"Today our processes are completely digitalized. Administrative expenses have thus fallen significantly. At the same time, we benefit from greater transparency and can intervene more quickly in the event of deviations from plan".
Michael Polley, ERP project manager at Becker Marine Systems GmbH.
Becker Marine Systems GmbH is one of the leaders in technology for maneuvering systems and consumption-optimized ducts for container and cargo ships. The Hamburg-based company focuses exclusively on engineering. Manufacturing and assembly is done by contract manufacturers, primarily in the large Asian shipyards.
Around 8,000 ships worldwide are equipped with Becker’s navigation and propulsion technology. In addition to its head office in Hamburg, the ship-equipment company has sales and service offices in China, Japan, Singapore, Norway, Spain and the United States. Currently, the approximately 250 employees generate an annual turnover of around 85 million euros.
Given its strong growth, especially in the areas of propulsion technology and energy supply systems, the company’s existing IT could no longer keep up. Whereas the maneuvering technology division was used to using an ERP solution from IFS for planning, the propulsion technology department had been using Microsoft Project right from the start. In addition to this, the CAD solution SolidWorks with the PDM system PROCAD as well as a multitude of different Excel tables were being used. "The different divisions of the company were not networked together, so procuring information was rather difficult," recalls Andre Wiegers Team Leader of Integrated Planning and Performance Management.
Management also had a hard time keeping track of deadlines, budgeting and costs. The ERP software was also not set up in the right way, explained Wiegers: "For our project-oriented work, we were using a solution designed for traditional manufacturing companies. That was not ideal." New processes or changed ones were difficult or impossible to map in that system. "In the past, process efficiency was not really our focus. Today we cannot afford to think like that given how strong the competition is", adds Managing Director Henning Kuhlmann. The company’s management therefore decided to reorganize central processes and start using state of the art ERP software that had a sound future.
To ensure that planning was done consistently across all divisions, Microsoft Project was implemented throughout the entire company. This meant that the new ERP solution also had to be a good fit with the project planning software, because in the future planning data such as deadlines and project status needed to be accessible without delay. "It was also important for us that we be able to adapt the software to our own needs," recalls Michael Polley, ERP Project Manager at Becker. Microsoft Dynamics NAV was chosen because of its state-of-the-art, open architecture and flexible program structure.
The contract for implementation was awarded to the Hamburg COSMO COSNULT GmbH due to its broad product portfolio, which includes not only industry-specific but also specialized solutions for collaboration and data analysis. As part of the international COSMO CONSULT Group, it was also possible to take advantage of its worldwide partner network. "Given our ambitious time frame, we were looking for an IT partner who could support us in all matters, and the consultants from COSMO CONSULT showed us lots of commitment in the preliminary stages as well as a wealth of specialist knowledge and experience," explained Polley.
First, it was necessary to bring transparency to the existing process structures. After that, the project team optimized the operational organization and developed a plan to digitally automate the exchange of data, which before that often had to be done manually. "We left no stone unturned and stuck closely to the software standard when developing the process plan," emphasizes Wiegers. We could realize the few adjustments that were indeed necessary via the role center for the most part, which defines the parameters for the workstations of the individual employees.
To fulfill the industry-specific requirements of the project business, the ERP standard was supplemented with COSMO CONSULT’s cc|project and cc|configure-to-order solutions. To ensure smooth data exchange with other related systems such as Microsoft Project and the CAD software, the IT partner’s universally deployable data hub was added. If there are changes of date or status in Microsoft Project, the data in the ERP system is also updated. "Integrating the various applications eliminates many manual interventions that were necessary in the data exchange process. The administrative burden is significantly lower. At the same time, we benefit from more transparency and are able to react more quickly in cases of deviations or abnormalities, "explained Polley.
Just under a year after switching software, the planning processes have been harmonized throughout the company and the process quality is consistently high. But for Michael Polley, the biggest advantage is something else: "The new transparency is clearly our most important achievement. We used to spend a lot of time finding information. Today we can follow deadlines and processes with a click of the mouse. Deviations and abnormalities are quickly spotted and we can avoid mistakes rather than having to react after it is too late." Also, the fact that all employees work with the same data has strengthened the teamwork in the company, according to Polley. "The automatic transfer of data between Microsoft Project, the CAD environment and the ERP system has made the entire order processing operation faster. Today, the ad-hoc information is available to us that we previously could only generate with great effort," says Wiegers.
By switching to a modern ERP system, Becker Marine Systems has also laid the foundation for future system expansion. Modern technologies such as the data hub make it possible to implement ideas and whatever new requirements come up more quickly. Take, for example, the creation of acceptance protocols in quality assurance from mobile devices. Test results are then accessible directly in the ERP software. In addition, the supply chain is going to be mapped in the system step by step. "When our partners have access to Microsoft Dynamics NAV, we know immediately when jobs are done and shipments have arrived at their destination," says Polley. There are also plans to equip the rudders and propulsion nozzles with sensors to monitor their status. Within the framework of predictive maintenance, customers can then take advantage of additional service offerings.