Whether they have 200, 2,000, or 200,000 employees, global companies face similar challenges. They must control various languages, currencies, and time zones; manage intragroup trading of goods and services; and establish transfer prices for internal sales. They must create individual financial statements according to local accounting guidelines, but usually must produce consolidated interim and annual reports according to international standards, such as generally accepted accounting principles in the United Sates (U.S. GAAP) or international financial reporting standards (IFRS).
The Bruker Group, which is listed on the NASDAQ exchange and a leading supplier of analytical devices in the areas of life science, materials research, quality control, and process monitoring, must also master these kinds of requirements. The spectrum of products offered by Bruker covers devices to meter nuclear and electron spin resonance, optical and mass spectrometers, and devices for x-ray analysis. The products are use in quite widely: to determine molecular structures and to analyze gasses, liquids, powders, hard materials, and thin layers in the areas of biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, semiconductors, metals, ceramics, petrochemicals, cement, geology, mineralogy, forensics, military, and the environment. Bruker customers include large corporate groups and almost all universities and research facilities around the world. The group employs about 2,500 people. Its 50 sales and production companies provide the firm with representation in almost every part of the world. Bruker BioSpin, Bruker AXS, Bruker Daltonics, and Bruker Optics constitute the core of the Bruker Group.
Integrated IT structures for effective business processes
To provide the most efficient and economical support of business requirements, the Group decided to implement SAP R/3 to standardize its heterogeneous IT systems and to turn over operations to an outsourcing partner. “Our IT activities focus on a path to integrated IT structures that is appropriate for midsize companies. We want to use that path to merge the local requirements of our worldwide production and sales divisions with the needs of the Bruker central offices in the U.S.,” explains Bernard Kolodziej, CFO of Bruker AXS and coordinator of all IT projects.
Bruker chose AC Service AG, headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany, to handle the implementation, global rollout, and operation of the SAP solution. This SAP partner offers the Bruker Group all the desired services from one source. Its consulting subsidiary, ProPart, handled implementation of the Group’s solution, and the Outsourcing Service Center in Stuttgart took care of operations and support.
The overall project began in the fall of 2002 with about 180 users at Bruker AXS divisions. A year later, the Outsourcing Service Center supported about 400 SAP R/3 users.
An SAP platform with modeling functions
Before things got that far, the project team dealt with several stages of expansion. The existing SAP R/3 solution at Bruker AXS in Karlsruhe, Germany, provided the foundation for the new IT landscape. This Bruker company had the greatest amount of experience with SAP within the entire group. It had already worked with SAP R/2, and when it converted to SAP R/3, it created a comprehensive and integrated SAP platform suitable for a global and uniform orientation of the IT landscape. In the first step, the experts from ProPart used Customizing in SAP R/3 to bring the various SAP-based IT solutions of other Bruker AXS divisions in the United States, Germany, and France into the new, uniform SAP system step by step.
To do so, the consultants analyzed the business flows and mapped them to a global, uniform structure. It was essential to find the greatest common denominator so that all divisions, countries, processes, and last, but not least, all users could find something familiar in the solution. In this phase, the Group also laid the cornerstone for an integrated chart of accounts that enabled parallel accounting practices for all Bruker AXS divisions according to local regulations and U.S. GAAP. ProPart developed the interfaces to link external systems for production planning and control and for a proprietary Bruker management information system, tailored the solution, and trained the users.
SAP functions from stuttgart for users throughout the world
Since the completion of the first expansion stage in the spring of 2003, about 180 users from Bruker AXS have worked with the new SAP R/3 solution. The solution is structured as a uniform system for all Bruker AXS companies and is now being implemented step-by-step for 250 users. However, the solution physically resides quite far from the users in the Outsourcing Service Center of AC Service in Stuttgart. The infrastructure of COLT Telekom GmbH secures connections to the Bruker wide area network.
In the Outsourcing Service Center, experienced system administrators of AC Service control technical operations and provide organizational business support of the SAP applications. For example, the threads of second-level support converge at the service desk, which coordinates access rights and the use of self-programmed transactions. In addition to ongoing modifications of the authorization systems, the service desk also provides access to the SAP knowledge database, the Online Service System (OSS). The help desk and customer support, which work downstream from the service desk, download program corrections and deal with application-specific tasks, such as the coordination of external systems with the SAP solution.
Little by little, the IT operations of additional Bruker companies are moving to the Outsourcing Service Center. After technical migration in the United States and Germany (which included a conversion from Microsoft SQL Server to Oracle), other users received their SAP solution from Stuttgart. In the spring of 2003, some 70 users were involved first, followed by an additional expansion stage that included about 130 users from Bruker Optics, Bruker BioSpin, and Bruker Daltonics in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.
One solution, multiple language versions
The Bruker Group has reached an important milestone. In an intermediate step toward a uniform system landscape, the numerous isolated, individual systems of the Bruker companies, which are distributed throughout the world, are now consolidated in only two system landscapes: one for the Bruker AXS divisions, which uses almost all SAP R/3 application components, and one for the divisions of Bruker Optics, Bruker BioSpin, and Bruker Daltonics. The business processes for production of the last three companies are less complex than those of Bruker AXS.
After Bruker AXS and Bruker Daltonics were amalgamated in 2003 into Bruker BioScience, the current task involves the merger of both system landscapes. The Outsourcing Service Center forms one system landscape for all Bruker companies, based upon SAP R/3 4.6C under Oracle and Windows. It has three instances: test, quality assurance, and production. The Bruker Group uses language versions of SAP R/3 for German, French, English, Dutch, Spanish, Italian, Swedish, and Japanese (double byte) to cover the requirements of its international companies. The company codes are organized by country; corresponding clients handle individual companies.
Group consolidation made easy
An essential element of the SAP project involves the implementation of one solution for financials and accounting with one, central chart of accounts. The implementation occurred first at Bruker BioSpin and Bruker Optics, which had to create quarterly reports and annual financial statements according to U.S. GAPP because they are listed on the NASDAQ exchange. The application is now productive at Bruker companies in the United States, France, Germany, and The Netherlands; England and Japan will follow in the spring of 2004.
With that step, the group will have implemented a global, SAP R/3-based consolidation system for finance. Each Bruker company can use the solution for automatic consolidation with the correct method (complete or partial consolidation) – another requirement for NASDAQ-listed companies. In addition, the system calculates revenues from external companies and internal revenue; it offers variegated segment invoices as standards.
Variant configuration helps planning jump ahead
Part of daily business in the Bruker Group involves the global and cross-company sale of products. Production is concentrated in a few locations. To meet the specific requirements of customers, the devices are produced in innumerable variants, so one bill of materials is unlike any other. This situation creates difficult demands for material requirements planning (MRP), which Bruker handles with a variant configuration solution developed by ProPart. The custom development allows departments to control their local needs and global MRP comfortably with an SAP electronic data interchange (EDI) monitor. The program automatically handles the transactions and documents involved, along with correct posting in the SAP Production Planning, SAP Financials, and SAP Controlling components.
Make-to-order production according to customer specifications also requires effective management of missing parts. Here, too, ProPart developed a special solution that allows reliable rescheduling of semi-finished products that are unavailable to production at a certain time and to do so in just a few steps. Comprehensive processes work in the background to ensure the correct flow of documents and correct posting. Goods receipt automatically recognizes all missing parts and assigns them correctly – and users save valuable time.