Finding the Way Through the Variant Jungle

Anyone walking into a public building for the first time will not automatically know where particular offices, stairwells, elevators, or restrooms are located. But to function well, a building should – among other things – offer clear orientation, because people need to be able to find their way around. For example, effective signs help someone to pinpoint a particular location in the building and find their way to it clearly in an unfamiliar environment.

HEWI Heinrich Wilke GmbH
HEWI Heinrich Wilke GmbH

The signage systems offered by HEWI Heinrich Wilke GmbH are tailored to human perception and thus help people find their way around buildings. The individual components of the system follow a logical theme and sequence and provide a type of guide through the building. Other items offered by the family-run company based in Bad Arolsen (North Hesse, Germany) support the functionality of modern architecture. In addition to signage systems, the HEWI range includes door hardware, electronic locking systems, handrails and balustrades, sanitary accessories, and products for barrier-free living.

Internal and external system competence a must

Under the motto “Systems competence architecture,” HEWI offers system-oriented solutions – modular product systems, compatible technical platforms, and end-to-end solutions – and operates on an international scale as a project equipment supplier in partnership with architects and designers, the trade, and the processing industry. With a long tradition behind it, the enterprise manufactures across Europe, and sells its 500,000 products in Europe, Asia, and America via its own network of subsidiaries and trade partners.
However, the old IT landscape prevented flexible and straightforward growth, and made it difficult for the company it gear itself to the global market in a future-oriented way. Previously, HEWI worked with different solutions for the different business areas – ProdIS PPS product planning system, VKI-CRM, SAP financial accounting and payroll. Numerous custom developments had made ProdIS too cumbersome. Additional non-integrated solutions would have made the situation even more complicated and would have led to an explosion in the interface costs. In addition, HEWI coordinates significant data volumes each month: 300,000 article records, 200,000 BOMs, 150,000 article-warehouse relationships, and 15,000 sales orders per month. To handle this number of variants, the company needed a comprehensive, end-to-end view of its business processes.

New solution as the basis for the future

In April 2004 HEWI therefore decided to implement a complete, integrated ERP solution. The requirements were clear: the solution needed to map production in a more transparent way, improve production planning and control, and implement production order final costing. In addition, HEWI needed effective internal quality management and an informative management information system. At the same time, the enterprise wanted to lay the foundations for future customer relationship management (CRM). The project objective was to create a completely integrated and transparent IT landscape for end-to-end business processes – a long-term investment in the future.

HEWI chose itelligence AG as its implementation partner, because this SAP partner from Bielefeld, Germany has the required expertise and numerous references from the plastic and metal processing industries, and offers a wide range of services. First, itelligence and HEWI drew up a detailed business blueprint together, in order to record all the relevant enterprise processes accurately. With itelligence’s support, HEWI then replaced the old production control system with mySAP ERP. At the same time, the project team, together with viastore systems GmbH, handled warehouse management and material flow control via SAP WM and connection of the high-rack storage area.

New technology, new processes

HEWI replaced its old, decentralized system with SAP Warehouse Management (WM). All stock movements are now posted directly in SAP and documented in real time. As a result, the enterprise has achieved an extremely high level of transparency in all warehousing areas. Today, a stock query can be carried out down to storage bin level in all production storage locations, purchased parts storage locations, and in the finished goods warehouse at the touch of a button. In the plastics molding shop, the PDC system Proquam was connected up, and operation confirmations for production orders were introduced at the same time. The production schedulers are therefore able to determine the progress in production for the current orders at all times, and adapt the process accordingly – without additional effort, thanks to the automatic confirmations.
HEWI has also been able to reduce the number of input errors and accelerate the posting processes, because the additional connection of Bizerba scales and scanners in the production confirmation and goods receipts zones has led to easier input of material postings. Incoming document processing has also been significantly improved thanks to the introduction of the SAP solution. For example, interfaces to the FerrariFAX fax software and the Hyparchiv documentation management system from GFT were set up. FerrariFAX now directly forwards incoming faxes such as inquiries or orders to the SAP document management system, where a workflow process is triggered that ensures immediate and effective processing by the sales staff. Once a document has been processed successfully, it is automatically archived long-term via the SAP archive link in the Hyparchiv document management system, and is then permanently available for searches.
Since the implementation of the complete system, warehouse management, Intermec radio frequency scanners in the area of warehousing and shipping for mobile RF data capture, the Hyparchiv document management system from GFT, a custom-developed, media-neutral product information system, the Transpolink carrier solution, and the VKI CRM system for EDI processing of the BIS from Seeburger are all directly connected to the SAP solution. The Proquam PDC system, a set of Bizerba scales, and the Interflex time recording terminals in the area of tool construction and plastic injection molding machines have also been directly connected to SAP. In the area of foreign trade processing, itelligence implemented a customs preference determination based on the SAP standard system that also enables configurable materials to be processed in SAP.

Further growth planned

Since the start of productive operation in the first quarter of 2006, mySAP ERP has provided HEWI with an integrated, powerful, and long-term solution that maps and documents all business processes. It is also able to accommodate future growth: mySAP ERP can be flexibly adapted to the company’s future development. The integrated structure reduces the problem of interfaces, and thus also reduces the costs for implementing new solutions.
HEWI has been particularly successful in improving its processes for mapping complex product variant structures in the area of building hardware, in particular, where billions of product combinations are possible. This was made possible with the help of the SAP Product Configurator, which supplies the parameters for generating the technical documentation. It enables a user to call up details of which product options and components can be combined with each other, and thereby reduces the number of errors in partner orders, and sales employees can find out about new product series, products, and product variants more quickly with the Product Configurator. Today, 318 users from the administrative center, sales, and production work with mySAP ERP. They benefit from the consistently streamlined IT processes and transparent data. This is helped by the fact that the various IT systems – such as the solution for material flow and high-rack storage from viastore – were systematically integrated in mySAP ERP. “With the mySAP ERP solution and consulting services from itelligence AG tailored to midsize enterprises, we have been able to structure our extremely high number of variants effectively and optimize our processes. As a result, we are able to noticeably increase our competitiveness with the solution,” explains Stefan Kuhn, finance & IT divisional manager at HEWI Heinrich Wilke GmbH.

Peter Roth
Peter Roth