Midmarket enterprise Rohrer Group, an industrial services provider for the oil and chemical industry, is currently in the process of migrating to SAP S/4HANA Cloud. It’s a prerequisite move in the eyes of its customers that likewise rely on intelligent technologies and uniform standards. Yet it was also clear to the company internally that its old systems had reached their limits.

“We are doomed to grow,” quips 65-year-old Johann Rohrer, the epitome of Austrian equanimity. “We” being his family-run company, which he founded back in 1975 with a staff of two. Today, more than 3,500 employees in 14 countries work for Rohrer Group. The conglomerate cleans and repairs tanks and barrels as well as manages plant downtimes. It provides the majority of the required services from a single source in an often challenging business environment that demands a keen awareness of safety and security – including efficient, secure handing of data.

To help keep pace with continued growth, Rohrer decided to migrate to SAP S/4HANA Cloud. “The move is a no-brainer,” he points out. Rohrer Group expects to go live with the new system in Austria on April 1, just in time for the new fiscal year.

Rohrer Group’s clientele includes a number of big-name customers, such as BASF, Shell, voestalpine, and OMV. “We can’t afford to make a mistake because if we do, our customers won’t be able to get their plants up and running again on time,” Rohrer says. “And that can mean millions in lost business.” What’s more, these customers, themselves SAP software users, insist on data transfer via SAP. As a service provider, Rohrer Group plays a pivotal role in its ecosystem of customers and partners. Migrating to SAP S/4HANA Cloud is meant to accelerate and simplify data exchange within that ecosystem. “We can then dock our systems onto those of our customers,” Rohrer explains.

Uniform Processes Across 45 Locations

Customers were, of course, a driving factor in the decision to migrate, but internal aspects played a role, too. Michael Friess, business developer and migration project lead at Rohrer Group, explains “standardization.” He plans to standardize the processes across Rohrer Group’s 45 locations in Europe. It all started, he recalls, when the Controlling department in Niklasdorf, Austria began sounding the alarm bells. The old system was no longer able to keep up. The company needed to consolidate the systems for greater transparency.

Back then, Rohrer’s specialists in different countries did not use the same accounting and materials management systems. As such, invoices were handled multiple times and a lot of tasks were done manually – there was plenty of room for improvement. Switching to SAP solutions meant having a comprehensive, unified system that could digitalize and simplify Rohrer’s processes.

“SAP’s global reach was the ultimate selling point when it came time to choosing our provider,” Friess says.

As project lead, Friess then called on certified Viennese specialist and SAP gold partner S&T for help with the operational implementation. A “young and euphoric partner,” he notes, grinning. As it should be – after all, the technology behind SAP S/4HANA Cloud is, too. But it’s early days yet, so the proportion of SAP users who have migrated to the new cloud platform is still relatively small. “In five years time, though, things will look very different,” Michael Perfler, SAP Business Unit manager at S&T, says.

Communication Matters Most

According to Friess, the core project team is made up of 10 decision makers from specialist departments, management, IT, and the external partner S&T. What makes their collaboration so successful? Communication, he says.

Friess has set up fixed day meetings, calls his team regularly, and talks to everyone involved on all levels. All of which is only possible because the company has managed – despite an annual turnover of €350 million – to retain an owner-operated, midsize structure. “At Rohrer Group, the hierarchies are flat and the decision-making processes short,” he explains. It also has an extremely committed founder, as evidenced in the workshops leading up to the rollout. “Mr. Rohrer was always present. He’d ask us over coffee how we were progressing and where we stood,” Perfler recalls.

Perfler’s enthusiasm for innovative technology is palpable, contagious even – perfect for his role as technical specialist on the team. Rohrer, meanwhile, still conveys the same level-headedness he did when he founded the company 45 years earlier. “Migration to SAP S/4HANA Cloud will take a few years,” Rohrer remarks. “And the project isn’t generating new revenue.” Yet that’s not an issue right now. Rohrer’s top priority at this point is establishing unified standards and driving harmonization with customer systems. Rohrer Group plans to roll out the new solution across all its subsidiaries, both nationally and abroad. It’s first stops are Austria, France, and Romania. Migration there is expected to take just a few months, and, if all goes to plan, further countries will follow in batches every six months after that.

Customer requirements have always been the driving force behind the group’s business activities. As such, it has more or less expanded non-stop since its inception, the latest addition being Rohrer Suisse AG in 2018. Friess puts it this way: “This migration is basically the next dimension in our digital evolution.” This is also why he chose not to set up a dedicated change management process for the project. After all, Rohrer is changing all the time. You could say, the company is doomed to grow.

This story originally appeared on the German SAP News Center.
Top image via Rohrer Group