Application Consulting Case Study
For Smooth Support of SAP Software, Total Lubricants USA Chooses AT&T Consulting (Cont'd)
We just don’t have the extra resources here to help with some of these projects. That’s why it becomes so critical to have AT&T.”
– Dave Sims, IT Manager, Total Lubricants USA
About Total Lubricants USA, Inc.
Total Lubricants USA, Inc. Facts
Cost-effective support for company-standard enterprise software
SAP ERP software hosted and managed on a virtualized platform and supported by AT&T Application Management Services
Manage business growth and change with a two-person IT team
Developing, manufacturing and marketing of industrial lubrication products
135 employees at seven U.S. locations and a sales office in Germany
Headquartered in Linden, New Jersey, Total Lubricants USA provides technically advanced products for specialized markets including marine, glass making and automotive. A subsidiary of Total, S.A., the world’s fourth largest oil company, Total Lubricants USA still fosters its small-company values of high quality products and dedicated customer service at the core of its business.
Total Lubricants USA operates across multiple facilities, relying on an integrated IT infrastructure to control operations across production centers, warehouses and sales offices, and supporting that infrastructure with an in-house team of just two people. When the company’s original SAP hosting provider left the hosting business, it sought a new provider for both hosting and helping the in-house team manage future system changes and enhancements.
Total Lubricants, USA chose AT&T to host its SAP applications. Pleased with the hosting performance, the company next relied on AT&T consulting for configuration and report writing projects. When it began an acquisition that would double the number of its facilities, Total Lubricants assigned AT&T to help plan and execute the migration from the acquired company’s legacy system to the SAP platform. With such ongoing support, Total Lubricants can manage large-scale SAP projects without growing its IT staff.
Creating Their Niche
Originally founded in 1868 to serve northeast New Jersey, Total Lubricants USA provides advanced quality industrial lubrication products and services. Today the company has grown its business to include seven facilities in the United States and a sales office in Germany.
We developed a relationship with them. In every case we were very pleased with the work. It was done well, on time and on budget.”
– Dave Sims, IT Manager, Total Lubricants USA
From development to distribution, Total Lubricants oversees the production of lubricants used to help mechanical equipment operate more efficiently and safely. Most people know of the motor oil they use to keep their cars running. But the application of lubricants extends far beyond automotive use, improving machines in industries from textiles and metalworking to clean energy. “We actually only got into the automotive part of it around 2004,” said Dave Sims, IT Manager.
Total Lubricants USA serves a wide variety of industries including glass manufacturing, marine shipment and food production. With a dedication to meeting niche market needs, the company blends most of its own products. Through its many years of operation, it has attained diverse qualifications to help provide specialty services, including ISO certification for food-grade products.
“We really pride ourselves on customer service and responding to the customer needs,” Sims said. “That’s the way we’ve always approached it, and we try to keep that same mentality.” The majority of Total Lubricants USA’s customers are industrial firms. A small percentage of products, mostly high-end synthetic automotive oil, is sold to individual consumers at specific venues like trade shows and race tracks.
Small Staff, Big Needs
Total Lubricants USA’s operations require a unified IT infrastructure to connect across departments and distance and manage product development, manufacturing, marketing, sales and shipment. Accurate ingredient inventory must be maintained both in the warehouse and the sales office. Proper processing of sales orders depends upon realtime information updates.
The company’s IT infrastructure has been built on SAP software since 1995. Total Lubricants originally chose to host and manage it in-house with a small IT staff which oversaw the entire system from the company’s headquarters. “There is actually no IT staff at any facility other than New Jersey,” said Sims. Over the years, Total Lubricants USA had reduced its IT staff to just two people, and the company wanted to keep it that way. They migrated to having a hosting provider do the hosting.
But new needs emerged when the previous hosting provider decided to exit the hosting business. Upon SAP’s recommendation, Total Lubricants switched to AT&T. Hosting the software at its highly secure, world-class data center in Annapolis, Maryland, AT&T was also able to provide comprehensive technical support for the system’s reliability. “I want my systems available to my users 100 percent of the time,” said Sims. “And they have delivered that.”
With the basic operation solid, Total Lubricants was free to look at how the system was working for business operations. Were they making the best use of all capabilities? Already, management of the SAP application was proving to be a big job for a small IT team. With business growth on the horizon, the company wanted the flexibility to keep its in-house IT staff small, while accessing cost-effective application expertise and the technical ability to take on large-scale projects.
‘Developed a Relationship’
Step by step, Total Lubricants USA turned to AT&T, for additional services. “We developed a relationship with them,” said Sims. Recognizing the resources AT&T had available, the company used AT&T to provide functional support through small, one-off customization and configuration projects. “In every case we were very pleased with the work,” Sims said. “It was done well, on time and on budget.”
Starting at headquarters, Total Lubricants USA began to streamline its daily operations by using hand-held devices to scan warehouse inventory and automatically update supply status in its SAP systems. The company wanted to extend this service to more facilities. Sims also started to identify other opportunities for business process integration, but adding to the in-house staff was out of the question. “We just don’t have the extra resources here to help with some of these projects,” said Sims. “That’s why it becomes so critical to have AT&T.”
The relationship deepened in 2009 when the company acquired Lubricants USA, a Texas-based lubricant distributor. “We realized that it was going to be impossible for us to try and go through this migration by ourselves,” said Sims. With a proven success record and familiarity with the company’s business processes, AT&T was assigned to help plan and execute the migration of the acquired company’s legacy system to Total Lubricants USA’s SAP system.
“We were concerned about providing two things: the initial training and the day-to-day support to four more remote locations,” said Sims. The acquisition increased Total’s facilities from four to its current eight, with a new office in Plano, Texas and three warehouses across the southeast United States.
AT&T first wrote programs to connect the acquired company to Total Lubricants USA’s network infrastructure, loading legacy system data into SAP. Next, the acquired facilities’ operations were updated to fit the SAP system. “They had some fairly complicated business processes that were just not going to fit into our current SAP processes as they stood,” explained Sims. “It entailed quite a bit of configuration.” AT&T again lent its expertise. Different inventory practices are now accounted for, allowing the acquired company to keep some of its old ways while meeting the standards of Total Lubricants USA.
As part of the migration, Total Lubricants asked AT&T to automate some banking processes. “Now when we receive accounts receivable in we are able to automatically send them back to our parent company in France and update all the AR records in SAP with the money that’s coming into the bank,” said Sims.
When it came time to train the new users, Total insisted on working with the remote staff in person. “I always think when you are going through a project like this it is good to look into somebody’s eyes to see if they’re really getting it,” said Sims. With onsite help from AT&T, the implementation was completed on time and within budget. The company is moving forward with a unified staff, working with integrated system.
Working Today, for Tomorrow
Today Total Lubricants manages its SAP system through AT&T Application Management Services which gives it 24x7 access to an experienced, assigned support team. “You can go out and hire consultants,” said Sims, “but you have to spend significant time to bring them up to speed. Because of the work that AT&T has done with us they were already familiar with the system and knew our business processes – some of which they actually helped to write. Their familiarity with our system and their past work more than justified the AMS contract.”
Total Lubricants and AT&T meet frequently by phone to plan the changes needed to optimize system functionality. “We are taking advantage of their security, their computer room and their expertise,” said Sims. Total is also working with AT&T to automate its invoice and purchase order processes. “Right now invoices are faxed, mailed and e-mailed, with some sent from Linden and some from Plano,” Sims explained. “We are going to streamline that.” Invoices and purchase order will be automatically emailed and updated through SAP.
In the future, Total Lubricants USA is looking to increase its Internet sales to both its company customer base and individual consumers. This will enable the sales staff to focus more on providing traditional small-company customer service and offer more in-person consultation on product applications. “We want them to be able to use their technical expertise to really bring something to the customer,” Sims said. “That’s really what we have always tried to do.”