The Best Plastic Parts for the Prototype

Car manufacturers test new models at an early stage on the basis of functioning prototype parts and – shortly before series production – with the hotly pursued prototype cars. When manufacturers such as VW or Porsche develop their premium brands in this way, they usually include plastic parts from Pre-Prototyping GmbH, such as wheel housing, bumpers, or moldings.
“In the development phase, manufacturers often order the parts they need to build prototypes at very short notice,” says Lars Jörges, CEO of Pre-Prototyping GmbH. The supplier then needs to act very quickly, because the production and delivery dates are extremely tight. A powerful software considerably reduces the workload that results from the many parallel processes that arise during the project.

From paper …

Just a short time ago, the SME was still processing forecast delivery schedules from manufacturers largely on the basis of manual and paper-based processes. The business processes in accounting and for EDI forecast delivery schedules, parts capture, and production were mapped using different software solutions connected to each other. This therefore produced a large amount of administrative work.
If a manufacturer ordered 200 door moldings for delivery in two weeks, for example, the work scheduling department would hastily have to fill out paper forms with the requirement reports for production and would forward these to the production manager. To schedule requirements for production, the production manager would have to look in the warehouse to see whether the required parts were available. With the help of check slips in which goods put into and withdrawn from storage were entered, the production manager would check what was in stock and what needed to be ordered. Only after this step could the injection molding plan for production be created. “The process cost us a great deal of time, and was susceptible to errors, because the accuracy of stock figures depended on how carefully the entries were made in the control slips,” states the CEO.

… to IT-supported processes

Things are different now. With the help of SAP Business One and an integrated add-on solution for production planning and controlling, Pre-Prototyping has set up fully IT-supported processes – from the purchase order right through to delivery to the customer. As most of the required forms, for example for quotations, invoices, or inspection plans, are already stored in the solution, the paper-based work steps could be easily replaced. In addition, the individual processes are clearly defined in the new software, thereby guaranteeing a high level of process reliability.
If a customer order is received, the integrated add-on solution automatically generates the bills of material for production and an order proposal list. A graphical planning board immediately shows the production manager how long the stocks in the warehouse will last for the forecast delivery schedule and when parts need to be reordered. With the help of SAP Business One, the finished plastic parts are booked directly to the warehouse on the basis of the material numbers assigned before the start of production. When Pre-Prototyping delivers the 200 door moldings to the customer, the warehouse keeper creates the delivery note at the touch of a button, and the goods are automatically booked out of stock. “In this way, we always know exactly which products were delivered and which are still in stock,” explains Jörges.
The production manager is now also freed up from tedious administrative tasks and can spend most of the shift working on the injection molding or milling machine. The advantage is obvious to the CEO: “As a result, we can get by with the existing staff in production and save costs.”

All-round view of the enterprise

While the enterprise was relatively small, it was still possible to have a clear overview the work involved in the manual processes. But Pre-Prototyping is successful, and is growing quickly. Founded in 1999 by Lars Jörges as a one-man operation, the company, based in Krauthausen, Thuringia, now has 40 employees. “We are growing by 25 percent each year, on average, and also add between ten and 15 new production articles,” says Jörges. Today, the midsize automotive supplier produces around 160,000 parts per year, mostly in small batches.
Because of the heterogeneous applications, an all-round view of the company based on central data administration and effective reporting was not possible. Analyses of KPIs, for example order and payment receipts, were only possible by means of specially defined Excel tables. “What we needed was an integrated, scalable, and future-proof business software that would support our growth strategy and its pace,” says the CEO.

New software thanks to a radio ad

Lars Jörges heard about SAP Business One by chance thanks to a radio ad. The initial presentation of the standard software by SAP partner Planorg from Jena revealed that the solution already covered many of the key processes, from purchasing and financial accounting through to controlling.
Other important arguments in favor of SAP Business One were the fact that the software is continuously developed, can be used internationally, and that a fully integrated add-on solution was available for production planning and controlling. “With this, users do not notice whether they are working with the SAP software or the add-on,” states Jörges. Other decisive factors were the easy and self-explanatory operation of SAP Business One, the price/performance ratio, and the Planorg implementation concept.
Implementation, including migration of the legacy data and user training, only lasted around four months. From the start of April 2007, the eleven users were already working with the new solution. With the exception of the software for the EDI forecast delivery schedules, which was integrated in SAP Business One via an interface, the company replaced all the previous stand-alone solutions in one go.

Buying tools more quickly

Since then, the integrated software has been ensuring more efficient processes not just in production, but also in purchasing and warehouse management. Purchasing can order the required parts at the touch of a button and accelerate their delivery, since selected external vendors and current purchase prices for materials are stored in SAP Business One. This is a great advantage if the internal design department quickly needs unmachined parts in order to mill special molded parts for production projects
The warehouse keeper is also automatically informed about the probable delivery date for the materials. When the parts arrive, the senior storeperson immediately books them to stock with the order number using the data in the delivery note. At the same time, purchasing receives a confirmation and informs the design and development department about the delivery, which considerably reduces the internal clarification effort compared to before.
Thanks to the SAP solution, the midsize enterprise has also achieved greater transparency in development and in its core area of business with gauges and fixtures used to test the manufacturer’s specified dimensions for the workpieces.

More time for strategic tasks

SAP Business One’s integrated reporting provides added value. At a mouse click, CEO Jörges can now obtain detailed business analyses on important enterprise key figures such as sales, cash flow, or arrears: “As a result, we always know exactly where we are and can plan the strategic development of our business more effectively.”
And Pre-Prototyping has ambitious plans here; for example the enterprise’s next step will be certification to ISO/TS 16949, an important quality standard for automotive suppliers, enabling them to meet their customers’ quality demands more effectively. The company also plans to set up a branch in India to cover the requirements of a large customer in the region.

Dr. Andreas Schaffry
Dr. Andreas Schaffry