19 Million Products, 1 ERP

Photo: iStock
Photo: iStockphoto

In 1991, the family-run candle making company, Heliotron Kerzen GmbH, based out of Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany, started operating under a new motto: “Easy to candle.” The idea was to produce efficient and flexible liquid wax systems in addition to its line of solid wax candles.

As opposed to traditional candles, liquid wax candles burn much longer, one container of liquid wax can last up to a month, and they don’t drip or smoke. With a decorative shell that disguises the container, many customers seem to prefer this safe and cost-effective alternative: Heliotron is now one of the leading manufacturers and suppliers of liquid wax candles and has global branches in over 25 countries.

19 million product variations to ship

One thing that has contributed to Heliotron’s success is its dedication to flexibly meeting customers’ wishes. Not only does it offer customers a huge range of options for designing their liquid wax candles (different bases, shades, and shells are available in a variety of colors), but it also carries out special orders. The family business, founded in 1976, needed a software system that could handle the 19 million product variations it offered, and minimize mistakes. The old system wasn’t cutting it: “It didn’t give us the visibility or flexibility that we needed, and it didn’t support our business processes,” says Oliver Schneeberger, managing director at Heliotron.

That was the main reason the candle maker switched to SAP Business ByDesign in 2010. For one thing, there’s greater visibility: “Data is available in real time the moment it’s generated. So employees know right away when an order is created, when it is processed in the warehouse, and when it’s shipped,” says Schneeberger. For another, there’s more flexibility: “Before, sales representatives would receive orders by fax and have to manually enter them by hand. Now, they can enter orders in the system from a smartphone or tablet directly after speaking with the customer,” he explains.

Next page: Integration of third-party solutions

Heliotron uses the full scope of functionality that SAP Business ByDesign offers. And when it needs something more, the family business has a variety of third-party solutions from SAP partners to choose from. Rapid employee growth, for example, meant that the company’s flextime policy became more difficult to manage: A minimum number of employees are required to be present in each department during Heliotron’s core “operating hours,” but otherwise, workers are largely free to schedule their workday anytime between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m.

With the time-tracking tool B-COMM ERP 4 – SAP Business ByDesign, developed by SAP partner KABA, the company can ensure that each department is properly staffed. And since the solution integrates with SAP Business ByDesign, it’s possible to create reports on workload data directly in the ERP system.

Integration instead of silos

Besides the increased visibility and flexibility that a cloud-based ERP solution brings to the table, it was this high level of integration that drew Schneeberger and his colleagues to the SAP offering in particular. “We had a lot of siloed solutions before, so we like that we can add on functionality to SAP Business ByDesign and still work with the data in one system,” explains Oliver Schneeberger.

This should come as no surprise. After all, Heliotron gives its own customers 19 million ways to assemble its products. Why not demand the same of its ERP system?