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Adaptive infrastructure

Adapting ERP at SCL

Sundaram-Clayton wanted to improve its ERP system's responsiveness, so it deployed an adaptive infrastructure environment. Today, it enjoys higher levels of performance. by Soutiman Das Gupta

Automobile component manufacturer Sundaram-Clayton (SCL) wanted to squeeze the maximum from its ERP system. To do this, it built its ERP atop an architecture that supported high levels of reliability, stability, and scalability.

After much planning and evaluation, CIO T G Dhandapani adopted an adaptive infrastructure model. Today, SCL's SAP R/3 runs on this architecture offering superior performance and greater responsiveness.

Business at SCL

Belonging to the TVS group of companies, one of India's largest automotive component manufacturing and distributing groups, SCL has two divisions—the Brakes and Die-casting divisions. The company's corporate office is in Chennai; it has three manufacturing units (two in Chennai and one in Hosur), a warehouse in Bangalore, registered offices, area offices and sales representatives at various locations nationwide.

To be a global player and agile enough to adapt to dynamic business scenarios, the company had to overcome the following challenges:

All manufacturing units and stocking points had to be linked with the ERP system and the various processes in the business units had to be integrated.

The business processes across group companies had to be standardised and response times had to be faster. Transaction costs had to be reduced by bringing suppliers and customers closer through the Internet.

The old and the new

To overcome these challenges, the company decided to replace its existing Baan ERP system that ran on an IBM RS6000 platform with a new scalable enterprise system to support its projected growth. After evaluating various ERP solutions in 2000, SCL decided upon SAP R/3 in TVS Motor (another TVS group company), and implemented it in August 2001.

After its successful deployment, Dhandapani, who had been the SAP implementation Project Head at TVS Motor, made a strategic decision to standardise the IT base onto SAP across SCL group companies. He deployed SAP R/3 across the remaining group companies in September 2003, and created an in-house SAP management team staffed by personnel from SCL and TVS Motor. At this point Dhandapani felt that the conventional method of deploying applications on existing servers would not do. The ERP had to run on an intelligent platform providing high levels of reliability, scalability, security and be responsive. The infrastructure had to host transactions for four companies in seven different manufacturing locations, out of which two ran 24x7.

Suitable architecture

SCL set about evaluating an appropriate IT architecture from solution providers such as HP and IBM. "The evaluation was based on techno-commercial matrices which looked at the performance of the solution versus the cost," explained Dhandapani. "We also used tools provided by SAP to generate operating values specific to our business environment,” he added.

These values were converged to numeric values, which were then matched to SAP requirement values for various services. The interested solution providers were asked to make presentations and were evaluated for conformity to the SAP values, planned architecture’s robustness, performance and scalability factors, support, and solution cost.

SCL finally chose Hewlett-Packard (HP) based on the evaluation criteria.

Adaptive infrastructure

T G Dhandapani, CIO, Sundaram

"Since the company aimed to become more capable and ready to evolve according to the changing market conditions in the near and long term, we decided to deploy the adaptive enterprise infrastructure approach," said Dhandapani.

The solution was based on HP's Intel Itanium 2-powered Integrity servers. Each dual processor server enables the architecture to support No Single Point of Failure (NSPoF) and ensures maximum system uptime.

The servers offer multi-OS compatibility, allowing standardisation of IT infrastructure on a single platform. Intelligent software allows clustering functions and makes the infrastructure adaptive to application needs.

The cost of setting up two sets of servers for the two business divisions was around Rs 1.8 crore.

Design and Management

The basic design ensures that the application tier can enable new offerings to be introduced at short notice and be completely integrated with performance on the Oracle database.

Infrastructure reliability is also due to the fact that the 2-way servers are clustered. As soon as CPU usage hits a pre-set threshold, the system is designed to send an SMS message to the system administrator. HP OpenView is used to manage the network and SAP's solution manager to monitor application performance.

HP provided technical consultation, pre-implementation support, and also collaborated with the SCL SAP team to work on-site and offer post-implementation support.

The development server, which ran IBM AIX had to be migrated to the HP Itanium platform. Clustering the servers took some work.

Adapting for the better

Around 150 staff of SCL access the new set-up and another 100 will be added as SAP goes live in two more companies and four manufacturing units in Hosur and Pune. "The transaction time has reduced by almost a third," declared Dhandapani.

For example, the Material Transfer Request (MTR) generation which consisted of eight processes took 773 seconds (almost 13 minutes) earlier. Now, MTR generation can be done with only two processes, and takes a total time of 20 seconds. This is a time reduction of almost 98 percent.

Dhandapani said, "The IT infrastructure has become very reliable and availability is high since the clustering applications reduces downtime. This helps us fully utilise the benefits of ERP. The architecture is easy to scale since an increased workload in the future will only need incremental addition of hardware."

SCL wants to continue utilising its adaptive infrastructure, making incremental hardware additions when necessary. It will shortly deploy SAP modules for HR and the Project System.

Soutiman Das Gupta can be reached at

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