Utility Generates AS/400 Approach to Y2K

For many Year 2000-challenged companies, the AS/400 offers a safe haven, as well as an entree into integrated client/server computing. For Newfoundland & Labrador Hydro (St. Johns, Newfoundland), such a solution came just in the nick of time -- the utility's mainframe-centric business systems had become a drag on operations, eating up staff time and resources. Rather than attempt a date fix, the utility is migrating to an AS/400-based solution running WorldVision ERP solution from J.D. Edwards & Co. (Denver, Colo.).

Newfoundland & Labrador Hydro began its Year 2000 effort in mid-1996, says Carl Hynes, manager of application development. At that time, lack of integration hampered applications in financials, purchasing and inventory, he says. "We spent a lot of time just keeping systems talking to each other," he explains. A Year 2000 upgrade would still leave the utility with "the same inherent integration problems."

With a large infrastructure that supports electric power service to more than 35,000 customers, the utility began looking for an ERP package that could gradually tie its business systems together -- user by user in some cases. NewFoundland & Labrador Hydro wanted "an evolution rather than a revolution," Hynes notes. The J.D. Edwards package enabled such a gradual migration from a host-based system to distributed client/server. "They had too many moving parts, along with a big infrastructure they had to maintain," adds Chip Lambert, spokesperson for J.D. Edwards.

Phase one of the migration consisted of the implementation of human resources/payroll and financials modules, completed in January of this year. Phase two, still underway, includes installing procurement, inventory management and customer service management to handle processes such as materials management and plant maintenance. "We went live with materials management in May and expect to go live with maintenance in September and customer service in January 1999," Hynes explains. Until now, customer service was outsourced to the utility's parent company.

A total of 36 utility employees plus six J.D. Edwards consultants handled the software and hardware installations. The team was divided into seven sub-teams -- six for applications and one for the hardware conversion. The utility currently has about 200 users on the WorldVision package and expects to have about 400 by the time phase two is completed.