Twinsburg-based Forest Corp. snared $20 million in revenue in 1998 from the likes of Budweiser, General Motors and Coca-Cola. It was that high-profile client list that led the company’s executives to the realization that they would have to update their computer network.
Some of the heavy-hitting firms the point-of-purchase communications supplier did business with were rapidly merging new technology into their everyday business. Many of its customers were building extranets and wanted Forest to do the same. They also wanted it to develop e-commerce and order tracking applications.
The company tabbed the Anderson Group of Akron to build a new system that would meet its clients’ needs. When the systems integration firm stepped in to evaluate the situation, it discovered the company had a very simple network infrastructure.
“When Forest Corp. first engaged the Anderson Group as their systems integrator, their technology infrastructure was minimal,” explains A.J. Vasaris, Anderson’s president.
At that time, the company’s internal operations consisted of a lone IBM RS/6000 linked to standalone PCs for the sharing of basic accounting and manufacturing information. Communication with outside departments didn’t exist, and internal departments with different operating systems could not communicate with each other. In addition, there was no company e-mail system with which employees could react to customer comments or transmit information to co-workers.
The Anderson Group’s first step was the development of an effective way for employees to communicate with each other. Vasaris’ company installed a Windows NT file and print server in conjunction with Microsoft’s e-mail and groupware product. Next, the company’s network infrastructure of thin net coaxial cable was replaced with new cables that allowed for quicker communication.
Anderson connected workers at Forest’s main plant into the network. Plant data collection terminals were installed in key areas to allow better tracking and product scheduling. As facilities were added, high-speed links were integrated into the network to allow an extension of plant data collection and digital communication.
Finally, an e-commerce application was installed on Forest’s corporate extranet, where clients could easily order product. That work is ongoing, but the end result will be better communication between Forest and its national clients.
The payoffs are obvious. The company has better internal communications that ensures clients are taken care of and jobs are turned around faster. The system integration also provides a way to strengthen customer relationships by having a quick way to share information.
Another important benefit, Vasaris points out, is the company’s ability to gather information, impossible to collect and catalog without a computer network, from the plant to improve efficiency.
“Having a network infrastructure,” he says, “allowed Forest to improve plant efficiencies and scheduling through the collection and analysis of information previously lost.”
How to reach: The Anderson Group, (330) 945-6408
Jim Vickers (email@example.com) is an associate editor at SBN.