Natures Organics is upgrading its IT systems as the natural cleaning products business seeks to polish operations and support a brand image of sustainability.
Natures Organics sells a variety of Earth-friendly cleaning and personal hygiene products. Its brands include Earth Choice, Australian Pure and Organic Care.
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Historically, IT had not been a major focus for the natural cleaning products company, with other areas taking priority due to cost concerns and insufficient resources, according to the company's CTO, Phillip Smith.
"Due to the dynamic nature of the business and the lean senior management team the focus on IT has historically been a 'when required' approach," he said.
In the last 12 months, however, the IT department received additional resources and the go-ahead to buy a new ERP and business intelligence platform from Pronto Software, he said. The new software is currently being implemented.
In addition, the business last month completed a migration from Windows XP to Windows 7 and enabled native dual-stack IPv6 on our desktop network. Natures Organics is also working on a longer term project to green its IT systems. External customer demands convinced the business to overhaul its IT environment, according to Smith.
"While we have been aware for some time that we had simply outgrown our current system, one of our key drivers behind this project is some external requirements from our customers around [electronic data interchange (EDI)] interactions," he said.
The old system didn't "have any EDI features, and the third-party systems we retrofitted around it were clumsy, unmaintainable and unscalable. One customer in particular had pending requirements that we just could not meet.
"This was the 'straw that broke the camel's back' that tipped us over the edge into finally initiating the process of replacing our legacy system."
Natures Organics met with about eight potential vendors, eventually narrowing the list to Pronto and Epicor, said Smith.
"For a long time we actually believed Epicor would be best for us, but ultimately there were a couple of main concerns that led us to Pronto."
Natures Organics liked that Pronto was an Australian company, with R&D being conducted "15 minutes up the road rather than half a world away," he said.
"We also felt that Epicor's scope was more suitable to a larger business than ours. Yes, it would be capable of meeting our needs, but it was going to be a lot more complex and expensive to maintain when anything went wrong."
While Natures Organics is still implementing Pronto Xi, Smith said he expects the software will provide more accurate details about basic information like creditors, debtors and stock.
In the next stage of the project, the business will implement Pronto's advanced warehouse management module.
"We have around 6000 pallet spaces in our warehouse at the moment, and no proper system to manage it -- even simple things like 'what product is where' is mostly down to warehouse staff just knowing where they put it," Smith said.
"Being able to track and analyse our stock turns to efficiently store stock will be a big improvement for us. Some of our products turn 20 times a year, others two or three times."
Another major IT objective for Smith is to extend the Natures Organics brand's "natural ethos" into IT.
The business has an aggressive power-saving policy and a plan to green its server room, including an initiative to extract hot air to heat office space, the CTO said.
"The latter is still a work in progress, but we hope to get there one day," he said. "The company does have plans to expand into a greenfield site, where we will be able to build a new server room from the ground up which will make these kind of things easier to do."
However, Smith admitted that not all of these green IT initiatives have gone over well with the business.
"Unfortunately our most recent initiative of shutting down all computers, printers and servers over lunch breaks wasn't well received," he said, calling it "our April fools to the company!"