Philadelphia Scientific

Philadelphia Scientifics’ current business process software system was implemented in the 1990s. The system had added value to the company at that time.  Since then, however, Philadelphia Scientifics’ management practices have changed and production has evolved to Lean methodologies.  At the same time, the company’s current software vendor has indicated that they would be discontinuing support of the database.  Philadelphia Scientific leadership knew it was time to upgrade to a new business process software system.

Philadelphia Scientific Vice President-Finance Michael Carr headed the software upgrade initiative.  Carr’s broad experience with technology and knowledge of solutions outside of traditional Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems enabled him to establish a framework for evaluating a new system.  According to Carr, “We knew there was no future in our current system and that we needed to make a change.  But, before selecting a software system and vendor, we wanted to be sure about the ROI we would generate from our investment.”

Carr analyzed the company’s business process, and looked at where quality and functionality could be improved.  He projected the dollar benefits of a new system, and saw clearly that the company could save money by implementing new software. “We had a list of items that we felt could be handled more cost effectively by taking human interaction out of the process,” he said. “These included things like order entry, vendor payments, customer invoicing and other manual tasks that could benefit from modern technology. Automating these functions alone could generate enough savings to pay for the new system.”

Carr’s overall objective was to find a software system that fit the company’s current and future business model.  Philadelphia Scientific did not need the shop floor control and scheduling capabilities offered by Manufacturing Resource Planning (MRP) software.  The company’s follows Lean manufacturing methods, including cellular factory design, minimum finished good inventory quantities and the use of Kanban cards.  These methods are highly effective for Philadelphia Scientific and eliminate the need for master production scheduling and MRP tools.  “Our business model focuses on same day shipping,” said Carr.  “Between 75% – 80% of our orders for stock items ship same day.  We don’t have a backlog, and wouldn’t find much value in a typical MRP system.”

Carr wanted a system primarily focused on enhancing customer interaction, with emphasis on customer-related activities such as contact management and promotional campaigns, easier processing of quoted, orders, field service “trouble ticket” processing and sales reporting.  Linkage to an upgraded web site for B2B order processing was also desired.  Carr’s goal was to create a straight line between the customer, order entry activities and fast shipping of orders.

Carr contracted with DVIRC for assistance in sourcing and evaluating vendors.  “DVIRC’s Harry Landsburg helped us with our existing system back in the 1990s,” Carr noted.  “I valued his expertise.  And, I needed someone to document our needs, manage the vendor research, and facilitate the selection process.

Landsburg created a Business Process Narrative for Philadelphia Scientific that detailed the company’s technology background, existing system and functional shortcomings.  The narrative also detailed the company’s business process and contrasted the current state of software functionality with the desired future state, covering all desired business process improvement areas including customer relationship management, marketing and quoting, customer service and ordering, engineering and related activities, project and service management, purchasing, manufacturing management and financial applications.

Potential vendors were researched and identified by Landsburg, and the Business Process Narrative was provided to them. Once possible vendors were identified, Landsburg coordinated demonstrations and presentations, and offered his perspectives on which vendors could best deliver the functionality required.

“Harry’s insights were extremely valuable,” notes Carr. “He has a good feel for manufacturing and the management of profitability, pricing and the financial aspects of the business.  He helped us focus, voiced his opinions and gave us the feedback we needed to make the best decision.”

Carr also notes that Landsburg helped them avoid the purchase of a system that was more than they needed, and may have resulted in significantly higher costs.  “We looked at a system that was immensely configurable in terms of what it could be made to do. It was slick but it was complicated. Harry helped us realize that the costs to configure, implement and support it would make it a poor choice.  The system we chose instead is not as flexible, but it is more tailored to what we need.”

Established in 1983, Philadelphia Scientific is a world-leading provider of products and services for motive power and standby batteries.  The innovator and manufacturer of many market-leading products, Philadelphia Scientific focuses on excellence in engineering and quality, creating and marketing products including battery watering systems, electrolyte level monitors, catalysts for batteries and most recently, battery management systems. From its headquarters offices and production facility in Montgomeryville, Pa., Philadelphia Scientific  serves customers throughout North America, Europe, Southeast-Asia and the  Asia-Pacific region. The company employs approximately 50 people.

Lessons Learned

Thoughts from Michael Carr on the software upgrade process.

“If you don’t have in-house IT people, you badly need the guidance of an objective consultant with no vested interest.  If you are somewhat experienced with technology, but don’t know what’s current, you also need an outside consultant.”

“Having a consultant to manage the process allows you to focus on what’s important in terms of business goals.”

DVIRC Advantage

The most valuable advantage we gained from DVIRC was having a knowledgeable professional validate that we were moving in the right direction. Harry was not afraid to share his opinions. And, he took the time to talk to all of our functional areas to gain different perspectives. This enabled us to validate our judgments about what we needed.”

Michael Carr
Vice President-Finance
Philadelphia Scientific