Energy generation has a tradition in Rheinfelden and its surroundings. After all, here in southern Baden, Europe’s first hydro-electric power plant went into operation in 1894. Twenty years later, neighboring Laufenberg followed with its Rheinkraftwerk. However, it took about 90 more years for the two companies to shift from simply sitting side by side to operating jointly. On January 1, 2003, the grid areas of both companies were combined to create Energiedienst AG. The commitment is clear: Energiedienst AG seeks to position itself as an active force in the liberalized marketplace. A primary objective of the company is to be a reliable partner for its customers in southern Baden. To that end, one of the first items on the agenda was to establish a joint IT infrastructure. The basis was provided by SAP R/3 and SAP for Utilities (formerly Industry Solution Utilities – IS/U). For one of the core processes, residential connection management, Energiedienst AG used an add-on for SAP for Utilities, “team utilities/HAV” from cronos Unternehmensberatung GmbH.
Central solution for decentralized organization
Through its grids, Energiedienst AG supplies some 200,000 end users with electrical energy. The extensive grid area is comprised of two parts with differencing histories; planners sought to combine both on the organizational level as well. In the old network of Rheinfelden AG, business areas were organized completely separately from the technical systems. The previous Laufenberg AG, on the other hand, was already working with an integrated system. Although it needed to be replaced, its basic organizational process served as the foundation for a reorganization of the joint IT environment. “We wanted one system for all areas,” says Bernfried Hug, manager of local grid construction at Energiedienst AG. With SAP R/3 and SAP Utilities, these requirements for business functions and billing could be fulfilled quickly.
In advance of the merger into Energiedienst AG, planners began to combine the IT systems of the predecessor companies on the basis of an SAP solution in 2000. It was centered around SAP for Utilities/CCS, which was intended to replace the legacy systems for special contract and rate customers. Project participants worked step by step in an attempt to keep transition problems to a minimum and ensure continuous operations. For this reason, the first step was to shift special contract customer billing to the new joint system.
“We consciously allowed ourselves time and practiced with the new system before we moved 70,000 residential customer contracts of Kraftwerk Laufenburg AG in 2001, and shifted the 150,000 contracts from Kraftübertragungswerke Rheinfelden AG into the system in 2002,” explains Jörg Süssle, who was responsible for the entire project. ”This enabled us to optimize the system based upon the experience we had gained. We were able to conduct the organizational transition smoothly as well, because we could use the Financial Accounting (FI) module in SAP R/3 to merge the predecessor companies’ customers easily; the customers had been set up in two separate company codes.” The changeover went nearly unnoticed by customers, with the exception of a supplement to their monthly bill informing each customer of the new contract account number that replaced their old customer number in the new system.
Residential connection management — a crucial point
Initially, only the solution for residential connection management remained unclear. Everything seemed to point toward the development of a custom solution. But eventually, Hug and his colleagues learned of the SAP add-on “team utilities/HAV” from cronos. “After a colleague gave us the tip, we took a look at the cronos demo utility on the Web. It seemed that the processes, as they had been set up in the example, would be very easily transferred to meet our requirements,” says Hug. His impression was confirmed even more when detailed information was obtained. Not only the functions, but also the close integration of house connection management with SAP software components, were primary deciding factors for introducing the add-on. “team utilities/HAV” is written completely in ABAP, which means there are neither interfaces nor any of the problems inherent in maintaining redundant data.
The general process of residential connection management was established in a similar fashion to those of other grid operators. After a customer or an electrician requests a house connection, technical aspects of the grid are checked. Following that, characteristics of the specific type of energy are assessed — such as “electricity,” “heat,” or “water” — and pricing is determined through the add-on. Based upon the assigned “city,” “street,” and “house or plot number,” “team utilities/HAV” determines the construction cost subsidy, depending on the geographic area — an extension developed by cronos specifically for Energiedienst AG. Based on this calculation, a customer receives a quote for connecting the house to the electricity grid. If the customer places the order, the quote is released and the residential connection established. After invoicing and receipt of payment, the meter is installed, and the customer’s facility put into operation.
Direct access to the SAP industry solution
Many of these work steps are performed decentrally by Energiedienst AG at support points or at regional centers by the local support director or construction manager. “For this reason, it was important to organize the process of residential connection management so that it remains transparent and easy-to-understand for all participants,” Hug states. That’s why the process was organized as a status process (workflow). Every status in the process is assigned to particular employee responsible for a given area. “The combination of cronos and SAP finally provides participants with access to all important information,” Hug continues. Permissions are differentiated according to each individual’s role. For example, through direct access to SAP for Utilities, the support director or construction manager in charge directly retrieves all the information of importance regarding the client, planner, customer, and site. Hug: “Double entries are a thing of the past.”
Another advantage: When customers now telephone the call center at Energiedienst, they receive speedy service. Where it would previously take several telephone conversations to determine the current status of an order, all that’s needed today is a glance at the system. This applies even to new connections for which a street name doesn’t even exist yet. By entering the plot number for a given municipality, an employee will recognize whether a process has already been entered for a given connection and who is handling it. “Even the entire history of a building with all additional information — such as whether at one point a continuous flow water heater or a sauna had been installed — can now be determined directly. Previously, this would have required extensive research in the files,” explains Hug, and adds in closing,”The more we work with this integrated, comprehensive solution, the more possibilities we discover for mapping our processes more effectively.”