Home / Educational Content / EPM Cloud / SCM Cloud Day 2019: HarbisonWalker International’s Journey to Cloud

SCM Cloud Day 2019: HarbisonWalker International’s Journey to Cloud

Cloud webinar series - get actionable insight to drive your business forward with oracle cloud technology

As part of Quest’s 2019 Cloud Webinar Series – SCM Cloud Day, Joshua Stauffer from HarbisonWalker International, spoke about how HarbisonWalker International (HWI) made the move to Oracle SCM Cloud, Oracle ERP Cloud, and Oracle EPM Cloud in order to implement integrated order fulfillment and demand planning companywide. HWI now provides faster quotes, fulfills inventory from multiple service centers, and greatly reduced inventory requirements – all due to the visibility of Oracle Cloud. Stauffer covered how HWI approached this journey to the Cloud and how HWI plans to leverage Oracle Cloud in the future.

About HarbisonWalker International

HarbisonWalker International is the largest supplier of brick refractories products and services in the United States. The company does the majority of business in North America and has additional locations in Europe and Asia. Although HWI has existed for over 150 years, the company recently merged with two other companies a few years ago and only recently rebranded to the original name of HarbisonWalker. HWI employees over 1,800 employees worldwide in an industry that historically has not valued IT.

Drivers for Moving to the Cloud

Before its 2016 search for a new ERP, HarbisonWalker’s most recent update had taken place in 2005. Several facets of the business and industry had changed, but the company was unable to respond effectively. One of the problems facing HWI was the fact that employees from three separate companies were operating as such. There were homegrown apps being used for sales opportunities, and employees made manual calls and emails with no company-wide logging system. Financial reports were done outside of the system. Employees were seeing duplicate entries for accounts, suppliers, and items. Even worse, the company was version-locked to its outdated system.

According to leadership, there was a lot going right at HarbisonWalker. However, the potential for growth was stunted, and the company knew that it needed to make a change. The leadership team set out to find a server that would allow HWI to respond to changing market conditions, revamp its supply chain model, and create an upgrade path with a streamlined data model. It was time to disrupt the refractory industry by transferring to a new system.

The team at HarbisonWalker knew that most ERPs on the market would have similar offerings. Instead of comparing entire systems, the team wanted to focus on the product offerings that were specific to their industry and business. Additional consideration included the option to move to a cloud-based ERP. It would be advantageous to avoid being version-locked for the long term.

Why HarbisonWalker Chose Oracle

These priorities allowed the decision-makers to begin with six possible vendors that they eventually narrowed down to three top contenders:

  1. SAP
  2. IFS
  3. Oracle

Since HWI has nine different supply chains in their business, the team asked the ERP companies to perform demos with an emphasis on supply chain and manufacturing. They asked several questions regarding each system. After these demonstrations, 18 senior directors at HarbisonWalker made a unanimous decision to implement Oracle. Personalized presentations by Oracle had blown them away.

Some of the main components that made choosing Oracle an easy decision for HWI included:

  • Supply Chain capabilities were more in line with HWI’s needs
  • The ERP market was moving to a cloud-based model
  • Future development was cloud-centric
  • Skills could be developed to better support the business
  • Newer technology would provide a faster turnaround
  • Ability to push more ownership to the business
  • Provides better access to all HWI locations

HWI’s Approach for the Journey to the Cloud

HarbisonWalker International decided to use dual partners to execute the initial implementation. One of the partners focused on manufacturing and supply chain while the other took care of finance, PO, OM, and projects. Eventually, they incorporated a third partner for Sales Cloud.

The initial 14-month implementation had a planned start date of June 2017. HWI took a big bang approach that applied to all locations in the U.S. and Canada for a total of 50+ locations and 180 inventory organizations.

They used outside processing. Recruiting was added to the Cloud at a later time as it was not an urgent need. Sales Cloud went live first. Next was ERP and then Recruiting. This was a complex and aggressive approach to implementation.

The image below represents the modules that HarbisonWalker viewed in order to understand what the end to end solution from Oracle would look like.


Journey to the Cloud Timeline

The overall schedule of implementation was as follows:

  • Sales Cloud: December 1, 2018
  • ERP: January 1, 2019
  • Recruiting: February 1, 2019

HWI was going to attempt going live in November 2018, but they didn’t want to impact 2018 numbers, so they bumped it back to January 1, 2019, with a cut over time of January 3, 2019. The implementation team was home by 9:00 pm on the evening of January 3. There were no major system issues throughout go-live. Some issues surfaced later due to a lack of controls in the system and integrations that did not prevent mistakes. They built and shipped product on Day 1.

What’s Next for HarbisonWalker

Representatives at HarbisonWalker International say they are big believers in Oracle’s offerings. In the future, the company intends to adopt the following processes:

  • Stabilization
  • Quarterly update process
  • Core HR/Compensation
  • SIOP
  • Maintenance
  • Transportation
  • Quality
  • Sales Cloud/CPQ/Incentive Compensation
  • Learning/Talent/Performance Management
  • Mobile Manufacturing

Tips and Tricks for Others

Based on lessons learned, the HWI team established some tips and tricks for others who are on the journey to the Cloud:

  1. Don’t try to open a new plant while implementing a new ERP system. The new plant HWI opened mid-implementation was not a mimic of any other plant. It was a new technology, creating challenges throughout the process.
  2. Ensure solid representation at each location with explicit responsibilities of each location.
  3. Make detailed and structured working sessions with users.
  4. Give plenty of visibility into data conversion from an early point, specifically regarding items and customers.
  5. Create good alignment across senior team members on new business processes, not just a lift and shift approach which would create unnecessary training issues.
  6. Don’t try to do everything at once.


HarbisonWalker International went from using an outdated ERP system with very limited benefits for its refractories company to adopting the most advanced ERP offered by Oracle. They were extremely pleased with the timeline of implementation, and they have remained confident in their decision thus far. The journey to the Cloud was not without its challenges; therefore, they encourage other companies to learn from their mistakes. They are grateful for an ERP that connects their entire company, once composed of three separate entities. It is a worthy endeavor to transfer to Oracle Cloud, and HarbisonWalker International will reap exponential benefits of early adoption for years to come.

To access the rest of the recordings from SCM Cloud Day and the 2019 Cloud Webinar series, visit the Cloud Webinar Series landing page.

SCM Cloud Day 2019: HarbisonWalker International’s Journey to Cloud