Ten years after switching to SAP, Berlin wholesaler Nostalgic-Art is getting ready to deploy in-memory technology.
When Teja Engel founded the Nostalgic-Art store 20 years ago, it was more of an experiment than anything else. Would it really be possible to build up a business specializing in old-fashioned signs and other paraphernalia?
The answer, it turns out, is yes. Its assortment now ranges from tin-plate signs and storage tins adorned with the logos of Coca-Cola, Harley-Davidson, Kellogg’s, and Volkswagen to double-sided store signs reading “Open” and “Closed” to small pill boxes decorated with an image of the stereotypical 1950s housewife.
Nostalgic-Art is a big success story. The company’s 35 employees today generate several million euros in revenue, a ten-fold increase compared to a decade ago. Month after month, Nostalgic-Art receives more than a thousand orders from such noteworthy customers as the hardware store Hornbach, book store Thalia, mail order business Strauss Innovation, and gift specialist Nanu-Nana.
Nostalgic-Art’s journey: From retailer to international brand manufacturer
The business has, of course, changed over the years. Managing director Engel closed the retail store 15 years ago to transform it into a wholesale business. Manufacturing and production are now controlled by Nostalgic-Art. The company handles sales and distribution for Germany, while distributors are responsible for other countries.
The Internet side of the business kicked off in 1998. “Customers placed orders online through a form, and we would then process each order individually,” remembers Engel’s brother Achim Rothe, who was still at university at the time.
Today, Teja is the company’s sales and distribution specialist and Achim is responsible for products, IT, and organization. Brother Marcus Rothe rounds out the trio, with tasks that include organizing the warehouse and managing the car fleet.
Together, the three brothers form a great team: While Marcus’ role is more hands-on, Teja is the type who wants to see Nostalgic-Art’s newly designed products hit the market as quickly as possible. Achim, meanwhile, has an eye for detail and is liable to make the designers go back to the drawing board to ensure that everything is perfect.
SAP chosen as the leading system 10 years ago
Ten years ago, it became obvious that their rudimentary style of inventory management could not keep up. They also felt the need for a professional-tier Web shop, so the brothers took a look at solutions offered by midmarket specialists such as Navision and Sage. They also looked at SAP Business One. Achim’s prior knowledge of SAP was an important factor in their decision for SAP solutions.
The team at CIB-Computer Dr.Grüneberg GmbH, led by Dr. Fred Grüneberg, turned out to be the perfect partner for this project. Increased flexibility, the capability to integrate the database and run analyses, and the use of user-defined fields were important criteria for the successful deployment of the solution.
“We also realized that the business would develop to become more international,” says Achim. SAP Business One’s multilingual capabilities were also a decisive factor. “SAP became our leading system, we connected it to the shop system from Shopware,” he explains.
Today, the system contains more than 2,000 products, which are sold both online and by over 1,000 retail merchants. “Two thirds of our business is in Germany, one third is abroad in Europe, Japan, Australia, and Mexico,” says Achim. Several distributors are now helping Nostalgic-Art get their products out there, but the business is getting more and more complex.
“The database is now 36 gigabytes in size,” explains Fred Grüneberg, “It’s no longer possible to run the analysis in the blink of an eye.”
The logistical processes are also complex. “We manufacture as much as possible in Germany, but some manufacturing is done in the Far East. Some of the products from Asia have a delivery time of several months,” explains Achim. “We need exact forecasts so that we can manufacture in time and be able toinform our customers about when to expect delivery.” He also wants to use complex queries to find out which products and themes are selling well, as product differentiation presently takes a long time in hiscurrent “query generator.”
Grüneberg, managing director of CIB-Computer, is currently working on a proof of concept (POC) to scope out the benefits that SAP’s in-memory database SAP HANA, in combination with visualization software SAP Lumira, holds for Nostalgic-Art. What are the tangible advantages of faster data processing and increased flexibility? Major customers report sales figures from several hundred stores to Nostalgic-Art every week. This results in a large number of sales order documents being processed, billed, and used for restocking – simultaneously.
“Using the service layer, SAP HANA can import and process large data volumes into SAP Business One, much faster than before,” Grüneberg emphasizes.
Implementation of SAP HANA planned for year’s end
Nostalgic-Art’s management is particularly excited about the dashboard, which will enable them to view individual customer data, such as sales numbers, combined with all historical data – immediately. The CIB-Computer team is currently testing Nostalgic-Art’s system on SAP HANA using its own servers. If the POC is finished by summer as planned, that’s when the real work will begin:
“We will need to tidy up the business processes and optimize some code, as well as redesign the database,” says Grüneberg. The new system, including accounting processes, should be online before the end of the year.
The designers in the Kanonenhalle, a protected historical site in Berlin that serves as Nostalgic-Art’s headquarters, however, are unlikely to feel any noticeable change. They will continue to decorate signs and tins with the motifs they create. But the resulting products will in future be shipped to the markets they sell best in more effectively. It is going to be easier to manufacture and restock products with particularly popular motifs more quickly, while poorly selling products can be swiftly removed from the portfolio. Nostalgic-Art is keen on creating the high-tech base that future innovations will require.
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