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Veronica Martin spoke to Kevin Wippermann, Chief Technology Officer at Port of Duqm, during IFS Connect Middle East to discuss how the implementation of the IFS ERP solution has impacted the operations of Port of Duqm, the benefits that PoD expects to gain from upgrading to IFS Cloud and the improvements the IFS solutions have brought.

How has the implementation of the IFS ERP solution impacted the operations of Port of Duqm (PoD)?

Let me first explain how we started because, in our case, it’s something what we call like a greenfield implementation. Meaning that when we initially implemented IFS around seven years ago, we had no ERP, so we had no systems. This means that we had a basic accounting system, and for the rest, the company was operating using solutions such as Word or Excel. This was the start of what we call the digitalisation road, where we wanted our business processes to be in an ERP.

We implemented it block by block over the course of one year. This allows us to have all our business processes in one ERP. Now we are a port authority and at the time of the implementation, we were also an operator. If you think about operational processes for ports, we use a specific system called terminal operating system, which essentially cover what we do and the services we render in the port. This was integrated with IFS for invoicing purposes, so the operations are captured in the terminal operating system. The information is sent to ERP, the finance team then emits the invoice to the agents or the clients, and we get the payment.

What are the benefits that PoD expects to gain from upgrading to IFS Cloud?

We have gone straight from IFS Applications 9 to the cloud version of IFS. One of the big differences it was pointed out today that it’s important to us is that the IFS Applications 9 is very difficult to manage on premise. The cloud version allows for an easier deployment on premise. We are a semi-government company, which means we’re subsidized by the government, and as a result, we have the legal obligation to keep the data in country. For us, controlling where the ERP is deployed it’s a legal obligation, so extremely important. The cloud version allows you or us to deploy it in our own data centre. This is for us a crucial evolution.

We use IFS for the procurement process or other processes that require approvals. Those processes require hierarchy to actively interact with the system. If it’s a hard client based ERP, the interaction when you are off-premise when you’re traveling, for example, is more complicated. For example, me being here in Dubai, if I have to approve the PO of my department, it’s more complicated, but with the cloud version of IFS, I will be able to interact with the system wherever I am in the world. This will tremendously accelerate our processes.

We have identified building statistics that where we lose most of time is the approval of the management. IFS cloud will drastically reduce that time, so that’s another benefit. Additionally, because of the fact that we can leverage now on full mobility, we can bring the ERP on the field. We’re building our own port IT management system in the ERP, so now we can even bring this on the field. If we see that an operation is happening and we want to capture some data, we can have like a tablet with either Wi-Fi and connection from the port, or 4g, and we can interact with our ERP from the field, which makes a big difference compared to the older versions.

What improvements have the IFS solutions brought in terms of data capture for PoD?

Well, in our case, it was drastic because we went from no core system to a full-blown one where there was almost no data captured centrally. We would have massive Excels that would gather a lot of data and it’s very risky to have sensitive data in Excel because it’s very well protected and with one mistake you can lose all your data. For us to be able over time to leverage on the ERP to capture the data from all the business processes that exist in Port is a tremendous difference.

We are now able to create a vast array of custom fields that capture data that is really relevant to us. Every industry has its own jargon and requirements. For example, an airport or a port have different type of data you want to capture. They might want to capture the tail number of a plane. In this case, with the custom object, we are able to capture all the data specific to our industry directly into the ERP.

Are there any specific challenges or obstacles encountered during the implementation process of the IFS solutions at PoD?

Of course! It’s a big project to try and roll out a full-blown ERP. When we launched that project, it was a strategical decision, but we decided we were going to change the processes, but not the system. Why? Because we’re not building rockets. We report, so our HR, finance and maintenance process aren’t extremely complex to the point that we would have to have something extremely specific to our own company. Therefore, we agreed with the C-suite that we would challenge ourselves and try and change our business process instead of the system. And the reason we did this is because long term, when you upgrade what we’re doing now, if you haven’t modified the system in a million ways, when you try to upgrade, it’s much easier.

In terms of challenges when it comes to the implementation, this was one of the biggest challenges because we would go to a business unit and say to HR, for example, we’re going to implement the ERP, so you will have to change your HR processes to make them work in ERP, because there’s no competitive advantage to make it, to change the system that our HR is so different from other ones. The challenge was that the businesses have to be like I used to work in this kind of process for my business unit, now I have to change because we have an ERP.  It was hard on the user to change their own processes.

Additionally, there’s the learning curve to understand how a new system work. ERP is an extremely complex system when you’re used to capturing your data just in Excel. Suddenly, you have to capture it in different section of an ERP, so there’s a learning curve and it is steep. On top of that, we were changing the business processes, which was hard at the beginning, but now it has paid off tremendously.

How do you anticipate the upcoming go-live of IFS Cloud at PoD will further enhance their capabilities?

Mobility, the ability to be onsite with, the data capture, the capacity for the management to interact with the system and the processes anywhere in the world are the major benefits that I see. We are using the project management tool and custom object to capture data that is specific to our industry. This also translated in us capturing more data than ever in the new version of IFS.

Regarding the decision-making process of the leadership of any company, the more quality data you have, the better your decision will be. Now that we have a series of custom fields to our activity, we will be able to bring to the decision makers, in this case, the CEO or COO, much more relevant data that will allow them to steer the company and take decisions in a much more efficient manner and almost in real time.


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