It is its very own world. The campus of BASF in Ludwigshafen, Germany, is the world’s largest property held by a chemical company. Its seven square kilometers include 115 kilometers of road, 800 buildings, and five bus lines. When Peter Edinger, an employee in the facility management department, receives an inquiry from a BASF unit for additional office space, he needs a quick overview. With a few keystrokes, he calls the required information on all building objects from SAP R/3 Enterprise and can trust its currency and security. “I used to have to go back to Excel spreadsheets that I had developed myself. They manually documented planned moves, reservations, or maintenance activities for buildings,” he explains. “That was a lot of work. Mistakes always wormed their way into the spreadsheets. I often had to check a situation with those involved. SAP R/3 Enterprise saves me a lot of work – a lot of kilometers.”
The 200 business units of BASF, which manufactures synthetics, antifreezes, and a wide variety of other produces – some 8,000 in total – can work efficiently only when all those involved have access to comprehensive information. Internal procedures must be transparent, otherwise even the best IT system can’t deliver meaningful information. The greater the compatibility of the various IT systems is, the better the relationships of the data from various areas of the company. That’s why BASF decided to run all its systems on a comprehensive IT platform. An overall solution was to replace the individual, previously unintegrated, in-house applications.
BASF IT Services is a European-wide, leading IT firm for the process industry and a full-service provider for BASF. Together with its customer, it designed a solution based upon SAP R/3 Enterprise and implemented it along with application maintenance and end-user training.
Integrated building blocks
BASF was able to benefit from its many years of experience in the process industry as it created an integrated process chain for technical services. The area consists of plant maintenance, building construction, material procurement, and building maintenance. Each of the subareas is integrated with the SAP platform. Individual building blocks – materials management, plant maintenance, project system, real estate, SAP Enterprise Buyer (SAP EB), and the business connector supplied by SAP – work independently of each other, but together form the heart of the system as a cross-division, integrated instrument that contains consistent data.
For example, the application for building construction contains instruments for date and cost planning, as well as the planned use of personnel. It supports project organization, planning for internal and external services, and procurement of materials and services. Now, when employees in building construction request goods or services for a project, they can access all functions of the procurement component of SAP R/3 directly from the current application to requisition technical goods and services for the project. They can view the status of the procurement process at any time and have future project planning consider the status.
A step-by-step connection
A team consisting of employees of BASF IT Services and employees responsible for plant technology at BASF began the project in 1997 and completed the test phase successfully in 1999. The team then went into production with the first components of the IT platform (SAP R/3, plant maintenance, and materials management) in 1999. In the following year, BASF implemented technical purchasing, followed by the first components of building construction in 2002. The last element (for the time being) is now being taken over by the system: personnel planning in building construction. At the end of 2005, all technical services will be connected.
While working on the implementation of the SAP solution, the project team also created a clear model for each process. The innovative system structures, organizes, and processes projects for building construction according to uniform criteria. Because projects are now more transparent and comparable, they can be processed more efficiently.
At the start of the project, it was difficult to convince employees of the advantages of the new system. The project meant more than a great deal of change. It also meant that not all components and functions would be available at the beginning. Thoughtful change management and real-world training ultimately convinced the employees of the advantages of the integrated solution. The involvement of special key users in the project and the subsequent training activities was particularly important. At the end of the project, they were convinced of the rewards of the new system and brought that conviction into their departments and divisions.
Norbert Matalla, a group leader in technical services for plant maintenance at BASF, looks back on the implementation of the platform with satisfaction. “At first I had my doubts because we had to do without existing programs and familiar working habits. But in the meantime, we’re all convinced that area-side implementation of the uniform system was the right decision. We’re now taking for granted what we used to find inconceivable: common data for all users and smooth exchange of data between individual areas,” he says.
What BASF IT Services did for BASF, it can also offer other customers. The company does not simply want to copy the BASF solution, but tailor it to fit the needs of each new customer.