Ben Foods Pte.: Online ERP Integration Sales Catalogue

Introduction

Ben Food(s) Pte is a major food distribution company in Pacific Asia majoring in Animal and poultry products as well as wines and beverages. With a business history of over half a century, the company has grown and expanded with a wide supply chain and shop outlets across the globe. The company has a number of leading brands which it delivers to supermarkets, retail outlets, wholesalers and distributors in Asia Europe and some parts of the Americas. The company’s Trade-vine Division is a leading supplier of wines and beverages in Pacifica Asia, Australia, California, France, Italy and Spain. Ben Food Co. Also provides shipment services to clients whose delivery involves overseas transportation.

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In order to sustain its competitive advantage, Ben Foods values innovation and development in all its divisions. The company was awarded the Superbrand status on its products, which highlights its high-quality goods. Ben Food mission is to meet the customers’ culinary needs and champion employee welfare.

Ben Foods Co. understands the important role of Information Technology in meeting its business objectives as well as streamlining its operations. Since the company makes sales across the globe, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) is a necessary tool for the management information system in the company. An online ERP integration sales catalogue as the Products Data Website will, therefore, be instrumental in enhancing efficiency in the company’s sales and products records. Implementation of this solution by generating web pages with MSXML and MySQL will help keep track of sales and stock delivery in the company (Brown & Vessey 2003).

Problem Statement

As a busy multinational Food supplies enterprise, Ben Foods Company needs to keep track of its products and sales in all regions where it operates. The company, therefore, needs an up-to-date Enterprise Resource Planning programme to help monitor its operations to guide production and supplies. An online ERP integration sales catalogue is, therefore, a viable solution for the company to be in touch with its global operations.

Aims and Objectives

This project aims to analyse the requirements for web development using MSXML and MySQL; Design and implement an online ERP integration sales catalogue to meet these requirements; Test and evaluate the Products Data website for Ben Foods Pte.

Rationale

To meet these aims I will have to:-

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  • A1. Describe the format of the ERP required by Ben Foods Co.
  • A2. Obtain background information on the statistical techniques used at Ben Foods Co.
  • A3. Produce a specification for the Products Data Website
  • B1. Identify an appropriate language or system in which to develop the software
  • B2. Produce designs for database, input screen and output reports
  • B3. Implement these designs in the chosen language
  • C1. Generate test data to prove the correctness of the software
  • C2. Evaluate the system from the point of view of Ben Food requirements.
  • C3. Review the process by which the system was developed and make recommendations for future work

Project Scope and Limitations

The project will involve the development of a Product Data Website using MSXML and MySQL. The online ERP integration sales catalogue developed will be critical in monitoring stock levels of their products, which include beverages, dairy products, meat products and confectionaries. This solution is important for real time monitoring and ordering of their products and also keeping track of their stock level. The catalogue brings to record all the products and sales made by the company in its business engagements. It will guide the company’s management in decision making on the next course of action as well as setting up future strategies and plans.

The online ERP integration catalogue is expected to work properly on the company’s website. Given the ease of internet access in this globalisation era, the website will encounter few challenges upon implementation. Online purchases and arrangements for delivery will help improve company operation and keep track of stocks.

Expected Outcome

On completion of this project, I will have produced:-

  1. A written report containing a full description of the requirements, design and evaluation of the online ERP integration sales catalogue.
  2. A set of verified test results that can be used to test the software if changes are made to it. The results take various scenarios expected in Ben Foods Company.
  3. An annotated listing of the source code of the program or programs used.
  4. A copy of the source code and executable programs on a compact disc.
  5. A user guide on how to operate the software.

Additionally, I undertake to give a demonstration of the final software product to my supervisor before the report hand-in date.

Literature Review

Enterprise resource planning (ERP)

Following the progressive automation of business and organizational functions, information systems such as ERP have been advanced. The Enterprise resource planning (ERP) incorporates internal and external information needed for running an organization or enterprise (Shahbaz 2010). It is designed to synchronize the business functions of an organization such as supplies management, finance and customer relations. The information system makes use of a common unified database to integrate the various business functions. A typical integrated resource planning software is consistent with a database that supports its applications operating in real-time and can easily be installed in the system (Green 2010).

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Enterprise Resource Planning is a system of production administration where all parts of the industry are included in one management scheme. ERP thus integrates the functions of production, planning, customer care, accounting and sales into a system for smooth running in the administration of the enterprise. ERP is available in various packages with distinct functions in the management of the business. Considerations of specific functions are factored in choosing the appropriate package to apply for a given business entity (Chiat 2004).

These packages are discussed as follows. The customized package is developed with an emphasis on the clients custom needs. This is done by modifying the ERP package to suit the specific needs of the requesting enterprise. The main setback of this package is the fact that the customization may deviate from the core objective of the ERP in the business. Furthermore, the modifications for the custom package may increase complexity in its application (Green 2010).

The readymade package on the other hand is acquired in its original form. This means that the business will have to make the necessary adjustments to effectively apply the software. This maintains the ERP objective but business readjustments may be harmful to the production and sales of the enterprise (Chiat 2004). Such a package is favored in enterprises that prefer to work with a standard ERP in managing their affairs.

Implementation of ERP can either be modular or holistic. Modular implementation is whereby the package is installed in stages whereas holistic implementation refers to the installation of the whole package in one stroke (Chiat 2004). The client has the choice to make on how to apply the suitable ERP. As earlier outlined, ERP plays a very instrumental role in the administration of any given enterprise. When appropriately applied, the system saves colossal amounts of cash in the enterprise by streamlining the managerial functions of the business. It enhances the timely flow of information to minimize channel conflicts and avoid unnecessary delays in the delivery of services. Such are the tangible functions and benefits of an effective Enterprise Resource Planning system (Green 2010). In addition to this, the ERP has other indirect benefits that cannot be overlooked. These benefits are felt mostly by organizations that have fully integrated the system into their operation. For instance, the application of the ERP enhances flexibility in organizational functions.

Prior to the inception of the Enterprise Resource Planning, access to certain data in the company involved a lot of bureaucratic procedures that would cause frustration and unwarranted delays due to its rigidity (Shahbaz 2010). Integration of the ERP has made the process more flexible to allow access to data at the click of the button as long as one has the relevant permissions. Further, the implementation of ERP has improved the overall performance of an organization. The system integrates the management functions and provides for the establishment of the results of the business. Since the system has performance indicators, one can easily analyze the practices and identify weaknesses for required improvements.

In economic terms, the ERP plays a major role in cutting down costs by streamlining the resources in use. This saves the organization huge amounts of money as well as time. Instances, where resources are improperly utilized, are identified for necessary corrective measures to be taken.

Given the outlined functions, it can be seen that Enterprise Resource Planning aids much in decision making. The system enhances making decisions at the various levels of management. It gives room for critical thinking and analysis of facts in the business or betterment. Before the implementation of an ERP system, it is imperative to establish elaborate economic considerations. First, it is critical to identify pacts for the implementation of ERP. The organization has to establish its goals and economic capacity to implement an ERP (Shahbaz 2010). Personnel is equally considered to establish how much is available to sustain the manpower involved.

In most cases, the implementation process is factored prior to its establishment. The most cost effective process that does not compromise its quality. Other factors considered include marketing expenses and competitors’ strengths. In line with these considerations, it is equally imperative to establish the return on investment (ROI) of a given ERP to the business. It would be disastrous if the implementation of ERP leads to a string of losses (Chiat 2004).

Given that the ERP covers both the industry and customers, it is imperative to analyze customer behavior and industrial response to the application of the system. Research indicates that most customers are quite enthusiastic about ERP since it increases their interaction with producers. The online purchase and supply arrangements are quite instrumental in embracing technology in business transactions (Chiat 2004). Such enhanced interaction develops customer confidence and loyalty to the firm since the feedback response is timely.

Ease of access to online customer care services further satisfy the customer and thus make him loyal to the company. In addition, the improved state of business courtesy of the ERP system means that the customer is assured of getting the services and information promptly. For instance, a customer can fully inquire about the product before purchase and can follow up the delivery process online. The ERP system, therefore, eliminates uncertainties on distant purchase and delivery. It is equally appreciable that ERP systems have enhanced trust in online invoices and payments since it is easier to follow up the process at any stage. This has greatly saved customers time involved in purchasing goods especially when the distance between customer and producer is enormous (Hitt 2006).

Customers quickly embrace an Enterprise Resource Planning system due to its integrative ability. Since the ERP system integrates and connects various sections and departments of the Company, a fault or anomaly in any transaction is easily identified and channeled to the relevant department for timely response (Chiat 2004). Prior to the innovation of the ERP, a fault in a transaction could take ages to get attention from the required department. Such benefits to the customers have indeed contributed immensely to the company’s resolve to implement ERP systems. Businesses are at liberty to modify ERP systems to satisfy customer needs.

Industrial response to the ERP system is yet another important consideration. It should be noted that industry is the immediate beneficiary and determinant in the application of the ERP system. Therefore the views held by companies concerning ERP systems have sufficient significance in the design and development of Enterprise Resource Planning Software (Stephenson 2005). It is worth noting that companies and other business enterprises have appreciated the role of Information Technology in development. Implementation of ERP software, therefore, contributes to the full realization of information technology in the organization. Most industries are thus continually warming up towards fully integrating the ERP software in their organizations.

It has been observed that the introduction of Enterprise Resource Planning in business organizations has heavily transformed transactional operations. ERP systems have expanded the innovative spectrum and encouraged flexibility in the modus operandi of most organizations (Hitt 2006). With both human resource and customer care functions integrated with the computerized system, the ERP gives room for critical thinking and innovation by the workforce in place. Even though critics argue that ERP application is shrinking employment opportunities in this manner, it can be seen that indeed the system gives room for business expansion thus taking in more workforce (Stephenson 2005). Further, the application of the ERP software has helped eliminate the rigid manner of business operation by enhancing the prompt flow of information among the various departments within an organization.

Whereas it has been seen that most organizations are quite reluctant to change, advancements such as ERP innovation are irresistible. Adaption to the use of ERP system is a change whose benefits definitely supersede the setbacks is thus a welcome move for most organizations (Chiat 2004). ERP systems give a new lease of life to integrated operations in business organization for effective goods and service delivery. Companies have learnt to embrace the ERP system to maintain a competitive advantage in the first growing technological world.

Despite such enthusiastic response that ERP has received in many organizations, there are those companies that are still ambivalent towards the application of the software (Stephenson 2005). The companies which are slow towards adoption of the ERP system feel that the system adds very little value to the business in comparison with the heavy investment in the same.

ERP systems have indeed brought a new way of operation in many organizations. In spite of the many benefits associated with this system, it has equally attracted a number of criticisms. Pundits argue that the ERP system has a number of shortfalls. For instance, managers feel that ERP systems expose information that is sensitive and confidential to the business and not necessary for public access. Such managers hold that integration of the various departments breaches the privacy and confidentiality code (Hitt 2006). Critics of the ERP systems also hold that it adds very little value in terms of returns vis-à-vis their set-up costs. In fact, they argue that there are a number of instances that have led to losses in the company due to the application of ERP software.

A case in support of this argument is the Hershey business catastrophe. Hershey, a key producer of confectioneries and beverages in the United States was keen on implementing an ERP system in its operations. The system was built for three years where the SAP version of ERP was chosen and implemented as a whole unit. However, the outcome was disastrous. Hershey experienced heavy losses soon after the implementation of the ERP software. Research indicated that the system was implemented at the wrong time when there was a lot of workloads since other changes were taking place during the company’s peak time (Stephenson 2005).

Enterprise Resource Planning remains to be a timely idea for business management by integrating Information Technology in the organization. An online ERP system, therefore, serves to meet the business objectives and satisfy customer needs by keeping close interaction. The online solution should be as interactive as practically possible and set in a manner that applies to all parties (Hitt 2006).

Preparation and implementation of the ERP software are done systematically by ensuring that it addresses all the requirements. Its merits include order and stock tracking, which helps in the optimization of the inventory. It also helps in the forecasting of sales, centralization of enterprise data and coordination of production and purchases (Green 2010). On the loop side, the system can lead sharing of classified business data, which may jeopardize the competitiveness of the business. Further, ERP implementation requires well-founded software expertise and assembling the modules and components can be very costly (Shahbaz 2010).

MSXML

Microsoft XML is an essential tool for developing web pages and works well with the current script programming languages such as VBScript and Jscript. Web development can also be achieved from C++ programming objects. A distinct feature of MSXML is that all its products operate on a Component Object Model (COM). The MSXML versions are all compatible with Microsoft’s products. The current versions include MSXML 6.0, MSXML 4.0 and MSXML 3.0, all of which are Microsoft supported. The use of MSXML in web development is preferred due to compatibility and object use (Jacobson 2002).

MySQL

MySQL is a well-preferred Relational Database Management System (RDMS) that provides a platform for multiple users to access different sets of data contained in it. Owing to this fact as well as its simplicity, MySQL enjoys preference among a wide range of web products that are in use worldwide. Google and Wikipedia are some of the frequently accessed websites that use MySQL. It uses Structured Query Language (SQL) to develop the source code for the database. Written in the C++ language, the software can be integrated with Visual Studio (VB) and is compatible with universal operating systems, which include Windows and Linux operating systems (Harrison 2006).

The database management system is distinguished by its compound storage engines that allow multiple user access. Distinct features of the system include independent storage engines, cross-platform support, updatable views, embedded database library, query caching, subsets, stored procedures and partitioned tables. MySQL workbench has been developed to improve and customize database design and modeling as well as a database administration in a simplified manner (Bennet 1999).

Methodology

Once the data has been collected and categorized accordingly, the process of developing the website starts in a structured manner as reflected in the flow chart shown below. The central assignment is to develop the catalogue and web pages to post the system online for inventory monitoring and customer interaction in making orders and requesting delivery.

Flow chart
(Blofeld 2008).

Design

The online Enterprise Resource Planning catalogue will be designed in stages and modules in a structure that is relatively easy to interpret and implement. This starts by gathering the data from Ben Foods Company and all its shopping outlets. Once the data has been gathered, it is sorted out into the required categories, each of which can be developed as an independent module that will be integrated into the entire system upon completion. Customer considerations and Ben Foods preferences are factored in the design. Products Database Website is developed in the specific categories as earlier outlined in data classification. The Enterprise Resource Planning software is customized to meet the needs of Ben Foods Company (Sheilds 2001).

In designing the products’ database, MySQL, which is a highly effective and simplistic relational database management system, is applied. The choice of this is informed from the MySQL merits as stated in the literature review. Web development, therefore, takes centre stage in which MSXML and MySQL are applied. The database on which the web pages are developed is designed such that it offers an elaborate tracking platform of Ben Foods transactions. This design allows for the monitoring of sales and products as well as a feedback mechanism between a company’s central point and its outlets across the world. Further, the design provides for a customer log in where he can place an order, and the transaction is carried out online. The developed source code will be designed to give room for modifications to suit the company’s dynamic situations with time. The system will undergo various test procedures in the design phase to ensure that the system does not malfunction in the implementation phase.

Project Evaluation

Once the project is complete, there is a need to evaluate its workability. A logbook can be designed so that the technicians enter the details of any problems they encounter when running the program. I will use a questionnaire to find out what management and customers think of the product. Knowledge of questionnaire application will be essential in this (Khosrow–Puor 2006).

Risk Analysis and Contingency Planning

  1. The ERP catalogue with all specifications cannot be implemented on time. This can be attributed to a number of factors: –
    1. Ben Foods Co. management is unclear on the scope of the catalogue given the sensitivity of data to be posted. If this happens then I will either have to make up a general report of my own or just produce a report to the main customer’s requirements. In any case, this is not likely to be a major problem as I can design the report stage to be independent of the rest of the program and thus will be able to start design and implementation, even if this information is incomplete.
  2. The online ERP sales catalogue development faces some setbacks. The possible causes of this happening are:-
    1. The programming skills required turns out to be too complex for developing the system. In which case I will try to use fewer complicated versions of MSXML and MySQL for the web and produce the reports (Glass et al. 2004).
    2. I am unable to get my program to interface with Ben Foods website. This might occur if the technical specification is missing or the language used in the original site does not function well with MSXML and MySQL.
  3. I am unable to get enough information to evaluate the product. This might happen because:-
    1. Variations in the data provided for developing the ERP catalogue. This is due to the nature of Ben foods businesses spread across the continents.
    2. The Ben Foods IT technicians take a long to respond to the bug and record it in the provided logbook. I will need to undertake interviews with the technicians to fill in the missing information.
    3. The questionnaire does not produce enough results. I will need to have the questionnaire checked before it goes out. I will need to do phone interviews if the results do not come back in time.

The main risk with this project is failing to complete the system within the given period. I will need to ensure that the specification phase does not overrun, as this will have a knock-on effect. I have also described how I would deal with some of the problems that might occur within the web development phase. I must try to set a realistic set of milestones for this phase and seek early advice from my supervisor if problems arise (Shields 2001).

Required Resources

Sufficient product data from Ben Foods company which include dairy products, meat products, wines and beverages from all its outlets.

An up to date Enterprise resource planning software to develop the catalogue is required.

The latest versions of MSXML and MySQL will be widely used in web development with the data provided.

Books, journals, internet resources and ERP experts will be very instrumental in the development and implementation of this project.

An elaborate time plan to keep track of project progress and a budget to guide the expenditure of the entire project is necessary.

References

Bennet, G., 1999. Developing database applications in Visual basic 5 Qube Publications. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Ltd.

Blofeld, J., 2008. Real time software engineering techniques. Boston: Shambala.

Brown, C. & Vessey, I., 2003. Managing the Next Wave of Enterprise Systems: Leveraging Lessons from ERP. MIS Quarterly Executive, 2(1), pp.65-77.

Chiat, L.T., 2004. Critical elements for a successful ERP implementation in SMEs. International Journal of Production Research, 42(17), pp.3433–3455.

Glass, M. et al., 2004. Beginning PHP, Apache and MySQL Web Development, Norfolk: Green, 2010. Enterprise Resource Planning and Its Applications, Web.

Harrison, G., 2006. MySQL Stored Procedure Programming. Boston: Sage Publications.

Hitt, L.M., 2006. ERP Investment: Business Impact and Productivity Measures, Web.

Jacobson, J., 2002. Flash and XML, a Developers Guide. New Jersey: John Wiley and Sons, Inc.

Khosrow–Puor, M., 2006. Emerging Trends and Challenges in Information Technology Management. Hershey: Idea Group, Inc.

Shahbaz, A.N., 2010. Enterprise Resource Planning, Web.

Sheilds, G., 2001. E-Business and ERP: Rapid Implementation and Project Planning. New York: John Wiley and Sons, Inc.

Stephenson, O.C., 2005. The Natural Next Step: Cross-Enterprise Leadership, Web.

Appendix 1

Timeplan

Activity Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep
1. Confirm arrangements with Ben Foods company X…
2. Modify project proposal .X..
3. Get information on ERP, MSXML and MySQL XXX.
4. Establish all data and web requirements from Ben Foods .XXX X…
5. Draw up output report spec .XXX
6. Produce ERD and DFDs XX..
7. Test programs .XXX X…
8. Design screen layout ..XX
9. Write interim report .XX
10. Implement database ..XX XX. EE.
11. Write application code ..X EEX X…
12. Write user guide X..H H…
13. Hand over system …H X…
14. Write draft report …H XXX
15. Demo software to supervisor …H H..X
16. Supervisor review draft X…
17. Edit final report .XX.
18. Report handed in …X

Notes:

X = activity lasting 1 week

H= Holiday period (University and RI on closed over Xmas and new year period)

E = Examination period

. = Marker for unused weeks

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