Digitalisation: making the case for adoption

Posted on 14 Jun 2018 by The Manufacturer

It is one thing to advocate the power of digitalisation to transform a company’s fortunes: that tune can become a bit tired after a while. It is quite another to witness this power in action, in the form of real examples of success.

The cross-regional sales and delivery of Norm Larsen’s world-beating product ‘Water Displacement, iteration 40’ – WD-40 – has been revolutionised by Epicor’s ERP system.

Here we showcase a UK-based company that has benefitted brilliantly from upgrading the digital technologies it already had. As you will see, it is not just about incremental benefits – this is transformative. Peter Osborne reports.

WD-40: ERP lubricating the path to growth

We are all, I suspect, familiar with WD-40. Perhaps a tin of it sits on more garage shelves than any other product. The company was founded in 1953, and today encompasses a group of brands featuring a range of high performance products across maintenance, industrial cleaning, hobbyists and home.

Its signature lubricant product, WD40, which is now sold in more than 176 countries, has become synonymous with rust prevention across the world and was first formulated when chemist Norm Larsen was looking for a water displacement solution for NASA to protect the Atlas Space Missile from rust and corrosion.  It took 40 attempts to find a product that worked, hence the name, WD-40.

Through Norm Larsen’s genius, WD40 is now a global business. The UK headquarters in Milton Keynes covers Europe, Middle East, Africa, and India with a mixture of regionally-based offices and distribution partners. It is a £100m-plus business working across eight markets accounting for around 40% of the company’s global business.

The challenge

Success breeds expansion, which can create problems. Looking to grow into new markets across Europe, with new offices in Portugal and the Netherlands, WD-40 faced the complicated issue of migrating customer data within the system over to the new regions.

The European team soon realised that the sales and purchase software the business was relying on to track stock movement across regions was no longer agile enough to accommodate WD-40’s growth. In fact, it didn’t meet multi-currency or multi-lingual requirements, making it extremely hard for employees across Europe to use it effectively.

The company also had to ensure it was conducting business compliantly across regions, and the system was just not providing the flexibility to do so.

The solution

As the business continued to grow, more challenges emerged. With an increasing order flow, the team was keen to incorporate electronic data interchange (EDI) whereby customers could send orders electronically and the team at WD40 would then be able to see these orders in message format.  Again, the existing system was not geared towards processing this volume of orders electronically.

It was the double whammy of these two issues that led the company to source a new ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system that could not only accommodate the increasing volume of orders, but also be fit-for-purpose across its various European offices. The one they opted for was Epicor EPR, via Epicor partner Aspera Solutions.

This article first appeared in the June issue of The Manufacturer magazine. To subscribe, please click here.

What the new system achieved was central management of product data across several companies across all regions. This means payments can be centralised through one finance function in Milton Keynes, and reports can be compiled in multiple currencies, across multiple companies.

With the system’s demand processing module, WD-40 has now managed to automate much of its order processing. Working with partners such as TIE Kinetix, WD-40 receives electronic orders that automatically go into the system, then pass through various checks and controls before being automatically processed. The warehouse then ships the order and the electronic invoice is immediately issued to the customer.

Shipping orders and compiling invoice forms across offices were previously laborious manual tasks. Now the team has managed to streamline this process and work more efficiently, saving a considerable number of man-hours. This level of automation has proved pivotal in helping the business to grow without increasing its headcount.

“Electronic order processing was an especially important feature of the software,” says Jonathan McCoy, general manager-IT, at WD-40. “We had been selling to a third party, who would then sell onto DIY customers, but this was changed so that we could work directly with customers. Because we had Epicor ERP, we could introduce electronic ordering for a large volume of customers quickly. It became a much smoother process across Europe.”


Headquarters in San Diego, US, with UK offices in Milton Keynes. For further information, please click here.


Epicor ERP via partner Aspera Solutions