Too much pressure can cause many things to break. On steam boilers, containers, pressure vessels, or pipelines, safety valves prevent an excess rise in pressure by letting off gases, steam, or liquids into the atmosphere, avoiding dangers for people, systems, and the environments. The demands placed on these valves are therefore extremely high.
LESER continues to develop its valves to ensure they correspond to state-of-the-art technology. With almost 200 years’ experience, the midsize, family-run company is one of the mechanical engineering pioneers in Germany. LESER produces around 60,000 safety valves each year, and always needs to make fast business decisions to keep step with the rapid developments on the market. One prerequisite for this is that the company must be able to analyze a wide variety of key figures in real time. However, the company did not have a suitable tool for this. Previously, LESER used direct, SQL-based database queries, but this method was time-consuming and did not offer a sufficient degree of flexibility.
Analyzing key figures in real time
LESER was faced with the question of which tool would best master this challenge. One particularly important factor for the company was the integration with the SAP industry solution All for Machine from All for One, which LESER has been using since March 2005. “Another deciding factor for us was the short implementation time, as well as the preconfigured business content,” explains Volker Kapune, IT manager at LESER.
In principle, reporting in the sales information (VIS) and controlling (CO-PA) systems would have been possible. However, LESER chose SAP Business Information Warehouse (SAP BW), a component of SAP NetWeaver Business Intelligence (SAP NetWeaver BI). This solution provides the enterprise with planned and actual data at the touch of a button in a uniform interface. The analyses are more flexible with regard to sorting, subtotals, the number or key figures, or interfaces to other data sources. These reports can also be displayed in either Excel with the help of the Bex Analyzer – an add-on for Excel – or the internet browser. Users are also able to modify the application to new requirements without complex programming work. “Another thing in favor of SAP BW was that it can be easily integrated in the existing SAP R/3 solution,” says Kapune. The standard business content, containing predefined reporting and analysis scenarios as well as standard extractors, was another advantage.
A variety of requirements had to be met during the project. For example, the executive managers wanted different types of order receipt. SAP BW is flexible enough for this and provides the figures in the required format. Sales can also be called up retroactively by various people online at any time. The customer analysis was also a must, as it enables the company to identify trends and shows which customers or which customer hierarchy levels buy which products. Customer-specific hierarchies were created for this in SAP BW to allow different views of the same data. The company also wanted to be able to analyze backlogs in the representative offices in relation to orders on hand. In addition to analyses for statistical reports, open customer orders needed to be output in the form of a list, and the company wanted to analyze sales on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis taking account of planning data.
Focusing on rapid implementation
Implementation of SAP Business Information Warehouse began at the start of July 2005. The “active prototyping” project method, which the company had used successfully to implement SAP, was also applied here. In this project method, the administrators are trained before the Business Blueprint phase. The advantage of this procedure is that it provides administrators with knowledge in advance, so the key figures can be defined more easily and quickly. “As we wanted to use the data from the ERP solution for operational and strategic corporate governance as soon as possible, we focused on rapid implementation,” states Volker Kapune. The SAP Best Practices for Business Intelligence solution package was implemented in combination with the SAP components. The SAP Best Practices contain scenarios with predefined analyses for the areas of Financials, Customer Relationship Management, Supply Chain Management, Product Lifecycle Management, and Human Resources, which considerably reduces the time needed for implementation. The company directly transferred 70 percent of the Business Warehouse objects for the area of Sales and Distribution, as well as the industry solution for machinery and plant engineering and construction. The team from All for One implemented other special requirements. For example, a customer-specific cube was required for the delivery reliability analysis. Once a customer-specific field had been implemented for LESER in SAP R/3, this then had to be made visible and evaluable in SAP BW. LESER evaluates throughput times and on-time delivery performance based on the first date confirmed to the customer. This is then updated in subsequent documents and can no longer be changed. The date is then compared with the actual delivery date, for example.
The processes – some of which are very complex, particularly when it comes to changes or reversals – sometimes made it difficult to retain an overview. Things also got tricky with the update rules. ABAP routines are used to align data from the SAP R/3 standard system, whereby scrupulous documentation is required. It took a long time to model the data, a factor that was initially underestimated. Care was also required with regard to the delta load, in which only the changes in the SAP application are processed as the delta and then extracted to SAP BW. The sequence of certain objects needed to be taken into consideration here, because otherwise the results of the analysis would have been displayed incorrectly. To avoid this, the master data – such as the material and customer master – need to be updated first, before orders and billing documents can be loaded. The All for One team mapped these operations in process chains. “This also enabled the administrative work to be reduced,” explains Frank Rechsteiner, the All for One project manager.
Already making new plans
SAP BW went into productive operation at LESER after just three months and with just 25 days of consulting. The complete Profitability Analysis (CO-PA) was transferred to SAP BW. Analyses are also possible here by product hierarchies, with the system able to analyze contribution margins in a four-level hierarchy. In addition, enterprise figures can now be analyzed by market classification and various characteristics, for example. The determination of the delivery service level from production and sales is also displayed, something not possible in the standard system. The delivery service level is determined by analyzing various date fields. Other analyses on the performance of Final Production and Sales are also to be implemented, for example those on purchase order commitment or vendors. The four InfoCubes for the Quality Management (QM) module are also used. The flexibility with which enterprise data is now analyzed primarily matches the expectations at executive and department management level. “SAP BW is the ideal tool. It enables us to obtain and use business data very well,” says Volker Kapune. “There are worlds between the analyzed of today and those of the past.” As Frank Rechsteiner adds, “SAP BW offers thousands of possibilities. The art is to bundle the information and have a clear goal in view. This can be achieved with an accurate project plan containing milestones. A BW project can be achieved in time and in budget even in the SME sector.” Mr. Kapune already has his next goal in view: In the future, the sales scorecard that already exists in the SAP R/3 standard system is to be implemented in SAP BW, which will enable administrative expense to be reduced over the long term.