by Alison Weiss
From the outside, it looks like an ordinary ranch-style brick home. But step inside the Ralph Sr. and Sunny Wilson House, located in Temple, Texas, and you’ll encounter an extraordinary visual experience. The kitchen sports bright coral laminate counters and turquoise-and-yellow laminate cupboards. The living room is decorated with white laminate-paneled walls, accented with vivid red, black, and turquoise geometric shapes. The house is a stunning example of midcentury modern design, but it’s also a testament to the vision of Ralph Wilson Sr., who in 1956 founded Ralph Wilson Plastics Company to manufacture and sell laminate materials. When Wilson designed and built the house in 1959, it served as his private home, as well as a place to showcase creative and innovative ways to use his company’s products.
Location: Austin, Texas
Industry: Engineered surfaces/manufacturing
Employees: More than 4,500
Oracle products: Oracle Business Intelligence Applications, Oracle Data Warehouse solutions, Oracle Hyperion Financial Management, Oracle Sales Cloud
Length of tenure: Two years
Education: MS in industrial and manufacturing engineering, Wichita State University; BS in mechanical engineering, National Institute of Engineering, Mysore, India
Personal quote/mantra: “In order to function effectively, knowledge is not the main factor, but clarity of perception.”
Today, Ralph Wilson Plastics has evolved into Wilsonart—a leading global provider of decorative and engineered surfaces. Headquartered in Austin, Texas, the company has expanded beyond Wilson’s innovative and creative laminate roots, with solid-surface products in a rainbow of colors and a variety of textures and patterns. Its newest offering is Wilsonart Quartz, a luxurious, modern stone surface for interiors.
Indeed, that willingness on the part of Wilsonart executives to harness new opportunities led to radical changes at the company in 2013, when Wilsonart and a host of affiliated brands were brought together as an independent company. Today, Wilsonart encompasses global brands including Wilsonart, Arborite, Ralph Wilson, Resopal, Polyrey, and Durcon.
Following the 2013 consolidation, executives determined that they needed to rapidly standardize and automate disparate data and reporting processes among business units in order for the newly minted company to thrive. “At Wilsonart, we needed to focus on growth and improving our operational efficiency,” says Wilsonart CEO Timothy J. O’Brien.
The immediate adoption of an on-premises analytics, financial consolidation, and reporting platform was the first order of business. At the same time, the sales side of the organization had decided to streamline its sales management process by adopting a cloud-based solution that had integration capabilities with on-premises applications. Jay Krishnamurthy, CIO at Wilsonart, acknowledges that managing two major initiatives in parallel was an ambitious effort: the adoption of a new cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) tool and a powerful financial planning, consolidations, and analytics platform, along with a hybrid cloud/on-premises integration effort.
We’re a forward-thinking, collaborative executive team. We realized that with these tools and integrated systems, we would be able to transform data and processes into meaningful information, automate reporting, and take actions that would enable and improve both commercial and operational excellence at a global level.”–Jay Krishnamurthy, CIO, Wilsonart
“We’re a forward-thinking, collaborative executive team,” he says. “We realized that with these tools and integrated systems, we would be able to transform data and processes into meaningful information, automate reporting, and take actions that would enable and improve both commercial and operational excellence at a global level.”
With these clear goals in mind, Wilsonart proceeded with the best applications for business analytics, financial reporting, and sales management—choosing Oracle solutions in all cases. The cloud-based CRM solution was then integrated to on-premises applications using Oracle Java Cloud Service and XML. The resulting hybrid cloud solution now gives decision-makers access to more-complete information to improve sales and operational performance.A Clear View of the Business
The Wilsonart brand has enjoyed strong and positive recognition in the consumer marketplace and among architectural and construction firms for decades. Today, much of Wilsonart’s business volume comes from supplying engineered surfaces to offices, hotels, restaurants, hospitals, schools, and retail establishments. To meet global demand, the company employs more than 4,500 people, has 12 manufacturing facilities around the world and an extensive distribution network, and manages 20 warehouses in the United States alone.
Collaboration across the entire company makes it all work. “As an independent company, our senior leadership needs to work in a cross-functional fashion,” says Tim Atkinson, Wilsonart vice president of sales, Americas, who has been with the company since 1977. “I can’t sell by myself, without Manufacturing producing and shipping our products,” he continues. “We are all working together to achieve oversight of the business.”
In 2013 and prior years, getting a consolidated view of Wilsonart’s global businesses was cumbersome and required manual heavy lifting. The disparate back-end enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems in use made it difficult to extract data in a streamlined and consistent manner, making the financial close process also very manual. Additionally, due to disparate sets of data in the different ERP systems, most of the global metrics had to be prepared manually.
“When we tried to analyze information from multiple business units in Thailand, China, the Americas, the UK, France, Germany, and Eastern Europe, we couldn’t do an apples-to-apples comparison,” observes Wilsonart CFO Jeff Lee. “All the data and reporting were unique to a particular business unit, so there was no harmonization or consistency.”Hybrid Cloud/On-Premises Options
While the company could have embarked on a multiyear, multimillion-dollar upgrade project to get every business unit on the same ERP platform, the executive team wanted to move very quickly to create faster, more consistent, and more accurate financial close and reporting processes to improve productivity across the organization.
The executive decision-makers decided to create a robust on-premises financial planning, analytics, and reporting platform by selecting best-in-class, full-featured applications—including Oracle Data Warehouse solutions, Oracle Business Intelligence Applications, and Oracle Hyperion Financial Management. The new system went live in early 2015 and includes structures and processes to integrate all the back-end ERP systems with an Oracle Data Warehouse instance outfitted with Oracle Business Intelligence Applications.
who believe it is important that cloud applications be fully integrated with other software in the organization (Source: Cloud for Business Managers: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, Dynamic Markets)
Now data is automatically pulled from the eight different ERP systems into the data warehouse, and Oracle Business Intelligence Applications are used for data modeling and analytics. Then, the system automatically feeds the information into Oracle Hyperion Financial Management, where the financial reporting and consolidation processes are now more standardized and streamlined.
“As a new company bringing different operations together, we didn’t have the luxury of the time that it would have required to implement these processes and tools in sequence. With creative implementation teams and techniques, it took a year to implement new systems that we needed to run our global business,” says Krishnamurthy. “A lot can happen when you get the right people in the room and can make the right decisions to transform financial processes and reporting.”
Speed was also a factor when it came to improving Wilsonart’s sales automation system. The company’s legacy CRM system was functional, but it wasn’t available on demand. At the end of each day, salespeople had to plug in, go online, synchronize any changes they made during the day, and view any changes made by others to the master database. Synchronization wasn’t an issue if two salespeople needed to update information, but it was another matter entirely if 25 people needed to synchronize their data. Then performance became agonizingly slow. Moving to an on-demand cloud solution has alleviated the need to wait to synchronize information, because data is now always current and accessible.
“We already used cloud-based applications for expense reports and performance evaluations, so a cloud-based sales management solution made sense to us,” says Atkinson. “We took a year to evaluate options and chose Oracle Sales Cloud because we could go live on it quickly, it would provide excellent performance, it was mobile-compatible, and it could help us achieve commercial excellence.”
Beyond the desired on-demand and mobile functionality, Oracle Sales Cloud held further promise to open up additional selling opportunities—if it could be integrated with Wilsonart’s financial management and reporting platforms. Fortunately, Oracle is committed to enabling hybrid integration between its on-premises and cloud products, so this functionality was in place. It reflects market demand: according to a 2013 report by Dynamic Markets, 47 percent of senior decision-makers surveyed indicate that they adopt cloud applications to get access to more-appropriate software for their departments, and a full 81 percent believe it’s important for cloud applications to be fully integrated with other software in the organization.
To that end, Krishnamurthy and his team took the time to understand key business drivers and map integration touchpoints between the back-end ERP systems, the new analytics platform, and Oracle Sales Cloud. Then, they used Oracle Java Cloud Service and integrations using XML to make the necessary connections and produce outputs the business could use to take necessary actions.Quick, Consistent, Accurate Information
Today, Wilsonart’s entire organization is reaping the benefits of their new financial consolidation, data warehousing, and analytics platform, and its integration with Oracle Sales Cloud. “Using Oracle Sales Cloud has helped us grow, and the business analytics and Oracle Hyperion consolidation tools have improved our financial reporting and operational efficiency,” observes O’Brien. “The tools are critical as we expand Wilsonart as a global leader in engineered surfaces.”
The new business intelligence and financial consolidation platform went live in January 2015, and Lee and his staff have been able to load two years of history into Oracle Hyperion Financial Management—so it is much easier to compare 2015 versus 2014 results in a consistent way, and look at trends. They spend more time on business analysis now, as a result of automation and productivity increases, rather than on gathering data manually.
Using Oracle Sales Cloud has helped us grow, and the business analytics and Oracle Hyperion consolidation tools have improved our financial reporting and operational efficiency. The tools are critical as we expand Wilsonart as a global leader in engineered surfaces.”–Timothy J. O’Brien, CEO, Wilsonart
“We have 12 manufacturing sites around the world, and consolidating financial results in an accurate manner is extremely important for the finance team,” Lee says. “Having a financial consolidation and reporting platform also provides transparency, so we can trust that we have the right information.”
On the sales side, integration between the financial ledgers, reporting systems, and Oracle Sales Cloud has definitely helped in the selling process. In the past, the previous CRM system did a good job tracking contacts with architects and designers, along with the types of engineered surfaces that could meet the needs of their projects. However, with the integrated systems, the sales force can use Oracle Sales Cloud to quickly access information about customers, products bought, and channels sold in. They can also clearly see how many times providing sample products has turned into actual sales, and view who actually purchases engineered surface materials that are supplied to projects to construct new office buildings or restaurants—data that was not readily available before.
In addition, since Oracle Sales Cloud is being used by more than 175 team members in the Americas and more than 120 team members in Europe, the commercial selling process is more streamlined and consistent. Now all users have access to the same cloud-based tool and all the detailed sales information that is logged in during the sales process.
Atkinson notes that Oracle Sales Cloud also gives Wilsonart reporting tools. “We can easily track how many calls are made each day by each rep. And because of the integrations, we can access analytics to have a clear view of the sales pipeline and can see how each individual territory is doing against quota or against last year’s results,” he explains. “We’ve seen significant performance improvement, because when you’re publishing reports about your sales force, salespeople are competitive and want to win.”
While Wilsonart is seeing positive results from its successful hybrid on-premises/cloud infrastructure, Krishnamurthy can see that many organizations are moving toward complete cloud. But for now he and the rest of the Wilsonart executive team are steadfast in their resolve to always select the best application to meet the needs of the business—whether cloud, on premises, or an integrated hybrid.
“We feel like the opportunities to further digitize our business will continue to add tremendous value, and give us a competitive edge,” says Krishnamurthy. “Our future is absolutely stunning and bright at Wilsonart.”
Photography by Shutterstock