Cloud ERP Helps Company Track Inventory, Increase Sales

Implementing cloud-based ERP software wasn't exactly a nuts-and-bolts deployment for FMW Fasteners, as the software needed specific fastener manufacturing industry functionality. Experience rolling our cloud CRM helped, as did an experienced consultant. Now FMW's cloud ERP gains are boosting the firm's ecommerce prospects.

By John Moore
Thu, September 05, 2013

CIO — FMW Fasteners, a distributor of down-to-earth items such as nuts and bolts, now sees its future in the cloud.

The Houston-based company grew up much like its fastener industry peers, running its business systems in-house and selling through inside and outside sales reps. FMW, however, has evolved to a new model: Running its operations in the cloud. The company deployed NetSuite enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, along with the cloud vendor's customer relationship management (CRM) and ecommerce offerings.

Cloud adoption has dramatically changed how FMW conducts business. The cloud, says FMW Sales manager Steve Baker, eliminates the headache of managing on-premises IT, improves business agility and accommodates a high-growth track. "It has completely transformed the business and what we were able to do and our sense of the possibilities of what we could get done."

Channel, Software Vendors Starting to Fill Vertical Cloud Gaps

The task of moving the fastener company into the cloud, however, took a bit more than switching on a cloud service. The company tapped Irvine, Calif.-based Sererra Consulting Group for verticalized cloud ERP bolt-ons geared toward the fastener industry. (The field calls for software able to address such requirements as vendor-managed inventory, or VMI, and material testing reports, or MTRs.)

The deployment of cloud services in vertical niches such as fasteners will typically call for some level of customization. Industry-specific support has been lacking in many cloud solutions, but vendors and channel partners now seek to fill that gap.

"In the past, there wasn't enough demand to permit these companies to make the necessary investments…and also not enough hands-on experience to develop the necessary expertise to know what was really required from a delivery point of view," says Jeff Kaplan, managing director of THINKstrategies, a Wellesley, Mass.-based consulting firm focusing on Software as a Service and cloud computing.

But the growing demand for cloud-based business software encourages cloud providers to create vertical extensions to otherwise horizontal cloud offerings. "Vendors and channel partners are working even more intensively to develop the right kind of tools and solutions to meet those vertical market and niche market requirements," Kaplan says.

After Starting With Cloud CRM, Cloud ERP Made Sense

FMW's first foray into the cloud was with Salesforce.com. The experience with cloud-based CRM led the fastener company to adopt NetSuite. Baker said the company became aware of NetSuite through Salesforce and the companies' common thread: Oracle CEO Larry Ellison owns stakes in both.

Related: 4 Affordable Small Business CRM Options

FMW's adoption of NetSuite initially focused on ERP. The company found itself quickly outgrowing on-premises ERP systems and struggling with the necessity of maintaining infrastructure. The company actually went through two different traditional ERP systems, shedding the first system after two years of use. Another year after that transition, FMW was once again looking for a system that could keep up with its growth.

"After two product evaluations and then migrating off of one platform to another, we really wanted to step back and take a hard look at what…would really allow us to grow without doing any additional migrations," Baker says. "We felt like we were in the migration business."

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