Iron Ages Global Strategy

By Stan Gibson  |  Posted 2006-04-10 Print this article Print

Iron Age, a retailer of industrial footwear, needed a full makeover. Oracle ERP specialist Apps Associates came to the rescue with systems support, network support, application development and 24-hour database administration support.

Not all companies have the resources to explore worldwide technology sourcing on their own. For them, it makes sense to sign up with a partner that knows the global terrain.

Iron Age, a retailer of industrial footwear, is drawing on a global playbook to execute a corporate turnaround. Facing bankruptcy, the 180-year-old company was bought by GSC Partners, a New York investment company, which moved Iron Ages headquarters from Pittsburgh to Westborough, Mass., as it sought to execute a global makeover of the venerable shoemaker.

"What we are trying to accomplish is a streamlined company," said Drew Farris, CIO at the $100 million company. "I cant manage offshore providers myself, and I cant sustain the infrastructure management required," he added.

A search for help led him to Apps Associates, a specialist in Oracle ERP (enterprise resource planning) deployments that also provides systems support, network support, application development and database administration support. So far, Iron Age has paid Apps Associates about $750,000, Farris said.

"[Apps Associates has] a presence stateside as well as a presence in India," said Farris. The India presence enables Farris to benefit from 24-hour coverage in database administration. With remote database administrator costs only $20 per hour in India versus $250 per hour in the United States for comparable service, it makes sense, Farris said.

Iron Age sells its OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration)-compliant footwear from trucks, which serve as mobile retail stores, parked near factories. Its point-of-sale system integrates with the Oracle ERP applications, said Farris. Companies contract with Iron Age for the footwear and generally purchase it for their employees. Providing their employees with the right shoes helps manufacturing companies avoid lawsuits over worker safety, said Farris.

Going with Apps Associates has enabled Farris to avoid hiring a permanent staff. "A company this size should have somebody here to keep the plug in. It should not be spending vast amounts of money supporting infrastructure." Farris isnt stopping there, though. "My job here is to put myself out of a job." Iron Ages global strategy enables it to carry out its IT tasks with a very light staff and yet maintain a technological edge. "Theres not a single competitor in this market that can match us for technology," said Farris.

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Stan Gibson is Executive Editor of eWEEK. In addition to taking part in Ziff Davis eSeminars and taking charge of special editorial projects, his columns and editorials appear regularly in both the print and online editions of eWEEK. He is chairman of eWEEK's Editorial Board, which received the 1999 Jesse H. Neal Award of the American Business Press. In ten years at eWEEK, Gibson has served eWEEK (formerly PC Week) as Executive Editor/eBiz Strategies, Deputy News Editor, Networking Editor, Assignment Editor and Department Editor. His Webcast program, 'Take Down,' appeared on He has appeared on many radio and television programs including TechTV, CNBC, PBS, WBZ-Boston, WEVD New York and New England Cable News. Gibson has appeared as keynoter at many conferences, including CAMP Expo, Society for Information Management, and the Technology Managers Forum. A 19-year veteran covering information technology, he was previously News Editor at Communications Week and was Software Editor and Systems Editor at Computerworld.

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