When Feon Oy started up in early 2016, the company needed an ERP in double-quick time. Although it usually takes at least six months to implement an ERP, Feon was able to get a suitable Digia Enterprise system up and running in only three months.
Digia’s good decision-making skills enabled us to keep moving forward. Considering the challenges, all in all this was the most positive ERP project of my career.
Petri Kalliokoski, CEO, Feon Oy
Feon Oy, a Finnish steel service company, was born in early 2016 when Kesko acquired all of Onninen’s business operations except steel wholesale. A new company was created on the basis of existing operations, and needed a new ERP specifically designed to support activities in the steel industry.
“It was a great opportunity to start from a clean slate with regard to systems. For the new company, we wanted an ERP solution that would enable future business development while remaining easy to maintain, cost-effective and user friendly,” says Feon Oy’s CEO, Petri Kalliokoski.
This exceptional project was completed to a really tight schedule. Although it usually takes at least six months to implement an ERP, Feon was able to get an ERP up and running in only three months. A combination of Digia’s Enterprise system and Rapid operating model provided a solution that would enable faster-than-usual implementation.
Both Feon and Digia’s teams worked long days during the spring.
“I’m happily surprised at how well the project succeeded under the circumstances. We had a close-knit and committed team,” says Kalliokoski.
“Their go-getter attitude was the most important factor. They didn’t waste time on unnecessary meetings – they focused their energies on the essentials and got things done.”
The deal was struck at the end of January 2016 and the system was introduced at the beginning of May. Any teething troubles had mostly been overcome by June – the ERP was transferred to the Enterprise support service and everyone settled back into their normal work rhythm.
A new start gave Feon the opportunity to place a greater focus on its own core competence. In terms of ICT solutions, this meant outsourcing services and keeping the overall package as simple and flexible as possible.
“We wanted a ready-made, cloud-based solution that could incorporate selected elements suited to our business and operating models,” says Kalliokoski.
Feon’s ERP system is hosted by Digia, and several additional elements have also been integrated into it, such as QlikView reporting and WMS, Unifaun, EDI and invoicing interfaces.
Kalliokoski says that the ERP’s most important task is to support business operations and provide comprehensive production management. Feon is also committed to developing its business by harnessing digital solutions.
“For example, we want to develop e-commerce solutions and electronic order channels that will facilitate both our own and our customers’ processes. An agile system will enable continual development.”
Process automation and rationalising operating models frees up more time for Feon to spend on its core competence and, for example, providing better service. Sales personnel have more resources for face-to-face customer visits and negotiations.
“Meeting with customers forges trust. Discussions open up new perspectives on our customers’ needs, which can lead to brand-new types of cooperation models. This is the kind of thing we want to encourage,” says Kalliokoski.
Feon chose Digia as its ERP partner on the basis of the company’s expertise and experience in similar projects. Digia was able to offer Feon a suitably flexible solution, and its Rapid model provided a concrete foundation for fast delivery.
“When choosing our partner, we needed a locally based, Finnish project team, otherwise such a schedule just wouldn’t have been possible,” says Kalliokoski.
“The project team decided to adopt an open style of communication from the outset: people spoke frankly and any problems were addressed immediately. Targets, schedules and plans were thoroughly examined. We were always abreast of the situation and knew what to do next,” says Kalliokoski.
“Personally, I like to focus on getting things done. I wouldn’t want to waste time on bureaucracy. We tried to maintain an active approach within the project team. Digia’s good decision-making skills enabled us to keep moving forward.”
“Although we faced plenty of challenges, we were able to solve them. Considering the challenges, all in all this was the most positive ERP project of my career,” says Kalliokoski.
Although Feon Oy is technically a young company, it has a long history and customer relationships going back to the 1990s. Feon calls itself a traditional steel wholesaler that specialises in long steel products, such as bars, beams and pipes. Its customers are mainly contractors that use steel structures and engineering companies that manufacture products used in, for example, power transmission or hydraulics.
Feon is currently one of the largest steel wholesalers in Finland, with estimated net sales of EUR 65 million. Its customer base is concentrated in Southern Finland and Pirkanmaa. The company has more than a hundred steel suppliers across the globe, although its procurements are primarily concentrated on European and Finnish steel mills.
Most of Feon’s hundred-plus employees work at the company’s large service centre in Hattula. Its headquarters are located in the Vallila district of Helsinki.
“I think it’s important that we can now focus on being a genuine steel wholesaler and the best possible partner to our customers. We’re investing in material quality, delivery reliability, and smoothly running processes,” says Kalliokoski. Product upgrades are also increasing due to rising demand.
All of Feon’s office personnel use the ERP on a daily basis. Production personnel will shortly start using digital tools as well.
“The ERP enables smooth operations and comprehensive management. We always know what’s happening, and are kept abreast of the latest figures.”
Kalliokoski says that the introduction of further digital models is vital for business growth and successful strategic implementation. New features in the pipeline include improvements to the customer interface and a screen that will enable customers to track their deliveries.
“The steel wholesale industry is not usually at the forefront of digital development – it employs a lot of traditional practices. Some customers still call our sales personnel hoping to receive the required goods immediately. But operating models are changing all the time and a new generation is already placing orders on their tablets,” says Kalliokoski.
“Online services must be available and we have to invest in them, even if we offer other alternatives alongside them. I think that it’s worth going with the digital flow and keeping up to speed with new practices.”