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Dow Corning approaches real time

Students of the real-time enterprise know that what constitutes real time can vary from enterprise to enterprise. According to Abbe Mulders, CIO at Dow Corning Corp. -- a Midland, Mich.-based manufacturer of silicon-based products, technologies and services -- real time means that data is put into an application when it is generated and the results are immediately available. Dow Corning started an initiative a few years ago to get up close to real time-type capabilities and to extend that capability to its suppliers and customers through Web applications or business-to-business automation.

Having done a good deal of internal application development over the past 15 to 20 years, Dow Corning wanted to improve its capabilities in the company and see more productivity increases. It also wanted more data availability and an understanding of inventory levels on a global basis, which for Dow Corning meant across 7,500 employees and 22 manufacturing sites worldwide. For these goals to become realities, Dow Corning realized it could not keep developing in-house applications and set out to find a packaged software suite.

The company chose to replace its legacy systems with SAP's ERP system in 1995. ''The project was a multiyear, planned development effort in the SAP environment, with a parallel effort to obsolete and retire the mainframe systems,'' said Dow Corning's Mulders. Prior to migrating to SAP, Dow Corning was operating three regional data centers all with disparate applications on mainframes. ''We didn't have good integration among different regions or applications,'' added Mulders.

Today, an SAP system has helped Dow Corning to generate two corporate Web sites that are intrinsic to operations. One allows customers to log on, place orders, make payments and have products delivered. The second Web site caters to the customer base looking for more interaction with Dow Corning. This site is more solutions-oriented, Mulders noted, and includes order tracking, order status, data sheets and some forms of self-service.

Migrating toward real time ''has strengthened our strategy and gives our customers just what they need when they need it,'' Mulders said. It has resulted in increased data accuracy and productivity, integrated supply chains and the ability to view information from around the world. ''Our customer service professionals now handle about a 20% increased call load than they did before the migration to SAP; [they can also] manage across the different geographies where our customers are located,'' Mulders said.

Dow Corning does not believe it has yet arrived at real time and is continuing to make improvements to its systems. ''We are working on managing information distillation between our customer professionals and information for the customer when they need it,'' Mulders said.

For more, go to 'Status update: The real-time enterprise' at http://www.adtmag.com/article.asp?id=6865

About the Author

Lana Gates is a freelance writer based in Mesa, Arizona. She can be reached via e-mail at freelancewriter@gates-works.com.

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