Westhoff Kaffee, a company from Bremen which has been roasting coffee since the late 19th Century, is a well-known name in gastronomic circles. Following the old Hanseatic tradition, customers still enjoy the personal touch, with support and delivery services provided by field staff. Westhoff knows its customers and knows how to build good business relationships and maintain them on a personal level. Customer Relationship Management is thus a familiar concept for Westhoff.
No risks with new IT and traditional application
When Westhoff redesigned its administration center, plans for a comprehensive overhaul of the company’s IT systems were also on the agenda. Old systems were replaced by eleven NT-based Compaq servers with 70 clients. In addition to the new hardware, SAP R/3 with modules for Financial Accounting (FI), Asset Management (AM) and Controlling (CO) was also introduced. However, one thing that the company did not want to change was a twenty-year old merchandise management system that had evolved in-house. As a result, the interface for data transport represented a serious challenge, since large volumes of master data and transaction data are transferred on a daily basis between the two heterogeneous systems.
“A blind belief in technology had no chance of success in our business”, explains Klaus Stüven, head of IT at Westhoff. “Lots of companies have programs for transferring data between heterogeneous systems. However, our requirements are and have always been significantly higher than this. We wanted to be sure that the overnight transfer of end-of-day postings from the merchandise management system to SAP could be monitored and documented with meticulous detail and would be entirely free of errors.”
A job scheduler now carries out the tasks at the interface. It automates data center tasks and controls processing of batch jobs that post data collected in queues or lists. Prior to the introduction of the job scheduling solution, one of the three IT staff at Westhoff had to check the list entries for all data transfers and postings manually. This meant that four man-hours were spent per day on monitoring tasks. In order to gain time for other tasks, all bulk transfers and data communication were to be performed automatically. The head of IT stipulated that the SAP R/3 standard solution implemented at Westhoff was not to be changed in any way, thus ensuring that future releases could be implemented without great outlay. However, this meant that the programs for producing batch input folders – for data export and data import – had to remain the same. The required job scheduler had to meet these requirements and also had to be able to perform a software-based summation check.
UC4 checks data transfer and data integrity
Westhoff opted for UC4 from SBB Software GmbH in Vienna. The system controls, checks and performs batch processing jobs. According to Klaus Stüven, practical experience has shown “that UC4 can also count”. UC4 uses a script to obtain and buffer the summation totals from the end-of-day results of the merchandise management system. Once the data has been transferred to the SAP solution, the postings made there are compared with the previously determined totals character by character. Westhoff is thus able to ensure that everything is running properly during the transfer between the different systems. Any error would be sure to result in financial losses. It is not just the head of IT that is impressed by the results of the job scheduler: “The doubts that the management team had have now been overcome.”
Since these specifications had to be fulfilled within a very short period of time, an SBB software engineer carried out the work while operation was still ongoing. The company was not taking any risks, since SAP R/3 remained unchanged. The implementation process was very efficient and took only two days. Using its ‘proof of concept’, SBB was able to demonstrate the promised functionality in a realistic simulated operating scenario even before the solution was implemented. Since the new system went live, Westhoff no longer has to compare lists manually.
Checks automated and time saved
The commercial demands that Westhoff placed on the control and checking of the data transfer were so high that the results achieved even impressed the auditors. This was another of Klaus Stüven’s wishes met: “UC4 not only documents the general workflow of the job schedules, it also documents that the transferred totals are actually received. This automatic check of transfer values was examined and approved by our auditors.” Westhoff therefore no longer keeps manual checklists and all results can still be tracked at any time. All relevant transfer files and spool files documenting all jobs – including SAP jobs – are archived in a central directory by UC4. IT staff thus no longer have to spend time manually comparing lists. As a result, the job scheduler saves four man-hours a day.
The job scheduler is also used to automatically clean up directories. Both the merchandise management system and the SAP solution produce a wide range of print files and protocol lists (log files). The resultant files often have the same names. They can easily be found by performing a wildcard name search and, depending on their importance, automatically archived or deleted. This process prevents the accumulation of files that are no longer required. This also results in a saving of at least half a man-hour a day for Westhoff.
Always up-to-date with e-mail
EAI, Enterprise Application Integration, is now part of everyday life at Westhoff. Klaus Stüven states: “At Westhoff, company-relevant applications are linked at data level, since we not only use the job scheduler to automate all data and file transfers, but also employ it to compare the individual totals. Managers see a further benefit in the – as they like to call it – “informative interface” of UC4, which regularly updates and informs the responsible member of staff directly by e-mail about the success or error status of jobs.
At Westhoff, the job scheduler performs error-free and self-monitoring interface work. By certifying the UC4 product for SAP R/3, it was possible to implement the SAP solution as a standard product without having to customize it. The automation of data center tasks has led to a situation in which specialist knowledge that was previously only in the heads of specific members of staff can now be used by anyone within the company. Head of IT, Klaus Stüven, is impressed: “Automation frees up more time for higher value activities and resulted in a very rapid return on investment.”
Further information can be obtained from www.UC4.com.