iSeries Is Center of Lean IT Operation At adidas-Salomon Canada
January 18, 2005 Alex Woodie
Marketing people like to talk about how the ease-of-use and low total-cost-of-ownership of the iSeries can help users concentrate on the business at hand instead of worrying about information technology. Well, the folks up at adidas-Solomon Canada are actually living this lean IT dream. A new OS/400 server, a handful of Integrated xSeries Servers, and a new Web application have enabled the sporting goods manufacturer to eliminate Wintel server sprawl and expand customer service to the Internet, while keeping costs low at the same time.
With 250 employees and $230 million (Canadian) in annual revenues, adidas-Salomon is the biggest sports manufacturer in Canada. The corporation’s warehouse in Brantford, Ontario, is the only adidas-Salomon facility to carry all three product lines, including Adidas sporting goods and apparel, Salomon ski equipment, and Taylor Made golf equipment. The 80 or so warehouse workers are supported with a half of a dozen IT employees and 50 to 60 office workers at its main headquarters, located two hours away in Concord, Ontario.
Many of adidas-Salomon’s corporate holdings around the world use Windows servers, but the Canadian subsidiary has relied on AS/400 technology to manage the core aspects of its business since 1992. A recent technology upgrade allowed adidas-Salomon’s Canadian subsidiary to distinguish itself from (and possibly become the envy of) its Windows-based brethren in other parts of the world.
First, adidas-Salomon Canada took aim at the handful of Windows servers cluttering its data center. When it upgraded from an aging AS/400 Model 620 to a newer iSeries Model 810, it also purchased five IBM Integrated xSeries Server cards. These PCI-cards enable the company to bring the Windows applications, including a Web server, an FTP server, and a document management product, under the protective wings of the more stable iSeries server, which continued to run its core inhouse-developed ERP system and its warehouse management application from Application Solutions Inc., under OS/400.
Paul Leone, the company’s vice president of IT and logistics, says the server consolidation benefits his administrator, who has better things to do than baby-sit Windows servers. Even though IBM’s IXS servers are more expensive than Windows boxes from volume leader Dell, the capability to manage Windows and OS/400 applications from a single set of tools brings benefits that can’t be weighed strictly in terms of dollars and cents. “We could have saved upfront money,” Leone says. “But when everything sits under one computer, one chassis, there’s value there.”
Similarly, the next step in adidas-Salomon’s IT transformation–developing a Web portal that allows customers to browser various product catalogs, check the availability of inventory, inquire on order status, and see how much credit they have–can’t be judged in traditional return-on-investment terms. “Customer engagement, giving the customer an alternative, and differentiating ourselves from our competition–for us, this is as important as ROI,” Leone says.
The company selected Magic Software‘s fourth-generation-language programming environment, called eDeveloper, to develop the new Web portal application. While adidas-Salomon opted to deploy the new Web portal application on the Windows-based IXS cards, the application retains deep hooks into the company’s DB2 database residing on the iSeries. “The beauty of that application is, the screens were painted with your typical HTML design tools, but all the data is residing in AS/400 systems,” Leone says. “It’s not like we’re creating silos of information and refreshing on a scheduled basis.”
The eDeveloper’s flexibility also proved itself in its capability to integrate data from a back-end Hewlett-Packard HP3000 server, which the Taylor Made organization continues to use. The eDeveloper application is able to pull data from the aging HP3000 system and move it to the main data repository on the iSeries, Leone says.
The new Web portal has been a big hit among adidas-Salomon Canada’s customers. With just a little bit of training, a user name and password, and a Web browser, customers can get 24/7 access to information they previously had only limited access to over the telephone. About 20 to 25 percent of its 3,500 retail customers are using the new Web portal, and that number is expected to rise. “The ones cutting over to the Web don’t want to go back,” Leone says.
Adidas-Salomon Canada has become a model for lean IT operations. The company claims that its total spending on IT, as a percentage of total annual sales, is 1.1 percent–considerably less than what the average adidas-Salomon facility in other parts of the world are spending, Leone says. And the company is looking to cut costs and boost performance even more, possibly by moving the Web portal from Windows to Linux, which, Leone says, Magic has told him runs the software better.
The adidas-Salomon Canada organization is undoubtedly glad that Leone and his IT department adopted the role of technology instigator and cheerleader on the successful server consolidation and Web portal projects, which both IBM and Magic Software have touted to the press.
What’s more, the organization won a Canadian Information Product Award from Cap-Gemini last year for its implementation of the OS/400-based Maestro WMS system from ASI and its use of Psion‘s Teklogix wireless barcode scanners.
Not bad for a relatively small company, says Leone, who is now focusing on supply chain and sourcing issues, in addition to expanding the company’s Web presence. “We shifted from reactive to proactive,” he says. “We’re really ahead of the business curve.”