As part of the Technology Adoption Program (TAP), a Microsoft program for the practical testing of new software developments, Cosmo Consult Group, Europe's largest Microsoft ERP partner, has implemented a preliminary version of the latest ERP release Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2016, together with a number of its own industry modules, with its partner RKB Karosseriewerk GmbH, Döbeln, and successfully tested the installation under real-world conditions.
Since 1929, vehicle body construction has been the core competence of RKB Karosseriewerk GmbH in the town of Döbeln in Saxony. Its only production site is a one-stop shop for all kinds of requests: steel and vehicle body construction, fiberglass modules, complete interior design, painting and systems integration. The product range of the contract manufacturer, which since reunification has increasingly focused on special vehicle construction, is extremely broad. Its clients are automotive manufacturers, fleet operators and public administration bodies as well as craftsmen and entrepreneurs from the fields of logistics and food distribution. The products include truck bodies for ambulances, cash/valuables-in-transit vehicles and expedition vehicles and campers.
They offer vehicles for sales, refrigeration and logistics as well as special vehicles such as TV trucks, operations control and command vehicles and police and movie service vehicles. "We are trying to have a basic workload level with what we call "deliveries", that is to say package vehicles for the large logistics companies," says Patrick Taube, administrator and IT manager at RKB. They are also constantly working on improvements. Evidence for this can been seen in patented processes that guarantee greater stability at lower weights, for example. The resulting benefits include increased payload, lower fuel consumption, shorter braking distances and lower wear costs. On a smaller scale, RKB also offers repairs of body damage. More than 100 employees thus generate about 12 million euros in sales per year.
In 2005, RKB began using Microsoft Dynamics NAV 4 together with several industry solutions of the Cosmo Consult Group. As a provider of business software solutions based on Microsoft Dynamics and an specialist for the manufacturing industry, project-oriented service providers and the supply industry Cosmo Consult was able to replace RKB’s previous software from a company from Dresden, which was a pure production planning and control system with warehouse management and some functionalities for sales. "We looked at what the market had to offer, at which system was a good fit for us," Taube recalls, "and Dynamics NAV and the add-on solutions of our IT partner offered us all the modules that we needed. Because there was a branch office in Dresden, we also had our software partner close by."
Over time, though, this system was outfitted with numerous individual programs, making it rigid and inflexible and completely insufficient by modern standards. In March 2015, Cosmo Consult, which had by them grown to be Europe's largest Microsoft ERP partner, offered the vehicle body manufacturer the opportunity to participate in the Technology Adoption Program (TAP). This came at just the right time, giving it chance to modernize its ERP system with the latest version of Dynamics NAV 2016. "Participating in the TAP was of interest to us because in it you can influence the product a little as a user", said Taube. Within the framework of the TAP, Microsoft involves selected ERP partners and users in the design and development of a new generation of software at an early stage, so that partners and user companies participating in the program work together to test the day-to-day practicality of the latest ERP technology. Possible problems and weaknesses can be identified and resolved early on during actual business operations.
"With the additional solutions provided by Cosmo Consult, the standard NAV 2016 with its many new features covers all our business processes - without any additional programming effort for adjustments," said Taube on the introduction of the new release. It was therefore not difficult for the management to quickly decide to implement mobile data collection and Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2016. Already in May the project was launched. Workshops with key users from all departments also started in May and extended into June.
"Already four weeks before the real start on 1 August, I had a working database with which I could run tests," said Taube on the final stage of implementation. He said he was impressed by the speed and reliability with which the IT partner was able to realize the upgrade and reengineering project with the new implementation of mobile data collection. "The fact that we were able to implement the project within four months is a clear sign of the high level of competence of our IT partner and the highly sophisticated technology of Dynamics NAV 2016 and the additional solutions," he said.
He was particularly pleased with the individual possibilities for the users: "The system is not only visually appealing; it is in my view also easier to use - almost intuitive. The users quickly see how well they can adapt the client to their individual requirements on their own." The warehouse staff, for example, always need to be able to know where a product is stored. They can put this function on a tab, which is immediately visible when they open an article's card. The size of the function button can also be individually adjusted. "We used to be overwhelmed with information. Now everything can be made very compact for daily use. This really gives you an overview of what is relevant ", said the IT manager.
But some - small - adjustments were necessary. "Our implementation orders sometimes almost have the character of projects. When the customer places an order, that does not necessarily mean that we can, for example, specify a delivery date," says Taube. The customer does not know when the vehicle can be built or when the manufacturer can deliver the chassis. "We need a somewhat customized management system that we have traditionally called the "order preview". Every order is placed there automatically", he explains. In the order preview, you can see all the order-related data: When is the expected delivery date for the chassis? Who built the vehicle? Is the construction finished and when can we expect to begin production? Has the work preparation been completed? "This is a way of looking at the order that we have recreated in the new system," says Taube.
In addition to the mobile solution of its IT partner, RKB is now using the modules cc|configure-to-order, cc|factory data capture, cc|workflow, cc|project and the Document Management Pack with the cc|document configurator, cc|formatted documents and cc|text module. "Our IT is completely up to date because all our business processes are covered within the extensive standard of NAV 2016 and the Cosmo Consult modules that are fully integrated in the ERP system. It does not let any mistakes happen", said Taube with confidence. For example, in the new factory data capture module, employees can only remove those operations that they themselves previously added. The confusion and omissions that used to occur from time to time are a thing of the past. In addition to this, in the warehouse the software tracks material usage reports via mobile data collection devices, so that with factory data capture the current inventory relating to an order to can be seen at any time.
In cc|configure-to-order, the finished assemblies can also be individually altered. Without having to create new articles, the designers can revise existing assemblies. And with the modules of the Document Management Pack, such as the document configurator, it is possible to customize or modify the designs for offers or other documents without any programming skills. cc|workflow also notifies the relevant employees when a chassis has been delivered. The delivery is then something like the starting gun for the completion of an order. In a table that it has designed, RKB keeps track of the data on the chassis including the vehicle identification number and other parameters such as supplier, delivery date and order number. When the table has been completed, the module informs all relevant staff and production can begin.
The test has shown that the standard Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2016 provides the user with a wealth of new features that with the certified add-on solutions make the software seem like an individual, tailor-made ERP program. The visually and functionally well designed interface allows an almost intuitive operation of the system, which gives the first-time users in Döbeln the feeling of having tested the latest software technology that is both a good investment and future-proof. "After this positive experience with Dynamics NAV 2016 and our partner Cosmo Consult, we will now soon integrate more of its industry solutions", said Taube. Here RKB is thinking first of cc|cad, which allows bills of materials and associated products from virtually any standard CAD or product data management system to be imported into the ERP system directly via a web service or a text interface. Furthermore, RKB wants to introduce staff time logging and above all SharePoint.