Pirtek: A cloud combo to combat the franchise modelRapid growth and international expansion into the US and South Africa meant the Australia’s Pirtek needed expert advice and flexible technology solutions to succeed.
Pirtek is the world’s leading supplier of premium fluid transfer solutions, servicing diverse industries including automotive, engineering, construction, distribution, mining, manufacturing, oil and gas and agriculture. A home-grown, Australian success story, Pirtek was established in 1980. Since then, it has grown its international status, supplying more than 23 countries, with 330 plus centres and over 1,500 mobile service units.
Serving approximately 120,000 customers globally, Pirtek is one of few industrial franchises in the world.
- Providing an infrastructure platform to support growth and international expansion
- Consolidated managed services providing consistency
- Achieving operational efficiency in a multi-cloud, multi-country environment
- Architecture optimising application requirements for a complex franchise business
- Allowing in-house IT team to focus on new applications and business improvements
Rapid international expansion causing complex challenges
The business has expanded internationally by way of master franchise agreements in each country.
Recently, Pirtek bought back the master franchise in the USA, resulting in significant growth in 2020 – in fact, Pirtek was the third fastest-growing franchise per unit percentage compared to every other existing franchisor across all industries in the annual Franchise Times Top 200+ listing.
With Pirtek assuming direct responsibility for the US master franchise, the company needed to roll out its core ERP systems environment to its US franchisees. However, due to infrastructure links Pirtek couldn’t run its US operations from its existing Australian private cloud environment.
Running a franchise model has very different IT requirements to a branch-based business operation, explained Gary Young, Pirtek Australia’s CIO.
“In our Australian franchise, we’ve got over 100 Owner / Mangers, who have all invested their time and money into getting a business going but individually are interested primarily in their own solution and their own operations. And the users are very different in their skill sets, and in their level of requirements. With franchising, we have one-man bands who operate out of their home, right up to people that might have 10 or 15 trucks on the road and are turning over significant dollars in a month. They’re going to have significantly different requirements from a system that we’re trying to make one size fits all.”
Pirtek also has to operate and maintain individual databases (Microsoft SQL) for its franchisees. Each franchisee is its own legal entity that needs to comply to various corporate and taxation laws, and also might be acquired by another business, making a logical separation of databases an essential function for Pirtek.
This made for a complex challenge when Pirtek assessed how it was going to deploy its ERP solution for the US, satisfying data sovereignty laws, maintaining consistency with the architecture and functionality of its Australian ERP environment and also addressing the scalability needed to meet the expected business growth in North America.
A flexible Azure solution with expert advice on hand
Pirtek is running a fully integrated Infor SyteLine ERP solution in Australia, which is hosted on Interactive’s private cloud infrastructure.
Interactive had originally been Pirtek’s maintenance services provider for its on-premises infrastructure at head office in Kings Park, Sydney. When the company decided in 2013 to implement a new ERP solution – Infor SyteLine – to assist with international expansion, Pirtek initially worked with Interactive to establish a new managed hosted solution in an Equinix data centre before migrating across to Interactive’s Private Cloud infrastructure, which has supported the continued growth and scale of the Pirtek business. Over time, Pirtek has moved other applications and services into Interactive’s private cloud, including its HCL Domino mail and public-facing web servers.
- Gary Young, Australian CIO at Pirtek
With the requirement to replicate the ERP solution in the US on data centre infrastructure physically located there, a Microsoft Azure public cloud platform was decided as the best option. That Azure environment supports the same application stack that Pirtek is running on Interactive’s Private Cloud in Australia, and Interactive had the expertise and knowledge of Azure and also Pirtek’s application environment to configure the public cloud platform and complete the migration of the US instance. That included working with the unique requirements of Pirtek’s separate SQL instances, which were run up on Azure’s High Availability clustering, which provided the closest level of performance and responsiveness to the dedicated SQL servers Pirtek is running on Interactive’s Private Cloud.
Interactive is now managing both the Australian Private Cloud and the US Azure platforms for Pirtek.
A partnership and platform with performance at the helm
Pirtek now has the scalable, compliant platform it needs to further its growth in the US and into Canada.
With Interactive managing both the Australian and the US environments, it’s providing Pirtek’s team with the consistency needed in terms of points of contact, familiarity and knowledge of the application environment, and also ongoing reporting on both environments. That support from Interactive is allowing Pirtek’s IT team to effectively manage both ERP solutions from Australia.
“We created connectivity between Interactive’s data centre and Azure in the US so that we could seamlessly build things from here. It works and it’s growing with us now. So, it was a good call that we sized Azure correctly in the first place and once we got it up and running, it’s just continued to operate,” said Young.
With Interactive maintaining both environments, Pirtek’s team is also able to focus on managing the expectations of its users, including negotiating upgrade windows with its franchisees in what is now effectively a 24x7 operation.
“We don’t have to have any concerns about the infrastructure and the connectivity; we rely on Interactive to do that for us, as well as doing the data backups and any additions that we need, like spinning up a new server or changing a networking rule. That lets us concentrate on software development,” said Young.
One of the innovations this has enabled Pirtek to rollout a mobile version of their application, allowing users to access Pirtek’s systems via a tablet to complete real-time digital transactions rather than having to write our paper dockets. That’s also included the development of sales dashboards and CRM systems that are also accessible via mobile devices.
Also, by consolidating its applications into the one cloud environment, Pirtek has benefited from a significant improvement in speed and performance, which has improved the user experience for its franchisees.
“One of the things with Pirtek is that while we grew from a small family operation, we still have this private ownership and for us to be able to work with somebody, we actually have to be able to associate with them and feel that we are getting looked after. So, that’s the same thing with the Interactive environment; they know our business, we can talk to them and we’re not just a customer or number. The working relationship we have with Interactive has been good, and that’s what’s allowed us to continue to utilise them going forward,” concluded Young.
Since then, Pirtek has expanded into South Africa, reusing the Microsoft Azure public cloud solution utilised for the US, with only minor alterations. Because of the upfront, strategic problem solving with Interactive, the same public cloud solution was able to be deployed in just five weeks.