ERP at Simplon: Bicycles Made for One

SAP Business ByDesign gives bicycle manufacturer Simplon all the tools it needs to grow in its current market and tap into new ones.

This is the final installment in a four-part series about business management using a cloud ERP solution and the opportunities this creates. Here, we look at how Simplon and its implementation partner worked together to find solutions and how processes and jobs were migrated to the new structure. We also reflect on the project as a whole and the lessons learned. Read the other parts of the series:

Apart from its bike configurator, Simplon opted to use the standard modules in SAP Business ByDesign almost exclusively. Among them are retail, logistics, manufacturing, and human resources (HR). “In fact, we are using pretty much everything apart from the time recording module, which we don’t need right now. Besides, we wanted to keep the project as lean as possible to avoid any risk to our go-live,” says Markus Geiger, director and CFO of Simplon.

Gut-Instinct Decisions

Anyone wanting to adopt standard software needs to flexible. If systems do not fit processes or cannot be made to fit them, then processes and people have to adapt instead. Geiger, though, was not worried. “We are young and dynamic,” he says wryly.

As with any project, the first job is to write the specification – an exercise that Simplon did not find all that easy. Many departments struggled to describe exactly how they worked because they based many decisions on gut instinct. Some started with simple process definitions, asking accounting staff, for instance, how they got their data and where that data then went.

As with all projects, there were differences of opinion and resistance to change, which Geiger ascribes to the extra work involved. “Implementing a new system came on top of everyone’s day-to-day tasks. That was really tough.”

All the Data in One Place

Geiger and his team were proud that the new ERP system went live on October 1, 2017, just in time for the industry’s new season and only 13 months after the project had begun. “Not only were we able to meet this really important deadline, we had no downtime, neither before nor after going live,” Geiger says.  In October 2016, Simplon shipped 450 bikes. One year later and using the new software, they also shipped 450 bicycles. By October 2018, though, it was up to 1,000.

And the number of employees has doubled from 50 in 2015 to 100 today, which shows just how fast Simplon is growing. To meet that growth, the company now has far more SAP Business ByDesign licenses than at the start of the project.

According to Geiger, one of the key advantages of the new software is that the company now has one reliable set of data. “We still use spreadsheets for reports, but the data comes from the SAP solution by way of an integrated MS Excel add-on,” he says. “That way, we can be sure that everyone is looking at the same data.” Processes are now much more transparent. The way everyone works together has also changed since the SAP solution requires data to be of high quality.

That is where Geiger sees room for improvement. “We still need to learn how to get the most out the solution where it offers different options. If we want the quality of the data to remain high, we need to use the solution in a consistent way. We still have a little way to go here.”

Bicycles Made for One

Apart from the teething troubles that are inevitable in projects of this kind, SAP Business ByDesign has brought improvements for Simplon. Using the order data, manufacturing can now be scheduled and completed on demand in any segment. Simplon now knows not only when it needs to produce goods but what products are selling well and not so well. Geiger has all the data he needs at the press of a button and, like everyone else at the company, for his specific authorization level.

Simplon is growing in all segments and wants to keep growing in its current market while tapping into new ones, too. SAP Business ByDesign contains the tools Simplon needs to pursue the customization that is the heart of its business. According to Geiger, “We want to build bicycles tailored perfectly to each individual. Nothing more, nothing less.”


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