The best ERP system has little benefit if you do not use it optimally and cannot exploit its potential. And if a company does not have the right IT partner, it cannot use its resources to the full and only gains minor benefits from new software. Kinkele GmbH has experienced this.
The company Kinkele has operated in Ochsenfurt since 1885. Right from the start the company specialised in supplies for mechanical engineering, apparatus and steel construction. Today, Kinkele GmbH & Co. KG manufactures, assembles and tests specialist machinery, complete apparatus and equipment with hydraulic and pneumatic controls from all industries and sectors such as the power engineering sectors, the nuclear technology and engineering industries, and the space technology and aeronautical engineering sectors.
Kinkele does not develop its own products, but manufactures to its customers' designs and instructions. These products include lifting and swivelling platforms for the Mercedes S-Class, complete systems for the paper industry or welding, iron and sheet metal constructions weighing up to 100 tons per piece for other sectors. The majority of the products are made to order: "What we produce on one day we will normally never produce again. We have a repeat order rate of around 10 percent and if we produce ten parts that are the same, that constitutes a series for us," explains Matthias Krinke, head of IT organisation. The products are rarely exported directly, but a large proportion of them go abroad via German customers. Almost 400 employees generate EUR 65 million annually. In addition, 30 to 40 apprentices receive comprehensive training at the single site in Ochsenfurt.
In 2005 Kinkele started to analyse its existing PPS system and put it to the test. "We identified a variety of deficits that forced us to take immediate action," recalls Krinke. Immediately they compared the existing ERP systems on the market, taking into account in particular whether the software fitted the business or whether the program would need to be adapted to the company. "We have processes that are very intelligently worked out but aren't necessarily standard processes," said Krinke. He does not mean accounting or even commercial administration, but production processes that are specifically tailored to a manufacturer producing on a one-off basis. So those responsible for IT undertook a strict pre-selection process together with an external consultant based on a catalogue of requirements which already excluded some well-known providers.
Of the three systems that made the final selection, the ERP standard Microsoft Dynamics NAV was clearly ahead of the game. "Although we also liked other solutions, Dynamics NAV had the decisive points," said Krinke about their choice. Since there are hardly any recurring parts in production, the key factor was that new products could be quickly and easily accommodated into bills of materials with multiple levels. Here, the staff in order preparation were able to work the most quickly and efficiently with Microsoft Dynamics NAV, saving significant amounts of time. Finally, the supplier's market position and future security also played a role, as well as a suitable regional proximity. The new ERP system was put into practice in August 2007.
"Unfortunately, we were not satisfied with our Microsoft partner," said Krinke, describing the difficulties encountered in the first few years. A planned branch of the system supplier with expertise in the field of mechanical engineering was not implemented. Since the project was introduced, Krinke has had to work with seven project managers. "It is not acceptable that we constantly have to explain to someone new who we are and what we do. That will never result in an IT system developing in a company and growing with it organically," complains the head of organisation, even now. It was therefore a logical consequence to phase out the existing contract and to look around for a preferred partner in the Microsoft Dynamics environment.
With COSMO CONSULT GmbH, a specialist for the manufacturing industry, project-oriented service providers and the supply industry, they finally found what they were looking for. Not only had some of the old partner's former employees, who had provided Kinkele with effective support during the implementation, now joined COSMO CONSULT, but the previously acquired additional modules could also be easily supported, further developed and integrated. The fact that two sites in Nuremberg and Stuttgart were within easy reach was also consistent with expectations. "An IT system like this does not stagnate — it is a living thing. You can never really finish it," said Krinke, emphasising the importance of being in regular contact with the IT partner to further refine the system and company processes.
And Krinke knows: "There is no off-the-shelf software for custom manufacturers, as you need a flexible ERP system that can be adapted quickly to individual specialities." A wide range of customers with very varied requirements need to be served. The Kinkele staff are continually developing new ideas for this, which also have to be implemented using the IT system. Of course this only works with competent industry experts at the IT partner who know the company and its processes. Because: "There's almost nothing that cannot be developed in Navision," says Krinke. So now they are introducing the orderbase MegaBoard as a control centre and planning board solution fully integrated into Microsoft Dynamics NAV, in order to replace manual processes with automatic planning operations. For example, foremen should be given authorisation to schedule holidays directly into the time management system. Since there will now be no slips of paper waiting to be dealt with in the personnel department, this will provide an instant overview of capacities. Krinke has even more examples: "Before, when you had bills of materials with several thousand items for large orders, you could go and have a coffee whilst it opened. That doesn't happen anymore." The head of IT has even more examples and is sure that a number of processes could still be streamlined. For instance the project management module, which has not yet been used to its full potential. So even today they are still discovering things and gaining new knowledge with their new partner about all the functions that Microsoft Dynamics NAV offers. As a customer too, Kinkele feels really well supported again. If support is needed or if questions or other concerns arise, contact takes a reasonable amount of time and the problems are addressed immediately. Contact is also sustained, with regular inquiries as to whether the services performed are working properly. "Our decision to work with COSMO CONSULT was absolutely right. Our internal productivity has risen considerably and continuing to develop Dynamics NAV in the company has become fun again," says Krinke, summing up the change of partners.