Deutsche Post Is Mobilizing its Field Forces

Feature Article | October 18, 2006 by admin

Deutsche Post World Net

Deutsche Post World Net

Around 71 million letter deliveries each day, about 2.3 billion newspaper and magazine deliveries each year – that’s what Deutsche Post is known for. The previously state-owned company, today part of Deutsche Post World Net (DPWN), is also one of the largest owners of real estate in Germany. In Germany alone, around 1,000 service engineers and 70 bookers are responsible for around 13,000 objects.

Up until mid 2005, two companies shared the real estate management tasks. Verbund Instandhaltung (VIH) was responsible for service and maintenance, while Deutsche Post Immobilien Services (DPIS) dealt with real estate management. Despite the close cooperation, they did not share the same software base: VIH used a mobile application for service programmed by Deutsche Post IT Solutions. DPIS used SAP modules for financial accounting (FI), controlling (CO), plant maintenance (PM), and customer service (CS). The field force entered the order data on their mobile devices and transferred it to the company solution. This, however, was not integrated in the group’s SAP NetWeaver Portal, and as a result a large proportion of the communication between the departments and the head office was paper-based, causing workload and costs to soar. “A lot of the data had to be re-entered, and there were countless manual interfaces,” recalls Mike Schumacher, project manager at Deutsche Post IT Services. For management, it was also difficult to retain an overview of current orders or free employee capacities and to distribute the resources in the most effective way.

Too much paper, too little communication

At the start of 2005, the executive board decided to restructure real estate management. The instructions for the project team were clear: both companies were to be fully integrated in an ERP solution, integration gaps and the number of manual interfaces were to be decreased, and the amount of paper-based work was to be considerably reduced. The main focus was on bundling core processes, and accelerating data input as well as making it more accurate. “The most important thing was to obtain an overview of current field force activities and to connect the mobile field force with the SAP portal by means of a mobile solution,” explains Mike Schumacher.
As Deutsche Post World Net had already been working with SAP software across the whole company for almost 20 years, the obvious choice was a SAP application for mobile business. At the start of June 2005, the company decided on SAP xApp Mobile Asset Management (SAP xMAM), because the application could be easily integrated in the existing SAP solutions and met all Deutsche Post World Net’s other objectives: “With SAP xMAM, field force employees are able to view work instructions and other important information, report activities, or enter new work orders,” explains Schumacher. The application is suitable for handheld devices and laptops. The frontend of the mobile device can be modified or extended depending on the needs of the user or business processes.

Overcoming the obstacles

During preparations for implementation, VIH was renamed Deutsche Post Technical Services, but the name was not the only thing that changed. The team under project manager Schumacher had to restructure numerous processes, primarily within maintenance and service, logistics and accounting, and overcome a few problems – all in a very short space of time. The first difficulty was the product duration, as the aim was to complete the project by January 1, 2006. As a result, the team had to implement all the changes in just seven months. The project plan therefore included a short test phase but no pilot phase, and a “big bang” for all users. “Without the support of SAP Consulting across the whole project and the hotline to Walldorf, we wouldn’t have been able to make it in such a short amount of time,” says Schumacher.
The project was one of the largest implementations of SAP xApp Mobile Asset Management to date. Around 1,000 users were to work with the new solution, but usually it would only be possible to manage about 300 users per server and SAP NetWeaver Application Server (SAP NetWeaver AS). “With 1,000 employees, we would have had a whole forest of servers. No executive board would have agreed to that,” explains Schumacher. However, in an analysis the SAP development department discovered how the application and database server could be mapped as one instance on SAP NetWeaver AS. “Within a month, SAP gave us the OK to have just one server and one SAP NetWeaver AS for going live,” says Schumacher. The question of suitable mobile devices also needed to be clarified before the implementation phase. DPWN ultimately decided in favor of a handheld from Psion.

Technical Integration Check (TIC)

Technical Integration Check (TIC)

The implementation began in October 2005, and by the end of October, the employees were already testing the first mobile devices. As a result, almost two months remained for the test phase before the implementation went live. “The implementation was a great challenge, but it paid off, because the solution is highly flexible,” states Schumacher.

Saving time, avoiding errors

SAP xMAM is an offline application that uses a defined assignment logic to allocate the service orders from the SAP R/3 backend to the relevant engineers. As soon as employees synchronize their terminals with the service, they automatically receive the orders assigned to them for the immediate future. If an engineer receives an order to repair a door, for example, he or she defines the working hours and materials used directly via SAP xMAM. During the next synchronization, this data is transferred to the SAP R/3 backend, where an invoice is automatically created. With this procedure, a damage report can be created much more quickly, for example, because certain data, such as the customer address, error codes, and previously filled-out fields in the form of context-sensitive list boxes, is already available within the SAP xMAM application on the device. Service engineers also save time because they can use the application to view the stock of service parts in their delivery vehicle without having to go to the car every time.

Today, the route the information takes from SAP Portal, the call center, or the SAP R/3 backend system to SAP xAPP Mobile Asset Management and back is paper-free and fully integrated. Deutsche Post World Net uses the Order Management, Notification Management, Inventory Management, Time Confirmations, Material Confirmations, and Materials Replenishment. “We have eliminated numerous integration gaps, and the additional transparency simplifies service management,” explains Schumacher. The mobile service employees also benefit: the data is only entered once and is then available to all authorized users. Service employees can provide their customers with accurate information, they can see both the status and the timeframe for an order, know what damage needs to be repaired and the service parts that are required for this.

Hints and Tips

Hints and Tips

Deutsche Post World Net plans to implement the scanner function in the near future. This will enable inventories to be carried out more quickly in the future and with as few errors as possible. Route optimization can also be controlled with SAP xMAM, and other departments in the group have also felt the benefits of SAP xMAM: the complete logistics process for fleet management, for example, was simplified thanks to the application. “In our company, SAP xMAM is flourishing,” explains Schumacher. “We now have a clear view of the service personnel and a transparent view of the complete value-added chain. As a result, we are able to provide our customers with better products and they are more satisfied.”

Andreas Kraft

Andreas Kraft

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