This article first appeared in the Spring 2016 issue of OnWindows.
EFCO is a provider of products and services to the construction industry. The company has manufacturing facilities in the US and Canada and sales offices around the world.
EFCO had been using the same mainframe system for the last 60 years – a key component of which was a comprehensive enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. With more than 300 users fully reliant on this ERP system, it represented a business-critical application that must be available at all times.
However, when the existing provider of the mainframe system started to reduce its technical services and maintenance support, EFCO realised a new approach was needed. The company wanted to improve its IT service and support, reduce costs and simplify technology between business systems.
Having also expanded its international operations, the decision was made to move the mainframe ERP system to a distributed environment, running on Microsoft Windows and .NET technology.
Upon evaluating their modernisation options, EFCO soon realised that their existing ERP system had been significantly customised to an extent that it would be impossible to replace with a commercial, off-the-shelf package.
The team spoke with Micro Focus partner Unicon, and conducted a proof-of-concept (POC) with the Micro Focus Visual COBOL for Visual Studio solution. The POC proved that the existing ERP business rules could be moved to a distributed architecture running on the Microsoft Windows platform without impacting end users.
Unicon began moving 500,000 lines of codes to Visual COBOL, while EFCO implemented a testing and validation process in preparation for production.
Since beginning to use Micro Focus Visual COBOL, EFCO has seen immediate business cost savings.
“Maintaining and supporting the ERP system using Visual COBOL within a Windows environment has resulted in an annual cost saving of over US$100,000,” said Scott Walter, IT project manager at EFCO. “We’ve also noticed a performance improvement of up to 50% in our batch jobs.”
EFCO’s staff are now finding it easier to maintain and manage the ERP system with Visual COBOL for Visual Studio. Also, despite development productivity not being an original business driver, the company is seeing how they will save time on future development efforts.
Thanks to the re-hosting project, EFCO’s staff in North America are benefitting from faster performance, access to modern development tools, and a technology platform built for the future. When it comes to global operations however, EFCO is planning a phased approach as the company looks to deliver one global ERP system.
“It’s hard to really overstate the value of a common ERP system globally,” Walter added. “Visual COBOL has given us the opportunity to not only deliver significant IT cost savings, but finally offer the same consistent business functionality across geographies and work together as one corporate team.”
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