Document Management with SAP

Nordwest Getränke quenches the thirst of around 9.5 million consumers. Each year, the company fills around 32 million recyclable containers with around 4.1 million hectoliters of refreshing drinks such as Coca-Cola, Fanta, Sprite and Lift and distributes them to the retail trade via ten marketing companies. Headquartered in Soest, the company was founded in 1994 and is one of nine Coca-Cola franchisees in Germany. It has a total of 430 employees at four sites.
Quality management (QM) plays a key role at NWG, which has adopted the motto: “Striving for quality for the benefit of our customers”. The company uses quality management to ensure it complies with the statutory requirements imposed by food laws while also meeting the quality standards prescribed by its franchiser. NWG first obtained certification in accordance with DIN EN ISO 9002 et seq. in 1995. This was followed in 2001 and 2004 by re-certification under the new ISO standard DIN EN ISO 9001:2000.

Dispensing with manual document management

To ensure effective quality management the company must comply with numerous provisions and also guarantee processes. The corresponding specifications are contained in around 2,000 documents managed centrally at NWG’s Soest headquarters. These documents include the QM manual, directories, business processes, instructions and reports. Overall, a total of 26 people within the company are engaged in preparing, checking, approving and distributing the documents.
Until now, documents were managed on a purely manual basis. Employees sent all relevant documents in paper format to the central authorization department, which then distributed them to the individual sites. This extremely time-consuming practice was also very complex in terms of organization.
To assist matters, the company decided to implement an electronic document management solution with a view to reducing pressure on employees while also saving on costs.
The desired solution had to meet various requirements. It had to be able to incorporate the existing QM documents and document structure, and had to be user-friendly and offer a high degree of process security using electronic signatures, for example. The conformity requirements of the documents being administered also meant NWG needed a solution that ensured a low risk of error.

Full integration within the SAP environment

During the software selection process NWG considered applications offered by a range of different suppliers before finally opting for the SAP Document Management System (SAP DMS). The solution had the advantage that it met the company’s catalog of requirements and could be easily integrated into the existing SAP R/3 system. For its implementation partner the Coca-Cola franchisee commissioned actum consulting Unternehmensberatung, a consultancy firm with whom it has worked for three years. This service provider was chosen because of its longstanding experience with SAP and its extensive knowledge of the beverages industry. actum delivered all services for the SAP DMS project from a single source – from consultancy, concept, implementation and commissioning through training and documentation.

All requirements met in full

The project got underway at the beginning of 2003. actum implemented SAP DMS on the basis of SAP R/3 4.6C, adapting the solution to NWG’s processes. The main tasks focused on incorporating existing documents into the new document structure, automatic forwarding of documents according to workflow and prompt distribution of prepared, checked and authorized documents while also ensuring a system that was easy to use. In addition, important document data such as the employee dealing with the matter or the date of a process had to be automatically transferred from SAP when processing the original file. This requirement was solved by using the desktop office integration function that is present in the SAP standard and that transfers SAP data into MS Office files. At NWG, this is currently available for Word and Excel files, which represent the majority of documents managed. The company will soon be introducing desktop office integration for VISIO files as well.
The solution also had to be able to automatically quote the filing location of a distributed document. This means the place within the company where the authorized document is located for use by employees (e.g. a specific folder or machine within the company). NWG plans to use this new function to replace the manual lists of filing locations used in the past.

Transparent versioning

To enable transparent historical management of documents, the solution had to automatically allocate a different status to the preceding version of a document on release of a new version. This would ensure only one authorized version of a document. The user exits in the SAP solution enabled this requirement to be met with relatively little programming work involved. User exits are expansion functionalities in the standard program code that enable users to implement customized coding and adapt their solution to their own specific requirements.
In addition to user exits the project team at NWG also used the expansion technology of business add-ins to tailor processes to the company’s needs. Among other things, this technology has been used to ensure that only the last “authorized” version of a document can be used as a template for a new version. Furthermore, only authorized documents are incorporated into NWG’s complex document structure – in the form of a document list. The version of a document in the list is automatically replaced by its new authorized version.
A special report can be used to generate lists detailing all documents at a specified filing location and also all filing locations for a specific document. This means the company can easily track when and to where an authorized document has been distributed.

Future-focused tool

The last development stage of the SAP DMS went live at the beginning of 2004. The solution has been fully integrated in the existing SAP environment and the required functionality mapped in the SAP standard, thus protecting investments and ensuring low subsequent costs for maintenance, enhancements and upgrades.
“We are pleased we chose the SAP DMS with actum consulting as our partner,” explains Anita Schmidt, head of Environment and Quality Management at NWG. “Smooth cooperation between our employees and actum’s consultants proved a major factor in the project’s success”.
The SAP DMS is not only receiving a warm welcome within the company. External auditors too, for example, believe the solution offers a future-focused tool for document control.

Ralf Löbbecke
Ralf Löbbecke