William Grant and Sons (WGS), a spirits business that owns brands such as Glenfiddich single malt whisky and Hendrick’s Gin, has consolidated its ERP systems into one as part of an IT upgrade.

The company was running 11 different ERP systems locally across its 40 global offices, many of which had come into the business following mergers and acquisitions, and were 10 to 15 years old.

In the UK, for example, it had an unsupported version of JBA, as well as a version of JD Edwards World that would no longer have support from this July. In the US and Mexico, it had JD Edwards OneWorld and SAP Business One, respectively, while in Asia, it ran three different ERP systems from small, local providers.

WGS is now replacing these with one version of an ERP system from provider IFS, which will be rolled out globally. The ERP system will handle everything from forecasting, to customer ordering, scheduling of bottling lines, invoicing, financial reporting, billing and customer management.

Rather than customising the system to fit current business practices, the company decided to develop best practice processes to mould the business to the new ERP system, in order to control its costs.

“We’ve come up with a new set of best practice processes that has required all parts of the business to make changes,” said John Brown, WGS’s programme director for the Global Business Model (GBM) roll-out.

“Trying to mould and modify a system to a company can lead to runaway budget costs. We mandated that changes are only made to the system if there is a regulatory requirement. Any change has to go through the Acts Committee, which comprises me, the CEO and the business champion.”

The rollout is not without its challenges. Brown said that each existing ERP system had their own information models, with its own definitions of the company’s main business measures, which meant that the company had to agree on a new, single version of the truth.

“We’ve now designed and built a single, global model. We’ve validated that. We’ve had to move from 11 different systems to one, one set of business definitions, one set of models of how you run our process,” Brown said.

WGS has 1,600 employees globally, and Brown is leading a team of 20 people who are working in close partnership with IFS on the project.

The company has been running IFS Applications at its First Drinks Brands division for 18 months, and the global rollout is halfway through its three-year schedule. The rest of the UK sites (800 users) are scheduled to go live in July 2012, and there will be a further two phases to take the system to the US, Asia and Latin America over the next 18 months.

Brown also hopes to roll out IFS to the advertising and promotions departments at WGS.

“Tracking advertising and promotions commitments is extremely important in the drinks industry.

“Now we can relate the cost of advertising to the business, tracking per customer and even to part level, which gives us a unique advantage within the industry. With IFS, we’ll be able to fully integrate this functionality with the rest of our ERP solution, without needing to create an add-on,” he said.