As Greenworks Tools’ global business grew, so did its data. No longer able to track orders and transactions with spreadsheets, the company sought an intelligent supply chain management solution.
By implementing a cloud-based, intelligent supply chain network solution from IBM, Greenworks can manage its global business-to-business (B2B) transactions more efficiently and cost effectively.
40% IT cost savingsby putting electronic data interchange (EDI) into the hands of customer service
160 hours of manual data entry saved weeklywith the document conversion services tool
Provides business users with deep insightinto order status to quickly resolve problems without IT intervention
Business challenge story
Fast growth creates data headaches
Greenworks is a fast-growing leader in the battery-powered outdoor equipment market, manufacturing products for both the homeowner and commercial markets. The company has recently experienced rapid growth in its European and Asian markets, establishing a strong global presence.
Thanks to its success, Greenworks faced the challenge of meeting higher global demand from two different market sectors, which meant tracking orders, service level agreements (SLAs) and even regulatory and legal requirements in multiple countries. The IT department, under the direction of Eric Doty, had initially managed these processes with the IBM Sterling B2B Integrator solution, but it was no longer sufficient for the task.
“The Sterling B2B Integrator is the industry workhorse,” says Doty. “The challenge is that it requires a staff of dedicated resources that, as a small company, we just don’t have.” Greenworks could not support the staff necessary to maintain an always on, on-premises system like the Sterling B2B Integrator solution. “I can’t afford to hire a database administrator, a systems architect and a cloud architect for one application,” states Doty.
To compensate, the company had been using a variety of spreadsheet applications to track orders. But, according to Doty: “We have tight SLAs with a lot of our customers where, if we don't respond within a few hours, they may either cancel the order or fine us with a noncompliance charge. And we don't like when either of those things happen.”
Doty notes that he aims for a smarter supply chain, but Greenworks needed to start with the basics. “A smarter supply chain means knowing where our stuff is,” he says. “For us, first and foremost, it’s knowing where our inventory sits and when it will be where we need it to be. Then how to get it to the end users.”
The company had massive amounts of order data that Doty, as an EDI expert, had to interpret for the customer service teams before they could provide answers to customers or track shipments effectively. He wanted to implement a solution that would provide better supply chain visibility across the business and operate day and night to support customers across the globe.
“You can find so many people that do EDI that it’s nothing special. It's been around for 20 years,” says Doty of his search for a supply chain management solution. Greenworks wanted to find a solution that included a supply chain insight tool and an order management tool.
“I saw where IBM was going with the Watson platform and IBM Sterling Supply Chain Insights with Watson,” says Doty. “The message I kept hearing from IBM was that we needed to get onto IBM Sterling Supply Chain Business Network as the foundation for everything else.”
Providing deeper supply chain insight
Greenworks chose the Sterling Supply Chain Business Network Premium platform with Business Transaction Intelligence capability, powered by IBM Watson®. The Sterling Supply Chain Business Network solution digitizes and automates B2B transactions. The Business Transaction Intelligence capability uses Watson™ AI technology to help Greenworks gain deeper insight into EDI processes using visual reports and queries in natural language. Now the company’s business users have the insights needed to make faster and more informed decisions, without the intervention of the IT team.
“Until now, I’ve had to know that an 850 is a purchase order that then produces an 856, which produces an 810,” says Doty. “I had to know all these things and how to read EDI. Now I can just tell my business users that if they want to find a purchase order, they can just type ‘Show me Amazon purchase order 123’ and they can find it. It takes all the need for in-depth knowledge required out of EDI.”
Greenworks also selected the Sterling Supply Chain Business Network solution because it is designed for reliability and availability, so the company saw its potential to support its expanding business in China and Europe. Furthermore, because it is maintained in the cloud as a software as a service (SaaS) offering, if something goes wrong with the system, the burden is on IBM and not on Greenworks.
Greenworks added a document conversion services tool to its solution to eliminate the need for manual data entry for paper orders. Once scanned, these orders become like any other electronic order in the system.
Smarter supply chain saves time, money
Sterling Supply Chain Business Network software supports the global availability and compliance with data laws across the globe, including China and Europe, that Greenworks needs. Its cloud-hosted architecture lets Greenworks be a global organization without having to staff a global IT team. And it saves considerable time and money for the company.
“Sterling Supply Chain Business Network lets us eliminate all the staff and infrastructure overhead and really focus on what we do, which is making power equipment. We’re not an IT company. We don’t want to be one,” states Doty.
Doty believes the solution will save the company almost 40 percent in upfront IT costs, even before considering labor savings from not maintaining the servers and databases itself.
He expects it to be a game changer for the company, because it puts the power and the tools to research orders in the hands of the customer service team. They no longer need to contact the EDI team and wait hours for the answer to a question or problem, whether it’s an inquiry into a file location or whether a product was shipped or rejected.
“With Business Transaction Intelligence, we can really get to the heart of the problem quickly,” Doty says. “The biggest benefit to me is that the business users get to cut me out of the loop entirely, and I’m alright with that.”
Greenworks expects the Sterling Document Conversion Services tool to save more than 160 hours a week in manual data entry. According to Doty: “A lot of our customers are smaller and still send us paper purchase orders. When we ran it out across our business globally, we were spending at least 160 hours a week entering in data. With the Sterling Document Conversion Services tool, we have the potential to free up our resources to do other things, to better support our business. In some cases, it's going to mean the difference between offices being profitable and not profitable.”
Doty concludes: “A smarter supply chain means knowing where your stuff is and how to get it to where it needs to go. And Sterling Supply Chain Business Network with BTI [Business Transaction Intelligence] puts the power of that deep visibility into our users' hands.”
Greenworks is the leader in battery-powered outdoor power tools for DIY-consumers, landscapers and for commercial distribution. Founded in 2007, the company offers Greenworks-branded and private label products, as well as products for an extensive network of original equipment manufacturers. Greenworks is headquartered in Mooresville, North Carolina, and has European headquarters in Malmö, Sweden, which serves its rapidly growing European, Middle East and Asian markets. It employees more than 5,000 people worldwide.
Take the next step
To learn more about the IBM solution featured in this story, please contact your IBM representative or IBM Business Partner, or visit the following websites:
- IBM® Sterling Business Transaction Intelligence
- IBM Sterling Document Conversion Services
- IBM Sterling Supply Chain Business Network