“Without this software we would hardly be able to organize the collaboration between two locations or meet corporate reporting requirements following the Hexagon takeover.”
Klaus Daenicke, Head of Technical Service & Support at AICON 3D Systems GmbH
AICON 3D Systems GmbH specializes in optical, camera-based 3D measuring processes and was founded in 1990 as a spin-off of Volkswagen Research and Technical University Braunschweig. Since 2016, the company has been part of the Swedish technology group Hexagon. The measuring systems specialist develops and produces photogrammetric equipment for three-dimensional object measurement. First, either the surface of the objects is imaged by special scanners or reference marks are applied to selected object points and then photographed from different perspectives. After that, contours and measuring points can be defined and measured on the images. This non-contact, precise technology is used mainly for technical testing, maintenance inspections, in quality assurance and for digitizing certain objects.
The software is developed both at the headquarters in Braunschweig and in Meersburg. In Braunschweig, the company manufactures the tube measuring systems, among other products. The scanners, meanwhile, are produced in Meersburg at the former Breuckmann GmbH company, which merged with AICON in 2013. About half the company’s revenue comes from the automotive sector. One third comes from tube measurement and the rest from industry and aviation. “The camera technology is standard. Our unique selling point is the combination of the individual components – and our software,” stresses Klaus Daenicke, Director of Technical Service & Support. In quality assurance, non-contact measurement is considered more precise and efficient. Since the objects are not moved, the measuring operation also goes very quickly. With over 4,000 systems installed, the company estimates that they are among the world market leaders in the field. In tube measurement in particular, as Daenicke maintains, hardly any other solution is capable of imaging and measuring entire parts and delivering correction values to the production machines effectively.
For a long time, AICON 3D relied on multiple different IT systems, some of them developed in-house, for contact management, order processing and financial accounting. “These individual solutions were not interconnected. This resulted in redundant databases. A lot of information was recorded in duplicate. Reports had to be painstakingly consolidated in Excel,” recalls Daenicke. After the merger with Breuckmann GmbH, the number of systems in use doubled. This came with an increase in the number of interfaces and the amount of work required to keep the data in all the applications synchronized. For the Daenicke, as Technical Director, this was the perfect time for an ERP project, because, as it was, the merger already meant that business processes would have to be harmonized or re-established. “In designing the process, we were able to go by what could be modeled through software. That’s much easier than trying to find a solution that perfectly matches structures developed in the past.” The new ERP system needs to include at least all the functions of all the individual solutions and connect the various departments in consistent processes across all locations.
In addition to the Cosmo Consult Group and their globally leading Microsoft Dynamics partner, Microsoft Dynamics NAV, abas and proALPHA were also among the top software suppliers under consideration. Ultimately, AICON 3D decided on the Microsoft system and cc|ordercompletion, a Cosmo Consult industry solution for single-unit and small-batch manufacturers. To this, they added the cc|dms document management system, based on the Microsoft SharePoint portal system, and the cc|text module specialized software for document design. “For us, it’s important to keep an overview of orders in progress. That said, in manufacture, we don’t need the full range of functions. We were able to precisely tailor the new software to our needs. So we benefit long-term from lean structures and simple operation,” explains Daenicke.
The project team was able to design the entire process based on program standards. One of the few changes that was made in the implementation phase pertained to order processing. For most ETOs, the order is finished upon delivery. At AICON 3D, training and maintenance are an integral part of the complete package. The order processing sequence had to be adjusted accordingly. With the cc|text module specialized software, the company is now also able to modify individual text fields of quotes, invoices and orders as necessary. This is especially important when international sales partners, customers and invoice recipients have specific requirements. AICON 3D doesn’t produce any one-offs, but to a great extend, customers are able to configure their solutions themselves using the modular build system. In order to represent the various customer requirements, the company uses the checklists in cc|ordercompletion. The sales rep goes over the questionnaire with the customer step by step, automatically guided by the software to the appropriate version of the given measuring equipment.
Currently, about 60 employees at the Braunschweig and Meersburg locations work with the ERP system. For them, the change has brought new working conditions. “Before, every department lived on its own island. Now, what one group inputs in the system has direct consequences for downstream workstations and for Accounting. “We first had to learn how to think in terms of such continuous processes. Then there were the new working methods like budgeting based on BOMs. We didn't know how to do that, yet,” recalls Daenicke. In some departments, the staff was able to benefit from additional information right away. Controlling, for example, was able to directly access all the key figures they needed without first having to spend time consolidating the data in Excel spreadsheets. Production Planning got a complete overview of current project and sales orders. Any deviations from the budget are spotted much quicker this way. Since information is logged only once, orders are forwarded between departments automatically and the staff is no longer weighed down with repetitive tasks, the company saves a lot of time.
With Microsoft Dynamics NAV and the add-on modules from Cosmo Consult, transparency and planning reliability have improved significantly. Now, business data from departments such as Purchasing, Logistics and Sales automatically is automatically supplied to Financial Accounting with no interfaces required. Staff can find information directly in the system and no longer have to ask co-workers for every little thing. As a result, the communication and coordination workload has gone down considerably. “Without this software,” says Daenicke, “we would hardly be able to organize the collaboration between two locations or meet corporate reporting requirements following the Hexagon takeover.” However, he also sees the company software as an investment in the future. With Cosmo Consult as a partner, AICON 3D will now be able to strategically expand its IT infrastructure. Already in the works are a service module as a basis for contract management and a ticket system for structured processing of service orders. The add-on module cc|supplierassessment and a mobile data collection system in customer service also top the wish list.