BACKGROUND: Valvoline, a company of Ashland Inc., with sales in more than 140 countries, is a leading innovator and supplier of high-performance automotive and industrial products. Registered in 1873, Valvoline is the oldest name and trademark for lubricating oil in the United States.

PLATFORMS: Vanguard Graphical Performance Series (GPS) is currently running on a single RISC AS/400 and 10 Windows NT Servers. Users throughout Europe access the software from Windows 95 laptops and desktop PCs.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Valvoline recently completed the rollout of Marcam/Wonderware's PRISM to their offices located in ten European countries. Though PRISM fulfilled the operational requirements, it did not contain the reporting and analytical capabilities needed to manage a complex international business. The lack of sales reports and regional operational differences made standardized sales reporting difficult. The small IT staff could not provide the many custom reports requested. Reporting was further complicated by the fact that the standard unit of measure for each product in PRISM is a physical inventory unit while reports often needed to be in liters or kilograms. The need for consistent, standardized sales reporting and analysis became a high priority.

STRENGTHS: One of the strongest selling points of GPS has been the ability to produce reports in the data HTML cube format and distribute these data cubes via the company intranet or e-mail. A sales manager can be given one cube containing detailed sales information by date, customer and product classifications. With very little training, and no special software, the manager can manipulate the report to show selected detail or summarized levels. This data can then easily be printed or exported into Microsoft Excel.

WEAKNESSES: During the implementation of GPS, Vanguard was forthcoming about some of the weaknesses of the Version 3.0 package, most of which were addressed in GPS Version 3.1. The first of these was the limit of a single currency per warehouse. Another was the minimal graphing capability. Knowing that major enhancements would be there in the next version, Valvoline decided not to utilize the graphing in Version 3.0, but instead to export to Excel and graph there when needed. We also shelved plans for creating a consolidated warehouse with all countries, since this would be accomplished when we converted to Version 3.1. Another technical drawback encountered is the amount of AS/400 disk space required. We initially underestimated the size of the warehouses and the rate of growth. Processing time is another consideration. With several large, detailed views, processing time is currently over 15 minutes. We have not implemented the module that allows for scheduled off-hour creation and distribution of reports. In the coming fiscal year, we will purchase this package from Vanguard, known as e- Deployment.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Graphical Performance Series was selected by Valvoline for its proven integration with PRISM and its graphical user interface. GPS had also been implemented with success in one of Valvoline's sister companies, Ashland Specialty Chemical. A cross-functional, user-led team developed product and customer classifications and financial reporting standards. The team also developed training and created approximately 50 standard GPS views to be used by headquarters and sales offices.

DELIVERABLES: The implementation of GPS has given Valvoline a valuable analytical tool not only for producing reliable sales reporting, but also for analyzing European sales, inventory and purchasing data, resulting in business process improvement in several areas. As more people work with GPS, the benefits for Valvoline will continue to accrue.

VENDOR SUPPORT: One of the major contributing factors to the success of GPS at Valvoline has been the customer support provided by the European and U.S. support centers. They are prompt in responding to requests and have a good system for tracking all issues. Their capability for e-mail contact and remote access contribute to the high level of support.

DOCUMENTATION: The GPS documentation is good, especially from a technical perspective. Installation and upgrade procedures are well documented and the application of PTFs via the Vanguard Web site is easy. Due to the sheer complexity of GPS, the user manual can be intimidating for first-time users.

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