"This is where COSMO CONSULT helps us to positively differentiate ourselves from the competition through efficiency, time and quality".
Thomas Düringer, Member of the Management Team, Head of IT
KRAL GmbH, founded in 1950 in Lustenau, Austria, is a family-owned company that is now managed by the third generation. KRAL develops and manufactures screw pumps and flow measurement technology and also offers customer-specific solutions for systems, from engineering to commissioning and after-sales service. Customers are mainly from the marine, power generation, oil and gas, mechanical engineering and chemical industries. These include small local companies as well as globally active industrial groups.
In addition to the company headquarters in Lustenau, there is a technical office and sales network in Germany, direct sales in France and Poland and two further locations in the USA and China. Production and know-how remain exclusively in the parent company. The 250 employees in Austria also include 35 trainees, all of whom have a job guarantee, as it is part of the company's strategy to grow not through acquisitions but by its own efforts. The company is structured in four business units: screw pumps, flow measurement technology, plant engineering and construction and service. Production is not for stock, but only to customer order. "With our customers, we enjoy the reputation of being able to make almost any special request possible," says Thomas Blum, Operations Manager. For commissioning, complaints or in the event of damage, wherever in the world, the fitters and spare parts always come from Lustenau.
Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2009 was used as the ERP system until 2018. In the meantime, the software was so highly individualized that it was hardly possible to speak of a standard. "The most important thing that was right at the top of our agenda was: Back to standard," recalls Thomas Düringer, IT Manager. "The company is now around 70 years old and we have processes that are almost as old," he is aware. "At Microsoft, they will have thought about the standards and have incorporated the experience of many companies. That's why a large part of the standardization for us had to consist of adapting internal processes," the IT manager is convinced.
In 2016, the COSMO CONSULT Group, Europe's leading Microsoft Dynamics Partner and global provider of IT solutions and services for the digitalization of companies, was chosen as a partner for this project. The goal was to standardize, automate and increase the efficiency of all processes and they started with a reengineering and update to a new version of Microsoft Dynamics NAV. The implementation of the industry solution cc|discrete manufacturing was followed from April 2018 by the optimization of the ERP standard, among other things, through the integration of special COSMO CONSULT products such as the cc|task-based scheduling, product data management and a web shop based on cc|e-commerce, into which the configurator from order manufacturing was integrated. In the construction department, the change management integrated into the product data management and the CAD connector were introduced as a pilot project.
The web shop of the COSMO CONSULT partner Sana Commerce is part of cc|e-commerce and was integrated into the ERP system without an interface. With the help of the configurator, it should ensure that the field service can offer a technically and commercially perfect product without detour via the parent company. Everything listed in the configurator has already been checked and released from a technical and commercial point of view. The representative selects the desired options with the help of a checklist and finally receives a finished product, for which the sales text and the sales price are generated automatically. "With this, we have achieved our goal of allowing the subsidiaries and direct sales to operate autonomously worldwide. This works excellently," says Düringer.
In addition, the web shop also serves as an ERP system on the Internet. It can be used to create or view documents, display drawings, invoices and delivery notes, and soon it will also be possible to track and trace shipments with Track-and-Trace. This relieves the back office, direct sales are promoted and the variant-loaded products can be easily ordered by the representative without the need for a technician in the background. "Compared with Amazon, this may not be spectacular, but in our conservative metal industry it is a huge step and a new world for us," says Düringer and states: "Above all, we were able to significantly increase internal efficiency from the very beginning. Delivery times can also be shortened through the interaction of standard and add-ons, prices can be calculated more quickly, delivery dates can be quoted more quickly - and all without the involvement of the head office.
In the past, change management was handled in paper form. Old and new drawings were printed out and sent through the different departments. So each department could only begin its work when the previous one had completed its tasks. With the new change management integrated into product data management, everything is mapped digitally in the ERP system. If an employee from production has a change proposal, he or she creates a change notification directly in the ERP, which is then checked and processed by a technician and then either accepted or rejected. If accepted, a change order is created directly in the ERP and forwarded to the responsible departments. All information essential for the change appears in it. A great advantage of this digital change management is that each department can start the change at the same time.
This shortens the processing time, everyone has access to the status of the change order and everything is documented in the system in a traceable manner. "We no longer have a shadow ERP with Excel spreadsheets, but everything is clearly available in the system for everyone," explains Blum and continues: "This change management is an important component of the digital change we are currently implementing. Away from the manual control of the company to digital control". This allows changes to be channelled through the company as quickly as possible. "And we can deliver product improvements to our customers much faster," Düringer knows.
Also integrated in the product data management is a newly developed link from the CAD system to Dynamics 365 BC, developed by COSMO CONSULT. The technician in the CAD system can now transfer his completely designed pump at the push of a button to the ERP system, which automatically generates the corresponding parts list for this product. In this pilot project, KRAL employees contributed a lot to the development success with suggestions and requests for changes: "This enabled us to increase speed and minimize the error rate. This is efficiency taken to the extreme," says Blum. And the IT manager is sure: "This is where COSMO CONSULT helps us to distinguish ourselves positively from the competition through efficiency, time and quality".
A further highlight is production planning with cc|tactor-oriented planning. Up to now, people have tried to plan orders using a planning board or other classic systems. "The new capacity planning tool helps us to plan and control both machining production and final assembly," explains Blum. The module shows the performance of the individual plants and the utilization of the final assembly as well as the possibilities of scheduling orders that competitors cannot serve due to too long delivery times. "We can see exactly: How are production and assembly working to capacity? Where do we have to introduce other shift models? We have optimum transparency through the company, you can see exactly where there is potential," Düringer describes the advantages.
One problem was to optimize throughput times in the material flow. This is achieved by a driverless transport system that receives its triggers from the ERP system, which automatically triggers picking when it is due, so that employees always have the parts they need to pick available at their workstations. For this purpose, picking is automatically triggered at night and the necessary components from the automated small parts warehouse are delivered to the picking cells, reported back to the system, posted and the warehouse stock is updated. "We created this smart concept together with COSMO," explains Blum and continues: "We have one picking for production, one for assembly, one for spare parts and one for blue light orders, i.e. express orders that have priority. These are four different variants that had to be reconciled. Here, too, consulting, concept and programming were major services provided by our IT partner".
KRAL attributes the rapid successes not least to the good cooperation with the IT partner. "We do not reduce COSMO CONSULT to the status of a banal service provider or ERP supplier. We also see the consultants as sparring partners for our own processes. We get the input, implement it and get feedback again: Let's really use all the potential of our ERP standard for certain modules. For us, the consultants are not caretakers, but valuable supporters," emphasizes Düringer. And Blum also praises the cooperation: "Of course, there were discussions about different ways, but that's definitely part of it. However, critical consulting - for example, it's better to take many small steps than a few large ones - has been a great help to us in the project. The digitisation project is not yet over. The automatic booking of incoming invoices or delivery notes during scanning as well as further modules will be introduced. Also the preparations for the next release change will start soon. Of course with the same partner, because: "It is not the delivery of software, above all the competent consulting that determines our future with COSMO CONSULT", summarizes IT manager Düringer.