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Military manufacturer chooses Microsoft Dynamics over SAP

BlackHawk Products Group saw mySAP All-in-One as too unwieldy, needing third party applications to fill gaps.

For executives at Norfolk, Va.-based BlackHawk Products Group, choosing a complete ERP system to run its manufacturing and distribution operations came down to simplicity and integration.

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The manufacturer and distributor of knives, hydration systems and assault gear for military and law enforcement agencies, was outgrowing its current manufacturing software, Exact Software's Macola Progression applications. BlackHawk chose Microsoft Dynamics AX over SAP and Oracle because it integrated with all the company business processes without needing third-party software, said Mike Noell, CEO of BlackHawk.

"It felt like there were so many different third-party plug-ins with SAP," Noell said. "We were nervous that there would be a lot of crisscross finger pointing between vendors."

Microsoft has been retooling Dynamics AX (Axapta), since it acquired it from Navision in 2002. Since the merger, Microsoft has increased development on the Dynamics AX graphical user interface, making it more Microsoft Office-like, as well as bolstering its capabilities to compete against SAP and Oracle.

"AX is scaled up to target a lot larger customer and we are spanning services-based businesses and, primarily, the complex manufacturing and distribution side of the market," said Dave Coulombe, general manager of the Fargo Microsoft ERP Product Group.

Some midsized businesses are looking at Dynamics AX for their business units or subsidiaries as the software's integration with Microsoft SharePoint server allows structured and unstructured data to move between Dynamics and third-party applications, such as SAP or Oracle. Microsoft has also adjusted its SharePoint server certification to bolster support for customers, Coulombe said.

With the addition of Dynamics AX, BlackHawk will be in a complete Microsoft environment, using SQL Server database management system and a Microsoft SharePoint server to communicate with its various manufacturing and distribution facilities.

Noell said Blackhawk employees were dealing with software that couldn't keep up with the company's growth. Custom modifications also made the software difficult to upgrade, he said.

Currently the company is loading its data into a Dynamics AX test environment and it plans to go into full production in 2007. Once complete, any modifications or additional third-party applications will be minor, Noell said.

"We chose Dynamics because we wanted to get the implementation done once and have it grow with us," Noell said. "We feel like we're going to be with Dynamics for the long haul."

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