Growing numbers of passengers and limited take-off and landing capacities at airports plague civil aviation. Estimates differ, but the number of passengers transported and the amount of freight is expected almost to double between 1995 and 2010. The result? Large planes are in demand. For example, Airbus has developed the A380, the largest passenger plane in the world with 650 seats. Delivery of the A380 is scheduled for 2007; the plane should take its maiden flight in 2005.
The plans for the A380 also affect Aircabin GmbH. This subsidiary of Airbus Deutschland GmbH is Europe’s leading manufacturer of cabin interiors and internal ventilation systems. Aircabin primarily supplies customers in civil aviation. The company’s products are found in all Airbus planes: in the single-aisle program (A318, A319, A320, and A321) and in the long-range program (A330 and A340). In fiscal 2002, the company and its 800 employees earned revenues of about 158 million Euro.
Increased production increases demands on reporting
As a system supplier of Airbus, Aircabin also develops and produces the cabin interior for the Airbus A380. Because this high-tech plane is significantly larger than previous models, Aircabin had to expand its production capacity. “To handle a higher number of orders competitively, we’ve invested in new hangers and in an improved production process,” says Peter Zehrer, who works in information systems at Aircabin.
But those steps alone aren’t enough. The large order for the A380 also placed increased demands on reporting. “Particularly in this phase of the company’s expansion, we need comprehensive and up-to-date reporting based upon reliable data. Only in this manner are we able to control business processes more efficiently and fulfill tight delivery times,” says Christoph Wieczorek, who works in the controlling department at Aircabin.
Previously, decentralized organization applied to reporting, which included purchasing, production, quality assurance, sales and distribution, development, and finance and controlling. Several departments were involved in the reporting process and supplied their own data. However, this approach took a great deal of time and did not meet the increased requirements. In addition, Aircabin was becoming more tightly integrated in the Airbus Group, which placed additional demands on reporting.
Easy integration and a secure investment
Aircabin looked for a suitable reporting solution that allowed all relevant departments to analyze their data quickly and flexibly. “Easy integration with the existing SAP R/3 system, which provides comprehensive data for reporting, spoke for SAP,” explains Zehrer. Aircabin has used all SAP R/3 components (with the exception of SAP Human Resources) since 1998; it uses the ERP solution to map all its business processes.
When it makes IT-related decisions, Aircabin places great value on the value of its investments. “For us, SAP BW was the first choice because the solution is sustainable strategically and operatively over the long term,” says Zehrer. The business content delivered with SAP BW was an additional argument for the solution. It provides predefined reporting and analysis scenarios along with standard extractors. “The business content saved us from having to write our own extractors,” says Wieczorek, “and this accelerated and simplified the implementation of SAP BW.”
The implementation of SAP BW began in December 2001. Aircabin used a procedural model based upon SAP Business Blueprints and started with data from finance and accounting. The resulting reports have been available since June 2002. Since February 2003, data from materials management and quality assurance has also been analyzed. eNovation GmbH, a company that specializes in business intelligence and the creation of Web-based management cockpits, provided competent consulting and support during the entire project.
Employees in controlling and all those responsible for cost centers use SAP BW. About 15 key users with experience with Microsoft Excel work with SAP Business Explorer (BEx), the front end of SAP BW. About 45 info users access cost center reports via Web reporting or online with SAP BEx; labor-intensive printing and distribution is no longer needed. A reporting concept ensures that users receive only the data that applies to them. Departments within the company now have more responsibility for their own numbers, but the departments are also more independent because they create and use their own reports.
SAP BW maps the cost centers and cost elements and provides the structures for valid, company-wide reporting. Because periodic reporting (monthly reporting for management and Airbus in Tolouse) has shifted to SAP BW, only operative reporting occurs in the individual application components of SAP R/3. The separation is sensible: it means that there is no longer a need for permanent data-transports into SAP BW to perform operative reporting – such as a report on the current production status of a delivery unit. This approach also guarantees that the performance of SAP R/3 remains unaffected. SAP BW has also replaced a Microsoft Access database: Aircabin now has a company-side, uniform database.
“Thanks to SAP BW, our data is now up to date by day, week, and month,” says Christoph Wieczorek. “Analyses that used to take three weeks are now available three days after closing.” Aircabin now uses SAP BW to produce reports on key figures for cost elements, cost center accounting, profitability analysis, balances, financial accounting, and purchasing. Standard reports are created only once and are available at the push of a button. SAP BW has also accelerated and simplified monthly reporting for the group’s headquarters in Toulouse.
More time for analysis
“With SAP BW, we profit most of all from flexible options for analysis and consistent numbers,” says Wieczorek. “Controllers now spend less time collecting data from various sources. They can thus concentrate on analyzing data and support the control of the company.” The new reporting solution offers an additional advantage: by implementing SAP BW, Aircabin has performed the preparatory work to populate the group’s consolidation systems.
Aircabin upgraded to SAP BW 3.1 in April 2003. In the future, supplemental SAP Business Content will permit powerful analyses at the document level – even in stock controlling. Aircabin no longer needs to use the Logistics Information System (LIS) in SAP R/3, which allows the analysis of data only at the characteristic level. Aircabin has also set up a management cockpit, which supplies decision-makers with data formatted in a comprehensible form. For example, managers can quickly find information on developments in the company with traffic-light graphics.
Complete mapping of the company
“Our goal is to map all SAP R/3 components in SAP BW,” says Peter Zehrer. “In the next step, we will integrate SAP R/3 components for sales and distribution, production planning, and project management into SAP BW.” In the third quarter of 2003, Aircabin plans to make SAP BW available to purchasing controlling as well.
That means the number of users will continue to grow. By the end of 2003, 40 key users will work with SAP BW. Additional info users will use the reporting system. “By the time the new plans are put into effect, users should be able to deal with SAP BW routinely,” concludes Christoph Wieczorek. “For each component, we’re training users with DemoCubes, test systems, and BEx orientation.”