BACKGROUND:CPS Corporation is one of the largest gift wrap manufacturers in the United States with annual sales of more than $100 million. CPS products are for resale through mass market and discount retailers such as Wal-Mart, Target and Toys R Us, through department and specialty stores, through academic and civic/religious organizations for fund raising purposes and through in-store wrapping and specialized corporate gift programs. CPS has two manufacturing and distribution centers in Franklin, Tennessee, and Henderson, Kentucky, which are capable of generating 1.5 billion linear feet of gift wrap each year.

PLATFORMS: The Silvon DataTracker application data mart resides on an IBM AS/400 Model S10. The system integrates with and leverages transactional data from the ERP application ­ PRMS ­ which is marketed by Acacia Technologies (a division of Computer Associates).

PROBLEM SOLVED: Prior to bringing Silvon DataTracker on board in June 1998, CPS faced a variety of challenges related to data analysis. First and foremost, the company needed to centralize its sales reporting methods to ensure that its more than 30 users were working with the same numbers. Sales and marketing managers needed to improve customer profitability by tracking sales and margins by customer. Plus, CPS executives needed a solution that would allow them to analyze and better manage product inventory levels, sales forecasts and open orders.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Silvon DataTracker has performed flawlessly since we installed it one year ago. We are now planning to expand its functionality beyond sales and marketing analysis to help us improve our financial forecasting and to allow us to analyze and report on data related to our manufacturing operations.

STRENGTHS: We've pretty much let Silvon DataTracker run on its own (with very minimal intervention) since we installed the product last year. Silvon DataTracker allows our users to download data to Excel spreadsheets very easily. All of our users now have up-to-the-minute access to the same information at the same time. For the first time ever, Silvon DataTracker is allowing CPS to report on exactly what's happening on the sales and marketing side of our business.

WEAKNESSES: Our novice users have found Silvon DataTracker slightly difficult to master because our user desktop software relies heavily on right-click processing. In addition, the user documentation for Silvon DataTracker could be a little more detailed/intuitive in nature ­ particularly as it relates to upgrades and new releases.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We selected Silvon DataTracker over two other AS/400 solutions because of its long-standing record in the market and large customer base of more than 1,000 businesses worldwide. We also preferred DataTracker's availability as a complete business intelligence solution (versus a toolset comprised of offerings from multiple vendors for building a data warehouse, managing the data warehouse, providing on-line analytical processing, etc.). In addition, Silvon DataTracker's compatibility with Excel 97 was a big plus for our many users who like to import and manipulate data in spreadsheet format.

DELIVERABLES: Silvon DataTracker has provided the following data analysis capabilities in order to help CPS improve overall business performance: gross sales to product level, open orders to product level and on-hand and excess inventory levels by multi-level product class ­ down to the individual product level.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Silvon's support has been nothing short of excellent throughout the entire installation of DataTracker. The company's in-depth implementation methodology and on-site support are certainly designed to help companies deploy the product as quickly and effectively as possible.

DOCUMENTATION: The Silvon DataTracker product manuals and on-line help are quite satisfactory. We would like to be provided with more documentation about "what's new" in product upgrades and new product releases as Silvon issues them to the customer base.

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