People have been aware of the benefits of using steel as a material as far back as the 15th century B.C. Today, steel is the most important and most often used high-tech material. While extremely robust and stable, it is at the same time elastic and flexible — and can thus be adapted to any given requirement. Salzgitter Gruppe, one of Europe’s leading steel technology groups, sought this degree of flexibility in its IT systems as well. “We want to use a sales platform to integrate our customers and partners better, and to be able to offer them a variety of services. The main objective of the project was to optimize our sales-oriented processes,” explains Günter König, chief information officer of Salzgitter AG.
Combining legacy systems and cutting-edge SAP Technology
Until now, collaboration between business partners often occurred manually, making duplicate work unavoidable. For this reason, planners aimed at integrating Web-based applications into the IT systems without phasing out existing applications, which include SAP R/2 as well as SAP R/3 solutions. “In this regard, the new SAP integration and application platform was a perfect fit for us: With SAP NetWeaver, we’re using the latest technology on a single platform, and are even able to connect our back-end systems to it,” König emphasizes. “On the basis of this architecture, we can accelerate processes and improve data quality and customer service, resulting in significant competitive advantages,” König confirms. “For us, SAP NetWeaver is the strategic application platform for new business processes.” The platform comprises the technological foundation of a customer information, dialog, and document management system — the Salzgitter eService platform — that serves to optimize the flow of information between employees, customers, and service providers of Salzgitter Gruppe.
Since data is stored not only in the back end, Salzgitter customers can now accomplish many tasks directly, without having to query the supplier. In addition to accessing information about the current status of an order or production, customers can also influence current orders. “And on our side, we’re able to confirm orders more quickly, respond to customers’ changes more easily, and flexibly adapt our production planning as needed,” says König.
The technological basis of the Salzgitter Gruppe eService platform is comprised of various components of SAP NetWeaver: SAP Enterprise Portal (SAP EP), SAP Exchange Infrastructure (SAP XI) and SAP Business Information Warehouse (SAP BW). SAP EP provides users with browser-based, uniform access even in heterogeneous system environments. SAP XI provides a homogeneous infrastructure that ensures message-based, seamless integration of any applications and third-party systems. Business processes can be linked together across internal and external system boundaries while avoiding media breaks. For example, customers can use SAP BW to check the status of their open orders.
Efficient implementation with SAP Consulting
Consulting partners during the company-wide introduction of the SAP NetWeaver-based Salzgitter Gruppe eService platform were GESIS Gesellschaft für Informationssysteme mbH and SAP Consulting. GESIS is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Salzgitter Gruppe and serves as its central IT service provider. Under joint project management, the platform was initially introduced at the site of pilot customer Salzgitter Flachstahl GmbH, one of the group’s steel companies.
SAP consultants and GESIS began preparations for the project in June 2002. With the help of ASAP methodology and support from Encrease AG, the business blueprint was established by October 2002. In addition, as an important component of the Salzgitter Gruppe eService platform, the customer information system was installed, so that it could go operational in January 2003. In the meantime, the dialog and document management system is being rolled out in phases at Salzgitter customer sites. “Thanks to our use of the latest SAP technology, the pilot project was concluded quickly and successfully,” emphasizes project manager Ingo Lampe of GESIS. “The people at SAP Consulting convinced us with their current SAP know-how, comprehensive industry expertise, and competent project management.” One characteristic of the project, as well as a significant challenge, was that SAP developed the solutions remotely for the most part.
From pilot to company solution
In the initial project phase, the project team from SAP and GESIS implemented a customer information system based upon SAP BW. Customers and employees use it for order searching and tracking. To do so, they access information about order assignment, production status, shipping readiness, or products in transit. In addition, they can view information about campaigns, marketing of supplies without orders, or invoiced deliveries. Through the Web reporting features, customers can also analyze which departments have received specific products from Salzgitter Gruppe — and Salzgitter employees in turn can determine sales volume by customer or product group.
In the second phase, a dialog and document management system was established at the site of pilot customer Salzgitter Flachstahl; the system will be successively rolled out at Salzgitter customer sites. Users will then be able to place repeat orders, follow up on orders, make campaign reservations or log complaints, and initiate the delivery of completed stocks — all directly via the browser. The seamless interplay of customers and employees at Salzgitter Gruppe is ensured across all processes — integrating people, information and processes across technological and company boundaries. The document management system enables customers as well as employees to store and retrieve documents according to their roles and permissions.
The open technology of the Salzgitter Gruppe eService platform enables the group to integrate other SAP software solutions into its heterogeneous IT environment. It utilizes the Internet sales features in mySAP Customer Relationship Management (mySAP CRM), which supports all channels of interaction with the customer, and Collaboration Folders (cFolders), which provide role and permissions-based access to documents within the document management system. One of the reasons the Salzgitter eService Platform is so future-oriented is the unlimited scalability of the SAP NetWeaver technology platform. “We’re expecting up to 3,000 users within the first six years,” Lampe estimates.
Development of new sales processes
Salzgitter Gruppe anticipates that company-wide introduction of the eService platform will drive a noticeable increase in efficiency at participating companies, and thus a rapid return on investment. In the future, manual tasks in the areas of sales, planning, and transactions can be minimized or automated. Inquiries will no longer be an issue, because customers and service providers have direct access to their data. In addition, due to collaboration within and outside the company, information will no longer need to be entered multiple times in different departments. This avoids errors that can occur during manual data entry, as well as uncertainty about the accuracy of information — both of which contribute to increased quality.
SAP NetWeaver links all systems at one central location. “This way, our processes run faster and are more in synch with one another,” says König. Permissions-based access via single sign-on ensures smooth collaboration within the company, as well as with customers and service providers, such as classification associations. An additional benefit: information is current and available to all participants simultaneously. The platform thus lays the technological foundation for company-wide process optimization, along with significant time and cost savings.
Until the end of 2003, the main focus is continuous expansion of process handling through SAP XI. The objective of this phase is to link partners within and outside the group, and integrate additional components, such as SAP CRM 4.0 and SAP Enterprise Portal 6.0, as well as SAP Advanced Planner & Optimizer (SAP APO). Future plans foresee users being able to configure orders freely. König is certain that “after integrating the steel companies Salzgitter Flachstahl, Peiner Träger, and Ilsenburger Grobblech, the remaining divisions of Salzgitter Gruppe, such as business, processing, services and piping will benefit from the new platform.”