By Ann C. Logue
WiQuest Communications, of Allen, Texas, is a startup company in the wireless semiconductor industry. It designs, develops, and supplies complete standards-based ultrawideband solutions to PC, consumer electronics, and mobile systems companies worldwide. But it's not the only company working on this technology, and its competitors include large integrated device manufacturers and fabless semiconductor companies. That's why WiQuest uses the same IT system that its largest customers and competitors use. "Oracle is really important to our business. Most startups don't invest in integrated enterprise systems until they are much larger than we are," says Hari Chandran, vice president of manufacturing operations, WiQuest. But WiQuest's investment in Oracle is strategic and a competitive differentiator that allows it to continue its aggressive growth and get to its target goal faster—without facing numerous transitions from a legacy system.
WiQuest needs to compete with the big guys at every step. The company keeps its design, engineering, and sales force in-house. The rest of the business, from manufacturing to packaging and distribution, is contracted out. This allows the company greater flexibility and an increased level of capabilities, but it also means that supply chain management is critical to success. "For us to piece all these things together in [Microsoft] Excel is a nightmare," Chandran says. "Our entire business takes place on Oracle."
In fact, WiQuest's management did start out using Microsoft Excel spreadsheets but realized very quickly that they wouldn't be able to keep up with rapid growth. Chandran, mindful of the financial requirements of a startup, evaluated various freeware applications and found none that were powerful enough to support the company's growth—nor could he find any that worked with partner and customer systems. "For semiconductors, if you have a multifactory flow with sales and customers in different continents, you need to have an integrated enterprise system in place," Chandran says. WiQuest's management team started looking at small-business solutions but realized that as they competed against and sold to larger companies on their way to becoming large themselves, they needed to think bigger.
Founded in 2003, WiQuest was using Oracle by 2007. The implementation was handled by DAZ Systems, which leveraged the Oracle Business Accelerator tools to get WiQuest up and running quickly. "Customers often don't need a custom solution, but they do need one that works with their business and with any partners that they connect to," says Keith Olcha, sales director for DAZ, in Dallas, Texas. "Many businesses not only do fine with a standard approach, but they benefit because of the shorter implementation time and the easier connection to manufacturers and distributors."
One advantage of starting early in the company's lifecycle and leveraging the right set of implementation tools was that the complete implementation went quickly—only two months—because there wasn't much data to find and convert, and the company benefited from standardized business processes. "We stayed away from customization," Chandran says. To the extent that any custom elements have been included in the system, it's been on the design end, where some computer-aided design tools are outside the Oracle system now, although they will be integrated soon so that Oracle becomes the company's master system.
Managing the supply chain with Oracle software has three key benefits. WiQuest outsources the manufacturing of its wafers to fabricators in Asia that are used to dealing with major multinational corporations, including some of WiQuest's competitors. From a supply chain perspective, the Oracle interface helps put WiQuest on an even footing with those competitors and ensures that its projects have the same priority. Then, it ensures that WiQuest's customers, including three of the top four notebook PC original equipment manufacturers and the top two PC peripheral companies, will have their needs met. "Our customers like that we have a good system in place and can play in the same field as the big guys," Chandran explains. Finally, the Oracle system helps WiQuest manage its expensive inventory. Effective inventory management leads to hard dollar savings that fund more research and development, making it possible for the company to continue to push the wireless future. "It's critical for us to have such a system so that we can keep up with our rapid growth," says Chandran.
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