Finance Function Drives Digital Transformation at Schott AG

Headquartered in Germany with facilities all around the world, Schott AG is a leading manufacturer of specialty glass products. In a move that will digitalize the company’s processes and give it data-powered forecasting at all its locations, it is migrating from its current SAP environment to the new, digital, SAP S/4HANA world.

All companies face the same questions: Where is the best location for manufacturing our product? Where will transport routes be shortest? Is the initial cost and pricing right? Schott is no exception. Founded more than 135 years ago, it was the first company to develop specialty glass. These days, Schott is a worldwide technology group that generates €2.2 billion in revenue, employs 16,200 people, and is a partner to businesses in many different industries.

Change management is central to projects like the one at Schott. It has about 80 subsidiaries, all of which are scheduled to go live with the new system in one big bang at the end of 2021. So, the change management process needs to onboard the group’s 270-strong finance team. Besides them, there are stakeholders across the company who depend on the processes and subprocesses, and the information they create.

“In many ways, this is new territory for us, especially the new margin analysis and the simultaneous material ledger valuation – not to mention data migration. As far as we know, our project is the first of its kind,” says Project Lead and SAP S/4HANA Finance Project Manager Oliver Boehm.

Lynchpin of the Digitalization Strategy

Schott’s ONE Finance initiative already has common standards, processes, datasets, and a unified organizational structure based on the SAP ERP software it deploys today. Financial accounting and management accounting are both carried out at group level. SAP S/4HANA will now take it one step further.

Schott is looking for faster, comprehensive reporting that uses optimized data structures. One global controlling area, one fiscal year variant, and more narrowly defined functional areas will enable it to achieve these aims. “In short, ONE Finance will give us a system that is more flexible, more adaptable, and delivers the right data at the right level of detail so that we can respond much faster to changes in our market,” says Jens Schulte, CFO of Schott AG.

SAP S/4HANA is the framework that will shape the integrated system across the entire organization for many years to come. “Faster and better decisions about our day-to-day operations are among the many benefits we anticipate from this project,” says Schulte. “SAP S/4HANA is a major investment that our company is making as it renews its systems. Since we are committing a lot of resources, we want to maximize the benefits to our business.”

Full Picture at the Push of a Button

SAP S/4HANA is the foundation for a faster month-end and year-end close at Schott. It also has an optimized and tailored reporting system, and day-to-day operations can be faster thanks to real-time processing.

“Taking sales as an example: If you know in real time what your customer’s credit limit is, then you can serve them then and there. If you can draw up quotations faster and your sales team out in the field can react right away, that’s a clear competitive advantage,” Schulte adds. “Looking at it from the management perspective, real-time data processing has to be a dream come true for a CFO like me – pulling up all the numbers, even the financial statements, whenever I want at the push of a button. This full view is the ultimate goal.”

The project began one and a half years ago with a proof of concept completed by cbs Corporate Business Solutions, a global consulting firm headquartered in Heidelberg, Germany. “We kept refining our setup – both the technology and how we ran the project. Then we put it to the test in a preliminary project with cbs, our consulting partner. This taught us how to work together efficiently and as one team,” says Boehm.

Role Model for the Group

This digitalization project should give Schott full management agility. That way, in times of crisis, it can shift focus from growth-oriented reporting to strict cash and cost management, for instance. Schott can also significantly increase reporting frequency, tracking key performance indicators weekly and discussing them straight away with the relevant divisions.

“Adopting digital technologies is a priority from now to 2025, not only in finance but across the group as a whole. Finance is the first function to adopt the new capabilities, such as analytics tools that use daily peaks to forecast monthly revenue,” says Schulte. “We want to show the rest of the group how its done. We have well-thought-out processes. Our people have an affinity for business processes as well as IT and are really keen to work with digital technologies.”


Sebastian Hellman is consulting director at cbs Corporate Business Solutions.
This story originally appeared on the SAP Germany News Center.
Top image via Schott.