Holland’s fleet of mobile welding trucks are sometimes deployed to repair railroad tracks that are well out of cell phone range. This led the company to develop a handheld reporting tool for welding technicians. Photo courtesy Holland Co.

Finding comprehensive enterprise software that both handles manufacturing while offering strong functionality for field service and construction has been a real challenge for the Holland Co., a Crete, IL-based provider of rail equipment and services for the rail industry.

However, Holland IT director Jim Tieri has accomplished this by using the open architecture feature of the company’s enterprise software platform IFS Applications, made by IFS North America. Implementation took less than a year, and it was done on time and under budget.

“Until we found IFS, we couldn’t find one company that had the service management piece, the engineering piece, the distribution piece and the general ledger piece all tied into one package,” says Tieri. “And then there are two different contracting businesses that are service businesses, and they get paid for executing those contracts. We also engineer and build parts and sell them, so we need customer order entry, distribution and inventory functions that support that.”

For manufacturing, Tieri consolidated operations onto a single application, helping to reduce cycle times for the company’s line of mobile rail welding equipment. For field service and construction, he developed a handheld, custom reporting tool so mobile welding technicians can send real-time information to Holland’s accounting and project management teams back at the office. The device integrates standard work order functionality with IFS work orders.

“These guys in the field are tracking and reporting business metrics on the number of welds made, welds missed and consumables like grinding wheels they use,” says Tieri. “This is crucial information for us. We want current information on our productivity and the ability to bill the customer in a more timely fashion.”

Holland’s fleet of mobile welding trucks are sometimes deployed to repair railroad tracks that are well out of cell phone range, so data from handheld devices are currently retrieved in a batch process at the end of the day as workers return to their hotel rooms or find a wifi hotspot. That will change soon, according to Tieri.

To help bring Holland workers closer to real-time reporting, the company last year put satellite dishes on six vehicles to test the effectiveness of various models and makes and satellite service providers. The company plans to install satellite dishes on its entire fleet of 75 to 80 vehicles within two years.

Also, Holland will soon be one of the first companies in the world to implement a new user interface to make the enterprise software more intuitive and user-friendly. The interface is based on Microsoft .NET technology and will offer both technological and ergonomic benefits that should drive productivity, according to Tieri.

He says the interface will help users in two ways. One is the interface’s Application Search, an integrated Google-like search engine that lets the average user search the company’s database and quickly find information related to customers or parts.

The interface will also streamline delivery of applications entirely through a web browser. “It potentially eliminates one thing that makes remote locations problematic,” says Tieri.

For more information on comprehensive enterprise software, call 888-437-4968 or visit www.ifsworld.com.