SAS Global Communications upgrades electrical wholesaler's infrastructure to boost efficiency

Posted on Tuesday August 28, 2007

London - SAS Global Communications, an international provider of managed and professional network services, has designed and implemented a wide area network (WAN) for Wilts, the UK’s largest independent electrical wholesaler. The new infrastructure links all of Wilts’ 71 sites across the UK and has enabled the company to implement a large enterprise resource planning (ERP) system from SAP. With the new system, Wilts is able to continue to keep its promise of delivering any customer order within just 24 hours; a task that had become increasingly difficult following the company’s recent rapid growth.

Wilts, which has been in business for more than eighty years, offers a huge range of brands including Phillips, Kopex and ABB, and, over the last ten years, has opened more than 50 new branches. As a result of this expansion, staff were finding the process of stock and shipping management more and more time consuming, particularly because Wilts had no automated inventory checking or product location identification systems in place. This meant that staff had to call or email multiple stores in order to locate a product before it could be shipped – a process that was both cumbersome and a waste of valuable staff resources.

To address this problem, Wilts decided to install an ERP system, but in order to support this, it first needed to upgrade its basic ISDN network to a WAN. This infrastructure would also need to scale to support future growth and the addition of further quality of service (QoS) enabled applications, without the need for extra infrastructure investment. Furthermore, with a small IT team of just seven individuals, all of whom are based at the company’s headquarters in Trowbridge, Wiltshire, it was simply not feasible for this project to be carried out in-house. After a rigorous tender process for possible partners, in which three other companies were also short listed, Wilts selected SAS because of previous successful partnerships and its proven expertise and ability to work within rigid timeframes.

“Our rapid growth had made completing orders increasingly difficult and placed heavy demands on our already stretched in-house IT team. We therefore needed a partner that we could trust to advise us on the whole project, from initial recommendations and design, through to ensuring the job was completed quickly and effectively, and providing ongoing support,” said Nigel Hirst, IT manager at Wilts. “Not only has our new infrastructure enabled us to install SAP, crucial to ensuring ongoing effective customer service, it has also cut down our network management overhead. Since the deployment was finished, we have seen an 80 percent drop in network related problems across all branches, as well as a dramatic reduction in operational costs.”

As the WAN installation was part of a complete technology refresh project that Wilts was rolling out itself, SAS worked closely with the wholesaler’s IT team to ensure that the network would support all of Wilts’ needs and would be completed on time and on budget.

Wilts had previously relied on a basic ISDN network for connectivity between branches, but this system could not support the proposed ERP system, and was also proving very costly to operate. To address both these issues, SAS designed and installed a private WAN using BT’s MPLS backbone network, together with a large BT Net Internet circuit to provide Internet access at every branch. The company installed Cisco routers at each of the 71 sites and, to maximise resilience, also created a failover system at Wilts’ main headquarters in case of network failure or data loss. The new system provides employees with greater network speed, allowing them to process shipping orders as quickly and efficiently as possible. In addition, Wilts is also enjoying reduced Internet costs which will enable it to quickly achieve an ROI.

“Wilts has taken a shrewd approach to its network upgrade and is now not only benefiting from the improved efficiency provided by SAP, but is also ready for any further upgrades in the future,” said Charles Davis, CEO of SAS Global Communications. “Too many companies take the decision to add complex applications without thinking about how they will impact their infrastructure. Wilts now has a high performance and robust network that is much cheaper to operate and will equally enable the company to add further QoS-dependent applications – including IPT – without the need for additional investment and upheaval down the line.”

SAS is also providing Wilts, with 24/7 monitoring and management of the WAN, including all routers and lines, to ensure network performance and availability.