Volkswagen Accessories is a VW subsidiary that provides more than 8,000 accessory parts for virtually every model in its parent company’s range of automobiles. These include communication components, car maintenance and fashion products, specially styled rim-and-tire combinations, and other optical enhancements. Until recently, Volkswagen Accessories’ 200 employees analyzed data from the company’s individual SAP ERP modules by hand before entering them into Excel files. Due to the considerable demands of the Volkswagen group’s internal reporting, this involved a tremendous amount of effort and tied up significant resources – for more, see the related article “Volkswagen’s SRM Road Map 2011”.
Project manager Björn Lange adds: “Besides taking far too much time, this method simply couldn’t meet our current requirements anymore.” Shorter development cycles are constantly demanding new reports that employees need available on an ad hoc basis whenever possible. This is why Volkswagen Accessories decided to implement a modern business intelligence solution. “Our goal was not only to establish a uniform basis of data, but especially to ensure our ability to distribute information in a flexible, largely automated way,” Lange explains. For assistance with the implementation, the company called upon Infomotion GmbH, one of Germany’s leading BI consulting firms.
Tools from SAP BusinessObjects
While conducting its search, Volkswagen Accessories placed two basic requirements on its ideal BI solution: It had to offer a high degree of flexibility in reporting and scalability, and be easy to use. Even though the company uses SAP R/3 as its ERP system, it opted to forego SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse. “SAP NetWeaver BW is a very complex system that enables you to access the most comprehensive datasets,” says Jan Ischebeck, whom Infomotion appointed as its project lead. “As we were analyzing the company’s requirements, it became clear that VW Accessories needed a much more streamlined – and thus more flexible – application.” The answer? Building a relational database supported by tools from the SAP BusinessObjects portfolio.
The automotive industry has had a number of challenges to overcome in recent years, from surpluses in production and plunging revenues to protectionism; for more, see our article “Processes Keep the Auto Industry Rolling.”
Ischebeck clarifies the difference between the two approaches: “While SAP NetWeaver BW extracts basically all of the data from your different SAP modules, we defined in advance which data was actually relevant from a technical perspective.” Björn Lange adds: “To avoid only looking at our figures through SAP-colored glasses, we needed a solution that would make it easy to interrelate the data from various modules. Our new tool also enables us to integrate external data sources into our reporting in a fast, straightforward manner.”
During the process of data modeling, the project team had to contend with significant demands in extracting data from various SAP modules, including Financial Accounting (FI), Controlling (CO), Profitability Analysis (CO-PA), and Materials Management (MM). “For one thing, the data you need is often spread across various individual tables. Plus, the bulk of the data is calculated in the modules themselves,” reports Ischebeck.
Meanwhile, Volkswagen Accessories and Infomotion also analyzed numerous SAP tables to determine the source of each individual value while modeling the data. They also simulated sections of computation logic in order to ensure the correct formation of data, even in exceptional cases. Here, the functional scope of the SAP software was expanded: While the default form of SAP’s Asset Accounting module enables users to display data only from the current year, Volkswagen Accessories’ financial reporting contains a standard function that performs calculations for the years ahead.
“Right now, we’re saving three person-days every month in controlling alone – and that number is only going to increase,” says Lange. Volkswagen Accessories can now also generate all-new reports in short order; users assemble the data they require through a drag-and-drop Web interface and refine it into a graphical format as needed. These new abilities are also benefiting the greater VW group: Complex analyses, such as on the consequences of currency effects, now take fewer than two days.