The Computer Weekly Developer Network (CWDN) team recently got to meet with enterprise applications company IFS at its Sri Lanka headquarters in Colombo.
The meetings were designed to explore the work its IFS Labs division is currently undertaking, talk to senior local management to find out why Sri Lanka is now claiming to be a real ‘maker’ and creator of software application development expertise, meet with local technical institutes supported by the company… and also talk to a number of key customers.
Although CWDN primarily focuses on platform and tools rather than individual implementation issues… one customer story did appear to be worth telling.
Akbar Brothers is Sri Lanka’s largest tea company and the firm in fact spans a total of eight verticals from printing to power and onward into automobile emissions testing.
Let’s remember that IFS is known for its Field Service Management (FSM) software and its wider stack of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and digital operations management software.
The work IFS carries out with Akbar is logically placed, that is – Akbar ships to 90 countries using 26 ISO shipping containers a day, so the widespread use of both FSM and ERP (in unison) makes sense.
Given the fact that various parts of its business make complimentary materials (as noted above), Akbar needed to move onwards from its legacy IT system that suffered from a lack of accountability, a likelihood that items would simply get lost and (perhaps most crucially of all within the context of this story) fail to provide a means of automating between different actions for connected products and services.
“We used to have to burn a huge bonfire of product packaging [things go out of date and market demands change] every year, but IFS has helped us to create a much more connected and intelligent supply chain so we can avoid that scenario as part of our mission to help drive green business,” said Akbar board director Husain Akbar Ali.
Mr Akbar Ali explained that IFS is helping to make a real difference, but his firm is not able to use the software across ALL of its subsidiary divisions due to specific proprietary complexity that exists in some of its utility business work.
Tea with IT
Akbar Brothers source tea from all over Sri Lanka and the rest of the world — and, as such, the company’s tea tasters have to same 10,000 samples a week in order to match the crop to specific requirements for different blends in different markets.
With such a labour intensive job to execute, Akbar is now looking to use Artificial Intelligence (AI) functions within the IFS platform to execute some of the ‘sampling’ in a more virtualised space.
Looking wider, Akbar is also using IFS software to drive its process manufacturing tracking systems.
The firm needs to run blend management processes and also engage in auction management (where it actually buys its tea) and be able to know where every single ‘flake’ of tealeaf comes from because the Sri Lankan government stipulates firm quality controls on the use of the term ‘Ceylon Tea’ today.
Given the undeniable growth that the Sri Lankan economy is currently witnessing in its post civil war years, Mr Akbar Ali has said that he is keen to help other firms (in completely different industry verticals) understand where ERP software can help them… as such, his team is willing to take other businesses through their IFS implementation if they want to learn more.
As with any meeting in Sri Lanka (technology related or otherwise), we can only assume that there is tea and local fruitcake provided as a matter of course and good manners.
Who wouldn’t want a slice of that?