Rexel Inc., Dallas, is making a move to convert its entire chain of distribution operations to the Eclipse enterprise resource planning (ERP) software system. The dollar amounts weren't disclosed but Activant Solutions Inc. says it's by far the largest single deal the company has ever done.

As Rexel has grown primarily by acquisition to become one of the largest electrical distribution chains in the United States, it has taken on just about every conceivable flavor of software system. The company chose to standardize its locations on a single system for greater efficiencies. One of its larger acquisitions was already running Eclipse, which gave Rexel an opportunity to examine the system in depth.

“Activant clearly has invested in wholesale distribution, and more specifically electrical distribution,” said Jeremy de Brabant, CEO of Rexel Inc. “We understand that a significant number of the top electrical distributors run an Activant solution and that depth of electrical industry experience is what we need in an ERP solution.”

The implementation process is beginning in Rexel's headquarters with its back-office operations, and then will be rolled out in phases to the company's branches. The first set of 11 branches in Rexel's NorthEast region will cut over to Eclipse in early 2010, said Kimberly Meiser, corporate communications manager for Activant. The full implementation is expected to be finished in two to three years, said Rexel's de Brabant.

Although the companies declined to place a price tag on their deal, the agreement marks the largest single order Activant has ever handled, said Meiser. “This is the biggest deal to date for our wholesale distribution group,” she said.

Given Rexel's size, it may indeed be among the larger ERP system orders ever in the wholesale distribution sector. Rexel operates 250 locations turning approximately $3 billion (2008). It's a division of International Electric Supply Corp. (IESC), Dallas, the largest distributor of electrical products in the United States, with 635 locations and almost $6.5 billion in sales. The deal with Activant applies only to Rexel's U.S. locations — sister company Gexpro will continue with its homegrown system, said de Brabant.