With 1998 revenues totaling $3.7 billion, Metro-Richelieu is a leading Canadian food and drug distributor. In addition to supplying customers from distribution centers throughout Quebec, the company also owns and operates its own discount-driven Super C outlets, a banner supermarket chain known as Metro, smaller stores under the Marche-Richelieu banner, and convenience stores.
The data center, located near Montreal, provides IT services for corporate in Montreal and the company's other main facility at Quebec City. Scattered about the province are the operations facilities of 10 different company divisions, each of which has its own printing center to generate hardcopies of reports produced via CONTROL-M. IT personnel have the responsibility of managing the business-critical applications that are running throughout this distributed environment.
Today, Metro-Richelieu is using CONTROL-M to take full advantage of SAP America, Inc.'s R/3 suite of corporate re-engineering software products, enabling its data center to provide better financial reporting and product distribution tracking for the entire company. The software is offered by BMC Software's IT Process Automation Business Unit of Irvine, CA, formerly known as New Dimension Software. Additionally, Metro-Richelieu has also implemented BMC Software's Enterprise Controlstation, a graphical user interface (GUI). With the Enterprise Controlstation, data center personnel can work with applications involving a variety of different operating systems to perform production scheduling, tracking and analysis from one central location.
Metro-Richelieu acquired CONTROL-M in November 1998 partly because it is the industry's only production scheduling solution to support all platforms capable of running SAP R/3. With BMC Software's CONTROL-M Option for R/3, data center operators are able to manage SAP R/3 jobs from a single workstation without having to go into the SAP R/3 environment.
CONTROL-M Manages SAP R/3
"CONTROL-M has the robust capability to schedule jobs with complex dependencies within R/3 and outside of the SAP environment," said Laureat Desmeules, director of operations for Metro-Richelieu's Information Systems Division. "Though SAP R/3 has its own scheduler, we use CONTROL-M because it allows us to stick with just one production scheduler for the entire enterprise, a key factor in our decision to acquire CONTROL-M."
Prior to CONTROL-M, Metro-Richelieu's data center employed two separate schedulers that, unfortunately, could not communicate. Metro-Richelieu needed to address this issue in light of its implementation of the SAP R/3 client/server applications, according to Desmeules. Today, the data center runs R/3 on IBM AS/400s along with the multi-platform version of CONTROL-M. Another CONTROL-M module runs on the company's IBM 9000 series mainframe and a third module is used to facilitate production, using resources from Novell-based local area networks.
Inventory Control at Metro-Richelieu
To maintain its competitive edge, Metro-Richelieu must ensure that the product information must be accurately tracked -- a massive undertaking, according to Desmeules. CONTROL-M has been used mainly for the production of financial and product distribution reports for all 10 Metro-Richelieu divisions. With deliveries made to over 1,000 stores, the data center must track roughly 12,000 food-related items and 20,000 drug-related items on a per-item, per-distribution center basis.
"The business processes that must be scheduled by CONTROL-M begins with each customer's order," said Desmeules. "Each store places an order through the mainframe; the order is accepted and passed on to the AS/400s. An invoice is then generated. Finally, the delivery instructions are forwarded to the distribution centers. CONTROL-M, then, serves as a highly-effective Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) tool because the software allows us to control and synchronize all of these dependent processes across multiple platforms." CONTROL-M has proven to be a key asset not only from the standpoint of scheduling and production, but in three other respects as well, according to Desmeules.
CONTROL-M Works Smoothly with SAP R/3 Security
First, the software's complete compatibility with SAP R/3 allows CONTROL-M to perform its scheduling function in harmony with the security provisions of these applications. In a related issue, CONTROL-M is also Y2K compliant, so data integrity is further protected. Metro-Richelieu is making "Y2K" fixes for mid-1999 as it continues to implement R/3 applications.
Second, CONTROL-M's Enterprise Controlstation features a Windows-like GUI that makes using the software particularly easy for data center operators to use. "The 'help' function provides an excellent means of quickly answering user questions and assisting in the resolution of transmission problems and other expectations," Desmeules said.
The ease-of-use extends to the actual installation and programming of CONTROL-M. Metro-Richelieu is handling this function entirely in-house with programmers from among the company's staff of 75 data center employees.
Third, CONTROL-M facilitates rapid system recovery in the event of hardware failures or other problems. For instance, the software's fail-over processing provides recovery for each component by maintaining mirrored images in the database.
"CONTROL-M is at the heart of our productivity gains. With it, we only need to use one scheduler, which enables us to quickly exchange information across platforms and save time," said Desmeules. "We can also relate and coordinate all our jobs together using a single workstation for maximum efficiency."