"Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations offered us a platform for the future"Nick Johnson, CIO
Metro Performance Glass (Metroglass) is Australasia’s leading manufacturer and installer of double‐glazed windows and other flat glass products for both new residential and retrofit markets. The company has over 250 glaziers servicing the commercial construction sector, and an extensive network of seven Australasian processing plants and twelve Metro Direct retail sites across New Zealand
When Nick Johnson joined Metroglass as CIO, he was charged with converting the results of a business process reengineering exercise into a tangible digital transformation strategy. And for good reason.
As a result of its significant growth over the years, Metroglass relied on several on-premises ERP solutions including a heavily modified version of Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 and a bespoke legacy, in-house sales, inventory and 'shop floor' control solution called Clearcut. In the Australian operation (AGG) JDE was used for finance along with Compass, another bespoke solution, which supported similar business functions as Clearcut. In addition, there were myriad smaller applications also in play throughout the business, and integration between many business systems was either non-existent or incomplete.
Metroglass additionally depended on a manufacturing execution system called LiSEC to run their specialised glass-cutting machinery. Its functions included managing orders, production, and despatch for their Auckland and Christchurch factories.
Due to its age and high level of modifications, the company struggled with the performance of Dynamics AX 2012. Staff were frustrated by the inconsistent data presented by different applications, poor reporting, and slow and inaccurate manual processes. It was clearly time to make some changes.
"It was obvious that we needed to adopt ‘one business platform’ and an enterprise application strategy. It was the only way we could overcome the issues caused by a plethora of applications, legacy solutions, and the underinvestment in IT and infrastructure at Metroglass" says Johnson.
"Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations offered us a platform for the future," says Johnson. "It would lead our move to Azure, improve our ability to service our 16 local sites and help us mobilise our workforce. Metro’s goal is to retire Clearcut (and other business applications) and, apart from production, extend Dynamics 365 across the entire business, creating a single unified ERP solution – our ‘one business platform’.
“Due to the size and complexity of Metroglass, we made a strategic decision to break down the programme of work into multiple stages or projects to reduce risk. We’re taking an ‘evolution not revolution’ approach. The exact break down and order of these projects isn’t yet entirely known. More work is required to understand how we can decrease the use of Clearcut within the business without impacting our customers and employees too heavily.”
The company's plans included extending Dynamics 365 to manage the inbound glass warehousing for its four New Zealand processing plants, as well as enabling its smaller manufacturing business to use it for warehousing selecting, quoting, and selling products.
"Apart from our manufacturing, which remains on LiSEC, our end goal was to have Dynamics 365 running the whole of the business," says Johnson.
As well as implementing Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations, the business undertook several parallel projects to improve the employee experience and provide greater access to collaboration tools. These included updating its Wide Area Network (WAN), connecting all Metroglass sites with UFB fibre, moving to Office 365 Exchange Online, rolling out Office 365 tools and completing an IT user device renewal throughout the business.
The choice of partner was important to Metroglass. "There are a limited number of Microsoft partners in New Zealand with the size, experience and capabilities needed for a project this size," says Johnson. "Fusion5 was highly enthusiastic about helping us transition from AX 2012 to Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations, and committing the resources needed, to the degree they now employ some of the Microsoft consultants I suggested would add value to the project.
"I was also impressed by the direct and responsive approach [Fusion5 CEO] Rebecca Tohill took to make us happy. She appointed a senior service delivery manager from Fusion5 to our project steering committee – and I really liked that."
Due to changes in scope, the original go-live date of August 2020 was rescheduled to November 2020. Despite this, Johnson says Fusion5 delivered the project under budget.
"We extended the project to put Dynamics 365 Advanced Warehousing into our inwards goods areas. We spent more time and money on this but balanced it with a highly disciplined approach to modifications. By using standard functionality as much as possible, we still came within budget."
The Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations project has enabled Metroglass to enter a new phase of transparency across the business. With the single source of the truth provided by Dynamics 365’s common data model, the business has confidence that every action and transaction is captured in one place, allowing it to create accurate and timely reporting.
Johnson says that due to their decision not to implement Dynamics 365 across all areas of the business in one go, Metroglass has yet to fully leverage all the expected benefits. “However, where we have implemented Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations, we have realised improved data accuracy, been able to standardise our business processes, and gained the ability to automate business tasks.
“The main area where we’ve seen an immediate impact is in the accuracy of our glass inventory in the four Metroglass factory sites. Advanced Warehousing has transformed our stocktaking process for the better. Our physical stock count at the end of every month would always result in a huge monthly variation between what we had, and what we thought we had. With Dynamics 365, we've achieved significant improvements. The degree of variation is less than a tenth of what it was. Our inventory accuracy has improved incredibly just by automating that process – it's amazing.”
“As Dynamics 365 and LiSEC are integrated, the two solutions are always in sync. All the glass that comes into our warehouses goes into Dynamics 365 inventory, until it enters the production cycle in LiSEC. So, we have an accurate view of what we have in stock and what has entered into production at all times - and it's in real-time," says Johnson.
Johnson has a favourite analogy for describing the process of change associated with making a major investment in technology. "The challenge with any IT change is that you need to keep the old boat (the business and its systems) going while you're building a new boat. When the time comes to move, you can't just expect everyone to get across to the new boat and know how to sail it.”
Johnson and Fusion5 worked closely together to ensure a smooth transfer from one boat to the other. "Fusion5's approach to organisational change management was behind one of the biggest project achievements - engaging our key stakeholders and team members in the move to Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations. Fusion5 helped sell the vision to our team and make the project a success.”
“For our existing Dynamics AX users, the transition was relatively easy. But the warehousing project resulted in a big learning curve for a group of people who have never used AX, warehouse technology, or mobile scanners. The training and change plan put forward by Fusion5 made a huge difference.”
Johnson is confident that he has made a wise technology decision.
"A critical thing for us, and for anyone who has put in a new ERP, is a desire not to spend millions of dollars, burn out your team, and then have to do it all again five years later. In selecting Dynamics 365, we have chosen a solution that is not just for the current business, but for the future as well. It will extend into other areas of the Metroglass business such as sales and our glazing business, providing us a platform where we can access the common data model from anywhere and on any mobile device. In addition, with the regular updates (eight a year) which we're geared up to do, we know that we're never going to need to replace Dynamics 365.”
Next up for Metroglass and Fusion5 is implementing Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement. And Johnson is confident this project will go equally well. "Fusion5's ability to stick to the plan and deliver the project is excellent. And having their senior service delivery person on the steering committee played a big part in ensuring the project was delivered successfully. She had a very positive impact on the project.
"We had a very good working relationship between our teams. The people from Fusion5 are good and it helps when people can be genuine and honest when working through the ups and downs of a major business application project.”