Intertruck imports parts, accessories, and maintenance products for buses, off-road vehicles, trailers, trucks, and vans from manufacturers around the world and distributes them to fleet operators and other enterprises in the professional market. The company’s headquarters just outside of Rotterdam, Netherlands, serve the European business as well as the newer branches in Kenya and Zambia. The office in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, takes care of Intertruck’s customers in Asia and the Pacific region. Intertruck serves as a one-stop shop with an inventory of close to 30,000 items and an overall range of 200,000 products. Intertruck is a part of the Unipart Group, a global logistics, manufacturing, and consultancy enterprise based in the U.K.
To run its complex operations on a solid foundation, Intertruck deployed Microsoft Dynamics AX 2009 as the company’s ERP system. One instance of Microsoft Dynamics AX resides on-premise at headquarters and a smaller deployment is in use at the Dubai location. Technology partner HSO helped Intertruck implement the ERP system together with To-Increase Connectivity Studio, which is part of the To-Increase Business Integration Solutions suite. Currently, 55 employees use Connectivity Studio almost every day.
Increasing Variety of Productive Usage Scenarios
Anton Koppers, Application Engineer at Intertruck, is responsible for managing Connectivity Studio and the ERP infrastructure at the company’s headquarters. “Connectivity Studio is one of the most valuable and versatile resources in my arsenal,” says Koppers. “We acquired the solution together with Microsoft Dynamics AX to streamline the implementation, and we did accomplish that. However, today we look to Connectivity Studio to facilitate a wide range of information management assignments. We are always designing more ways to take advantage of it.”
Here are some of the uses Connectivity Studio finds at Intertruck:
Purchase and sales order management — Intertruck uses a software product called Slim4 to manage its for-stock purchasing. To create purchase orders in Microsoft Dynamics AX, Koppers and his colleagues rely on Connectivity Studio to import .CSV files from Slim4 into the ERP system. The solution also supports Intertruck’s management of sales orders. The sales team often generates very large sales orders in Microsoft Excel format. They save them on a share site, where Connectivity Studio can access them to import the data into Microsoft Dynamics AX. Koppers points out, “The time savings in automating the import of sales orders into the ERP system is enormous. People gain hours more for their essential work. What’s more, we also avoid the data entry errors that invariably happen when workers enter information manually and try to do it speedily.”
Pricing changes — Several times a year, the Intertruck sales department updates the net and gross prices of the products the company distributes, a process that results in very large Excel spreadsheets. “With perfect reliability and very efficiently, Connectivity Studio imports our huge spreadsheets of price updates into the ERP system,” says Koppers.
Item management — Almost every week, Intertruck employees need to update details in the company’s product catalog outside of cost information. For example, countries of origin and descriptions can change, which may also require updating the content in Dutch, French, and German in addition to English. “We trust Connectivity Studio to perform complex item updates automatically, by unique item numbers,” notes Koppers. “Completing this task manually would take somebody at least an hour. With Connectivity Studio, it’s done within ten minutes or less. When it comes to any information related to product items and our database, we rely on Connectivity Studio to update it for us instead of claiming an employee’s time.”
Template updates — To maintain a healthy level of consistency in business and information management, Intertruck uses a large number of data templates for catalog items, purchase orders, sales orders, and other operational entities. Some of these are highly complex; for example, the item template includes at least 25 mandatory fields and combines standardized data and free text. “For our product managers, it is much easier to make template updates in Connectivity Studio than in the ERP system,” says Koppers. “The solution is so intuitive and easy to use that creating and updating items and templates becomes a relatively minor task instead of a cumbersome chore.”
XML and electronic data interchange (EDI) — Koppers is preparing and testing Connectivity Studio for other usage scenarios. “We are testing how to use Connectivity Studio to import purchase invoices in XML format into Microsoft Dynamics AX,” he says. “The results give us the confidence that we can make this work successfully with a few adjustments still to come. We are also exploring more extensive use of XML files with Connectivity Studio so we can offer our suppliers and customers the ability to use EDI, which will make communications simpler for everybody.”
Growing the User Community
“We want as many people to use Connectivity Studio as possible,” says Koppers. The Intertruck IT team has successfully grown the group of Connectivity Studio users to enable employees to take care of many tasks on their own without requiring technical assistance. To ensure the integrity of data and applications and to keep processes consistent, Koppers provides employees outside of IT with detailed, written steps for using Connectivity Studio.
“Team members from such business groups as finance, sales, and product management are comfortable working with Connectivity Studio to import and export price-related and other details,” says Koppers. “You do not need to have an understanding of the underlying code or technical understanding of Microsoft Dynamics AX to use the solution effectively. For example, I can use classes to import .CSV or XML files, but colleagues outside of IT would not know how to do that. When they work with Connectivity Studio, they do not need to acquire those technical skills and can easily perform their own data imports. That helps them be productive and keeps management overhead of the technology very low for the IT department.”
Broad Solution Use Increases the Value of ERP
The manageability and flexibility of Connectivity Studio help Intertruck not just increase the productivity of its people, but also the entire ERP infrastructure. “Once I became used to Connectivity Studio, it became my tool of first choice, and that’s also what I am sharing across the company,” says Koppers. “Connectivity Studio extends the standard Microsoft Dynamics AX solution by making common tasks and processes more efficient and reliable. We enable employees do their jobs more easily and effectively than they could by using the ERP system by itself.” That enablement extends to Koppers expects the role and value of Connectivity Studio to increase even past what they are today. “When we in IT receive new requests from the organization, we come up with a solution,” he says. “More often than not, that involves making creative use of Connectivity Studio. We aim to use the solution broadly, and are looking forward to accomplishing more with it yet.”