When Doug Easton became disgusted with wooden shaft arrows in 1922, he never imagined that his dissatisfaction would lead to a sporting goods empire. He had concluded that it was impossible to manufacture consistently straight arrow shafts from wood; Easton supposed that using aluminum would solve that problem. He was right.
His aluminum shaft arrows revolutionized the sport of archery. But Easton didn't stop there. Over the years he acquired other manufacturers of archery-related products: the Hoyt Archery Company in 1983, the Curley-Bates Company in 1985, and Donzi's protective equipment in 1988. He even expanded his enterprise to include the manufacture of baseball, hockey, bicycle, and golf products. Now Easton Sports is known as one of the premiere manufacturers of high-end sporting goods in the world. Whatever the sport, Easton's goal is consistent – and well-stated in the company mission statement: to be the industry leader in high-performance sports equipment that provides a distinct advantage, exceptional quality, and value.
Those goals, however, cannot be accomplished unless you have a strong IT infrastructure. Gerry Mauricio understands that concept. As the director of MIS (management information systems) and communications, he is responsible for supporting the technology that supports Easton's business. "We pride ourselves on producing the highest quality sporting goods products available," says Mauricio. "The athletes who use our products are the best in their fields – so we have to make sure we are the best in ours. We place a lot of importance on the information technology that drives our manufacturing, distribution, and other company processes."
Technology Supports Sporting Goods Empire
Although Easton Sports is headquartered in Van Nuys, CA, the company has a number of facilities worldwide. It has distribution and manufacturing facilities in Mexico, Canada, Australia, and the United States. For years, the company's divisional systems were handled in a "decentralized" manner, according to Mauricio. Then, in 1985, the company initiated what Mauricio calls Easton's first major information-based technological milestone: an ERP (enterprise resource planning) system. At that time, Easton implemented a Manage 2000
system from ROI Systems, Inc., a Minneapolis-based provider of ERP solutions. This foray into technology was small compared with Easton's IT infrastructure today.
"When we first bought the system in 1985," explains Mauricio, "we only had a 30-user license. And the factory in Van Nuys was the only facility using the system. However, that has dramatically changed."
Mauricio makes reference to the nearly 200-user licenses the company has today. No longer is the system an isolated solution in the Van Nuys facility. Today, Manage 2000
connects the majority of Easton's facilities, integrating enterprise data and giving the company a much clearer perspective on its operations.
"The bigger milestone for us occurred in 1997," recounts Mauricio. "That is when we upgraded the Manage 2000
system. We expanded the system to the other facilities. That was a revolutionary change. Suddenly, we were able to see our inventory in a more comprehensive manner, such as which items were flowing between facilities. It gave us a complete picture of what was taking place at the corporate level. That is a powerful tool. Over time, we've also implemented a number of new modules in the system. We continue to expand the system's functionality as needs arise or as new features become available."
Integrating WMS And ERP
In addition to the ERP installation, Easton has also implemented a WMS (warehouse management system) from Logisticon. "Almost everything in the warehouse is automated," comments Mauricio. "We have bar coding, RF (radio frequency), computerized forklift picking, and an automated tilt tray sorting system. More importantly, though, we integrated the WMS with Manage 2000
. That integration was in line with the other upgrades we have made. It helps us keep all our information on the same page."
Staggered Implementation Makes For Easier Transition
Most ERP installations are drastic, all-at-once events. Easton's implementation was unusual since it implemented a stand-alone solution in 1985, and then incrementally upgraded the system over an extended period.
When asked whether the staggered implementation was a help, Mauricio responded, "It's always a lot easier to transition and absorb concepts within the same framework. Even though we are bringing in new modules and functionality, it is within an established system, and we have a group of employees who are well-versed in its operation."
Although the extended installation approach made some transitions easier, the change was not without growing pains. "You have to keep in mind," says Mauricio, "that throughout the implementation process, we had to periodically shut down entire divisions. With an operation as big as Easton's, that's no easy feat. Managing that aspect of the installation was probably more challenging than the installation itself."
The Benefits Of An Integrated Enterprise
According to Mauricio, operations at Easton have changed significantly – for the better. "We've reduced lead time and increased production capacity. We've reduced the amount of finished goods we have in our inventory. Specifically, I'd say since we started integrating our systems, we've reduced lead time by at least 40% to 50%. We implemented a QA module that allows us to identify areas where we can increase quality and reduce rework."
Although Mauricio has not calculated an exact ROI (return on investment), he says the system will unquestionably return its purchase price. Mauricio points out that the intangibles that cannot be calculated, such as improvements in quality, are perhaps the most valuable benefits of the upgraded system.
When asked to define the company's philosophy on technology, Mauricio describes it as a "practical" approach. "We don't jump on the bandwagon because a technology is hot," he explains. "Our approach is to go through a methodical evaluation of the product. If it passes our standards, then we implement it. It's a best-of-breed approach that we feel works well. It is definitely in accord with the incremental upgrades we've made to Manage 2000
. It's an approach we want to stick with."
Questions about this article? E-mail the author at DougC@corrypub.com.