IBM Helps Rudolf Wöhrl Improve Supply-Chain Processes With Services Oriented Architecture

SOA Enables German Fashion Company to Implement New Business Processes Quickly

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STUTTGART, GERMANY - 26 Oct 2006: German fashion company, Rudolf Wöhrl AG, today announced that implementing a services oriented architecture (SOA), based on IBM (NYSE: IBM) software and mainframe technologies, enabled Rudolf Wöhrl AG to reengineer its supply-chain processes. Designed by IBM Premium Business Partner FRITZ & MACZIOL, the architecture enhances the efficiency and transparency of the clothing company's supply chain and was the key to rapid implementation of its new business processes.

Rudolf Wöhrl AG is one of the leading fashion retailers in Germany, selling women's wear, men's wear, children's wear and sportswear. Based in Nuremberg, it has approximately 2,900 employees and runs 38 stores. Rudolf Wöhrl markets clothing from its own collections as well as the latest fashions created by renowned designers. Its large range of clothing and brands is due to the fact that it works with 500 different suppliers and partners.

Wöhrl's IBM solution has been in real-time operation since May 2006. As a result, the complicated comparison of purchase orders and delivery dockets that reflect the business transactions between Wöhrl, its 40 purchasers, and 500 suppliers now takes place in automated form. The fact that IBM WebSphere Business Modeler records and analyzes this process means greater transparency, and it also reveals ways of improving processes even further. This automated solution also produces a supplier documentation that allows Wolf to rank Wöhrl's suppliers according to their efficiency.

The profit margins for retail companies in the clothing industry are relatively static. According to Michael Wolf, Director of Organization, IT, and Logistics at Wöhrl, potential savings can largely be made by optimizing the corporation's business processes. Wolf examined the whole gamut of supply-chain processes and reengineered them with this fact in mind. He felt that one-off custom solutions had to be reduced, processes needed to be automated to a larger extent, and they needed to be made accessible to employees via a single, standardized interface. Wolf also believed it was important to involve staff members in the project from the beginning, and for them to analyze their business processes together. Wöhrl's central inventory control system, which was developed in-house and runs on IBM System z hardware, is an important component of the new architecture.

Further basic IT elements such as free-form search functionality were required to create a link between Wöhrl's legacy system and the new technology. Following a proposal by FRITZ & MACZIOL, an IBM Premium Business Partner, Wolf opted for a service-oriented architecture based on IBM software.

"Fashion is like yogurt -- it has a short shelf life. That's why business processes in this industry all have to take place quickly and efficiently. In other words, they need to be automated," said Michael Wolf, Director of Organization, IT, and Logistics at Wöhrl AG "It's important not to underestimate the human aspect when you introduce such tools. Employees need time to get used to thinking in terms of business processes. You have to discuss the processes with them, and motivate them to accept any changes. You shouldn't expect too much at the beginning."

"The SOA implementation conducted at Wöhrl is a classic example of the advantages that IBM products and solutions have on the SOA market. More than any other manufacturer, IBM offers its customers practical modules made using open standards, on the basis of which heterogeneous IT environments can be integrated within the scope of an SOA," said Dietmar Frik, project manager at FRITZ & MACZIOL. "In Wöhrl's case, one of the ways this pays off is that the company's previous investment -- its COBOL-based inventory control system -- was not only protected but can still be utilized in an innovative manner as the backbone of its business processes."

"Rudolf Wöhrl is a prime example of how the concept of SOA can be implemented effectively in a medium-sized enterprise, taking account of practical, everyday situations," said Sebastian Krause, Vice President of the Software Group at IBM Germany. "Protecting investments and integrating systems are really hot topics for mid-size businesses now, which is why there are so many innovative minds at work in precisely this segment -- people who've recognized the benefits that SOA can offer and now want to reap them."

The SOA-Based Solution Used by Wöhrl AG

The SOA concept that FRITZ & MACZIOL developed for Rudolf Wöhrl AG has four fundamental pillars: The IBM WebSphere Business Integration Server Foundation acts as the central service platform on which every workflow across the company takes place; IBM WebSphere Business Modeler, IBM WebSphere Integration Developer, and IBM Rational Application Developer are employed for modeling and developing new business processes. In Wolf's view, the ability to conduct a free-form search of the myriad of delivery dockets and invoices that enter and leave the company is another key component. This is why the OCR text-recognition solution is a fundamental aspect of automated supply-chain processes. An IBM WebSphere Portal Server acts as the users' front end. The data from the inventory control system are retrieved by users via the IBM WebSphere Host Access Transformation Service (HATS) incorporated in the portal. As for document management and tamperproof archiving, these functionalities are provided by an archiving solution using IBM DB2 Content Manager.

About Rudolf Wöhrl AG

In 1933 Rudolf Wöhrl opened a tiny retail store selling menswear and boys' wear in Nuremberg, naming it "ZK," which stood for "Zuverlässige Kleidung" (reliable clothing). The business was destroyed during World War II, but Rudolf Wöhrl and his wife Bertha set it up again in 1945 in the neighboring town of Roth. WÖHRL returned to Nuremberg in 1949, moving into a store in the city center near the historic White Tower and starting off with 15 employees and an area of just 60 sqm (646 square feet). Today Rudolf Wöhrl AG employs approximately 2,900 staff members in 38 fashion stores throughout Germany.

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