Datatex and Dan River Apparel Fabrics - Ten Years and Counting
Written By: Bob Beecy
Published On: June 21 2002
and Dan River Apparel Fabrics Ten Years and Counting
Author - Bob
- June 21, 2002
year 2002 marked a significant anniversary for Datatex, S. A. and Dan
River's Apparel Fabrics Division. It was precisely ten years ago, in early
1992, that Apparel Fabrics took possession of Datatex's TIM package (Textile
Integrated Manufacturing) and began the process of implementing an ERP
system that had been specifically designed to meet the needs of a textile
River Apparel Fabrics Division is one of three business units of Dan River,
Inc., a textile manufacturer with annual sales of $650MM. The Apparel
Fabrics Division, with annual sales of $130MM, is a fully integrated manufacturer
of fancy, yarn-dyed cotton and blended fabrics sold to garment manufacturers
and to the home textile and craft market.
the result of a change of ownership in the late 1980's, information systems
were made a strategic priority to enable the company to meet market requirements
and to provide management with the tools to maximize revenues and minimize
waste. Each operating division of Dan River was permitted the autonomy
to select the system that best fit its distinct needs. In early 1991,
Apparel Fabrics hired a project leader with experience in implementing
business systems, formed a project team and a steering committee and began
the process of selecting and implementing an integrated business system.
The reader should note that at the time this project began the term ERP
had not yet become part of our lexicon.
This case study was selected for publication because it reflects a long-term
relationship that began with a thorough and demanding selection process.
It illustrates the importance of an extensive and detailed system selection
project team began the demanding process of defining system requirements
and testing various software offerings. The team documented 27 specific
package requirements and began the selection process. They soon discovered
that this "short" list of requirements eliminated all but a very small
number of suppliers, and upon further investigation it became evident
that there was no packaged solution for textiles, particularly one that
would handle the highly diversified product mix offered by Apparel Fabrics.
The only option readily available to Apparel Fabrics was to buy a generic
package and have a system's integrator customize the product to fit the
unique demands of textiles, especially the variety of packaging configurations
and quality characteristics involved in the business.
desperation, the team opted to investigate the current "state of the art"
process industry software solution, thinking there would be synergy between
the attributes of such a package and their requirements. This also proved
to be a source of frustration and the team resigned itself to the task
of shoehorning the implementation into a poorly tailored solution.
was at this time, in a moment of pure serendipity, that Dan River's IBM
Account Representative suggested that they take a look at a new software
product called TIM, originated by Datatex, that claimed to be a system's
solution for textiles.
there was immediate attraction to Datatex, it was tempered by the fact
it was a foreign package with no established base in the US. Furthermore,
the package was new to the marketplace and the suite of applications were,
as yet, not fully developed and the package, having been developed in
Europe, did not conform to a number of business practices common to the
US. Finally, it was obvious that the marketing firm representing the product,
at the time of the initial demo, did not have a strong knowledge of either
the package or textiles.
these concerns, it was also obvious that the package was developed to
meet the needs of textile producers and that its table-driven architecture
gave it the flexibility to handle difficult and changing requirements.
Apparel Fabrics needed assurance that Datatex would continue to grow and
mature and that it had the legs to service the account for the foreseeable
future. The decision was made to bring Ronen (Ronnie) Hagin, a principal
of Datatex and one of its two original system developers, to Danville
to meet with the project team.
was at this meeting that the Apparel Fabrics team grew comfortable with
the expertise and sincerity exhibited by Ronnie Hagin, and Ronnie grew
to appreciate the knowledge and focus of the team. Each party realized
that a relationship between the two companies would be key to their strategic
objectives; Apparel Fabrics to implement a truly integrated ERP backbone
for their operating system and Datatex to align itself with a successful
US implementation. Over the next few months the parties negotiated the
purchase of the software and related services and just before Christmas
in 1991 the computer tapes containing TIM arrived in Danville, VA.
this same period, the Apparel Fabrics Steering Committee undertook a cost-benefit
analysis to support the expense of the hardware, software and training
required to implement the new package. The Committee identified a number
of expected improvements that would result from the new systems, and the
activities encompassed in the implementation, and calculated annual savings
that readily justified anticipated expenditures. Along with these savings,
the Committee set goals for on-time deliveries, lead-time reduction and
improved customer service.
implementation was planned in stages and was expected to take 24 months
in a multi-plant environment. With the loading of the software, it began
in earnest. Although TIM appeared to be the best solution for Apparel
Fabrics, the other operating divisions selected ERP systems that they
felt better fit their business needs.
Datatex did not have domestic support at this time, Apparel personnel
were required to spend significant time understanding the intricacies
of the package. While this slowed the implementation, it did increase
the team's knowledge and comprehension of the package and served to benefit
the implementation in the long run.
room testing and a "quick-slice" implementation, undertaken prior to the
full release of the package, indicated the need to Americanize the package.
TIM, as delivered, did not adequately support standard costing, EDI was
non-existent and the package did not handle retail pick-and-pack. There
was no easy way to purge old data from the system and management reporting
methodologies were incomplete. The weave portion of the system was a release
away, so integration with CAD would need to be developed.
addition, there was a myriad of other small changes required to align
the functionality to what US producers were accustomed to using. When
these issues were raised with Datatex the relationship between Datatex
and Apparel Fabrics became even stronger as Datatex undertook a number
of modifications, at reasonable or no cost, to see that the package was
brought into conformance for the US market.
implementation of the package went smoothly, with some minor bumps, but
no major crashes. The original 24-month estimate proved optimistic, resulting
from the time spent to learn the package and the fact that we could not
curtail business while the new systems were being rolled out.
fact that the textile industry was emerging from the recession of the
early 90's only served to complicate matters. These challenges forced
Apparel Fabrics to create interfaces with existing, legacy systems, which
chewed-up resources, and a phased approach to the system's cutover lessened
the risk but slowed the implementation.
Fabrics persevered and Datatex continued its support, and by early fall
of 1995 the mainframe that had been used to run Apparels' legacy system
was powered-off. TIM was now running the business, with the exception
of earning standard cost, accumulating variances and functions associated
with a general ledger package. Since Datatex does not offer GL as part
of its application suite, these functions were provided by the package
selected for use by the corporation and the other divisions, which readily
interfaced with TIM.
would take three additional years for Datatex and Dan River to create,
test and develop the MACO module that would allow Apparel Fabrics to eliminate
the sub-system that provided costing. Once this was done, the TIM backbone
was totally in place and working smoothly. Since that time, Dan River
Apparel Fabrics absorbed a major competitor and TIM was spread to two
additional manufacturing facilities.
the title to this piece indicates, Datatex and Dan River Apparel Fabrics
are still counting; counting on each other and on the benefits of their
relationship. Datatex looks to Apparel Fabrics, as their most mature US
user, to advise them of corrections and modifications and uses Apparel
Fabrics as a reference site for the package. Apparel Fabrics has diligently
kept current with all the releases to the package, up to and including
Release 7, installed in 2001 in record time with modicum of effort. Thus,
visitors always see a current version of the TIM package.
River's Apparel Fabrics continues to count on the benefits of the trust
they demonstrated in Ronnie Hagin and Datatex ten years prior. They achieved
significant payback from the implementation and continue to see annual
benefits. The performance improvements realized include reductions in
product lead-times, improved on-time deliveries, reductions in off quality
and overhead, and vastly improved customer service. But, probably, the
most notable benefit came as a result of choosing a package with which
they could grow the business and that worked diligently to grow with them.
The savings in money and human capital from using one package over the
last ten years are huge and have had a major impact on Apparel Fabrics
ability to remain a viable domestic producer. Now that Datatex has created
a significant presence in the US, and has staffed itself with personnel
ready and able to assist converts to TIM, there is no need for new TIM
users to work as hard to dissect and understand the suite of products
now being offered. But one wonders, however, in the absence of this effort,
if future users will achieve the depth of knowledge and appreciation of
TIM as evidenced by Apparel Fabrics and if the bond between supplier and
customer will be as strong as that of Datatex and Dan River Apparel Fabrics.
Beecy, CFPIM, CIRM, C.P.M., is an experienced manufacturing profession
who has worked in both discrete and repetitive industries. Bob is Senior
Director-Planning and Customer Requirements for Dan River Apparel Fabrics,
a role he was promoted to after serving as the Project Leader for a successful
ERP implementation. He has also helped lead Dan River Apparel Fabrics
in the implementation APS and MES tools to assist his division in the
utilization of PC based scheduling tools to supplement the ERP backbone.
a member of APICS, has published numerous articles in APICS publications
and other industry periodicals.
can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.