“To manufacture our products, we primarily use the extrusion process, which has tremendous requirements,” says Hans-Henning Wagner, director of materials management at SIMONA AG. Retooling and complicated cleaning of the machinery when materials changed involves additional effort. To reduce the amount of work, SIMONA combines production orders into what it calls campaigns. The company, which specializes in thermoplastics, used to run a proprietary software solution to plan production. “Although we could indeed schedule individual machines optimally with this solution, it did not have enough interfaces to our other operating processes. It was an insular solution,” says Peter Schantz, IT director, describing the main problem.
“As early as 2000, we knew that not all processes were running optimally. With our Logistics 2010 initiative, we jump-started the required changes at the operating level. We searched for potential optimizations throughout the entire group so that we could double our sales within 10 years – and do so with the same resources,” says Jochen Feldmann, CFO at SIMONA.
Standard basic processes for an international rollout
Studies showed that the SIMONA IT landscape did not support the company’s international orientation and ambitious development goals with the necessary comprehensive and cross-departmental processes. The legacy IT landscape was characterized by heterogeneous systems and media breaks; it required a great deal of additional communications effort. For example, production used standard software in accounting and materials management – MAS90 from IBM. Distribution and logistics worked with proprietary solutions. Some areas used Microsoft Office products on occasion. In addition, the subsidiaries and global locations were not connected to the group’s headquarters with a uniform solution. Overall, SIMONA employees did not have quick access to the information they needed.
“That’s why our logistical goal was to replace the insular solutions and create an integrated, uniform IT solution for the entire group,” says IT director Peter Schantz. The wish list: The company needed near-real-time controlling even for subsidiaries, the simplification of day-to-day work, and easy access to important information for every employee who needed it. SIMONA required its enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution to support industry-specific needs and processes. The project also had to standardize all ERP processes along the value chain so that they could be easily transferred to existing and new business units in the future. And the company wanted to retain the familiar standard in production planning. “That’s why we also needed experts for our new ERP software – experts who knew the plastics industry and understood our processes,” explains Schantz. “That’s why we decided on SYCOR GmbH and its sycor plastic industry template that is based on standard SAP software,” he adds.
More transparency and comfort
SIMONA migrated to the new software in several steps. By the start of 2005, SIMONA had successfully implemented the accounting, controlling, purchasing, and materials management functionalities. “We also replaced the existing archive with a FileNet archive and set up an appropriate interface to the SAP software,” explains Frank Riechel, SYCOR project manager. In a second subproject, the teams worked until the start of 2006 to implement the sycor planning cockpit for production planning and control along with software for sales, warehouse management, and production. At that time, SYCOR also ensured that the new warehouse management software at SIMONA could communicate with the SAP software. Employees working on the project could therefore guarantee that the new solution supported all the company’s processes along the entire value chain.
“The new transparency we have enables us to plan much more cleanly and to make decisions. We can now recalculate easily, because we have all the information on the material and the tools,” says Wagner. He sees yet another positive effect of the planning cockpit. The company has been able to increase the individual comfort of employee in production planning and control. “Employees operate the cockpit intuitively because they set the layout according to their own needs. The can therefore obtain a single view of the production situation, and they can plan campaigns and sequences more quickly and simply. They can also access a specific sales order or the current requirements and supply situation without any media breaks,” he adds.
Staying on schedule despite the complexity
“We are especially proud of the on-time implementation that occurred despite the complexity of the project. We have created a new foundation that is tremendously important for our future growth and our IT environment now supports SIMONA’s strategy optimally,” says Schantz with pleasure. But Schantz knows that there’s still a lot to do. “In the near future we will conduct internal training and further optimize our processes. Some 400 users currently work with the new solution at SIMONA, and the number is rising. We still face the third and last subproject – the rollout of SAP software to our subsidiaries, with whom we’re continuing our path to globalization.”
The numbers prove that SIMONA is on the right path. Since 2003, the company has seen an average annual growth rate of 10 percent, and it earned revenue of €230.6 million with its 1,000 employees in 2005. Despite the rising costs of raw materials and intense, international competition, SIMONA is confident that it can surpass even these figures and the ambitious goals of the Logistics 2010 initiative.