Al-Yaqout Group, founded in 1954 by Adbullah Omar Al-Yaqout, has grown to become one of Kuwait’s most dynamic companies. This dynamism has in recent years been reflected by the development of fresh business units within the group, and its portfolio is now comprised of an eclectic array of operations across myriad industries. A business environment as complex as this has necessitated the realisation of a digital infrastructure capable of managing it. Anis Mattur, Group Information Technology Director, joined the company in 2016 and has since enacted the extensive digital transformation required for both the expansion’s scope and for future growth of the business. “Al-Yaqout was expanding in diverse sectors, opening new businesses in the food and manufacturing sectors, retail, electronics, and ecommerce — all businesses that were not there before,” he explains. “The group started to have multiple colocations and stores which, without a digital system, created an environment that was impossible to manage. On a daily basis, stakeholders need to know sales information, raw materials consumption, which purchase orders (POs) to issue, their current cashflow, what issues they have in business, and stock management. Achieving all of this without a proper ERP system in place is very difficult.”
The right solution for these issues needed to be flexible, customisable, cost effective and robust: enter Microsoft Dynamics AX. Offering the much needed visibility for the aforementioned factors, the ERP system affords Al-Yaqout with a powerful reporting tool that encompasses its group-wide operations. Armed with up-to-date information on cashflow, stock levels, raw materials, POs, sales performance and much more, business decisions can be made swiftly and with the weight of information behind them. In order to maximise Dynamic AX’s efficacy across its various business units, extensive functional requirement documents were drawn up for each entity detailing KPIs, internal workflows and levels of automation. “We took these, we studied them, and we enhanced the workflows according to the ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) and ISO standards,” says Mattur. “Through this, we created the final functional requirement document for each business and implemented the system accordingly. Under the centralised AX server, we have 10 subsidiaries. Each of them has its own workflows, and so we implemented different modules for each of them.”
To facilitate the smooth integration of Dynamics AX into Al-Yaqout’s group-wide operations, the company enlisted consultancy firm Mazaya to make the necessary configurations. Mazaya has been crucial to the ERP solution’s implementation, Mattur explains. “As a Microsoft partner, Mazaya delivered the licences for us - they sat with us, evaluated the number of licences needed, the number of users, the types of users, and the relevant modules that would need to be activated for each company in the group,” he says. Along with guiding Al-Yaqout through the state of each sector and their standard practices, the partnership has also been crucial for bridging the gaps in Al-Yaqout’s digital capabilities. “Mazaya helps us to identify third-party solutions needed for integration into Dynamics AX in order to fulfil the full business cycle,” says Mattur. “It has also provided us with a mobile IT custom portal that handles deliveries, orders and transfer orders between branches and the main warehouse, creating a workflow document with email notifications.” The firm also developed a customised point of sale (POS) system for Al-Yaqout with the help of the internal development team, infusing it with a knowledge base for sales representatives to refer to during customer interactions. “It gives them a full insight for each item,” explains Mattur, “along with differences between items A and B such as price and specification, and images of each product.” The POS has a mobile app function that provides sales people with the opportunity to show customers such information directly from tablets and smartphones, as well as filling a virtual basket to show customers the value of their transactions before they reach the cashier. “This has made the customer journey easy, fast and flexible,” enthuses Mattur. Mazaya’s role extends to integrating MenaITech HR functionality into Dynamics AX, enabling it to serve Kuwait’s particular payroll regulations. Where Dynamics AX comes with US and Canadian payroll capabilities, Kuwaiti workers do not pay tax on their earnings and this necessitates a solution that can manage the intricacies of Kuwait’s tax system. MenaITech provides that very solution, and its integration also affords employees a portal through which they can request leave and salary slips along with other HR functions.
In addition to the aforementioned boons, Dynamics AX also provides Al-Yaqout with a strong foundation for paperless operations. Microsoft’s collaborative document sharing platform SharePoint, along with intra-company communication software Teams, the ubiquitous software suite Office 365 and cloud-enabled OneDrive, each compliment the new ERP system with an array of technologies that relegate paper to Al-Yaqout’s history. “There is now no need to have hard copies stored at your desk - everything is scanned and stored on Office 365 OneDrive,” says Mattur. “The result is an almost 90% reduction in hard copies.” To transfer existing documents to the new system, the document scanning element has been handled by OpenText, a software solution that leverages AI and analytics to read paper copies and automatically index them based on their content.
Mattur’s ambitions for automation at Al-Yaqout do not end there, however. Upon his arrival at the company, Al-Yaqout had implemented next to no automation technology, offering a blank canvas for Mattur to deploy his vision for a fully automated system capable of managing end-to-end business cycles. “The system needed to implement workflows, plays and approvals, because we have policies and procedures here and a centralised top management,” he says. “Anything that happens in any of our subsidiaries has to be approved, and for that they must go through an approval cycle to top management.” With that in mind, Al-Yaqout implemented the automation system through the Dynamics AX ERP to leverage its approval system-ready workflow capabilities. “The strategy includes the implementation of a warehouse management system (WMS) module for Dynamics AX to handle warehouse operations, stock management, booking deliveries in and returning products - all in-and-out transactions in our warehouses and inventories,” elaborates Mattur. Along with that, cashflow processes have also been automated, delivering full transparency and control over every business cycle within the group. “The systems have played a major role in cutting costs and highlighting weaknesses in the system where returns on investment are low,” says Mattur, noting that this allows for strategic changes to maximise the efficacy of investments and processes.
The depth of the digital transformation at Al-Yaqout is astounding. On top of the factors already mentioned, an order fulfilment system has been integrated within Dynamics AX that provides customers with flexibility, visibility and control over various elements of delivery processes, as well as the ability to raise disputes through the same platform. Mattur is proud to say that the multifarious qualities of Dynamics AX have delivered considerable returns, with the order fulfilment system alone returning a sales increase of 25% and a leap in customer satisfaction of 50%. In the coming months and years, Mattur is keen for this radical and powerful transformation strategy to continue to reap dividends. “Business transformation is number one,” he concludes, “this is my belief. If you do not move towards technology-driven operations, you’ll be out of the market soon.”