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Author's profile photo Richard Howells

Supply Chain at SAPPHIRENOW – How Conair optimizes outsourced manufacturing with SAP Supply Network Collaboration


Today I had the pleasure of introducing and listening to Jon Harding, the Global CIO of Conair and Rick Knapp, Business Systems Manager, talk about how Conair have optimized their outsourced manufacturing processes by leveraging SAP Supply Network Collaboration (SAP SNC).

If you are not aware, Conair is a global consumer goods manufacturer and distributor of brands such as Cuisinart, BaBliss, Scunci, and Conair. They are a privately owned US corporation who has been in existence for almost 50 years. They have innovation centers in the US, China and Europe and have about 90% of their manufacturing in China.

SAP Footprint at Conair

Conair’s SAP footprint includes a single instance of SAP ERP & BW, and deployment of SAP APO/SCM worldwide for demand planning, SAP CRM in their consumer call centers in North America and Mobile Sales in Europe. The Scunci division also leverages SAP PPM to track new product development in the fast moving consumer goods space. In April, Conair went through a successful upgrade to SAP ECC 6.

However, this presentation was predominantly about the use of SAP SNC to integrate their third-party vendors’ in China and how Conair have improved the visibility into the manufacturing stage of their Supply Chain.

Jon discussed the truly global nature of the Conair supply chain with DC’s in the US, Costa Rico, Brazil, UK, Dubai and Australia and how they are all sourced from contract manufacturers in China. He went on to describe the supply chain processes required to handle this challenge.

Deployment of SNC in China

Conair’s SNC journey started in 2008 when they realized that the original “legacy” system developed by Conair China to track manufacturing vendor progress was failing. It was decided to replace the legacy system with state-of-the-art functionality from SAP using Work Order Collaboration within SNC. The deployment occurred in 2009 with initial vendor pilots at end of year using version 5.1. After some initial challenges, some serious system speed issues were solved by upgrading to new SNC version 7 in Q1 of 2010.

Since rolled SNC out to track manufacturing by Chinese vendors for all Conair business units worldwide – now have 300 users with 60 vendors accessing directly.


  • Today, Conair China teams review purchase orders from business units around world and collaborate with vendors to schedule production of those goods.
  • Vendor manufacturing progress is recorded daily in SNC and visible worldwide.
  • Conair China QC personnel now use SNC to schedule QC visits to vendor factories and record pass/fail results.
  • Conair China Logistics team uses SNC to schedule finished goods pick-up from factories and track in-transit to Ports
  • Freight Forwarders confirm receipt of finished goods and departure on ship via EDI feed to SNC


Rick highlighted several take-aways that I believe are valuable lessons learned from the project:

  • Critical Success Factor was train-the-trainer approach to vendor rollout using local Chinese speaking IT staff
  • SNC provides quicker access to purchase orders from Buyer to Merchandiser with less manual entry.
  • Similar look and feel of screens to legacy system customized SNC => Less training and less change management issues with vendors


Some of the business benefits identified to date include:

  • Enhanced QC data recording with capable solution for current custom requirements
  • SNC provides quicker access to purchase orders from Buyer to Merchandiser with less manual entry.
  • Enhanced shipping processes through EDI.
  • Global database minimizes dual data entry and errors.

Next Steps

Conair still have more improvements identified. Next they are looking to focus on the quality control data recording to provide one source for compliance reporting. They also want to enhance shipping processes to enable advanced booking of containers. Also, there are still more vendors to incorporate as part of the continued rollout. They are also looking to enable a link to Predictive Inventory Planning System that will be used to track the impact of Supply Chain delays on inventory availability for Customer Orders.

On behalf of the attendees, I would like to thank Jon and Rick for a great session.

You can follow me on twitter @howellsrichard

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