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Kahuna Cleaning Supply Chapter 2

 

Background

Kahuna Cleaning Supply is a family-run business based in New Haven, Connecticut. The cleaning company specializes in commercial cleaning supplies and business support products for commercial, industrial, and institutional clients in New England and Eastern New York. Kahuna Cleaning Supply originated in response to the growth of the cities of Bridgeport and New Haven from the suburban spread from New York City. The business has grown to fourteen warehouse locations, each with several delivery trucks depending on the volume of sales at each location.

 

With the stagnant population growth in Connecticut since 1980, Kahuna Cleaning Supply made a concerted effort to expand their market into other areas in the region, first in Connecticut, and then in the broader New England region. The early efforts included increased advertising and an increase in the sales force, with an emphasis on cold calls to potential customers. This strategy proved to be a successful businesses model in the 1990s and early 2000s that allowed them to grow, but recently their growth has been flat. Getting new clients has been difficult in the down economy and existing clients are shopping for better prices.

 

In 2012, the next generation of Edwards joined the company with the addition of Julia Edwards as the vice president of Kahuna Cleaning Supply. Julia, a graduate of the business school at the University of Connecticut, is full of ideas for bringing Kahuna Cleaning Supply into the 21st century and expanding the customer base to the national arena. She and her father, Charles Edwards, president of Kahuna Cleaning Supply, have different ideas about the paths to follow to ensure the fiscal health of the company. Although both agree that the customer base needs expansion, they disagree on how large this expansion should be. Julia also wants to put an information system in place that can provide a seamless, efficient, and user-friendly environment for their business, with a Web-based component for customers to place and track orders.

 

Up until now, the sales and office staff has been using a text-based point of sales and warehouse management system for taking orders, putting together shipping and delivery lists, and generating billing information. Recently the financial department has moved to a software package that handles accounts payable and accounts receivable. This new package has expansion capabilities by purchasing additional modules from the vendor. Charles understands spreadsheets, but anything demonstrated to him beyond that has received a negative response because of his limited comfort level with technology. He is also concerned about the impact of an information system on his workforce, some of whom have been at the company longer than he has, and most of whom have limited knowledge of computers. Charles is in favor of adding additional salespeople and expanding the market down the eastern seaboard.

 

Julia wants to see Kahuna Cleaning Supply moving toward an online presence and a national market. She is interested in exploring the possibility of reducing the traditional sales force and introducing a Web presence that provides information about products and allows potential customers to use online tools to build supply quotes and orders. Her vision is for large clients and janitorial service customers to use an online portal for electronic data interchange (EDI) for orders to replenish their inventory stock. She wants Kahuna Cleaning Supply to use EDI with its suppliers, which will help the company use just-in-time inventory methods and realize savings from manufacturers and improve efficiencies in logistics.

 

Andrew McClean, the director of sales, is concerned about the direction that Julia is interested in exploring. He has been with the company for over thirty years, and supports Charles Edwards’ ideas for increasing sales by expanding the sales force and the geographical target area. He does acknowledge that there is support from sales people for the introduction of an information system, and that his hesitancy is influenced largely by his discomfort with technology. He also acknowledges that customers have expressed frustration with the time needed to get information about prices and track orders because they have to go through their sales representatives. Sales representatives establish close, personal relationships with their clients, determine the profit margins charged to clients, place orders, and provide most of the customer service.

 

Anna McNally, the director of finance, would like to see a more integrated solution for following orders from quotes through delivery and billing. She points out that with the multiple solutions currently being used for the various components of orders, errors can be introduced at several points of the process, whenever information moves from one process to another.

 

Martha Seymour, the director of operations, is happy with the current computerized order process, even though it was implemented many years ago and has not been updated in several years. She is concerned with the fact that orders, inventory, and new stock replenishments from manufacturers do not always match up. Sales people sometimes sell more product than what is currently on hand, and new stock shipments do not arrive in time to get delivered to customers by their need by date. The result of this has caused some customers to be unhappy due to the human errors. Martha does not want to see a change in the delivery process itself, but if the software they are using to synchronize the sales and logistics system can be updated to allow for automatic linking between sales, new stock orders, and delivery, she would be supportive.

 

Charles and Julia have decided to bring in a systems analyst to evaluate their business situation and whether or not implementing an IT solution for some or all of their business needs make sense. Charles has decided that he will have Julia be the main contact person for this because he does not have the background he feels is necessary to make informed decisions in a timely fashion. They hired Robert Hanover, a systems analyst who does a lot of work for small scale commercial supply companies.

 

Julia, Charles, Andrew, Anna, Martha, and Robert sit down to discuss the business, and most notably the areas that Julia feels could benefit most from an IT system.

 

Julia: Robert, I think that the most important issue for our company is coming up with a solution for the fragmented nature of the process that follows orders from placement to delivery. We currently have different solutions in place for quoting prices, taking orders, ordering stock, tracking the orders through the delivery process, and billing the customer. Each one of these sub-processes is separate and distinct, and much of the information that follows an order from start to finish has to be entered multiple times along the way. We have to come up with a solution that is more efficient for both the company and the customer.

 

Andrew: Well, you know that I am not technology-savvy, but I am hearing from my sales force that we need to be doing something. Sales reps are frustrated that customers can’t easily check on orders, or get estimates, without working with the sales rep or someone at the home office. They are being told that many other companies provide them with the capability to check prices and check on orders themselves through some computer-based system. Customers seem to be much more self-sufficient and in more of a hurry now than they used to be. Our rep-dependent system is putting us at a disadvantage.

 

Anna: I’m quite happy with my new software that is handling accounts receivable and accounts payable. My concern right now is that billing still is being generated outside of this software and moving billing info over to accounts receivable requires several steps to prepare and export the information. Each step has the potential to introduce error because it is dependent on human intervention. Why can’t we move this information over using an automated process that removes the human element and, therefore, the errors?

 

Martha: I’m in the same boat as Anna. I’m quite happy with my sales and delivery system, and I don’t want to see that changed. My concern is the link between inventory and sales because of the potential for error to be introduced. I know that the vendor who sold us the point of sales system has called a couple of times about upgrades, but we have never pursued this. Perhaps this might be the time to find out more within the context of a new IS?

 

Charles: You all know where I stand on this. We built this company with good people, and I do not want to replace people with computers. Is that what would happen if we brought in one of these information systems? I want this company to continue to maintain strong, personal relationships with our clients and take care of our employees; even if that means that we grow a little less.

 

After the meeting, Julia asked Robert to put together in writing his impressions from the meeting. She is interested in formalizing the goals of the company, planning out how to meet these goals, and addressing some of the reservations that Charles and Andrew have about introducing an IS at Kahuna Cleaning Supply. Robert begins to review his notes from the meeting to prepare a presentation for Julia.

 

Tasks

1.         Does a strong business case exist for developing an information system to support this cleaning supply business? Explain your answer.

2.         In a small- to medium-sized business, is it really important to use a structured approach for information systems development? Why or why not?

3.         Based on the facts provided, draft a mission statement for Kahuna Cleaning Supply. In your statement, consider all the stakeholders who might be affected by Kahuna Cleaning Supply operations.

4.         What internal and external factors might affect Kahuna Cleaning Supply business success?

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