New ERP for Renewable Energy

“The Pioneers of Power” is the motto of SOLON AG, an enterprise specializing in solar technology with headquarters in Berlin. Formed in 1997, and floated on the stock exchange in 1998 as the first solar enterprise in Germany, the group is one of the pioneers and innovators in the area of solar technology. The enterprise has enjoyed rapid growth since its formation, and is now one of the largest European solar module manufacturers, with subsidiaries and production locations in Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, and the United States, which are all part of a holding company. Total sales in 2006 – with more than 650 employees across the whole group – amounted to about 346 million euros, an increase of more than 70 percent on the previous year.

Expansion with IT support

“Because of the strong expansion, we need IT support that provides a transparent overview of all business processes and cash flows across the whole group,” says Dieter Neberg, IT manager at SOLON AG. This was not possible with the old heterogeneous IT landscape, which consisted of ERP software from Sage and a stand-alone solution for production.

This situation was unsatisfactory, and the changeover to an integrated, sustainable, and international ERP solution that would support the enterprise’s rapid development effectively was absolutely essential. The management of SOLON AG therefore decided to bring together all business areas and locations on a standardized ERP platform.

After careful consideration of the options available on the market, the enterprise chose the SAP Business All-in-One solution SPEED ME from IT total system supplier ai informatics. SPEED ME offers numerous preconfigured processes typically used in the industry, which enables rapid implementation. SOLON AG was also won over by the attractive fixed price, the industry expertise of the ai informatics consulting team, and the international product support offered by the IT service provider.

Together with the consultants, the enterprise was able to implement the industry solution in just seven months. In January 2007, the system went into productive operation for the 120 users at the Berlin and Greifswald locations successively, just two weeks apart. After the international rollout of SPEED ME at the SOLON locations in the United States and Italy, productive operation will start there in early 2008. In the final expansion phase, about 300 to 400 users will be working with the solution worldwide.

Overview of warehouse stocks a mouse click away

In Berlin and Greifswald, the benefits of the business processes integrated with the help of the SAP-based industry solution quickly became obvious. Supported by SPEED ME, the solar enterprise now maps its core processes in a standardized group structure and on the basis of consolidated master data.

All information, from sales and purchase order processing right through to billing, is entered, managed, and distributed centrally. Employees in the purchasing and production departments can access an overview of all warehouse stocks across the group with just a few mouse clicks and can compare these with the material requirements from the orders. As a result, scheduling and material planning, as well as procurement, production, and warehousing processes, can be controlled economically and on a demand-driven basis.

The old manual, paper-based intercompany processes are now carried out largely automatically, which accelerates procedures in internal ordering and settlement and ensures high process reliability.

Rapid consolidated financial statements

Another advantage of the industry solution is that data on costs and sales from the connected group areas and companies is immediately available in Financial Accounting and can be analyzed there at any time.

At the same time, the solar module manufacturer can create uniform standards across the group for internal and external reporting. As a result, it will be possible in future to create both the quarterly and annual statements for the group promptly in accordance with IFRS and the individual statements of the subsidiaries in accordance with local legal requirements. “As a result, we have a more accurate overview of the group’s development and will in future be able to implement our growth strategy in an even more targeted way,” states Dieter Neberg.

SOLON AG has outsourced operation of SPEED ME to the ai informatics computer center in Pforzheim – and is reaping multiple benefits. The IT operating costs can be clearly calculated, because a user-based settlement model ensures maximum transparency. In addition, the solar module manufacturer does not need to concern itself with administration and maintenance work such as updates or release upgrades. Dieter Neberg: “We can fully concentrate on our core competencies – and those are the development, production, and sale of innovative and high-quality solar modules.”