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OpenMFG defeats SAP in ERP upgrade

A garment company decided it had had enough of vendor bureaucracy, outdated software and system bugs. When it came time to upgrade, open source was one the mind of this IT pro.

Vendor bureaucracy, outdated software and system bugs drove The Marena Group Inc., a garment maker in Lawrenceville, Ga., to seek new ERP software -- a quest that led them to OpenMFG.

According to the OpenMFG Web site, OpenMFG is a fully integrated manufacturing, distribution and finance software suite aimed directly at small entrepreneurial manufacturers (SEMs) -- the 300,000 companies with revenues under $50 million comprising American manufacturing.

The Marena Group was looking to implement a Web-based, configure-to-order store. The much-needed upgrade came as a result of several colliding factors, according to John Rogelstad, director of operations at The Marena Group. "Almost daily I was dealing with some hassle on our old system related to bugs, bad transactions and poor integration between modules," Rogelstad said. "It was a drain on our limited resources."

While investigating upgrade options, the company narrowed it down to two choices -- SAP and OpenMFG.

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The options soon began to differentiate themselves. For example, the SAP cost was five times greater than that of OpenMFG to acquire and fill with untested third-party modules. After all, for the price of upgrading its old system, the company would have been able to install a new ERP system and link it to WebCom, a Web store technology.

On the other hand, it was a noticeable improvement over the vendor neglect The Marena Group had suffered from in the past. OpenMFG also offered a community appeal, said Rogelstad.

Founded in 1995, the Lawrenceville, GA-based company has a staff of 50 people and an IT department that consists mostly of Windows products. Rogelstad described how running OpenMFG on a dedicated Linux server offered a faster run time and more security than the previously used Windows server.

"We also liked the open source philosophy of being able to contribute to product improvement directly," said Rogelstad, adding that he would like to see improved reporting and integration tools. To facilitate that, The Marena Group has sponsored OpenMFG development of features it would like to see.

Excellent, but not perfect

However, the marriage of Windows and Linux is not without its challenges. Rogelstad is having hardware and compatibility issues running OpenMFG on his experimental Linux desktop setups, which use Ubuntu, Xandros and Red Hat. Windows printing and file sharing also remains an issue, said Rogelstad.

Despite the issues, The Marena Group's mixed successes have led them to explore other open source software options. The company is looking into using OpenOffice or StarOffice as well as open source enterprise integration utilities.

In the meantime, The Marena Group is experiencing no problems with running OpenMFG client Windows and Linux. Its next goal is to integrate a configure-to-order Web commerce strategy to OpenMFG in order to expand its current capabilities and increase its market share.

Its e-commerce provider, WebCom, uses the Software as a Service, or SaaS, model. The Marena Group has outsourced its mail and calendaring system to Solve360, which uses the same SaaS business model. Rogelstad said he likes that model because of the lower costs associated with reduced internal administrative workloads and licensing renewal.

Rogelstad said he has faith in the SaaS model because companies have an income source and the benefit of many creative minds. "It is the same principle that freedom of speech brings to our culture," he said. "Open and free dialog leads to higher-quality debate and, in this case, higher-quality software."

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