Mambo was using two FileMaker databases developed in–house — for design and garment styling. But the two did not communicate, although both provided images for a graphics–heavy trade catalogue three times a year.
Gazal's legacy system, an early version of SSA Global Technologies' BPCS (Business Planning and Control System), has served the company well since 1994 but demanded manual re–entry of all Mambo data to perform material requisitions, production scheduling and inventory tasks satisfactorily.
"They were different systems with a gulf of an interface between the two and a whole pile of paper handed over between them," says Mambo operations manager Shaun Cameron–Lee.
"The duplication of data and margin for human error was incredible. The integrity of the data was pretty sloppy."
According to Cameron–Lee, Mambo managed to keep up with sales growth only because staff spent a lot of time double–checking data.
However, when consultants came to recommend an IT solution, Lotus Notes was hailed as the most robust system for the task and the only one guaranteed to interface with BPCS, which runs on an IBM AS/400 server. Gazal and Mambo believed their original FileMaker databases would not converse with the mainframe.
But mainly we can now make better (purchasing) decisions based on more accurate and quicker data with less frustration.
Approximately $200,000 and seven implementation stages later, the company realised Lotus Notes could do many things well, but could not cope with the graphic load required by Mambo, whose typical summer range includes about 500 styles in varying sizes and colours.
So Gazal went back to FileMaker for advice and was recommended the services of another consultancy, database developer Key Software.
"Within an hour, one of our experienced technical directors was able to prove that their old system could talk to the AS/400," says Key Software director Joseph Suhr.
The company then implemented a complete redesign of the databases using FileMaker Pro 5.5 into a central system to cater for design, sample production, pricing requirements for all components necessary to produce the range, and cataloguing to enable orders.
The system went live in July and has finished downloading this year's second fashion season without significant glitches.
Although no measures in productivity or efficiency gains are available, Cameron–Lee says the reduced margin for error derived from the electronic interface between Mambo and Gazal will have a direct cost benefit.
"But mainly we can now make better (purchasing) decisions based on more accurate and quicker data with less frustration," he says.
The system will be gradually rolled out to other brands in the Gazal stable.
However, further development will be done using SQL database technology. Phase two will allow historic sales orders to be extrapolated to produce component purchase orders for the coming season, and phase three will facilitate international logistics.
Key Software's Suhr says SQL will better track modification history to a field and serve as an audit file of each design.