders are booked through the CBU applications. We will
soon book orders through SMS," said Arora.
It is working on creating an
application, which allows information more than 150
characters to be sent as an e-mail message to the concerned
person. A notification is also sent to the CBU member
The company is also going to
automate its employee portal and is in the process of
implementing Baan HR. The tracking of recruitment and
monitoring system through Baan HR will be integrated
with the SMS system.
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New Holland Tractors (India) Pvt. Ltd., a 100
percent subsidiary of CNH Global, is a busy manufacturing
company that rolls out 45 tractors a day. It has
400 nationwide employees.
Employees at nationwide locations had to communicate
with the company offices, access company workflow
applications, and update ERP systems. But connectivity
and data access methods were unreliable.
The company deployed a Web-based solution to extend
the functionalities of ERP and company workflow
applications. It used SMS-based solutions, which
allowed personnel to share information with the
Employees at remote locations and nationwide offices
can access the corporate workflow systems and
access updated data. While on the move, the personnel
can update systems and receive capsules of information