Inalfa: Strengthening product design capabilities with IBM and Infor

Published on 27-Sep-2007

Validated on 01 Mar 2013


Fabrication & Assembly

Deployment country:

Enterprise Resource Planning

IBM Business Partner:


After successfully manufacturing heaters during the next several decades, the company shifted creatively to producing formed metal parts for a variety of customers. Inalfa now serves the automotive industry as one of the world’s leading providers of innovative vehicle roof systems and sunroofs, with sales of more than US$400 million in 2005 and nearly 1,500 employees worldwide.

Business need:
Roll out a product lifecycle management (PLM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution based on a new hardware platform.

IBM System p,™ Infor® ERP and Infor PLM. The IBM System p servers met the company’s need for a robust, cost-effective, high-performing hardware platform that could provide scalability for both current and future applications.

Streamlined time-to-market and product-design processes; offered ability to leverage metrics to ensure and track competitive quoting capabilities; facilitated decision-making capabilities; enhanced customer responsive-ness and improved efficiencies.

Case Study

Bolstering product design and development

In 2003, Inalfa decided to utilize Infor ERP integrated engineering and Infor PLM solution sets throughout the company. The strategy was to design the system first for its European data center in Venray, the Netherlands; next for its Auburn Hills, Michigan-based North American location; and eventually expand into Asia.

Inalfa provides its customers with a multitude of engineering capabilities, from design to integration of roof systems into automobiles. As a result, product development features in Infor PLM sparked the company’s interest.

Arobust, high-performing hardware solution
Says Bill Rice, Director of IT, Inalfa Roof Systems, “When we looked around at hardware that would offer us a reasonable solution set to meet our needs for robustness, that’s when we really focused on an IBM hardware platform. We were also highly familiar with the IBM System i™ having had good experiences using IBM AS/400® systems and other IBM hardware within our CAD stations.”

Since remote facilities within Inalfa would be accessing the system, the company needed to determine how much performance degradation and communication lag time it could with­stand. Says Rice, “When we realized what the System p had to offer and learned about the benefits of IBM POWERTM processors, we were sold. We also considered the potential benefits such as optimized database performance of having the same manufacturer for both the disk storage and servers.”

Inalfa then decided to bring in IBM Premier Business Partner Sirius Computer Solutions to help design, configure and implement an IBM solu­tion to support the applications and meet its data recovery requirements. The largest reseller of IBM systems, Sirius has extensive experience designing IT infrastructure solutions for Infor applications that incorporate IBM servers, storage and software.

Monitoring the European implementation
The Auburn Hills site began to monitor the progress of the project rollout in Europe, eventually taking over implementing the solution, and expanding the kernel of the project to a worldwide reach. As the Netherlands based imple­mentation was wrapping up its final processes, the Auburn Hills facility then began its initial hardware rollout in mid 2005. “We took approximately one year to thoroughly plan and observe what Venray was doing,” says Rice. “Since we weren’t directly involved, we had the luxury of being able to learn from the challenges that they were experiencing.”

Leveraging logical partitioning capabilities of the System p
Early on, the company tapped Sirius as a sounding board for best prac­tices, trends and potential pitfalls. “We didn’t want to get into something where right off the bat we were under­sized, and we didn’t want to pay for technology that we weren’t going to use,” explains Rice. “We were trying to position our solution so that it met the requirements of our user com­munity while being cost effective.” Accordingly, Inalfa took full advantage of the logical partitioning (LPAR) capability within the System p.

Sirius and Inalfa worked together to configure several System p sys­tems with LPAR. As a result, Inalfa is tapping into the systems’ dynamic resource allocation and virtualization features. Within one p570 system, the company is using several CPUs for production, one for testing and devel­opment, and one for backup Says Rice, “The dynamic allocation features enable us to bring in more horsepower if we need it, and the driv­ers are user friendly. The System p hosts not only the Infor ERP applica­tions, but also shop floor and electronic data interchange (EDI) applications.” Rather than undertaking a full system-to-system disaster recovery solution, Inalfa considered what it had to accomplish for its key business processes including shipping prod­ucts, responding to customer require­ments, along with maintaining EDI connectivity with automotive customers. Says Rice, “We needed to design the robustness of the p550, located at a remote facility, to be able to roll over in 15 minutes.”

IBM, Infor and Sirius: Serving Inalfa’s needs
Speaking about the relationship between IBM and Infor, Rice notes that it was “always seamless.” “They were both always upfront when dis­cussing technology and the best solution for our needs,” he says. “They always served our best interests.” Rice also comments about IBM Business Partner Sirius: “Whenever we had a question, they didn’t even hesitate to bring in their specialists to work through solutions. We looked very intensely at the disaster recovery solution, best practices and available products from both IBM and others.”

Keeping a finger on the automotive pulse
The IBM and Infor solution has equipped Inalfa with the ability to:
• Streamline processes involved in moving from design to market
• Design products faster and more reliably
• Respond quickly to changing market conditions
• Leverage metrics to ensure and track competitive quoting capabilities
• Facilitate decision making by pro­viding management with accurate, timely information
• Enhance customer responsiveness
• Reduce operational costs and improve efficiency
• Adopt best practices
Says Rice, “We’ve had a very positive response from the staff and consultants involved with the implementation. They’ve commented that there’s a ‘night and day difference’ with our system configuration versus what they’re used to working with.”

About Sirius
Sirius helps customers design, implement and maintain their IT infrastructure with best-of-breed technology solutions. As a national IBM Premier Business Partner, Sirius designs IT infrastructure solutions for Infor applications that incorporate IBM servers, storage, software, enterprise printers, point-of-sale systems, professional ser­vices and financing. For additional information, visit:

Infor delivers fully integrated enterprise solutions as well as best-in-class standalone products that address the essential challenges its customers face in areas such as enterprise resource planning, supply chain planning and execution, customer and supplier relationship management, asset management, product lifecycle management, financial management, performance management and business intelligence. With more than 8,100 employees and offices in 100 countries, Infor provides enterprise solutions to more than 70,000 customers. For additional information, visit:

Upgrading its server technology to IBM System p servers has enabled Inalfa to better compete within the automotive industry. “We have a very proactive executive team that recognizes the need for technology for its competitive edge,” notes Rice. “We’ve done a remarkable job of maintaining focus of both busi­ness parameters and implementation needs. The solution is helping us keep our finger on the pulse of our industry.”

Looking to the future
The company is seeking to further expand its solution set to meet the needs of a third data center within the next few years. To that end, Rice notes that Inalfa will be keeping in touch with IBM and Sirius for technology advances. “Since technology changes so quickly, several years from now we obviously won’t be deploying the exact footprint as this implementation. Working with IBM, I can feel assured that we’re using the best possible hardware.” When the company initially engaged a solution from both IBM and Infor, it was looking at which competencies the two companies could offer for future implementation requirements. “This is not the last stop,” explains Rice. “We’re rolling this out across the board globally, and IBM and Infor can help us overcome many potential barriers. It’s a very positive relationship.”

Legal Information

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2007 IBM CorporationNew Orchard RoadArmonk, NY 10504U.S.A. Produced in the United States of America4-07All Rights Reserved IBM, the IBM logo,, AS/400, POWER, System i and System p are trademarks or registered trademarks of International Business Machines Corporation in the United States, other countries, or both. Other company, product or service names may be trademarks or service marks of others Many factors contributed to the results and benefits achieved by the IBM customer described in this document. IBM does not guarantee comparable results. References in this publication to IBM products and services do not imply that IBM intends to make them available in all countries in which IBM operates.