Generating a Lightning Fast Upgrade: How Powell Electronics Moved from SAP R/3 4.7 to SAP ERP 6.0 in Just 11 Weeks

  • by Chris Maxcer, Contributing Writer
  • March 23, 2011
As a smaller enterprise in a big SAP world, Powell Electronics created an upgrade plan from SAP R/3 4.7 to SAP ERP 6.0 in much the same way it sells its electronic connectors, switches, and sensors: in small components that are independently valuable, and when combined, assemble to become part of a solution worth far more than the sum of its parts.

Founded in 1946 and headquartered in Swedesboro, NJ, Powell Electronics is a privately-held, family-owned business. With approximately $100 million in annual sales, the company is one of the largest in its niche. “We’re a specialized distributor for electronic connectors, and we supply all industries, — aerospace, military, transportation, telecom, medical instrumentation,” notes Ernie Schilling, Jr., executive vice president at Powell Electronics. “We’re global, shipping worldwide to a diverse customer base.”

Winner of the 2007 Americas’ SAP User Group (ASUG) Small to Medium Enterprise Impact Award, Powell Electronics knows how to leverage the SAP ecosystem to deliver value to its own users. The company’s latest challenge was no exception: running on SAP R/3 4.7 in 2009, Powell’s SAP team had been increasingly tasked to provide new functionality that Mike Ayars, SAP project manager for Powell, knew was already in SAP ERP 6.0 enhancement packages. “We realized we had run out of string with 4.7,” Ayars says. Still, in a down economy with an ERP solution that wasn’t exactly broken, selling a technical upgrade to upper management took proper care and due diligence. Plus, it needed to get done on a fast timeline — it had to be complete before Powell’s fiscal year ended in December 2009.

To sell the upgrade, Bob Oldrati, controller and IT director for Powell, broke the project into components, asking, What would we have to do anyway? “We wanted an upgrade to SAP Solution Manager; we needed to upgrade our servers and enhance SAP user security; we needed to relocate our disaster recovery hardware; and we were in the middle of an ABAP optimization and remediation project. We had to do all of these things anyway, so that’s how we started to sell it,” Oldrati explains.


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