Malden Mills Adds Enterprise Application Integration To Enhance ERP And Create A Streamlined Supply-Chain Solution

Martin Bourque was Christmas shopping with his family in 1995 when he got the call. Malden Mills, where he had worked for nearly twenty years, was burning to the ground. Rushing to his car, he looked into the sky toward Lawrence. There stood the 100-year-old textile manufacturing facility which had employed four generations of townspeople, including three other members of his family. The sky glowed a dark orange. Bourque was at the mill that night until 4:00 am, and again first thing the next morning for the press conference.

The fire destroyed three of the facility's buildings. It was a devastating event for the well-known manufacturer of POLARTEC ®, a family of high performance all-season fabrics, and also for the town. But Malden Mills owner, Aaron Feuerstein, proved himself a hero by keeping all of the plant employees on payroll for several months while the facility was being rebuilt. Malden used this time to retrain employees and to prepare them for the new systems and computers. The new Malden Mills was built on the ashes of the old, with the goal of transforming it into a state-of-the-art operation with integrated supply chain systems and a flexible, streamlined operation that controls costs and better serves customers.

Weaving The Necessary Framework
Malden Mills chose to work with SSA Southeast to implement the BPCS® ERP system, with the dcServ® enterprise application integration (EAI) system as the backbone that would knit its shop floor and BPCS together. The company chose BPCS and SSA Southeast because both had demonstrated proven results in the textile-manufacturing environment. The dcServ system provided the flexible, scalable EAI solution that could make Malden's systems Y2K-compliant, fully integrate the new ERP system with the company's existing legacy MES systems and weave the necessary framework for future application integration.

Dubbed the Merrimack Project, the implementation was a key part of the company's rebuilding process. Martin Bourque became the Merrimack Project Manufacturing Team Leader. "The overall goal of the project was to support significant improvements in the way we service our customers," says Bourque. Other goals included improving materials and capacity management, planning, enhancing customer and order management, improving business processes and financial management. When the implementation was complete, sales force productivity and manufacturing performance would be enhanced, resulting in the overall improvement in customer service.

"Once the decision was made to go with BPCS, dcServ was the obvious choice for the application integration," said Raoul Sevier, IT architect for Malden Mills. "Not only did dcServ have a proven track record of successfully integrating with BPCS, the communications infrastructure provided by BALI™ (Business Application Linking Infrastructure) laid the necessary framework for future application integration that would give us the real time information exchange across the enterprise we ultimately wanted." In addition to its proven application integration capabilities, the dcServ system's data collection component, dcCollect®, provided the robust data collection functionality that Malden Mills needed on the shop floor.

"We needed to integrate our shop floor data collection with our ERP system and we needed to be able to support 24-hour, seven-day-a-week operations," says Mark Cristiano, Malden Mills manufacturing systems manager. "In conjunction with BPCS, dcServ enabled us to accomplish all of that and get more from our existing MES systems."

Smoothing The Transition
Like many companies undergoing a major system change, Malden Mills experienced its share of stops and starts. Several factors made the Malden Mills implementation more challenging than most – it had numerous legacy applications to integrate; it conducts a high number of daily transactions; and its chosen RF scanner device was not one previously supported by dcServ.

"We knew the project was going to be challenging," said Bourque. "During the initial phase of the project, we recognized that BPCS on UNIX would not be ready for a company of our size – with our high volume of transactions – soon enough to meet our Y2K needs." The company began considering other ERP solutions. Not one to leave a job unfinished, the SSA Southeast team set out to prove to Malden that BPCS was the best course of action. By installing an AS/400, Malden Mills could continue without losing ground or any of its original investment.

According to Raoul Sevier, iWork worked hard to make this transition as easy as possible. "In addition to doing all the migration work necessary for a platform transition," says Sevier, "SSA Southeast provided comprehensive education to quickly bring us up to speed on the AS/400."

Once the transition was made, the Merrimack team agreed that the company's decision to install the AS/400 and continue with BPCS and SSA Southeast proved to be the right one. Phase one of the implementation – which included raw materials purchasing, receiving and inventory, as well as shop floor control for sub-assembly (griege goods) plants and inventory – has been up and running successfully since April of this year.

"In addition to real time inventory updates and a centralized database," says Bourque, "we now have full accountability at the raw materials level." The company's legacy system had been highly manual and mostly batch processed, and had failed to provide visibility to about a quarter of Malden's raw material inventory. Since the implementation, the company reports greater inventory accuracy, tighter lot control and more accurate lot tracing – all of which have resulted in more efficient raw material usage.

Streamlined Operations, Business Solutions
Phase one brought several achievements. "We proved out a wide scope of our transactions on a reduced scale giving ourselves an early win. We also established a foothold in the business community to demonstrate that the project was alive and well and moving forward," says Bourque. "And finally, we provided an opportunity to train future users in our own environment using our own live data."

Phase two was implemented for a small sample of the business in June. This second phase, which included the sub-assembly process through end item posting of finished goods inventory, was designed to roll out another layer of integration between the MES and ERP systems. Malden Mills added dcPassageway™, the newest component in the dcServ EAI suite, to address complicated posting requirements between the two systems. Now, the balance of phase two has been rolled into phase three. Phase three, go live, is coming soon and includes everything else the company has yet to incorporate -- sales, customer order management, outbound logistics, finance and the balance of the manufacturing.

"We wanted to prove that we could report production all the way through to our finished goods warehouse," says Sevier. "With the first phase live and running part of our business to our satisfaction, we have proven that the concept of the distributed architecture is working and have established a solid foundation on which we can move forward."

The business benefits of the implementation are already evident. "I feel dcServ has increased the value of the ERP system by enabling us to integrate the shop floor with the system," says Martin Bourque. "And we believe that upgrades and other changes will be easier in the future."

There have been a lot of changes at Malden since the fire – from rebuilding the facilities to realizing a supply chain solution that will keep the company competitive in the next century. It will take a long time for anyone involved to forget the effort it has taken to get to this point. "iWork stuck with us through the hard spots and the successes, and we've worked together well," says Martin Bourque. "We know our customers are going to get the ultimate benefits."

A recent honor signals that Bourque's assessment is correct: In August Malden Mills was honored with the CIO 100 award, sponsored by CIO magazine, recognizing Malden for being one of the top 100 companies in the world with respect to its use of people and information technology for leadership in the next millennium.