Melinda Mathews and 15 of her colleagues at Louisville, Colo.-based Storage Technology Corp. are among the millions of IT pros whose workplace projects are changing, as U.S. companies work to meet new government regulations.
Mathews is program manager for export compliance at the company known throughout the industry as StorageTek. She recently faced the task of automating the process of manually checking the company's customers against a list of suspected terrorists and embargoed countries.
The data storage company, which recorded $2.4 billion in sales last year, does about half its business with U.S. customers. It also exports its storage products worldwide.
Mathews and her team chose SAP Global Trade Services (GTS) software to handle the complex and time-consuming task of cross-referencing client lists. The software replaces a third-party export system used at StorageTek's Puerto Rico facility and several manual trade processes in use at its other plants.
"We've been looking to tighten up our import compliance," Mathews said. "We screen all of our customers, regardless of whether they're domestic or international business, because these days you may not know who you're doing business with."
SAP was an obvious choice for StorageTek, since the storage company was already running SAP R/3 4.6C, and because company executives had previously established the goal of reducing the number of best-of-breed systems that had been implemented over the years.
"It kind of made sense to continue with SAP, so we didn't have database files to rewrite," Mathews explained.
The biggest challenge was loading all the data related to StorageTek customers into the module while continuing to monitor and screen ongoing transactions, Mathews said. The key, she said, was making sure that the master data was correct.
StorageTek started to implement SAP GTS in February, and the company's go-live date was in June. At the outset, a support staff manned a "war room" from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., to monitor transactions and deal with any problems, Mathews said.
SAP GTS uses open standards, including XML, to improve the supply chain and comply with international regulations. Within the first week after the SAP GTS implementation, StorageTek screened more than 100,000 business partners against a list of sanctioned parties and lists of embargoed countries.
Many companies still rely on outdated manual processes and paperwork for international business, said Neetin Datar, director of SAP trade and compliance applications. SAP is emphasizing its Web services strategy to help companies become more efficient in trade compliance, he said.
"This whole area has been neglected by companies," Datar said. "It's amazing to walk into a multibillion-dollar company and, when we talk with them, they say they're doing all this manually. Global trade is an afterthought for them."
Joshua Greenbaum, principal consultant at Daly City, Calif.-based Enterprise Applications Consulting, said that companies can use software like SAP GTS to reduce the risk of shipping restricted products.
"It can prevent the kind of mistakes that can be very costly," he said.
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