Case Study: A magic carpet ride across the globe

19 Jul 2005

SMEs today are under increasing pressure to become globalised. To find a company that has succeeded in this objective from humble origins, you need look no further than Portadown-based Ulster Carpets, a family business founded by George Walter Wilson in 1938. The company is the embodiment of a traditional business that has embraced technology to become a fully globalised entity and its carpets feature in some of the world’s most opaque cruise liners, some of the most lavish hotels in North and South America and some of the top casinos in Las Vegas. For example, its carpets featured in most of the scenes in Ocean’s Eleven.

From humble origins, Ulster Carpets has grown to employ 550 people and now has five production facilities and numerous offices across the globe. Production facilities are located in Northern Ireland, Australia, Denmark and Yorkshire. As a result of acquisitions, Ulster Carpets now owns a large yarn-spinning facility called Riverstone Spinning in Yorkshire, as well as Tascot Templeton Carpets Pty in Melbourne and Dan-Floor A/S in Denmark. Design studios are located in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York, Dallas, Atlanta, Portadown, Kidderminster, London, Sydney and Melbourne. Sales offices are located in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Dallas, New York, Atlanta, Portadown, London, Paris, Sydney and Melbourne.

In recent months, the company, in order to meet high-global demand, joined forces with Cable & Wireless (C&W) to roll out a range of voice and internet protocol (IP) data services to boost productivity and enhance customer service internationally. The IP virtual private network with quality of service (IP-VPN QoS) will connect nine global sites across the carpet manufacturer’s international business. This will ensure the secure and efficient delivery of a business-critical JD Edwards enterprise resource planning (ERP) system.

Simultaneously, Ulster Carpets has taken the decision to move its voice services to C&W Wireless Business Talk 4000 to reduce its local, national, international and mobile call spend, as well as consolidate its communications services with a single provider.

Noreen O’Hare, country director of Ireland for C&W, says: “Ulster Carpets is a forward-thinking, technologically advanced international business. It is living proof that our step-by-step approach to convergence works and once again we have proven that C&W has the capability to support indigenous industries as they reach out and grow in international markets. Ulster Carpets embodies this spirit. Our network and solutions are helping it to create a dynamic IT foundation that streamlines business processes, removes risk and increases commercial benefit.”

According to Julie Magennis, technical IT manager at Ulster Carpets, the migration to the IP-VPN network will provide greater business flexibility, as it will carry voice, data and video applications. The resultant business benefits for Ulster Carpets include enhanced operational and business performance. This single network reduces the complexity of managing multiple IT and communications networks. It comes with service level commitments and will enable cost reductions throughout its computing and communications infrastructure.

Magennis explains: “We previously used frame-relay technology to transfer data but found that it was proving to be expensive compared with newer and more efficient technologies available today. We decided to move with the times and reduce costs. Also, we use a JD Edwards ERP system for everything from processing sales order to accounts and co-ordinating manufacturing.

“The new IP-VPN technology allows us to prioritise traffic, especially since we have so many design offices we need to manage a lot of files,” he continues. “With the old frame-relay system there was always a danger we could lose data, with the IP-VPN system we never lose anything.”

Pictured were (from left): Julie Magennis, technical IT manager of Ulster Carpets; David Acheson, finance director of Ulster Carpets; and Stephen Colgan, account manager, Cable & Wireless Northern Ireland

By John Kennedy