Map Merchant Group (recently acquired by Antalis) is one of Europe’s leading paper merchant groups, with 25 members in 23 European countries. The Group formed in a merger in 2000 and consisted of paper merchant companies across Europe running disparate and incompatible ERP software systems. Today the company has more than 2,400 employees and 50,000 customers. Its success is built on the local expertise and individuality of its merchants coupled with the increased buying power and leading product brands of the Group.
Map Merchant Group realized it needed a base solution across each organization to achieve a cohesive Pan-European Strategy. Paul Morgan, European Program Director, explains, “We wanted to gain some economies of scale across our European merchants. We had companies of all sizes with varying requirements across Europe and we needed good quality software with an underlying core functionality that could be tailored to meet the needs of all subsidiaries. This would give the smaller merchants the benefit of additional application development, ensuring a good value solution across the Group.”
The company carried out an extensive search for the most suitable ERP system, before finally selecting IBS Enterprise. “We looked at a number of systems, including the largest global ERP companies, but felt that IBS was a better fit for our company.” It is a focused product distribution system, which is what our organization does.
We knew no other software applications could deliver what we wanted as an off-the-shelf solution. IBS offered the scope for additional development and industry expertise that we needed. In addition, IBS is an international organization, with subsidiaries or partners in each of the countries that our merchants are based. This ensured we could deliver localized enhancements while managing the centralized development and support requirements,” says Morgan.
The paper industry has several unique operations and business processes that can not be handled as standard by any widely available ERP software. Map needed to work closely with IBS to develop new procedures and applications to handle the specific requirements of its business. Morgan explains, “One of the first projects was to create a pricing mechanism to handle the comprehensive range of products and product sizes, as well as the complex discounting structure that characterizes the paper merchanting industry.”
Map wanted a master file that was useable by all businesses and would ensure consistency across the Group. It needed to handle such issues as having the same products, with the same codes, but with many different labels. “We have achieved this and believe it is the most sophisticated merchant pricing system in the industry with added processes for activity-based costing and customer profitability,” says Morgan.
Tailored for paper merchants
The ERP system was implemented first in Belgium. “There were a number of issues around the initial implementation and we worked very closely with IBS to identify areas for improvement. Between us, we ended up with a viable solution and we were pleased with the commitment and flexibility shown by IBS. The second implementation in Ireland went very smoothly and reflected the quality of work carried out by both IBS and our internal team. With those successful rollouts in place, the company recently finished implementing the ERP software in several Nordic countries,” he says.
The additional developments have made the core IBS Enterprise system into the most advanced solution dedicated to the paper merchant industry. “I don’t believe we could have worked with any other company to provide the systems we currently have. We have jointly delivered excellent industry-specific functionality and now IBS has incorporated these developments into a standardized paper industry version of its core system called IBS Paper software. This is big advantage to us because it means that IBS will maintain and support the system, significantly reducing our long term cost of ownership and gives a clear upgrade strategy,” says Morgan.
One of these key developments was in the area of e-business, using IBS NetStore. IBS NetStore is an e-business software for the effective selling, marketing and distribution of products over the Internet. IBS NetStore gives customers real-time access to information concerning stock availability, products, credit status and much more. It also lowers the cost of transactions considerably by allowing customers to take an active part in order handling and visibility.
The e-business system is very adaptable. IBS and Map worked closely to customize the e-business software so it matched the working processes of the paper industry. This included enhancing the searching capabilities to focus on product characteristics as well as improvements to underlying processes to make the interface more in tune with the requirements of paper merchant customers.
Good working relationship
Morgan adds, “IBS Enterprise has an excellent function for handling multiple distribution centers (MDC). This is important for the Nordic implementation because we have a major warehouse in Sweden, which supports smaller, regional warehouses in Norway, Denmark and Latvia. MDC allows the smaller warehouses to run off the central warehouse systems, enabling seamless inter-company transactions and significantly improving the responsiveness and service to our customers.”
“IBS showed a real commitment to its relationship with Map. It faced up to the early issues, reacted positively to them and has now given us a solid, robust product that will last us for ten years or more. In a business which is very much high volume, low margin, we need good systems that help optimize our processes and minimize costs. IBS Paper distribution software is a truly international, industry-dedicated system that minimizes our total cost of ownership throughout our organization," he concludes.