Tapping the Liquid Gold

Plastics processing companies have a diverse portfolio that encompasses many different forms of packaging for the consumer goods industry, e.g. the cosmetics, foodstuffs, chemicals and pharmaceuticals sectors, and various coverings for the automotive industry and film manufacturers. “No matter whether a company makes films, plastics profiles or injection molded items or what sector they produce their goods for, small to midsize plastics manufacturers require a preconfigured industry-specific solution that covers these three different production methods,” says Rainer Rathgeber, joint CEO of SAP Business Partner CUBIS Solutions.

Recognizing the problem and developing a solution

“After countless SAP installations at plastics processing companies all over Germany, we realized early on that all these companies have extremely similar requirements when it comes to mapping their business processes in the SAP system,” continues Rathgeber. “We collected and recorded these experiences and utilized them to develop the IS-PI industry solution,” adds joint CEO Jörg Becks. The solution is based on the SAP standard and contains no modifications whatsoever. The benefit for companies utilizing the solution is that they can easily migrate to the latest SAP release at any time. IS-PI is currently qualified for the most recent Release 4.7 of SAP R/3 Enterprise and, according to CUBIS Solutions, is the only industry-specific solution for the plastics industry qualified by SAP.
In addition to traditional ERP functions for financial and cost accounting, the qualified mySAP All-in-One solution also maps typical industry-specific business processes including logistics workflows for mold construction, production, maintenance and unit costing. The Essen-based IT company has even incorporated legal requirements such as batch tracing into the plastics solution (the relevant EU directive 178/2002 on traceability comes into force on January 1, 2005). The new EU directive is increasing the pressure to track manufacturing processes seamlessly, particularly with regard to product liability cases. Companies supplying plastic packaging to the foodstuffs industry will therefore be “on the right track with IS-PI,” says Jörg Becks, because these requirements are already integrated. The same applies to companies producing plastic components for the medical technology or automotive construction industries, because here too all batches have to be tracked accurately.

Improving processes and cutting costs

The qualified mySAP All-in-One solution also optimizes typical industry processes like mold construction, i.e. the production of plastic molds. Of course, this does not apply if a company is not involved in mold construction, but manufacturers with up to 50 injection molding machines can leverage the performance level function in IS-PI to simulate alternative planning strategies. This ensures that machines are running at fully capacity and that potential faults are remedied quickly.
An additional benefit is that sales staff can utilize IS-PI to accurately plan deadlines and costs in advance. “As soon as an order is received, the system provides sales staff with all the prices and material costs relating to the order,” explains Becks. “This means mold and machine availability can be predicted exactly.” Staff see potential material shortages very quickly and can determine when reject and startup materials should be anticipated. For Becks, the “major benefit of this accurate resource planning” is clear: “It enables companies to define and meet delivery deadlines accurately as well as to avoid unforeseen bottlenecks.”
The solution also automatically updates measurement documents, which is particularly important for the accurate production of plastic components. The documents show at what cyclical intervals the plastic-casting molds have to be overhauled. The results of this inspection are then entered in the form of measurement documents into a maintenance and servicing plan and all the associated costs are assigned to the relevant order. Sales staff can access this data, enabling them to cost and plan quotations and orders accordingly.
The complete integration of financial accounting and controlling functions, which incidentally does not require an additional interface in the ERP system, means all production workflows are transparent and can be called up at the touch of a button because the software maps all the processes in a system. IS-PI also optimizes workflows by assigning text and design documents to orders as well as through material tracking relating to storage locations and financial planning scenarios.

End-to-end solution for SMBs

CUBIS Solutions provides an across-the-board offering, including service and comprehensive training for key users, to small to midsize plastics manufacturers that are looking to implement the qualified solution. The companies should always reckon on needing two additional servers, a database and an operating system for the project. According to Jörg Becks, these purchases are necessary because an SAP system generally makes provisions for a two- to three-level system landscape, the latter comprising a live system, test system and development system. The company recommends the Max-DB (previously SAP DB) database to its customers based on positive experiences in the past and the favorable price/performance ratio it offers. “We offer IS-PI at a fixed price, but there are variations such as the type and number of users and, as mentioned before, potential additional costs for the hardware, operating system and database,” notes Becks. He estimates that “a company with 20 end users should reckon on a total investment volume of around Euro 300,000.” CUBIS SOLUTIONS says the average implementation time is around four and a half months. And although the IT company does not mention a minimum number of users, it is recommended that at least 10 to 15 users work with the system.
“We have tailored IS-PI to suit the requirements of small to midsize plastics companies exactly so as to optimize and speed their processes,” says Rathgeber, summarizing the benefits of the solution. “Plastics manufacturers who utilize our solution will find they can tap the liquid gold that is plastic much faster than before.”

Dr. Andreas Schaffry
Dr. Andreas Schaffry