A mission-critical network
Ashok Leyland went through internal process restructuring
in the late 1990s. This restructuring took place in areas such as supply chain,
forecasting and outbound logistics. N Mohanakrishnan, Special Director, Information
Management Services, Ashok Leyland felt that the only way to get the best out
of this huge restructuring exercise was to migrate all of the companys
processes to a common IT platform.
We were clear in our objectives to have the best-in-class information
technology infrastructure and services for our growing businesses, explains
Network Failure = No ERP
Prior to setting up of the centralised data centre at Ennore in Chennai, Ashok
Leyland had a rudimentary ERP with systems operating from individual locations
and data consolidation took place periodically. There were several issues that
needed to be sorted out because of this arrangement.
The main problem was that the ERP application did not have a provision for manual
updates in case of network failure. This meant that business activity on hand
would have to be deferred until links were restored.
The integrated route
All of Ashok Leylands business processes now run on a single integrated
ERP solution. This solution was developed in-house between 2000 and 2003 with
the help of HTMT.
The WAN has 110 points of presence across the country and all these points access
the ERP system hosted at the data centre in Ennore for daily operations. The
entire infrastructure including the WAN is redundant to ensure that there is
no single point of failure.
The company uses Microsoft products such as Exchange, Office, Sharepoint Portal
Server and enterprise project management solutions. A centralised helpdesk has
also been set up at Chennai to support 75 locations that support desktop management
for 3,000 desktops and laptops.
Hooking it all together
All major locations of the company such as manufacturing centres, and corporate
and marketing offices are connected by a 2 Mbps leased line with redundant ISDN
connectivity from more than one telecom service provider.
Other points of presence are connected using 64 to 256 Kbps leased lines depending
upon the level of activity and load. Alternate connectivity is provided through
ISDN dial-up with appropriate bandwidth and the smaller locations use Very Small
Aperture Terminals (VSAT) connectivity.
The new ERP solution, developed in-house, has been designed
in such a way that all the dealer points and service outlets will be able to
access it. On completing the initiative, Ashok Leylands WAN and dealer
chain will encompass 400 points of presence.
Consequently, the IT platforms continuity for carrying out business processes
became critical. Steps were taken by the company to commission a business continuity
data centre in one of the major plants at Hosur.
In terms of security, the company has designed and deployed an infrastructure
which has virus protection, firewall and intrusion detection. All of them are
running on HP servers. The company has put in place information security policies
and procedures. It is also certified for BS 7799 by Standardisation Testing
and Quality Certification, a division of Department of Information Technology,
for compliance with BS 7799 guidelines.
In addition to this a number of security tools and intrusion
detection and prevention solutions protect the companys data. Continuous
monitoring and evaluation of adequacy of the information security is made and
necessary augmentation or modification to security infrastructure and policies
are put in place from time to time.
Benefits and ROI
The deployment has enhanced process productivity with higher infrastructure
availability to business. It has also improved end-user productivity.
Elaborates Mohanakrishnan, The impact of IT on business and vendor partnership
in this endeavour has been tremendous. The cycle time has come down drastically,
and process productivity has gone up by about 30 percent. Manufacturing planning
is also conducted automatically. There is higher infrastructure availability
with hardly any downtime. The greater predictability of spending on IT
and IT assets means that our TCO is better than before, he adds.
The benefits derived with IT as the centre point is being felt across Ashok
Leyland. The knowledge of IT and its impact on processes and operations has
improved across organisational hierarchies. Communications across the 100-plus
locations has become comparatively aster in the changed environment.