Blackmores’ CIO Brett Winn says the vitamins and health supplements company is about three-quarters of the way through its rollout of Oracle ERP Cloud across the Asian markets it operates in.
The Australian company’s products are distributed in around a dozen markets in the region, but it has an in-country presence in nine.
Since Winn joined the business three years ago, he’s overseen a push to consolidate platforms and technology teams both in Australia and internationally, and an increasing use of cloud services.
The rollout of the new enterprise resource planning (ERP) system was a “deliberate move to bring in-country finance and supply chain services onto a common, single enterprise platform,” he told Computerworld.
In Australia, Blackmores uses JD Edwards to deliver its primary ERP capability, with the Oracle platform employed for logistics and manufacturing as well as finance for around a decade and a half.
“When we looked to what our businesses in Asia were going to be doing into the future, they’re not going to be necessarily manufacturing; they are going to be supply chain and finance systems,” Winn said.
“We wanted to get a little bit ahead of the game and move them on to Oracle ERP, with a view that I would think that in four to six years, we would then look at bringing Oracle ERP into the Australian business to replace the JD Edwards platform. There needs to be a little bit of work around maturing the platform for it to pick up the full manufacturing capabilities.”
The CIO said that in Blackmores’ Asian operations, Oracle ERP is generally replacing bank-provided finance platforms or MYOB-style software. “Things like demand planning, product development work — that type of work that's done on the operations side of our business — was generally done in spreadsheets or as a manual process,” Winn said.
The situation made forecasting sales and product demand a challenge for the company.
Rolling out a unified ERP platform is delivering transparency and helping get products into local markets far more efficiently, the CIO said.
“We’ve been in markets like Thailand for 35 years and have run them very successfully, but the reality is that we want to scale our Asian businesses quite significantly over the next five to 10 years,” Winn said.
“We weren’t going to be able to do that with the technology that they were running the day-to-day business finances and supply chain capabilities on. That’s when we had to say, ‘We need an enterprise-grade platform.’”
The business case for the new ERP system was approved in January 2018. Blackmores has worked with Oracle Consulting on the rollout. It went live in Singapore in February this year, and in China last month.
Over the next month and a half Hong Kong and Taiwan are expected to be moved on to the platform.
“It's been challenging, and it will continue to be challenging as we move around the other markets,” the CIO said. In many cases those challenges related to the entrenched processes across different parts of Blackmores’ operations in the region, as well as the complications of managing multiple jurisdictions (dealing with China’s ‘golden tax’ for example).
The shift to the ERP system is part of a broader move to the cloud, Winn said. When he joined Blackmores, it was predominantly running on-premises systems, with the exception of Office 365 email.
“Over the last three years, we have effectively shifted about 95 per cent of workloads now into cloud-based services,” he said. Predominantly that has involved Microsoft’s Azure services; Blackmores is running JD Edwards on Azure for example.