Each of Watts Water’s acquisitions brought its own systems and processes for sharing data with trading partners. How could the company cut the growing cost and complexity of electronic data interchange (EDI)?
The company replaced fragmented approaches to EDI with IBM® Sterling B2B Cloud Services—enabling reliable, cost-effective delivery of 92,000 documents across its global business every month.
92,000 documentsprocessed monthly via a single, cost-effective feed
7-months ROIachieved through substantially reduced operational expenditure
99% availabilityfor all EDI systems, ensuring a high-quality service to the business
Business challenge story
Multiple systems block the benefits of growthWatts Water continues to grow rapidly through acquisitions from around the world. By expanding, the company can enrich its offering with innovative new products, increase its global reach and open up profitable new lines of business. However, Watts Water found that unlocking the full financial benefit of its growth strategy presented challenges.
Cliff Markell, Director Global IT Architecture, Watts Water Technologies, Inc., explains: “Since 1998, the business has grown through 41 separate acquisitions, incorporated within seven different business units. Almost all of our established businesses and new acquisitions rely on electronic data interchange [EDI] to communicate with their respective trading partners.
“In the past, the diversity of EDI systems and processes across the business made it difficult to deliver EDI services efficiently and cost-effectively. Furthermore, some of our experienced IT personnel were leaving the business, highlighting the fact that our in-house approach to EDI delivery increased our exposure to risk.”
Unifying EDI processes across the enterpriseTo tackle its growth challenges, Watts Water developed a far-reaching initiative to integrate its global resources and create a unified organization. One of the first steps of the project—named One Watts Water—was implementing a single, consistent approach to EDI across the enterprise.
“EDI helps Watts Water keep the lights on, and we wanted to offer an even better service to the business,” says Markell. “Our aim was to reduce the time and effort spent supporting the multiple translators, protocols and value-added networks [VANs] that powered our EDI process, and focus instead on adding value through higher availability, faster onboarding for new partners and greater economies of scale.”
Realizing the potential of cloud
For many years, Watts Water has relied on IBM Sterling solutions to build close relationships with an extensive range of trading partners.
“We consider IBM Sterling software to be a proven EDI platform, and we were keen to build on the success of the solution as we embarked on the One Watts Water initiative,” says Markell. “Based on our positive experiences with IBM Sterling solutions, we decided to migrate our EDI infrastructure to the IBM Sterling B2B Cloud Services platform.”
At the beginning of the project, Watts Water had 341 trading partner data maps set up in multiple systems. To avoid wasting time when it came to the migration, the company set up reports to see how often each map was exercised. The company discovered a number of trading partners had either gone out of business or been acquired by other companies, which allowed it to remove a total of 41 defunct maps.
Next, Watts Water migrated and reconfigured 300 data maps to the cloud solution. The company ran the new and existing EDI solutions side-by-side, and configured the IBM Sterling VAN to send a carbon copy of every message to IBM Sterling InFlight Data Management for analysis.
“We performed our map testing in waves over a period of four months,” recalls Markell. “Working with guidance from the IBM project manager, our team examined each pair of documents for differences, and fed any data mapping errors back to the development team. Once we had run every map with no differences for a whole week, we simply pointed the mailbox to the IBM Sterling B2B Cloud Services solution.”
Obtaining ROI in seven months
Today, Watts Water manages EDI for its entire business using IBM Sterling B2B Cloud Services, reducing both cost and complexity. Watts Water now processes more than 92,000 documents through a single, cloud-based EDI feed—bringing the One Watts Water initiative closer to its goal.
“Before, we had parts of the business running their own separate EDI systems for only 500 documents per month, creating significant overheads,” says Markell. “Migrating all of our EDI to the cloud means that these kinds of inefficiencies have become a thing of the past.
“What’s more, we have eliminated four servers from our data center, and reduced our storage area network requirements by more than four terabytes. By cutting the cost of maintaining our physical infrastructure and of managing the EDI solution, we achieved a return on investment within just seven months of deployment.
“Better still, because we are no longer reliant on the availability of in-house EDI personnel, we have effectively eliminated our business risk of unplanned downtime. We now deliver EDI availability of more than 99 percent to the business.
Standardized processes, better service
Watts Water can now redirect recovered time and resources to improve service quality for the business.
“A reliance on manual processes had caused a significant backlog of requests for new EDI connections,” says Markell. “After we went live on IBM Sterling B2B Cloud Services, we won back the time we needed to eliminate our backlog of EDI requests.
“Members of our IT team who would previously have been tied up with repetitive EDI tasks are now free to focus on adding greater value in other areas. For example, some of our people have started working to improve our order-to-cash and procure-to-pay business processes, as well as proactively engaging with potential new customers and trading partners.”
Onboarding new partners rapidly
Watts Water can now offer a rapid, standardized service-delivery process across the business.
Markell comments: “If one of our internal partners wants to set up a new connection, they can submit their request via an online portal. Because we are now able to publish an EDI onboarding price sheet, our partners get accurate insight into the costs involved. If they decide to proceed, we simply raise a ticket with IBM, who set up the new connection. We don’t have to worry about our resource availability being a bottleneck.”
Looking to the future
Based on the success of the IBM Sterling B2B Cloud Services solution, Watts Water plans to augment its EDI program with a range of new services and capabilities from IBM.
“Many of our suppliers favor paper-based processes, and we see a major opportunity to migrate some of that manual work to our EDI solution,” says Markell. “Using IBM Sterling Web Forms, we plan to create a single web interface that is plumbed into IBM Sterling B2B Cloud Services as if it is another trading partner. Our suppliers will then be able to exchange documents electronically alongside their paper processes, increasing efficiency and reducing manual effort on both sides.”
Markell concludes: “Managing our EDI with IBM Sterling B2B Cloud Services helps us to deliver major service-quality improvements for the business. I recommend that companies in a similar position look closely at their shop and ask if in-house service delivery is still offering the best value. The answer may be surprising.”
About Watts Water Technologies, Inc.
Founded in 1874 and today headquartered in North Andover, Massachusetts, Watts Water Technologies, Inc. is a leading global provider of plumbing, heating, and water quality products. With a portfolio of 60 brands, the company operates in North America, Europe and China, and generates annual revenues of approximately USD1.47 billion.
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