Their use reduces organizational effort and enables both an effective company management as well as a better overview of inventory and capacities. If the medium-range company decides to implement an ERP he most often is trying for a solution which fulfills his individual requirements and can grow in the course of time.
The firm Reiners + Fürst GmbH & Co. KG (R+F) is an international manufacturer of spinning rings and steel runners for ring spinning and twisting machines for the textile manufacturers. Next to the ring and runner systems devices for the ring spinning industry are part of the product portfolio. The mid-range family firm has been operating successfully in the market for more than 65 years and currently is in its fourth generation. R+F’s tradition provides that the current needs of the market are continuously included in the solutions and ensure a sustainable high quality as well as high customer value. When the existing legacy software together with several additional isolated solutions was no longer able to meet the company specific requirements R+F started looking for a new system world. Ralf Höing, head of the ERP project shares his experiences in this interview.
1. Mr. Höing what were the main aspects when your firm was looking for a new software program?
RALF HÖING: R+F was aiming for a stable and integrated solution which was both flexible and included the functional areas and processes relevant to us. Therefore the goal was an open standard platform which we could take as our basis and adjust to the typical requirements of the textile industry. After all our company – as most likely a lot of other mid-ranging companies – wanted to use its limited IT budget as efficiently as possible and achieve a good cost-benefit ratio.
2. Was there anything in your system evaluation which other companies should also take into account?
RALF HÖING: Experience shows that it makes sense to engage with the different software concepts and compare their advantages and disadvantages in regards to the present objective as early as in the initial information and orientation phase. Apart from the classic standard systems, there are also many alternative approaches which could be attractive for medium-sized companies in regards to the price-performance ratio. For example, customisable standard ERP is well suited to meet the requirements of SMEs and are a pragmatic compromise. This is due to the fact that such solutions combine the advantages of existing company typical processes with the ability to further adjust the system to company-specific requirements.
3. So you use a flexible solution?
RALF HÖING: Yes. The „individual standard“ of R+F has been the customizable standard software "canias ERP" of the Industrial Application Software GmbH (IAS) since 2003. On the one hand, this solution covers the common business transactions and functional areas so that our standard operations were supported right from the start without any changes being necessary. On the other hand, the house-specific development environment TROIA (Tool for Redesign of the Operational Interface and the Application) gives us direct access to the source code of the application.
4. What exactly was attractive about an „open standard platform“ to your company?
RALF HÖING: Due to the fact that the source code is open not just to the consultants and developers of the IAS but also to the users of the software without any constrictions, specially trained employees can directly access it and perform changes anytime. This can be both smaller adjustments as well as bigger, specific proprietary developments. Partially the requirements can only be implemented with company internal resources which in turn automatically reduces the costs for external support. This possibility of customizing the system on our own offers a great freedom to design and with that the necessary flexibility. Ultimately what was attractive for R+F was the ability to quickly react to changes in the market – with reasonable effort.
5. What kind of adjustments did you perform in your ERP project and how extensive were they?
RALF HÖING: The system adjustments performed were essentially aimed at the bilateral provision of information between the departments of R+F and in the course of the entire course of the project a manageable amount of man-days, which stayed within the budgeted settings, where needed. Now our distribution department, for example, is able to give faster and more reliable statements to the customers regarding the delivery capability. Apart from that evaluations were developed especially for R+F, which had not been available in this form in the standard programme. For example, our confirmation quality increased significantly due to the establishment of automatic „plausibility tests“. However, every individual adjustment must still be well thought through and the potential effort for a release change kept in mind.
6. How difficult or easy is it to estimate the effort linked to a possible release change if the ERP system was modified in the course of time?
RALF HÖING: We only recently had a release change from canias ERP 6.02 to the version canias ERP 6.03. As customers with a maintenance contract, we received the new software version for free. Therefore the effort was limited to transferring our individual adjustments, which the IAS consultants had to do. In order to estimate the projected release effort, the IAS use their own algorithms. This calculation takes into account whether a customer-specific function was changed (adjusted) in the standard or whether it was programmed from scratch. Other factors taken into account are the number of adjustments as well as their effects on other connected areas (for example the release of the highly interconnected area material resource planning is more extensive than that of the service management). The IAS’s assessment before the launch of the project was fairly accurate and the release change was executed within the planned budget.
7. Which steps were necessary as part of your release project and what was important due to the customization?
RALF HÖING: As the first step we talked with IAS about functions, both standard as well as those individually implemented for R+F and future requirements. Even at the start of the release change, the topic reengineering was very important: Some of the features implemented especially for R+F in 2003 are meanwhile included in the standard of the new version or are no longer used. For this reason, processes and specific extensions had to be examined in regard to their usefulness and in some instances be revised. I think companies should not see reengineering as a necessary evil but as a chance: with its help, they can streamline their solution and processes to an even higher extent and in future save several times the expense invested. In the third step, the technical conversion of data and individual adjustments to the new version (an installed test version) was performed. After this R+F received a training and executed various tests. The items which caught people’s attention were readjusted by IAS and after the repeated data transfer the new version went live.
8. Which experiences have you gained in your projects and what is worth paying special attention to?
RALF HÖING: With the implementation of the new ERP system canias ERP - originally in the version 6.02 – overall we achieved significantly shorter procedure times (a reduction of about 20% - 30 % depending on the product group), a quicker order processing (about 20 % more orders), as well as more streamlined processes, were achieved.
The planning and controlling of the production were improved and now works more efficiently. Through the high adjustability of the solution and the close cooperation with IAS we were able to realize our company and industry-specific requirements and to further develop them in the course of time. After the release change to the successor version clearer (but still individual) screens, more precise search and additional features lead to faster working.
It is often difficult to question yourself and your own procedures. With regards to future release changes it, however, is sensible to always also critically look at the company’s internal processes and if necessary rethink them. At those points where customization is not necessarily required one, together with all other participants in the process, should try to stay as close to the standard as possible. For such long term projects I would overall give the person responsible for the ERP the recommendation to include the key users in the departments at the start of the project and to create enough space for knowledge transfers within the team. Independently from the software customization I recommend the use of an integrated system. Our experiences showed that a uniform ERP landscape creates higher process stability and a better performance: a homogeneous data base without error prone and time lag causing interfaces between the isolated solutions increases data consistency and reduces the effort necessary upkeep and administration effort. Through an improved information flow throughout the entire process chain possible risks can be identified and countermeasures started significantly earlier.
canias ERP at Reiners + Fürst – the course of the project in brief
Since 2003 canias ERP has supported the production of standard and unique customer specific parts at the mid-ranging manufacturer of textile machine spare parts. The implementation process took place in several steps: First to be introduced was the accounting division with the finance and asset management modules. In the second step operations started in order processing (with all the modules (work scheduling, material resource planning, production) connected to it) and logistics. In the third step the remaining functional areas such as purchasing, invoice verification, etc. were implemented. Following this an interface with the existing software for wage accounting and one for the commission settlement division were set up. Both while drafting and introducing the completely new system landscape as well as later in the course of the project trainings oriented towards practical use were conducted for key and end users. The ERP system with its entire range of functions has been on the go for several years. It has been used consistently and has continuously been developed further.
Author: Anna Seel