Gone are the days of manual processes and long-term reporting. The switch to SAP S/4HANA has provided Airbus DS Optronics Management with a basis for fast and informed decisions.

Making the invisible visible: whether it’s people on the move or a license plate of a far-away car, even in the most difficult of visual conditions like heat fluctuations or sandstorms. Airbus DS Optronics has set itself the task of responding to these challenges, and is now producing thermal imaging cameras that can zoom in on an object with a digital lens of up to factor 200.

The portfolio of the globally operating Airbus DS Optronics includes optoelectronic devices for military vehicles, aircraft, satellites, as well as monitoring and observation units. The company, headquartered in Southern Germany, has more than 800 employees. The company operates in a highly dynamic and competitive environment where quick thinking counts.

Manual Processes Hinder Reporting

While Airbus DS Optronics’ highly developed products are all about visibility, this is precisely what the company is lacking. Owing to long, manual processes, it typically takes three days for the management reporting in the finance department to become available. “In our industry, information that is two days old is already out of date,” explains Airbus DS Optronics director of information technology Jochen Scheuerer “For us it is of far greater significance to be able to access real-time data.” The reporting is also based on numerous sources, such as an Embedded Business Warehouse (BW), ABAP reports, and Microsoft Excel data. On this basis, ad-hoc reporting was just as impossible as data visualization.

To enable a consistent panoramic view of all business administration processes in the company, Airbus DS Optronics chose SAP S/4HANA Finance. The transition was not only aimed at making key company metrics available for all important management meetings as real-time data. The objective was also prevent discrepancies between forecast and current data, and to establish more efficient finance and management accounting processes.

Willingness for Test Activities Alongside Daily Work

Following thorough analysis of the existing IT system, it became apparent that the transition to SAP HANA combined with the implementation of SAP S/4HANA Finance was the best migration path for the company. This means changing the SAP solution on the basis of the pre-existing SAP ERP without an upgrade to a higher EhP, and replacing the Embedded Business Warehouse.

The project began at the end of May 2015. An important step for the change was implementing SAP S/4HANA Finance without disrupting business processes. The new system had to be ready for the November 2015 month-end close, and the 2015 year-end close had to be completed within the first four days of the New Year.

The implementation phase saw close coordination of all concerned parties, with Airbus DS Optronics and SAP meeting several times a day. The business received intense support from IT during the period, which lasted for several weeks, and proved its willingness to repeatedly implement test activities alongside the daily work, at times at short notice.

System Upgrade and Database Migration in a Single Step and with Minimal Downtime

In the process of transitioning to SAP S/4HANA, the company simultaneously converted their non-unicode system using the Software Update Manager with Database Migration Option (SUM-DMO), which was a requirement for the transition to SAP S/4HANA Finance. They upgraded from ERP6.0 EhP7 directly to SAP S/4HANA Finance 1503 (add-on). Because the system was already up to date, the efforts of SPAU and SPDD transactions to obtain modified objects from previous releases were kept to a minimum. The advantages for Airbus DS Optronics: by using SUM-DMO, both the upgrade and change in database were carried out in a single step, they required only four migrations (sandbox, development/quality, testing, and go-live), and only one downtime period. The transformation, including all tests in the business departments, was carried out over one weekend.

In making the change to SAP S/4HANA, Airbus DS succeeded first and foremost in acquiring real-time business insights into the performance indicators without Business Warehouse by using SAP Analysis for Office. The company was also able to increase efficiency in finance and management accounting. This new solution provides key indicators, sales forecasts, and project cash flows that enable analytical and up-to-date reporting, as well as more efficient planning. SAP S/4HANA Finance eliminates various work tasks, and can radically reduce the runtimes of others.

Making the Transition in Time and on Budget

SAP S/4HANA is bringing Airbus DS Optronics one step closer to a fully digitalized end-to-end process. “We were able to conclude this important chapter for the digitalization of Airbus DS, at the highest quality level, in time and on budget,” says Jochen Scheuerer.

Finalizing the digital transformation remains a focus for Airbus DS Optronics. The initial plan will be to transform the reporting system in order to implement Fiori scenarios in the finance function, and to offer users personalized access to the system based on the roles assigned. A transition to EhP8 and SAP S/4HANA Finance 1605 will ensure that the company has access to all current SAP S/4HANA features that serve as a basis for additional SAP Fiori applications.

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