Seminole Case Study

SEMINOLE INDUSTRIES CASE

* Summary of the Situation

Bruce Long sat in his office reflecting on the tough past several months. He was the head of the international department at Seminole Industries. Six weeks ago, the Chairman of the Board had called Bruce into her office. The global financial crisis was hitting Seminole hard, and it was clear that there were significant problems in gathering information throughout the organization.

Seminole is a respected producer of complex fittings, made to order for construction machines such as trucks and loaders.

Seminole manufactures most parts in the US, but approximately 20% of its operations are through outsourcing and vendor contracts, mostly in non-critical parts that do not have to adhere to government and OSA standards.

The Chairperson’s question was simple: What is Seminole’s global situation?

It had taken Bruce over a month to get the information, and even then he had to admit that it was not very accurate. Seminole did not have integrated information systems. Local branches had their own small computers keep track of local and global customers and handle the daily operations.

While this type of operation would seem to be inefficient, Seminole has a long history of successful business operations, and has a business culture that functions reasonably well using fax, telephone and personal communication to maintain the business.

Bruce had to call people in each branch and ask them to manually search their records for business operations across local and global sites. Site records were by customer, and it was incumbent on each branch manager to pull together information about vendors, customers and partners to address Bruce’s request.

Bruce seemed to recall a monthly report, which presented data by US site and country, but when he asked the main branch data processing department about the report, he was told that it had been discontinued over six months earlier when no one expressed interest in it. In Bruce’s opinion, and demonstrated by the current situation, these reports should have been retained. They were of vital concern in reviewing Seminole’s current status.

In checking with his people on why the reports were not used, he was told that because they were never reconciled with the various sites’ manual records, their accuracy was always suspect. Furthermore, the reports were always one calendar quarter behind: the March first-quarter report was for information collected as of December 31.

Bruce had asked for a meeting with the data center manager, Pamela Lawrence, to see what could be done.

* Background

Seminole is a respected producer of complex fittings, made to order for construction machines such as trucks and loaders.

Seminole manufactures most parts in the US, but approximately 20% of its operations are through outsourcing and vendor contracts, mostly in non-critical parts that do not have to adhere to government and OSHA standards.

When the ’08 financial fall occurred, Seminole understood the need to gather data on the entire operation, so that they could strategize to address the threats presented by the global downturn.
Because the organization’s historical success was built on personalized service to its clients, branch managers had almost total autonomy to manage their branches in the manner that would be most satisfactory to their clients, considering local customs, services expected, and government regulations in a particular part of the country.

Each branch manager had the authority to operate within these policy guidelines. The 11 US branches reported directly to Bruce Long. The relationships between Bruce and his branch managers were excellent. He had reasonable confidence in their judgment and was kept informed through phone conversations, faxes and email transmissions of Excel spreadsheets.

Bruce made semi-annual visits to US branches. Bruce also managed vendor relationships with manufacturing partners in Taiwan and China. He did not visit these sites, but made it a point to enter into solid contracts, and have good long-distance with vendor site managers.

Once every quarter, each branch manager visited headquarters in Silver Springs, Maryland, to review clients, discuss plans, and exchange ideas. Bruce would try to schedule these meetings so that as many managers as possible would be in Silver Springs at the same time. This afforded a chance for the managers to meet and to exchange information about mutual clients. All in all, the working environment at Seminole was competitive but cordial, and there was a feeling of trust and mutual respect among management personnel.

The outsourcing partners were highly computerized, but were able to “dumb down” their information and communication with Seminole US to use only email and Excel spreadsheets. Other than monthly statements, client records were kept manually by each individual account officer. This arrangement had worked well until the global financial crisis. Seminole had a cultured management and communication system based on “traditional” or “old think” business practices, which worked as long as things were going smoothly in the larger environment.

Starting in the mid 90’s, Seminole’s competition started to offer computerized services to clients. Online ordering, visual product databases with product descriptions, online help desks, interactive web sites and weblogs were becoming common. Competitors even had Facebook pages and were creating marketing videos that could be searched for and found on both Google and YouTube. Seminole’s “personalized services” approach was no longer offsetting the increased use of technology by competitors.

Branch managers, headquarters management and now the Board were beginning to understand that Seminole needed to make greater use of information technology as a competitive tool. This had been the subject of discussion recently, but nothing was done because no single branch wanted to be the first to engage with technology.

Additionally, all the managers knew that using information technology would require a significant capital investment, which would affect the organization’s bottom line and consequently, manager’s bonuses. Most of the branch managers believed that Seminole’s strength was in the personal relationships built up with its clients over the years. Managers knew what was going on with their clients and could anticipate their financial needs through monthly visits, so they had not felt pressure to use technology, even though competitors had begun more and more to use technology.

* The Problem

With the global markets’ downfall, Seminole immediately noticed reductions in factory orders, 8 % in 2009, 9% in 2009, and 11% in 2010.

Management and the Board of Directors understand clearly that Seminole needs to revamp its business plan and create new, actionable strategies for not only maintaining its place in its particular environment, but, if possible, be forward thinking enough to actually take advantage of the financial slump to attain a leadership position among its competitors.

Management also understands that decision makers need to have a “big picture” of the company’s status at any given moment. It needs comprehensive data, and ways to interact with the data in ways that will enable high-value decision making.

But as of this writing, they can’t get that data; there is data, but it is spread out among branches, is not centralized, is not in common data formats, and is not accessible to decision makers.

This situation has created a crisis atmosphere within Seminole. Several directors have demanded that Seminole take immediate action to get more up-to-date and accurate information to monitor and control its status. Some are demanding that the company revisit its technology policies vis-à-vis Internet and Web technologies.

* Arriving at a Solution

When Pamela Brown, Seminole’s most technology-savvy employee, arrived in Bruce’s office, Bruce had already decided to seek her advice on how to approach this problem. Bruce wanted to be able to pull up an electronic file on each customer and be able to determine that customer’s current orders, historical orders, financial status, and other data. As to sourcing partners and vendors, he wanted the same information, and he wanted to be able to access any and all of this information from any Web-enabled computer.

This information would enable Seminole’s personnel to know the status of any of Seminole’s projects, orders and assets. It would also give them more complete information to use to assess those assets.

Bruce and several Board of Directors members also understood that Seminole needed to use technology to become competitive, to match or better the technology offerings of competitors.

“Can we do all this, Pam?” Bruce asked.

“Frankly, I’m not sure,” Pam replied, “but we’ll need to do some planning first. In a sense, we’re lucky. Because we don’t have IT systems, we may be starting at the beginning, and it will be expensive. But the upside, if it can be called an upside, is that we can plan for the extended future by addressing our near future problems. One thing is for sure, there will be significant costs involved. Not all tools are expensive, though. We can look at social media tools for communication and creating knowledge bases.”



How to Write A Case Study

The course project asks that you write a case analysis of Seminole Industries. Information on how to write this case is found in this document.

Read the following material carefully; it discusses the core concept you need to address in your paper:

A primary objective of the case analysis is to connect course content (material, frameworks, models, managerial/business analysis) with the case discussion.

This connection may occur throughout the writing, but will certainly appear in the analysis and action plan portions of your writing.

Formatting Requirements:

The case should be 6-10 pages in length, total. The paper margins should not exceed 1” for top, bottom, left and right. The paper can be single or double-spaced. Double spaced papers should be much closer in length to 10 pages than 6 pages. Use a standard business font such as Times New Roman, Courier, etc., 12-point font size.

Content Requirements:

There needs to be a title page with the first page of the paper, your full name, the course number, current date, and a title such as “Seminole Case Study”.

There needs to be an abstract or summary (on one page), an introduction, body and conclusion. In the paper body each of the 7 numbered items below must be included, with a Heading that identifies where each item begins.

Do not provide a table of contents, but be sure each paper section has a clear heading. A references page is required. You must use at least 3 references, in addition to references from our text. Use APA citations for your reference page and your in body citations.

Writing a case analysis:

This is a modified version of material found at
http://businessmajors.about.com/od/casestudies/ht/HowToCaseStudy.htm

1. Investigate and Analyze the Company’s History and Growth.
A company’s past can greatly affect the present and future state of the organization. To begin your case study analysis, investigate the company’s founding, critical incidents, structure, and growth.

2. Provide analysis on the External Environment.
The second step in a case study analysis involves identifying opportunities and threats within the company’s external environment. Special items to note include competition within the industry, bargaining powers, and the threat of substitute products.

3. Identify Strengths and Weaknesses Within the Company.
Using the information you gathered in step one, continue your case study analysis by examining and making a list of the value creation functions of the company. For example, the company may be weak in product development, but strong in marketing.

4. Provide a brief analysis of your findings to this point.
Using the information in steps two and three, you will need to create an evaluation for this portion of your case study analysis. Compare the strengths and weaknesses within the company to the external threats and opportunities. Determine if the company is in a strong competitive position and decide if it can continue at its current pace successfully.

5. Make recommendations for the use of information Systems to be made as a result of steps 2, 3 and 4 above
Be sure you identify and explain at least 4 different IS solutions. Your recommendations should be discussed within the context of organizational change, levels of hierarchy, employee rewards, conflicts, and other issues that are important to the company you are analyzing.

6. Articulate an Action Plan
What’s next? Create a reasonable action plan/conclusion with milestones, checkpoints, and pilot projects. Include also a structure (teams, for example) for fulfillment.
Components in the action plan should be based on and supported by the context of your case study analysis.

7. Conclusion
The conclusion needs to be one half page or longer. Think of the case analysis as a story, and your conclusion as a statement that pulls the story together. The conclusion needs to reinforce the paper’s core concepts.

Tips:
1. Know the case backwards and forwards before you begin your case study analysis.

2. Give yourself enough time to write the case study analysis. You don’t want to rush through it.

3. Be honest in your evaluations. Don’t let personal issues and opinions cloud your judgment.

4. Be analytical, not descriptive.

5. Proofread your work!

6. Be analytical, not descriptive.

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