The German office supplies market is shrinking, making it highly competitive. Innovative products and rapid delivery times are vital: “The key to our business is fast deliveries. Orders placed by noon reach the customer the next day,” says Jürgen Schulte, head of IT (ITC/ORG) at Durable.
Thanks to very good sales and supply logistics, the world’s leading manufacturer of office organization and presentation materials has managed to grow at a steady pace. Much of this success is due to Durable’s efficient IT and business organization.
The challenge of internationalization
In the 1990s, Durable – a family business headquartered in Iserlohn, Germany – had an IT-based financial accounting solution that was able to keep pace with the company’s constant growth. However, the solution eventually reached its limits, both geographically and functionally. “Our company has an increasingly international focus, which extends to distant markets such as Russia, Asia, and Australia. This called for a modern and, more importantly, global and future-proof ERP solution that provided better support for all our business processes. It also needed to be flexible and open enough to cope with our complex warehouse logistics,” explains Schulte.
SAP in three steps
Durable decided on an integrated SAP solution, which it implemented with help from SAP subsidiary Steeb Anwendungssysteme. Steeb was supported by its partner Gambit Consulting. The implementation project comprised three phases and lasted from early 2005 to the middle of 2007. The project’s watchword was “first implement the standards.”
1. Analysis and planning
In the first planning phase, which took three months, Durable drew up the overall concept. The main task was to carefully analyze the business processes to be supported by the SAP software. “Although we had many standard processes, Durable has its own particular processes just like any other company – for example, pricing in sales or our flexible warehouse management. We had to adapt the software to these processes at a later stage,” says Schulte.
2. Implementation of the standards
Since Durable wanted to install all of the common components first, customizing of the SAP ERP basis components took place in the second phase: These included financial accounting (FI), controlling (CO), materials management (MM), and production planning and control (PP), as well as interfaces to the legacy warehouse and sales systems. Initially, these areas were only connected up to the SAP application because Durable wanted to spend a year familiarizing itself with the new software. This phase took nine months.
3. Adaptation and programming
The third and final phase kicked off in 2006 and finished on May 1, 2007. It involved adapting, programming, and finally going live with the SAP ERP components for sales and warehouse management. However, integrating the mobile data entry (MDE) devices for business-critical delivery processes played the most important role.
Although small and midsize enterprises rarely use SAP-based mobile transactions for warehouse management, Durable decided to use SAP software in this area too, although this required a number of custom developments. These were done in a separate namespace so that Durable’s installation is compatible with future releases of the SAP software.
The team from Steeb, Gambit, and Durable tested the performance of the new system extensively to ensure that customers were still able to receive their deliveries quickly. On several weekends, the team simulated a full order load for one day, from goods receipt to picking and packing.
One System, Many Benefits
By combining SAP standard and customer developments, Durable was able to optimize all of its supply logistics processes and maintain high delivery service levels for its customers. Here are the benefits at a glance:
- Integration of all processes in one system in which data is quick and easy to find
- Better information about which products are required when and how quickly at which locations
- Use of the SAP software to integrate new subsidiaries and warehouses in the system at short notice
- Rapid response to customer requests
- Flexible intervention in process chains
- Improved user-friendliness due to the migration from an ASCII interface to a modern graphical user interface
“Thanks to more integrated and therefore better business processes, our same team now generates significantly more revenue,” says Schulte.
Durable is satisfied and plans to upgrade to the new SAP ERP release and integrate further functions. To do so, it intends to implement the SAP NetWeaver Business Intelligence component and demand planning functions from the SAP Supply Chain Management application. Other plans include a customer relationship management solution and a portal to link all these solutions together. In logistics, Durable is planning projects using radio frequency identification and pick-by-voice technology.