U.S. Mint changes old software for new Coins

The U.S. Mint last week unveiled an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system that replaces three antiquated financial management and order tracking systems with a complete suite of products from PeopleSoft Inc.

Mint director Philip Diehl said the Consolidated Information System (Coins), which went into production last month, provides the Mint with up-to-date information about its costs as well as details about customer purchases - details that were difficult, if not impossible, to pull from the legacy systems. Coins includes applications for financial management, accounting, billing, production planning, inventory, purchasing and order management.

The Mint manufactures all U.S. coins used as currency but made about half its sales last year from commemorative coins and other products for collectors. The agency is supposed to cover its costs through sales.

"The lack of reliable access to even rearview-mirror information has been one of my biggest frustrations in the five and a half years I've been at the U.S. Mint," Diehl said in an interview last Monday, prior to the official Coins ribbon-cutting set for later in the week.

For example, he said, the agency has had to estimate how much to charge for its products because there was "very little hard information about what the real cost factors were" or how much competitors in the collectible business were charging.

Diehl said he thinks Coins will enable the Mint to improve its customer service and make more "fact-based" management decisions. "Our people are not prepared to take full advantage [of Coins]. We'll have to invest in training to make them think more like business people."

The Mint is the only agency to purchase the complete set of PeopleSoft applications, said Jon Klem, vice president and general manager of the company's federal business unit. "It is the first full-scale PeopleSoft Federal ERP system in production, and [the Mint is the] first federal agency to really leverage the benefit of [commercial off-the-shelf technology] in an ERP environment," he said.

Jack Maynard, senior analyst with Aberdeen Group, Boston, said complete ERP systems are most appropriate for manufacturing operations, and "there aren't that many other government organizations that require all of those [capabilities]."

The system is being used by 1,200 employees at six locations and is expected to cost $40 million over its 10-year life cycle. Among the competitors for the project were SAP America Inc. and Oracle Corp.

Diehl said the agency scrambled to install Coins in less than a year in order to meet Office of Management and Budget deadlines for making its mission-critical applications Year 2000-compliant. "It made a lot more sense for us to junk our legacy systems, even though it was going to cost quite a bit more money and take a Herculean effort to meet the OMB time line," he said.

Maynard said another advantage PeopleSoft had was that its human resources planning application has modules geared toward managing federal employees. The Treasury Department is in the process of deploying PeopleSoft as its standard human resources management system, and Klem said the Mint will install that as well.

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