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Norbert Kytka, Headquarters PlattlingContact
The impress Group recently established SAP ERP as the single IT platform for all its companies, standardizing its business processes and making them more transparent and efficient as well. Intercompany transactions are now faster, orders are processed more efficiently, and processes at the shop floor enjoy a level of transparency that was previously unheard of.
The decorative paper industry is known for producing hard-wearing, resistant surfacing materials with appealing patterns that enhance furniture and the surfaces of countertops and laminate floors. And the industry itself, with its enormous pricing pressure and competition, only rewards companies that are able to make their businesses behave similarly. That is why “company-wide processes that are standardized, comprehensive, and efficient are a defining competitive advantage in the field,” as Detlef Tiedt, IT Manager at the impress Group, explains. The company, which belongs to Vienna-based Constantia Industries AG, specializes in developing and manufacturing innovative surfacing materials in the form of decorative papers, decorative foils, and papers impregnated with melamine resin, as well as paints and lacquers.
Continuous business process improvement
The company uses state-of-the-art rotogravure printing presses and an electronic beam curing (EBC) machine at its headquarters in Aschaffenburg and seven other production locations worldwide in order to print decorative surfaces on special papers and cure them. These products are then used by customers from the furniture and engineered wood product industries around the globe.
impress came to be in 2006 as the result of a merger between Letron and MASA-Décor, and restructuring within the group would lead to the addition of FunderMax GmbH, and its impregnated paper business, in 2007. In order to be able to achieve its business objectives effectively and sustainably after the merger, the company found it necessary to cut costs and continuously improve the efficiency of its business processes. That is why impress relies on the use of best practices and scorecards with standardized KPIs to this day.
Establishing a future-proof IT infrastructure
Not surprisingly, the company also requires for its processes to be effectively supported by a state-of-the-art and future-proof IT infrastructure. That is why implementing SAP ERP 6.0 with Unicode, together with the SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse (SAP NetWeaver BW) reporting solution, held such strategic importance for the business.
It is also why impress decided to use Plattling-based T.CON’s MES CAT Suite to seamlessly integrate its production and operational processes, a decision that was only natural when considering the fact that SAP partner T.CON was responsible for the overall implementation of the new SAP system. Of course, other factors also played a part, one of them being the fact that the web-based manufacturing execution system (MES) is a SAP-based add-on solution that is fully integrated into SAP ERP.
A single IT roof for all locations
With its newly implemented IT platform, the decorative material specialist was able to have nearly all of its production locations use the new standardized system, consolidating its database in the process. In fact, the new standardized business processes are now linked company-wide, and the 450 users or so who work with the system have been able to benefit from this impressive level of integration ever since the system went live.
For example, Sales team members can now provide customers with quick and reliable information regarding the status of their orders. All it takes is a quick look at the ERP application. And that’s not all: The group’s companies are now able to exchange job, order, material, and inventory information for intercompany transactions quickly, smoothly, and without losing any of it in the process.
A better use of capacities
In addition, the schedule, personnel, and materials planning for production that is associated with every sales order, as well as the corresponding purchasing processes, can now be managed cost-effectively and with laser-like precision. In fact, the use of capacities has been optimized and bottlenecks are detected immediately, making it possible to order necessary quantities of goods early on.
In order to achieve this, the company uses its own ABAP-based planning solution, which expands the functionalities found in the SAP Production Planning (PP) module. This planning solution uses the information for an order, together with the desired delivery date, to automatically check the availability of personnel, machine capacity, press cylinders, and material. It also includes a graphic planning table that shows which work orders are currently being processed or are scheduled, as well as the corresponding plants.
Connecting the shop floor to the ERP system
Work orders for the company’s printing, curing, and impregnating systems are bundled into a production block during detailed planning, with the block being passed on to MES CAT. In turn, once the work orders are completed, the MES system automatically allocates the posted hours for defined time types (e.g., setup, patterning, and pressing) and the posted paint consumption quantities to the work orders in the block, calculating the corresponding machine costs in the process.
Meanwhile, machine operators can access the MES system directly through terminals at the shop floor, which enables them to look at all the required information for the work orders for their machine at the push of a button. Not only that, but they can also use them to enter the yields and scrap quantities for their machine by hand and, as soon as an order is complete, the corresponding setup times, patterning times, production times, and downtimes as well, with MES directly transferring all these KPIs to SAP ERP.
Predictive business management
SAP ERP then extracts these KPIs, together with operational data from Purchasing, Sales, and Financial Accounting, to SAP NetWeaver BW, where they can be prepared for processing and kept up-to-date. The end result? Meaningful reports on sales and sales volume figures, costs, contribution margins, orders received, order backlogs, and shop floor KPIs, enabling management to make the right decisions.
This also means that the company’s international operations can now be planned and managed with greater foresight. “And, at the same time, these analyses provide us with important reference points for continuously improving the quality and efficiency of our business processes and products,” Tiedt points out. Moreover, plant and production managers can access the shop floor KPIs that they need in order to optimize their production processes, all the way down to the machine level, by simply using the MES system’s Production Cockpit.
The impress Group is also planning to analyze data that is relevant to quality in the future so as to be able to improve the services it provides to its customers. In addition, it will be verticalizing existing SAP functionalities in order to provide its processes with even greater IT support. Finally, it is also planning to connect its MES system to the control systems for its machines in order to have data flow automatically from the shop floor to the ERP system.
Streamlining customer and supplier interactions
Finally, EDI interactions with customers (e-invoicing) and suppliers (e-dispatch) have already been implemented and will be further expanded in the future.