New updates alone do not necessarily make an ERP system more modern. One company from the town of Kerpen switched ERP providers to give itself a state-of-the-art foundation for the future.
Founded in 1979, Lucas-Nülle GmbH develops and produces high-quality, technologically advanced teaching systems for training skilled workers and engineers, as well as for teaching institutions in the industrial sector, for vocational and technical schools and universities covering the entire field of electronics. The Lucas-Nülle Group, which operates globally, is made up of three companies with long histories that specialize in different areas of technical and scientific training.
This owner-managed group of companies includes Lucas-Nülle GmbH, which has its headquarters in Kerpen. The company develops and produces training systems for key technologies such as electrical engineering, electronics, automation technology, mechatronics, communications technology and automotive technology. Lucas-Nülle works with more than 60 sales partners worldwide and has offices in Shanghai and Williamsburg, USA. Lucas-Nülle-Middle East, with its Dubai office, focuses specifically on the market in the Middle East. Its 150 employees generated sales of almost 40 million euros.
The Phywe (PhysikalischeWerkstätten) Systeme GmbH & Co. KG from Göttingen has been part of the Lucas-Nülle Group since 1988. Phywe has made a name for itself as one of the world's largest providers of teaching materials for the subjects of physics, chemistry and biology. The INTEA GmbH, which is also from Kerpen, is a provider of training measures that provide qualifications for the automotive industry in the areas of technology, service and human resources.
The ERP system that had been in use in Kerpen for several years was still doing its job, but: "We thought this computer product simply seemed antiquated and we were not at all satisfied with the service provider," said Ralf Kreider, authorized representative of the company and its IT and operations manager, describing the situation. Implementing even the smallest change required a disproportionately large effort - such as a specification sheet that went on for several pages. "When I added up all the effort and costs, I saw that it would take three years for the small change to pay for itself. That does not make sense," says Kreider.
Because the IT manager had already worked together with Europe's leading Microsoft Dynamics partner Cosmo Consult to implement the ERP standard Microsoft Dynamics NAV at Phywe several years earlier, he knew that with that system administrators can implement and change a number of things yourself, such as hiding trivial things like a field. "These are often just minor changes, but they do save the individual users a little time - perhaps only three seconds. If you have thirty employees using the product for ten years, then that adds up to a lot of time and money," said Kreider. Such small improvements are constantly cropping up and are almost a daily occurrence, according to Kreider, and they also improve the system constantly. "I would have thought, we would be finished with that someday, but it is never over. We have now achieved a 200 percent improvement in production," says Kreider with certainty. Given the previous positive experiences with Dynamics NAV and because the company was familiar with the strengths of Cosmo Consult as a partner, it was decided that the company would also switch to Dynamics NAV in Kerpen.
Given this background, it was not necessary to conduct a selection procedure. The market position of Microsoft was a guarantee that the software would continue to be developed and ensured that the investment was sound for the future. In terms of expertise and commitment, Cosmo Consult’s consultants were nothing like the consultants for the legacy system. "Even in German we use the phrase “people make the difference” these days," said Kreider. For Lucas-Nülle GmbH, which has operations all over the world, the international dimension also played an important role. Microsoft and Cosmo Consult are top notch partners in this respect given their worldwide offices, customers and contacts.
The company processes were discussed with the software partner and the best way to set up the system to reflect them was considered. For the most part, everything could be covered with the standard package complemented by some of Cosmo Consult's add-on modules - such as cc|prepayment management, cc|text module, cc|formatted documents, and cc|provision - but in some cases processes had to be slightly adapted and the system customized to fit the company’s individual needs. "If you integrate special modules, of which Cosmo Consult offers many, into the standard of Dynamics NAV you can still stay close to the standard, but then you have a very mature and individual system that only needs slight adjustments", explained Kreider.
This included filtering the production orders to show which items on the bill of materials are fully in stock in the warehouse. That makes it possible for the dates for the orders for be coordinated and approved immediately by the scheduling department. They then are printed in the warehouse in the correct order, where they are picked and sent on into production. This process was additionally equipped with a traffic light. When the light is red you can see that there is a part missing and find out why. "That way we don’t leave things half finished, which always costs us time while people wait and search while the order is lying around unfinished," says Kreider.
What also proved very useful was the so-called NAV notes, which were introduced as a communication module. The scheduling and sales departments communicate on orders using just these notes, which are automatically documented. They do not communicate via Outlook, but directly from within the order process. The notes are sent like emails to colleagues and then remain visible as part of the order to everyone. This way, dates and changes can be documented in a history and tracked over the entire production period. "We are also now starting to do this for the items, that is to say notes on new parts lists or changed production instructions," Kreider added.
The bookkeeping process has also been integrated into the system. "You do not need an interface and you can evaluate many key performance indicators systems via QlikView with a click of a mouse button. That's just fabulous," Kreider went on, "so you can have very good control over the company." Another change was to hide many fields, so that users see only those that they actually have to work on. "I followed this very closely and there was very good cooperation with our IT partner. This gives the users a good overview," said Kreider.
"You cannot necessarily say that we are able to do things we were not able to do before, but it used to be more complicated, used to take longer, and the process was more error prone. With Dynamics NAV and the cc modules we work much more efficiently. What we can do, we do better and faster", said Ralf Kreider in summary, while praising the flexibility: "Almost every day we optimize something new. For example, we have now introduced an advanced bookkeeping system module and use the ERP system for budgeting." This ability to make small changes himself is a real highlight for him, because, as he says "The company is also constantly changing and adapting. The software has to keep up. And this software and our IT partner are perfect for our strategy."