British American Tobacco (BAT) expects to begin the pilot of its new single SAP enterprise resource system in September 2012.

The company, which operates in 180 markets, is planning to roll out the new system to the whole business by 2016, starting with a pilot in Malaysia and then Asia Pacific.

It will replace the six SAP instances that BAT currently runs across the global business, which was reduced from 62 SAP and CS3 local ERP systems, three years ago.

BAT wanted to implement a whole new, global, single SAP system because of the difficulties in trying to standardise the existing multiple SAP systems.

"One of the biggest problems was trying to standardise already implemented SAP systems. It is very, very hard to change.

"We had to add more stuff to them to make them standardised...which adds a global overhead. There were a lot of inefficiencies in trying to use several SAP instances in the same way," said Jon Veness, data lead at BAT on the One SAP Project.

The company implemented the system with an external, independent quality assurance partner, Lodestone Management Consultants.

Lodestone has been working alongside BAT from the very beginning of the project, from the design phase, through to the implementation and deployment phase. This has been seen as an unusual move by BAT, as companies normally only seek quality assurance in phases.

"It's about reducing the risk of the project," Veness said. "It's horrendously expensive, takes an awful lot of time. It's absolutely important to get it correct."

He added: "It's not about saving money - you save money by doing the project right first time."

Working with Lodestone also gave BAT a broader perspective on the project, Veness said, and helped ensure that the technology and processes were being implemented in the right way.

BAT could also take advantage of the fact that Lodestone had prior experience of carrying out similar projects.

In the first release, the new SAP system will include a range of processes, including manufacturing, spare parts management, production planning, procurement and logistics. BAT will also be running its product specification function in SAP for the first time, after consolidating from multiple different product specification solutions.

It will implement HR and SAP Advanced Planner and Optimiser after the pilot project, as part of the second release of the system.

BAT will be giving a more detailed presentation on the project at the UK and Ireland SAP User Group Conference on the 20-22 November.