When BOMs slow batching processes, you need an archive

Ever notice some computer slowness after you've downloaded music or photos? The same thing can happen with a manufacturer's ERP system. While the overloaded PC may take minutes to load a photo, the manufacturer's problem is more significant. Important systems can slow down at exactly the wrong time, says Brian Babineau, senior analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG), a Milford, Mass.
By Jean Thilmany, contributing editor (thilmanyj@yahoo.com) December 1, 2007

Ever notice some computer slowness after you’ve downloaded music or photos? The same thing can happen with a manufacturer’s ERP system.

While the overloaded PC may take minutes to load a photo, the manufacturer’s problem is more significant. Important systems can slow down at exactly the wrong time, says Brian Babineau, senior analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG), a Milford, Mass.-based technology analyst firm.

“These organizations run real-time queries that access their data or do batch reporting at night to feed manufacturing plans to other parts of the organization,” Babineau says. “The more business processes you access, the more data you have at risk, and the less likelihood of getting a quick response time when running queries.”

Take Traco , a Cranberry Township, Pa.-based window maker. Its commercial unit makes custom windows for the likes of the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty. Each custom design and build of these large windows generates a lengthy bill of material (BOM) that must be maintained indefinitely within the company’s Oracle ERP system to accommodate service requests. The wealth of BOM information slowed ERP to a crawl, which affected all other operations, according to Babineau.

One year ago, Traco began using an archival and storage system from Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Solix Technologies to free up space on its Oracle application. Solix offers what it calls enterprise data management software.

“[Each day], Traco has to generate a production plan that tells the shop floor what it needs to make that day,” says Shekhar Dasgupta, Solix president and COO. “That’s a batch processing application, and it was taking a huge amount of time because of the size of the database. At eight in the morning, the production plan wasn’t ready. Traco was losing an hour where the shop floor was idle. It went beyond an IT issue to a business issue.”

After implementing the archival system, Traco completed its production plan at night, meaning the plant floor was ready to roll each morning.

Managed-storage and back-up systems from Solix Technologies free up storage space by storing legacy information off-site and deleting the archived data from the ERP system.

As more manufacturers experience system slowdowns, they can free up hardware and server space by archiving older data from ERP systems. But just five years ago, access to older information wasn’t as critical as it is today, says ESG’s Babineau.

“Now we see integrated supply chains across multiple suppliers, and everyone needs real-time access to supplier information,” says Babineau. “Companies need to prove to regulators that they kept the old stuff and can run it. They also like to trend things over time, and following something over three years is more valuable than just one.”

To isolate information that can be archived from data likely to be accessed within the next several years, Solix first meets with both the IT and manufacturing sides of an organization to classify and rank all information. Solix stores legacy data on off-site tapes. The database information is stored in XML so it can still be accessed online, though it can’t be updated. Often employees don’t even know they’re accessing archived data, Dasgupta concludes.