Alstom Power Boiler plans, constructs and markets power plant systems and power generation components for industry and utility companies. The different divisions of the company and its various business processes, such as product development, assembly and accounting, are split between several subsidiaries in different sites across Germany. Alstom Power Boiler also works together with external service providers. When a large plant is being built abroad, partner companies are also involved in the production process in the field.
A firm organized like this needs to ensure that its data is completely consistent so that cooperation within and beyond the bounds of the company runs smoothly. For Alstom Power Boiler, this was a good reason to harmonize its existing IT environment, which consisted of SAP R/2 for the accounting system plus various in-house developments for engineering and logistics. Maintaining the many interfaces was a complex business, and handling monthly balances involved a lot of manual input and inquiries. The lack of integration meant that data sometimes had to be entered more than once.
One database for all sites
The company decided to solve its problems using a standardized IT environment based on SAP R/3. The objective of the project was to provide a shared database for all departments that would facilitate transparent, optimized processes and cut throughput times. This meant migrating all sites and company codes in the accounting system from SAP R/2 to SAP R/3 and replacing the long-standing EVAS logistics system – an in-house development using a mainframe architecture – with an integrated SAP application.
At the same time, the plant engineering company wanted an integrated EDM/PDM solution (Engineering Data Management/Product Data Management) to support its engineering documentation. At the Stuttgart site, some existing in-house software which Alstom Power Boiler uses to manage its correspondence and monitor its transport and construction site logistics had to be linked into the new IT environment.
Changeover without downtime
In order to allow its daily operations to continue with a minimum of interruption, Alstom Power Boiler implemented the project in three phases. In the first phase, the company migrated the data in its accounting system from SAP R/2 to SAP R/3. The existing company codes in SAP R/2 for accounts receivable/payable first had to be standardized for all sites and subsidiaries. The data itself was transferred into SAP R/3 over the 2002 Easter break.
In order to allow procurement to begin using the new solution and access data from the old EVAS logistics application, the old system was temporarily interfaced to the new one. This step-by-step approach minimized the risks associated with moving everything in one go, since neither the consultants nor the key users had the capacity to simply replace EVAS in the space of a few days for around 300 engineers, particularly in view of the time-critical nature of their project business. However, the step-by-step approach did mean that the purchasing department had to work with two different systems for around a year. During that time, a special report helped the purchasers and commercial project managers to locate their purchasing procedures in the old and new systems. With a double click of the mouse, they could choose between the SAP order and displaying the “old order” from the EVAS system.
Large volumes of documentation under control
The second project phase ran from summer 2002 until July 2003 and involved mapping the project management and engineering processes and the entire procurement logistics system in SAP R/3. To achieve this, Alstom Power Boiler implemented the logistics functions for material stocks and parts lists and the project system (PS) with the cross-application timesheet (CATS) function, costing, capacity planning, notification of engineering hours, materials procurement, and monitoring of costs and deadlines. Alstom Power Boiler will soon be able to use the claims management function integrated in the PS to manage discrepancies in its project business more effectively than in the past.
The Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) function of SAP is now supporting the company’s complex engineering activities. This primarily involves managing the large volumes of documentation arising in plant engineering work. A complicating factor at Alstom Power Boiler is the fact that not all engineering documents are drawn up in house. Some are created by external service providers, and various different CAD (Computer Aided Design) systems are used. The Document Management System (DMS) in the PLM administers the various formats by generating neutral format (e.g. TIFF and PDF) versions of the original engineering documents and automatically storing these in the electronic archive. The same is done for SAP parts lists. Every time a parts list is approved – sometimes in several languages, it is stored in the archive as a PDF file. Documents from Office applications like EXCEL and WORD are also archived in the DMS as revisable document info sets. Alstom Power Boiler also implemented a powerful input and output management system, plus functionality for document exchange with external partners.
Special functionality for parts lists and capacity planning
In addition to the SAP standard, the project team also developed a series of additional programs to serve the specific requirements of the plant engineers. For example, parts lists can be made into revisable documents thanks to a combination of SAP standard functions and additionally programmed customer fields such as logistical assignment to the Project Structure Plan (PSP) and network plan. This functionality tailored to the needs of Alstom Power Boiler shows which parts lists assigned to a production or assembly company are valid at a particular stage in the project, and which materials standards and specifications need to be fulfilled.
There is another piece of additional programming which also facilitates capacity planning at Alstom Power Boiler. It is based on the “cost center”, “workstation”, “employee” and “project” SAP objects in the project system and allows evaluations to be performed in the form of lists or graphics. The program provides a cost center manager with information about how much of a deviation exists between the current planning stage and the original plans, how much of the capacity of his cost center has been used, and so on. A capacity planning chart based on the project planning chart also allows him to clearly allocate the number of hours required for all ongoing projects over the next few months to his cost center.
Speedy upgrade to SAP R/3 Enterprise
The third phase of the SAP project began in October 2003, and is scheduled to be completed by mid-2004. This phase primarily involves optimizing the interfaces with the existing ADAMS application, which controls supply monitoring, transport and construction site logistics, and with the order costing and claims management system. At the same time, business processes are being constantly improved and adapted to suit changed conditions.
At the end of February 2004, following an upgrade process lasting just two months, the company went live with SAP R/3 Enterprise. The fact that many of the additional programming features in SAP R/3 4.6C are linked to the solution via user exits is a bonus here, since it means that no additional work is entailed when release changes take place. The staff who originally developed these programs were also involved in the upgrade.
International rollout planned
Around 450 employees in Germany are currently using the integrated SAP enterprise solution. This makes handling complex plant engineering projects more reliable and transparent. Alstom Power Boiler can better monitor and control its costs, materials and deadlines. The integration of different applications on a single platform avoids transfer errors and means that all data is complete and consistent.
Alstom Power Boiler hopes that these benefits will help it to improve its position against the international competition. As a result, other subsidiaries of the Alstom Group with comparable business activities are now interested in the solution too. The implementation of the solution at the French sister company Alstom Power Boiler in Vélizy is currently going through the approvals process.