Crystal-Clear Processes at Berliner Glas

Berliner Glas specializes in the industrial use of light (photo: Berliner Glas)

According to Moore’s Law, the complexity of computer chips doubles every 18 months. To keep up this pace, chip manufacturers have to produce and microelectronically map ever-smaller structures.

Doing so requires light, as well as the optical technologies needed to harness it.

Berliner Glas specializes in the industrial use of light. For this midsize high-tech company and its customers in the key industries for semiconductors, biotechnology, medicine, industrial sensor technology, and information and communications technology, innovations are a central theme.

Berliner Glas develops its products according to specific orders, producing them first as prototypes and then in repetitive manufacturing at six production sites. This involves, for example, high-precision support surfaces for masks and wafers used in the lithographic process in the semiconductor industry.

For Berliner Glas, achieving the best possible harmonization of all its processes in sales, production, and purchasing is crucial. At the same time, order-based custom manufacturing requires a high level of flexibility – one the company’s business software must also reflect.

(photo: Berliner Glas)

The new system’s requirements

Berliner Glas has grown constantly since the turn of the millennium. This tested the limits of the Baan IV software the company previously used at three of its branch offices. An upgrade was necessary to meet increasing requirements, particularly in production, the corresponding processes, and capacity planning.

Stefan Setz, head of the IT service center at Berliner Glas, outlines the situation and the new system’s requirements:

  1. “After it quickly became clear that the upgrade would be quite extensive – almost a completely new software solution, in fact – we escalated the decision from the tactical to the strategic level.”
  2. “For us, the subject of integration was particularly important. It was something we hadn’t lived and breathed in our previous system.”
  3. The company’s figures needed to be transparent across all departments. For example, financial accounting and controlling had to reflect important postings in logistics, and the production department needed the ability to directly confirm customer deadlines.
  4. The new system had to be future-proof and offer the best possible opportunities in integration and development.
  5. Proven consulting competence in the implementation and operation of the system would also be required.

Berliner Glas ultimately chose SAP ERP, and enlisted the SAP solution provider Steeb Anwendungssysteme to support the implementation process.

Implementation SME-style

The company’s transition to SAP ERP was to begin at its location in Berlin, leaving its other German branches in Schwäbisch Hall, Syrgenstein, and Stromberg for a second project. Berliner Glas’ primary goal in the implementation was to improve its interdepartmental processes at its locations.

To define its most important company processes, Berliner Glas selected a number of main users. These users then worked together to determine the fundamental processes in their areas – including human resources, financial accounting, controlling, materials management, sales and distribution, quality management, and production planning – before presenting them to Steeb’s consultants.

For the implementation phase, Steeb made use of its in-house customizing workshop, which uses a standardized method to generate a prototype tailored to the customer’s specific requirements. This prototype already maps around 70 percent of the corresponding processes and requires few resources in its subsequent implementation.

Taking advantage of internal expertise

Berliner Glas focused in particular on identifying the employees who would be working with SAP ERP and involving them early and intensively in the project. After holding initial training courses on SAP and processes and naming the main users, the company proceeded to the next level by expanding the user team.

The goal was to enable not only process managers, but also process users in the departments to contribute their special knowledge, thereby locating further points of contact among the departments. The company then migrated to the new system the transaction data on customers, suppliers, materials, and production, and integrated asset and financial accounting data.

On the home stretch…

Berliner Glas eventually carried out its much-anticipated initial integration test, in which it also mapped the subprocesses involved as realistically as possible while simulating live operations alongside its day-to-day business. “The integration test helped us by revealing a number of subprocesses we hadn’t yet accounted for,” Setz says.

A second integration test revealed further potential improvement. One month prior to the company’s live implementation, the team of main users decided to meet the implementation deadline. After just nine months of implementation, the new business solution went live without incident at Berliner Glas.

…into the future

Although a few requirements are still to be met, Berliner Glas rates the overall situation following the implementation of SAP ERP as absolutely positive:

  • All of the company’s areas are better harmonized thanks to its integrated processes.
  • Data transparency has improved.
  • Lead times are shorter, and the company can address bottlenecks more flexibly.
  • Its products are based on improved price calculations.

Not a company that rests on its laurels, Berliner Glas is also reviewing the implementation of the project system and of a production-planning cockpit while continuously improving quality management.

Berliner Glas

is one of Europe’s leading providers of precision optical, optomechanical, and electro-optical components, assemblies, and integrated systems, as well as high-quality, refined technical lenses. The high-tech company develops solutions for the semiconductor, biotechnology, medicine, information and communications technology, and industrial sensor technology industries.

The Berliner Glas group has subsidiaries in Germany, Switzerland, China, and the United States. Family-owned and -operated since its foundation in 1952, Berliner Glas employs around 500 people in Berlin; a total of 960 people work for the entire group.