CAse E. Ahlström

Flexible overall management keeps the wholesaler in the running


E. Ahlström, a supplier and importer of tableware and kitchen goods and interior design solutions, modernised its enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. The fast-paced nature of the wholesaling business calls for a flexible and adaptable ERP system that can be integrated with the necessary additional services. One of the factors in E. Ahlström’s choice of the Digia Enterprise system was its versatility.

Digia had a professional project manager who was able to solve problems and tailor the solution as we needed it. All in all, I felt that the project was well resourced and support was available throughout.

Petri Nupponen, CEO, E. Ahlström Oy



Flexible overall management keeps the wholesaler in the running

Wholesalers need to be able to respond quickly to changing markets and address highly variable customer needs. E. Ahlström selected the versatile and flexible Digia Enterprise as its new ERP system, enabling overall management and continuous development.

E. Ahlström Oy is a Finnish importer and wholesaler with more than 100 years of history. It specialises in supplying tableware and kitchen goods, as well as interior design solutions. The customer base consists of a wide range of café, restaurant and accommodation organisations, as well as professional municipal kitchens. The company employs nearly 50 people and also has a small Baltic sales organisation based in Tallinn.

The wholesaler’s previous ERP system had served the company for around 20 years and, when it reached the end of its lifecycle, it was clear that the company needed an entirely new system to underpin the growth of its business. The versatility of Digia Enterprise was a key factor for E. Ahlström. At present, all of the company’s personnel are using the new system for commercial operations, such as sales management, inventory control, customer management, sourcing and invoicing.

An overview of all information

“The new ERP provides us with a huge amount of information in a consistent and up-to-date way,” says Petri Nupponen, the CEO.

“Everyone can see the entire supply chain: information such as where an item is, when it will arrive and what has been sent to customers. It is much easier to communicate with customers.”

Previously, transactional information was owned by different functions, so the system lacked an overview and it was more difficult to access the information.

“The new system enables openness and transparency. This is important to us in terms of the company’s values,” says Nupponen.

“We aim to be open, both within the company as well as towards our customers and suppliers. We are able to forecast situations and respond to them quickly.”

Learning to work with new systems takes time, so the impact of the system on efficiency cannot yet be measured. However, Nupponen says that there has already been an improvement in areas such as inventory flow-throughs.

“We reimagined the entire logistics process. We are now able to do more with the same group of employees and our customers get their products more quickly.”

Fads and trends keep wholesales on their toes

According to Petri Nupponen, individualisation and greater product diversity are clear trends in the wholesale business and the restaurant sector.

“Previously, product ranges evolved according to a slower cycle. Now, the pace is faster, new products are constantly arriving and old ones are leaving product selections. The cycle is faster and more fragmented, representing a major challenge for wholesalers,” says Nupponen.

In the restaurant business, new and varied themes come thick and fast, and many restaurants strive to replicate them. For example, when Asian food served in bowls became fashionable, more conventional restaurants also wanted to serve their products in bowls. Tableware suppliers need to keep their fingers on the pulse and seek the best options for different customers.

“Customers have access to a lot of information and the standards expected of suppliers are constantly rising. We need to be able to respond to demand and keep our product range up to date.”

“The information system provides us with support so that we can make sure our service is customer-oriented. It is very important to customise the product range and manage order channels.”

Good ERP provides flexibility as the business grows

Modernising an ERP system is always a major project, and E. Ahlström was no exception. The company needed someone to steer the project, so it turned to an external IT project manager with experience in executing similar projects.

“We wanted to get it right first time,” says Petri Nupponen. “The aim was to improve processes and grasp all of the development opportunities on offer.”

The company aimed to get its personnel strongly on board with the project: personnel from every department were included in the specification phase and the process.

“This is a large and somewhat daunting change for the organisation. It is worth investing in the specification work and user support,” says Nupponen.

The ERP was deployed in spring 2018 and basic use is already going very well. In the future, the aim is to take up some of the more advanced features.

Several additional features have been integrated into the Digia Enterprise system, such as the Digia Ote mobile solution for inventory management, the Qlik Sense analytics and management solution, the BarTender label printing solution, the Unifaun messaging solution used with transport companies, and the Expak sales forecasting solution. The online store, which was serving customers well, remained on the same platform and was integrated seamlessly into Digia Enterprise.

Nupponen has only positive things to say about working with Digia.

“The project went superbly. Digia had a professional project manager who was able to solve problems and tailor the solution as we needed it. All in all, I felt that the project was well resourced and support was available throughout.”

“We believe that this system will enable us to develop our organisation and our business. With our expert team and good tools, we will be able to continue offering customers valuable services.”