IT Helps Prudential Overall Supply Clean Up Against the Competition
When we started to consider changing the hosting and application management of Oracle E-Business Suite, it became a natural thing to look at AT&T."
- Haskell “Hack” Hughes, Director of IT, Prudential Overall Supply
Transition from a batch-oriented, data processing-based IT system to an integrated, real-time, Wide Area Network based corporate-wide system.
AT&T Managed Application support and Professional Services for Oracle E-Business Suite platform; Managed Hosting of key business application
Streamlined, and automated financial management and plant operations; ability to support range of enhancements with lean IT staff; comprehensive disaster recovery solution to help keep operations running
Industrial laundry services and supplies
16 plants and 10 distribution centers across the U.S
About Prudential Overall Supply
As a leader in the uniform rental industry, Prudential Overall Supply offers a range of uniform service programs and supplies along with facilities and cleanroom laundry services. In business since 1932, Prudential is that increasingly rare breed of company with a long history of loyal customers and generations of stewardship by the same family.
From its 16 plants and 10 distribution centers across the United States, Prudential supports more than 300 routes serving 30,000 customers. This requires a massive routing and tracking effort, since uniforms specific to individual employees at each customer company must be picked up and delivered weekly. But, with its decades-old, batch-oriented, non-networked environment, Prudential was ready for an IT transformation.
Prudential now relies on AT&T managed hosting, application management and consultative support for the company’s Oracle E-Business Suite (EBS). The AT&T Professional Services team provided consultative assistance with the upgrade to Oracle Release 12 (R12). ABS Laundry Solutions, which support plant operations, utilize AT&T Managed Hosting services while other corporate applications employ an AT&T co-location arrangement. With updated technology, software and disaster-recovery solutions for business continuity, Prudential’s updated IT environment, provides the reliable services customers have come to expect, provides a competitive advantage, and positions the company for future growth.
Today we have a real-time, transaction-oriented online environment that depends on high performance of the AT&T network. Technology is making a big difference in our ability to compete.”
Emerging from a batch-oriented world
In any service-oriented business, success means keeping your customers satisfied. If you don’t, you can bet one of your competitors will. However, the logistics of supporting an operation with Prudential’s reach and scale can be daunting, especially with aging technology.
When Haskell “Hack” Hughes joined the company in 2005, his chief objective was to bring the IT environment into the 21st century — away from a world of data entry, batch processing and paper-based invoicing.
Hughes brought decades of rich IT experience with him and set about bringing Prudential’s IT environment up to date. “This company definitely got its money’s worth out of the systems it ran here for 25 to 30 years,” he observed. “It was a batch-oriented, non-networked environment.
Hughes dubbed the initiatives Project POSITIVE for Prudential Overall Supply Information Technology and set the wheels in motion to transform this 80+ year old business.
Laying a solid foundation
As they began their IT transformation, Hughes and his staff settled on two main solutions to support Prudential’s operations. Oracle EBS would handle the financials for such functions as general ledger, accounts payable, accounts receivable, fixed assets, collections and procurement. ABS Laundry Business Solution, a leading automation and logistics system, would provide inventory management, order and support for the 16 laundry plants where garments are processed.
To ease the transition and cost of change, Hughes decided to augment his own internal team with external staff, consultants, and cloud computing resources. “We didn’t want to spend a lot of money hiring database administrators, so we brought in a system integrator to do the Oracle implementation,” explained Hughes. “We also had to keep the AS/400 running for four or five years while we were rolling out these new applications. Rather than building another data center, hosting both solutions in the cloud was a perfect solution for the path we were on.”
At the plant level, Chris Kalert, Prudential’s Manager of the ABS solution, said he saw some initial reluctance from users as they transitioned from old to new systems. Kalert had been a plant general manager for 12 years and participated in the first ABS implementation prior to being recruited by Hughes to join the IT team.
“At the time Hack Hughes came on board, everyone was happy with the old system, but the company really didn’t have anyone who was looking forward towards future growth,” he said. “The initial feeling after converting was they wished they were still using the AS/400 system. Then after a couple of months they didn’t know how they ever lasted as long as they did without the new solutions.”
Turning to AT&T
As the IT transformation was taking place, Prudential was also turning to AT&T for a broad portfolio of services to support its communications requirements. “AT&T provides the voice communications in all of our plants and all plant data connections flow across an AT&T Virtual Private Network,” Hughes said. AT&T Network-Based Firewall service provides monitoring and helps protect Prudential’s data from network intrusions for all plants and service centers.
“When we started to consider changing the hosting and application management of Oracle E-Business Suite, it became a natural thing to look at AT&T,” he added.
One of Hughes’ primary objectives was to put comprehensive disaster-recovery measures in place. “Initially Prudential had no disaster recovery procedures,” Hughes observed.
So when Prudential decided to make a switch, this was top of mind. “One of the things we really like about AT&T is their disaster-recovery solution,” said Hughes. If service in the primary AT&T Internet Data Center (IDC) in Annapolis went down, AT&T could bring it back up within 24 hours at a backup IDC — which also serves as a development and testing site for Prudential.
“We have the same number of servers sitting in both IDCs,” said Hughes. “Every night AT&T takes a snapshot of Annapolis and sends it to our secondary IDC. If we needed to, we could decommission those development and test servers and bring the production system down onto them. We did a test and proved that the snapshot is there and ready for us if we require it.”
Managing an Upgrade
When Prudential had to upgrade to R12, it looked to AT&T Professional Services. A key aspect of the project was the integration with the ABS Laundry Business Solution. All of the company’s customers are in the ABS system along with garment inventory, purchasing and scanning, route scheduling and invoicing. The Oracle solution settles those invoices, applies the cash and pays the bills.
AT&T managed the upgrade and integration with completion in seven months. “The project was successful and was completed on time,” said Hughes. Now, ABS interfaces nightly with Oracle EBS to transfer the thousands of invoices ABS generates daily.
In addition to streamlining Prudential financial management, Oracle EBS offers customer-service benefits. “Now that we’re on Oracle, our Accounts Receivable and Accounts Payable departments can query online to find the information our customers and vendors are requesting,” said Karen Truax, Business Systems Analyst for Prudential and project leader for the Oracle implementation. “It’s right there at their fingertips -- in real time.”
Prudential also uses SAP BusinessObjects for electronic report distribution, Saleslogix for customer relationship management (CRM) and iMaint iFleet from DPSI for maintenance of its facilities and fleet of delivery trucks.
“Our corporate sales representatives all have Saleslogix CRM running on their laptops now, and they sync leads and customer data with corporate servers every day,” said Hughes. “Our delivery people all carry invoices electronically in handheld devices with barcode readers.” Every garment Prudential picks up or drops off has a barcode, which is scanned in the production facility and fed into the ABS system for tracking items to a specific route, customer and individual.
In the plants, in the office or at a customer site, Prudential employees have the technology they need to maintain the high quality service Prudential is known for. “We just make sure that they have the networking and the system availability to continue to roll,” Hughes said.
A solid relationship
Without its state-of-the-art technology infrastructure, Prudential would be hard-pressed to deliver the level of service its loyal customers expect. Moreover, competing with other businesses would be difficult. But, with the support of AT&T technology and expertise, Prudential intends to keep going strong for another 80+ years.
“AT&T is more than a vendor to us,” said Truax. “They really look out for our best interests. They take care of us when we need help, and they’re very responsive and knowledgeable. From the pre-sales team all the way through their technical, functional and offshore resources—they’re all great. We feel like we’re in good hands with AT&T.”
Hughes noted that Prudential continues to turn to AT&T. Until recently, the company ran Outlook, Saleslogix, iMaint Fleet and other applications on servers in its corporate offices. These were recently moved to an AT&T Internet Data center in Irvine, California.
Thanks to its state-of-the-art infrastructure, Prudential can play on a level field with the competition. In fact, Prudential serves 110 Fortune 500 companies.
“Today we have a real-time, transaction-oriented online environment that depends on high performance of the AT&T network,” said Hughes. “Technology is making a big difference in our ability to compete.
“With AT&T, it’s easy to get support,” Hughes added. “We can call resources that we would not have had access to before, and they answer our questions. When we put in a ticket on an issue or problem, they don’t push back. AT&T just takes over, runs with it and gets it solved in a timely manner. They have some great technical people who do a fabulous job supporting us and keeping us up and running.”
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