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Local HTML5 App and central ERP5 to manage supply-production-sales data for 14 companies

GKR international group, the leader of China's rubber industry specialising in rubber planting, processing, sales and R&D, has implemented an exemplary purchase-production-sales data acquisition and management system for its 14 subsidiaries throughout Southeast Asia and China in only 3 months. It was accomplished by developing an easy-to-use HTML5 web application integrated to a central ERP5.
  • Last Update:2016-08-08
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GKR international group, the leader of China's rubber industry specialising in rubber planting, processing, sales and R&D, has implemented an exemplary purchase-production-sales data acquisition and management system for its 14 subsidiaries throughout Southeast Asia and China in only 3 months. It was accomplished by developing an easy-to-use HTML5 web application integrated to a central ERP5.

Case Profile
Name GKR Group Subsidiary of GDNK Group
Employees > 1000 Founded 2002
Sites 17 in China, 11 in Southeast Asia Website

A single system to manage 14 subsidiaries

Over the course of the last 13 years, the business of GKR grew rapidly with new sites for rubber planting, processing, sales and R&D being built throughout China and Southeast Asia. However, outside of accounting, all subsidiaries still relied on excel documents to transfer daily operational data, such as material purchases, internal inventory movements or production and sales figures to the GKR headquarter in Guangzhou for further reporting, controlling and also accounting. With time, the management of data became too complex and the origin of data was often untraceable. GKR executives thus decided to introduce an ERP to first manage daily operational data from all subsidiaries in order to produce consistent and accurate reports and then in a next step extend this system to a fully featured ERP to align business processes with the GKRs exceptional growth.

14 local distributed ERPs or single central ERP?

In order to produce end of the year reports across 14 production sites and sales companies, the data acquisition and management system had to be delivered before November 2015 in order for users from all subsidiaries to start inputting daily operations data. Nexedi was initially contacted in May and the project was eventually confirmed mid-July leaving only 3 months to deliver the system besides one week of on-site investigation.

GKR initially planned to use local ERP instances: Installing individual servers at each site for local users to input daily data and then synchronize all sites to a central instance located in Guangzhou. ERP5 can easily be setup and maintained automatically across 14 locations using a deployment tool called "Configurator"; but the specific requirements of GKR along with need to automate data collection and synchronization while ensuring homogenous data being generated across all sites proved to be too much of a risk to take for GKR in the limited time available. In addition, this solution requires setting up and configuring servers on all sites to communicate with a central instance, optimizating this network and training staff, plus implementation of project specific functioncal requirements, all of these works would have introcued uncontrollable factors in terms of required budget, time and human resources.

With almost 15 years experience in delivering complex ERP solutions, Nexedi instead proposed to use a single, central ERP instance along with local browser-based HTML5 Apps for data aggregation. These local applications would synchronize with the central instance which should handle all data processing, management and finally export structured data to procude business intelligence reports. GKR eventually adopted this approach because it was a more simple solution at lower overall project cost and promising higher performance than a cluster of more than 14 servers. Nexedi then successfully delivered the system before November and within the required budget achieving all project objectives.

Creating a data acquisition system for 20 users on 14 sites in 3 months

Integrator Nexedi - Nayu Software Technology (Shanghai) Ltd
Modules deployed ERP5 Trade, Item Time to deliver 3 months
Users 20 Number of interfaces 14

To reach the project objectives in time and to ensure the performance of data acquisition system, GKR had adopted the central-ERP approach. During the project planning GKR and Nexedi defined the following milestones:
  • M + 1 month : implement prototype HTML5 App for subsidiary data acquisition and central ERP5 platform for GKR HQ central management
  • M + 2 months : implement HTML5 App for subsidiaries
  • M + 3 months : complete system online and data export
The project was led by a small GKR team including the VP of GKR assisted by a project manager, a sales manager and a IT staff of the company, as well as an experienced Nexedi consultant and engineer, and an ERP5 user assistant. Focussing on the essentials proved to be the key driver during implementation. Having a dedicated team on GKR side was also a key to success, because requirements were constantly monitored and if needed postponed. For example, the management of GKR data validation was not well defined at the time of implementation - so data validation was excluded from the requirements to be delivered allowing Nexedi to focus on the functionalities that really mattered.

Custom HTML5 App for Data Acquisition

Developing a custom HTML5 App as a specialized frontend to the central-ERP5 platform for data acquisition proved to have a number of advantages for the GKR project.

Simple UI - No training

The app was designed as simple as possible so users could understand immediately how it should be used (like WeChat). Modules were limited to the bare necessities to input daily purchase, production and sales data. Thus when going live, 20 users on 14 sites where able to input data on the 1st day in production just by watching a simple training video.

Browser Based App - No server needed; Runs anywhere

With the offline capable HTML5 app running solely in the browser there was no need to install or maintain any server infrastructure at subsidiary sites - a device with Chrome web browser was sufficient. The app would download all necessary files on initial access after which the app would work autonomous and without network access. This includes Javascript files which provide the core part of the ERP data acquisition logic, running directly inside the Web browser even in case of network downtime. Being fully responsive the app was usable over smartphone, tablet and PC and automatically synchronized across devices. This means that even with no local internet available data input was still possible through a smartphone and 2G/3G/4G network.

Offline HTML5 Application - Network Issue Independence

All modules for data acquisition were designed to operate offline to ensure data could be entered at any time. Required access to the central instance was reduced to downloading/synchronizing daily data from GKR HQ and uploading records at the end of daily data inputs. The temporary absence of network is thus no longer a blocker.

Nexedi also implemented a Grandenet application delivery network to ensure good connectivity to the central servers of GKR in Guangzhou. Grandenet helps circumvent issues related to internet routing instabilities which are still quite frequent in China, Thailand and Indonesia. During three months of observation, Nexedi monitored network downtime and found that it did not prevent users to synchronize information and upload data even from the most remote locations. As a side benefit, the setup in this project also was a key enabler for Nexedis "fully online global ERP5 approach" to be used in a networking environment where traditional web based solutions would fail.

Central ERP5 Platform for Data Management

Cloud Based Single ERP – Save Time and Cost

In addition to keeping infrastructure requirements to a single, central ERP5 instance, Nexedi also proposed to further save time and cost by initially maintaining the GKR server on a cloud platform. Being a fully open source solution the whole architecture including ERP5 and deployment/orchestration could later easily be migrated to an on-premise infrastructure, whenever it makes sense.

Simplified Data Synchronisation – Ensure Data Transfer Efficiency

The process of data synchronization was implemented in JavaScript using the jIO framework. It was much simpler and faster to implement and maintain within an HTML5 offline application than synchronizing the initally discussed decentralized ERP5 instances. In addition this approach also enforced immediate control on the base data definition.

Centralised Data Maintenance – Enhance Central Control and Data Quality

Key users at GKR HQ were in charge of maintaining the quality of data across all subsidiaries by ensuring well-defined raw data and verifying or correcting user input errors before exporting data for report generation. Only one day of on-site training with Nexedi's remote support was required to become operational, which is also a key step in long-term utilization of any ERP system.

Record History – Build Data Traceability

Another key advantage of managing data through a EPR5 and a central instance was complete traceablity of all changes and actions. Every record provided creation date, modification dates, users, upstream and downstream records etc. This way validity and accuracy of data could be easily verified and monitored.

Less is More

The current implementation is close to a standard ERP5 configuration differing only in:

  • Custom Categories - define based data and taxonomies on GKR and subsidiaries
  • Custom Items - define the data entered by users via the HTML5 applications
  • Custom Workflows - process new items automatically and create the equivalent ERP5 object
  • Custom Security - grant users access rights related to their respective organization
By focusing only on the above changes but all customised for GKR project requirements, Nexedi engineers were able to save considerate amounts of development time and improve the system step by step after key functionalities had been delivered and daily use of the system reveled additional requirements for efficient usage.

Network Issue? Not an Issue!

A key reason for GKR to initially request local infrastructure was the network instabilities on many sites. This was deemed to much of an risk for inputing large amounts of daily data. However, network conditions in reality are not that much of a problem. Lack of Internet in rural areas in China or Southeast Asia was maybe true 10 years ago, but nowadays, Internet access is widely available throughout Southeast Asia and mobile networks are probably state-of-the-art worldwide. In China, 4G Internet access is probably even better than in any country in the world. On locations that do still lack proper connectivity, Thuraya IP satellite access can be setup in a matter of minutes and provde a stable connection even under difficult conditions (for example monsson).

The real problem with internet access inside China is routing related. This means that while the local network connection may be good, some servers still can't be reached. This was observed several times during this project's implementation with a very fast network in Yunnan province (fastest in China) that still did not allow to reach the central GKR server in Guangzhou while having excellent access to test servers in Hong Kong, Tokyo or Beijing.

The issue was solved using a technology called "Grandenet" - an application delivery network (ADN). In the case of Yunnan, this means connecting to a Grandenet server in Beijing which then connected to the GKR server in Guangzou. By doing the "rerouting" manually, all network problems which people usually observe in China and which are actually routing problems rather than network access problems, were gone. There is not any more "network issue" for GKR.

No stable network to input data? Use offline HTML5 App

As mentioned above, the jIO synchronization technology used in the offline HTML5 Application enables certain modules such as Purchase, Inventory, Production and Sales, which are essential for daily data input to be used offline. In some factories where the network conditions are very bad, user only needs to use the network to download information which are updated by GKR HQ everyday before starting to use the app, and to upload the records which are input by themselves everyday after they finish the daily data input work. Even though there is no good landline network during a whole day, user can still use 2G, 3G or 4G mobile network to access the central ERP5 to download and upload data when it is necessary.

The first two months in production went smoothly and without any problems related to network issues on all 14 sites. Users were able to work offline to input data as required, and even communicate with the central ERP5 almost all the time, which shows that the current HTMl5 app could easily be extended to a full online ERP5 with certain key functionalities being available offline.

No stable network to transfer data? Use GrandeNet best frontend selector

Even though users can use offline Html5 App to input daily operation data, they still need network to transfer these data from 14 sites in China and Southeast Adia to the central ERP5 platform which is hosted in China. To garantee the data transfer quality, with several alternatives for connectivity being setup, Nexedi still proposed to use the Grandenet network optimisation service (called Grandenet-re6st) in China, because it was licenced and ensured reliable access across China and from abroad. It is using an IPv6 based application delivery network (ADN) deployed by Nexedi that can gurantee reliable access to the platform in Europe, Oceania and the United States by constantly monitoring network connectivity and offering users the possiblity to easily select the best Frontend/connection whenever necessary. This ADN has already been used successfully in China (a Meteorological Bureau) and has received official license from Chinese government.

Multiple Language Users? Open source Solves the Problem

Being open source, ERP5 allows all users to customize their UI themselves by adding necessary translations. Currently the HTML5 App supports Chines, English and Thai users with implementing a new language only requiring a few hours. The central ERP5 server is available in Chinese and English (no Thai required) and can also easily be extended.

Evolving Reports Every Month? Customized Structured Data Export for Any Business Intelligence Report

Customized structured data export allows to provide whatever GKR needs for creating daily or monthly reports and business intelligence. Reports are evolving depending on the requirements of managers and executives as well as changes in underlying GKR business processes. For example once a production process is modified, the calculation of production cost may be modified as well so the source data provided by ERP5 should also be modified in order to create the expected results.

To give flexibility in reporting, Nexedi thus implemented several custom reporting schemes displaying available source data according to expected report layouts and allowing to download data for import into GKR's 3rd party reporting tool.

Promising Features of HTML5 App for GKR ERP System in the Future

The combination of an HTML5 App and central ERP5 platform allows for powerful future extensions to the GKR ERP. A report module can show instant reports for GKR managers and executives whenever and whereever needed using search conditions (online) or daily reports (offline). The report module could also be used for validation of data input quality, inventory could be adjusted according to purchase and sales exchange or price modifications. New modules could be added to manage the return of products and materials as well as inventory shortages and overstocking. The HTML5 App itself could be extended to cover the full supply and trade chain including trade documents (sales, delivery, payment), printouts and accounting as well as CRM. Within two years, a sales prediction feature could also be implemented with sufficient historical data and external information sources to provide meaningful results.

To sum up: The combination of an HTML5 App and central ERP5 platform can provide a full ERP to GKR without having to waste time and money on building a traditional distributed IT infrastructure while at the same time achieving a powerful, failsafe and performant system with essential features for GKR daily operations.

Lessons Learnt

  1. Integration of HTMl5 App and central ERP5 back office solution for a supply-production-sales chain saves a lot of deployment and training time and allows to concentrate on what's essential.
  2. Building a small project team, identifiying critical factors, defining requirements precisely, controlling implementation and constantly improving the list of new requirements is the key to meet the delivery deadline and reduce project management tasks.
  3. The combination of offline and online HTML5 App with access to ERP5's new UI is the future for many scenarios.
  4. Only by taking full responsiblity can ensure project's success; Outsouring partial implementation to 3rd party providers or intermediaries will increase the uncontrollable risks.
  5. DO NOT base other party's work result as project validation criteria.