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Unilever in major SAP usage expansion

ERP key to its rapidly evolving supply chain management

Unilever has extended an SAP enterprise resource planning rollout to North America, vital to its core business processes including supply chain management in one of its largest business regions.

The consumer goods giant, which makes brands including PG Tips tea, Persil washing powder and Bertolli olive oil, told investors it had "successfully completed" the rollout in the run up to Christmas. The move is vital, because the US represents a third of its 11 billion (£9.6 billion) global revenues.

News of the SAP rollout's progress came as the company posted a gradual one percent climb in annual operating profits to 6.4 billion (£5.3 billion).

Its Western European SAP rollout, where the project began, was completed in 2008. Unilever said two years later that the system was significantly improving "operational execution" and efficiency, as well as dramatically cutting complexity.

The rollout of standardised SAP ERP, with Accenture, is a key part of the One Unilever programme, aimed at unifying business processes. Total savings from all continuous improvement efforts, including IT, had hit 1.5 billion (£1.2 billion) since 2008, Unilever said last week.

Unilever is able to access real time information from its supply chain and procurement systems, which are based around SAP ERP.

It has said the systems are central to the future of its business operations, enabling it to better manage volatile prices and changing commodity supplies. It is able to design, manufacture, market and distribute products to over 30 countries in under a year.

The supply chain effort is also crucial to a major drive to halve the environmental impact of Unilever's operations within a decade. Over the same decade, Unilever is attempting to double annual revenues to 80 billion.

Unilever is also building a global private cloud with Avanade, managed on the Microsoft System Center 2012 platform, in an attempt to further standardise and automate processes.

It is in the midst of a business intelligence upgrade with Capgemini, focused around SAP NetWeaver and Microsoft ProClarity analytics. Its other key outsourcers are BT for networks, and Unisys for IT management.

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