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Volume 10, Number 26 -- July 20, 2010

Ewing Taps ManH Apps to Help Manage Irrigation Business

Published: July 20, 2010

by Alex Woodie

Ewing Irrigation Products is no stranger to information technology. The company, which distributes more than 13,000 types of irrigation products through seven distribution centers and 195 stores, got a leg up on competitors back in the 1970s by writing its own inventory optimization software for the System 3. More recently, the company standardized on IBM i-based supply chain software from Manhattan Associates, which is helping drive more efficiency into the business.

One gets the sense from reading the Ewing case study on the ManH website that the Phoenix, Arizona-based distributor is not your run-of-the-mill irrigation products company.

For starters, there is the hands-on approach that the owners, the York family, take in shaping the company's IT architecture. Sue York, the daughter of King Ewing, who bought the original Atlas Lawn Sprinkler company, helped develop home-grown programs to help the company manage its operations.

In 1977, Sue York and her husband, Ray York, consented for Ewing to serve as a multi-branch beta site for the S/34, which added multi-user and multi-tasking capabilities to the foundation of the S/32. IT efficiency back then was measured in memory. "All of our relevant demand data fit on two bytes, which was an achievement in those days," Ray York says.

Fast forward 33 years, through AS/400 and iSeries roll-outs, and the York family still owns and runs the privately held company, and the IBM midrange platform is still a big part of the business. And the company is still volunteering to be a beta site for cutting-edge IT solutions.

"Our company was an attractive beta site for [what would become] Replenishment because we had multiple locations shipping significant inventory," Ray York, Ewing's chairman, says in Manhattan's case study. "Plus we had already invested heavily in technology and were open to solutions that would make our operations run smarter and faster."

According to Manhattan, Replenishment did indeed help squeeze more efficiency from Ewing's business, and also enabled the company to adapt its inventory more quickly to changes in demand as a result of drought or wetter-than-normal periods.

The greater accuracy in determining good product mixes enabled Ewing to scale back its buyers from working six days a week to five, which represented a 15 percent reduction in labor hours. What's more, the company boosted its fill rate to 98 percent, which represented an 18 percent improvement.

In Ewing's warehouses, the greater accuracy in picking and product movement has helped the company's bottom line. Before installing the Manhattan WMS, the warehouses were working at near 100 percent capacity. Now, they operate at 60 percent capacity, giving them plenty of overhead for working on maintenance, or expanding the business.

Ewing president Doug York says the Manhattan products have bolstered the business. "We feel our company is well positioned to manage any inventory issue that comes our way," York says in the case study. "Our partnership commitment with Manhattan Associates has made us more successful and gives us an edge our competitors simply don't have at this point."




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