In the competitive manufacturing industry, companies are continually looking for ways to reduce overall costs. Hines Corporation modernized its IT infrastructure with SUSE Linux Enterprise Server and consolidated its servers by 50 percent. Linux also helped the company reduce its ERP implementation costs by an estimated 70 percent.
The Hines Corporation is a privately held management company in Muskegon, Michigan, that oversees eight manufacturing facilities in the Midwest and Texas along with a distributorship in New York. Its companies manufacture a wide range of products, from valves and springs to gasoline dispensers and boilers.
"Moving to Linux was a logical choice. We had a Linux server that we hadn't worried about for three years so we knew Linux would improve the security and stability of our environment."
The Hines Corporation lacked ongoing budget to keep a diverse and outdated IT infrastructure up to date. With systems pushed beyond life expectancy, the company's environment was inefficient and increasingly expensive to support. Hines determined that consolidating its environment to a single platform would substantially reduce administrative and licensing costs.
The company's IT staff was also spending a great deal of time issuing patches and responding to downtime, often having to rebuild servers. Hines needed a more stable environment, as well as a centralized data center and staff to manage IT across several different manufacturing locations.
Hines Corporation had a mixed IT environment that included Microsoft Windows, UNIX, NetWare and AS/400. The company decided to standardize as much as possible on SUSE Linux Enterprise Server.
"Moving to Linux was a logical choice," said Ed Harper, CIO of Hines Corporation. "We had a Linux server that we hadn't worried about for three years so we knew Linux would improve the security and stability of our environment. We chose Novell because we wanted a major player in the Linux market who could give us the right backing."
Hines moved all but two of its companies to Linux, running a variety of applications including its proxy server, firewall, file and print servers and Novell GroupWise. The company is consolidating five ERP systems to a single Linux-based ERP system that will give its customers new services, while reducing licensing costs.
"We can do things with Linux that would have been too expensive to do in a Windows environment," said Harper. "We are implementing a Web-based ERP system on Linux that will give customers online access to their invoices and inventory. Because of the hardware requirements, we could not have afforded to do it with any other platform."
Linux also allows the IT staff to have a common skill set. In the past, staff expertise was spread out among a variety of operating platforms, requiring individual experts to fix specific problems. Now the staff has a greater ability to fix a wider range of issues.
Linux thin client deployments are a perfect solution for Hines' manufacturing plants, allowing the IT staff to provide employees with applications, such as the OpenOffice.org productivity suite, through a central server. The thin client approach is more reliable in industrial environments, where damage to a PC hard drive is a real risk, and has also helped Hines dramatically reduce its software licensing costs.
"Because we are no longer tied to a forced upgrade schedule, we've been able to reduce our licensing costs," said Harper. "This has allowed us to modernize our systems and moving forward, we'll be able to deliver more Web-based services to our customers. We are also seeing huge savings in server costs because we can rely more on commodity Intel-based servers and even PCs."
"For us, the biggest advantage of having an open enterprise has been a tremendous cost savings. But we are also using a lot of open source software and like how the open source community works together to produce quality applications."
Hines consolidated its servers from 20 to 10 and now manages its enterprise from a central location using YaST and WebAdmin. By reducing travel and administration time, the IT staff can be more productive and focus on enhancements such as giving users the ability to fax from their desktops.
"For us, the biggest advantage of having an open enterprise has been a tremendous cost savings," said Harper. "But we are also using a lot of open source software and like how the open source community works together to produce quality applications."
Hines runs Novell GroupWise on Linux and relies on it as its primary tool for internal and external communication, particularly for sending large files. The company plans to implement GroupWise Mobile Server to provide e-mail for its traveling employees through handheld devices and phones.
With SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, Hines Corporation standardized its operating platforms and consolidated its servers by 50 percent. Centralized IT management, as well as a common skill set with Linux, has dramatically reduced travel and administration time.
By taking advantage of open source software, the company has reduced licensing costs and can invest in better services for both its employees and customers. With a stable Linux platform, the company can implement a new Web-based ERP system for $400,000, instead of $1.2 million in a Windows environment.
"Novell is a great company to have as a partner," said Harper. "They have the right resources to support our entire Linux environment."
To read more customer success stories, visit novell.com/success.