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Handbag maker grips SAP Business One

Business One implementations can be tedious, but the results are rewarding, according to Rolando Cohen, co-founder of New York City-based Yak Pak.

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When Rolando Cohen co-founded Yak Pak in 1989 to specialize in designing and manufacturing mini backpacks, DJ bags and shoulder bags, the company flourished.

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The company's wearable packs and handbags have been popular and have appeared in music videos and teen magazines. But a boom in mini backpacks and a run on single-strap shoulder bags resulted in ERP system after ERP system, Cohen said.

"We have had very rapid growth and every time it's been up against our system and the data was just too big," Cohen said.

The company's Web site also attracted thousands of wholesale and individual customers, creating thousands of transactions and ultimately tying up the company's small business ERP system, he said.

The company ran software from Peachtree Software Inc. and Intuit Inc.'s Quicken software, and considered using Sage Software and Microsoft Great Plains software before selecting and implementing SAP Business One in 2004.

Cost was a major factor for Yak Pak when it selected Business One over SAP's industry-specific All-in-One product, Cohen said. The Business One implementation was tedious, but the results were rewarding, he said.

"Initially, it was rocky," he said. "We were a bit blind for a while."

SAP Business One is the software vendor's low-end suite, aimed at small businesses with 250 employees or less. It competes directly with Microsoft's Dynamics AX and Oracle's Special Edition software.

Yak Pak has 45 employees, including about 17 salespeople in New York and 20 staffers at a Houston-based warehouse. At first the system was difficult to install as technical glitches between Business One and the company's Radio Beacon wireless warehouse management software caused lapses in inventory numbers, resulting in delayed shipments, Cohen said.

Those problems have been fixed, but whenever updates are applied, it takes time and patience to stabilize the new version, he said.

"If you're going from Quicken to Business One for the first time, it's not going to be quick," Cohen said. "Quicken had between 10 to 15 data points and SAP has up to 50 data points, and it takes time to accumulate the amount of information to fill them."

Cohen said he is bracing for SAP's latest update, which adds new features to the interface to ease navigation. A new reporter tool embedded in the suite enables users to generate Microsoft Excel-style reports from a variety of sources, including general ledger, receivables, payables, sales, purchasing and inventory software.

Some features are also geared for SAP partners, including one that allows partners to easily copy custom reports, queries, user settings and other configurations from one installation to another. A software development kit being made available will also allow independent software vendors to develop components and other new features.

New features and components are nice, but they could add to the complexity of the product, Cohen said. While the suite provides more functionality than the software the company previously used, it took several iterations before a structured and stable suite was in place, he said.

"The biggest problem with SAP and the biggest advantage is that it's completely open and you can do whatever you want with it," Cohen said. "How you structure those choices is important."

The company is planning to extend Business One with the addition of a new call center in Central America. New global trade features being added to Business One may make the transition easier, he said.

"That's something you can do with SAP, but you can't do with other systems," Cohen said.

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