Owens Corning can see customer orders at a glance

The manufacturer revamps IT to improve visibility into its supply chain and prevent late deliveries

customer orders owens corning
Credit: Stephen Webster

Owens Corning is posting historically high marks for on-time deliveries of products and invoice accuracy these days, which fits squarely with the company's emphasis on customer service.

The improvements stem from a global technology overhaul that gives employees better visibility into operations so they can spot problems that could delay a customer's order.

It's a significant improvement over how operations used to work, says Steven Zerby, vice president and CIO of the $5.3 billion manufacturer of insulation, roofing and composites.

In the past, "the customer would call or electronically send an order and there was a pretty significant gap in time for us to figure out if we could manufacture it in time, [and] what were the logistics. But from a customer perspective, they wanted to place an order and get a yes. So we re-engineered all the systems with that in mind," Zerby says.

The company's Customer Experience Transformation project completely replaced core operational systems, from manufacturing to customer service, with technologies from various vendors, including SAP. The new platform, which won a CIO 100 award, includes a feature that Owens Corning calls the Customer Resolution Dashboard, which gives users information about the global supply chain so they can solve problems in real time.

The transformation project integrated systems, including CRM and supply chain management, into a single "pane of glass" that lets users around the globe see all aspects of a customer's order with one click, enabling them to remedy potential delays in production, warehouse, transportation, billing or pricing functions.

"It allows speed getting back to customers, and speed when we need resolutions," says Jason Pant, IT director for Owens Corning's Composite Solutions Group.

Forrester Research analyst Kyle McNabb says companies such as Owens Corning are under pressure to "rethink their technology platforms, so they can really help improve customer value," because customers have high expectations these days.

For example, Zerby says Amazon.com's online retail operation has "trained" people to expect multiple delivery options, such as express delivery, so Owens Corning is now making that possible in its supply chain.

Old software had to go

Zerby says the IT transformation was overdue. Owens Corning first implemented its SAP system in the late 1990s. And while that system had been upgraded over the years, company leaders realized by 2010 that the technology neither fully met workers' needs nor enabled high levels of customer service. Zerby's team concluded that core systems had to go, to be replaced by contemporary SAP technologies.

The IT team began designing the revamped systems in 2011, with the first deployments starting in 2012. A business liaison from each functional area worked with IT as IT started overhauling that unit's systems. Moreover, the IT team focused on change management with each deployment to ensure that employees maximized the benefits of the new systems as they came online.

Zerby says that communication between IT and the business divisions is crucial to keep up with future needs. As systems age, he says, they inevitably cause inefficiencies and force employees to use workarounds. "We think we can combat that with a very regular release program of business functionalities and changes so we can evolve systems at the same pace business evolves."

This story, "Owens Corning can see customer orders at a glance" was originally published by CIO.