Tailored for The Modern Farm

Grouping
efficiency

While the business processes are based on Baan, Lotus Notes is being
used for basic information sharing. The company is consciously promoting
the culture of using information in the most effective way. "We
started using groupware across all locations to be able to conduct
virtual meetings," says Kharbanda.

The company
wants to exploit the entire groupware suite of Lotus Notes for its
day-to-day functions. It is presently using emails, discussion database
and workflow applications. It has developed and installed about
12 groupware applications designed for specific operations. For
instance, a product-related database application has been devised
to solve problems that crop up while designing products.

The company
wants to extend the workflow systems in three main areas and administrative
procedures are being developed within these areas, namely:

  • Manufacturing.
  • Supply chain
    with dealers and suppliers.
  • Office Automation
    for administrative functions like travel bookings, purchases,
    personnel management. For instance, when a new employee joins,
    all the formalities are taken care of by the workflow management
    system.

According to
Kharbanda, this year the company has been busy streamlining its
ERP applications, but next year, the emphasis will be on groupware.
Kharbanda says, "This set-up offers tremendous support to allow
people in different locations to work as a team."

Besides the
local area network for each location, the company is also connected
to all its twenty three worldwide locations through a WAN, which
was being managed by IBM and has now been sold to AT&T. This
total connectivity promotes the information-sharing culture that
forms the basis of this company. It allows them to respond to market
needs in a much better manner.

Value-added
products

Although the entire business and IT plan has been designed to cater
to the Indian agriculture industry, localization was brought in
only gradually. The first product was launched mainly to introduce
the technology and to inform the farmers that Ford is back in the
country, so the scope of localization was very limited only to 10-15%.
But it increased to about 60% with the second product. While the
70 HP tractor was priced at Rs 5.75 lakh, the 50 HP comes at Rs
3.8 lakh.

When the company
talks of keeping the product affordable and relevant to the Indian
market, one wonders whether the poor farmer can really afford this
price. Palani Kumar says, "The price of products may be higher
than competitors, but the additional features justify the costs.
Although the Indian customer is quite conscious of price, we want
to make him conscious of the value-added services of our product."

The fact that
the company decided to set up an R&D center in the country even
when it had 12 centers around the world does indicate that the company
is well aware and focussed on the local needs. The design department
has incorporated various features specifically for India. For instance,
water-proof tractors had to be developed keeping in mind the style
of rice cultivation here. Palani Kumar says, "In India, we
had to remove some sophisticated parts because they are not required
here. Moreover, maintenance would be such a problem because you
depend mainly on the roadside mechanic."

The design department,
which is working on CADDS 5 software based on Sun Workstations is
now planning to shift to Parmetric Technology.

Towards
a new era

From a small make-shift arrangement in a corner of the office to
a fully-equipped development center, the company has come a long
way. Ranging from infrastructure bottlenecks to cultural changes,
it has encountered and solved a number of implementation hurdles.
And adaptation is the key word. "The biggest problem of implementing
any technology is with the human interface. No technology can be
utilized up to its optimum level if the people are not ready for
it. The companies that are very old and have many senior people
usually face a problem in adapting to new technology," says
Palani Kumar.

Being a start-up,
adaptation to the latest business practices was not too difficult.
As the company moves up on the maturity curve, people’s knowledge
and understanding of the applications would also improve. Its future
plans include data mining, data warehousing and further optimization
of the present infrastructure. Although it has made an ambitious
beginning, New Holland now has to live up to the challenges ahead.
It has to cut across the monopoly of existing tractor makers to
create room for its niche product. With knowledge management and
information systems as foundation, New Holland is certainly gunning
ahead to usher in a new era in Indian farming.

SHWETA
VERMA

in New Delhi

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