For 10 years, VirtaMed AG, which specializes in surgical simulators, worked with a variety of different individual solutions. As a result of the company’s rapid growth, however, administrative expenses rose disproportionately. VirtaMed decided to switch to a lean ERP system that can be extended flexibly with additional functions. Since then, the company has benefited from a transparent flow of information and efficient processes, and it now has a solid foundation for future growth.
Make the world a better place, grow much faster than the market, and remain a profitable business. At VirtaMed AG, the dream of many young technology companies is a reality. Established as a spin-off at the ETH Zurich, an university for science and technology, VirtaMed develops simulators for endoscopy and surgical procedures. Its range of products has been steadily expanded and now includes areas such as orthopedics, urology, and women’s health. Training is carried out with original instruments in highly realistic simulations. "Our technologies help improve the training quality of physicians and the efficiency of surgical procedures without the need for practicing on live patients," explains Phil Norris, Strategic Project Manager at VirtaMed. Today, the company is the preferred partner of several international medical associations as the provider of the most realistic surgical skills training. After all, there are only a few companies that are in a position to represent the operating room scenario with high precision. VirtaMed has 80 employees in Zurich and Florida / USA - about half of whom are in research & development. The main target groups are hospitals, universities, medical training and continuing education institutions, as well as manufacturers of medical devices and pharmaceuticals
Until now VirtaMed worked in a heterogeneous system landscape. If the requirements increased, new applications or spreadsheets were added, and Word document templates were updated. It was clear that the set-up, which had grown out of the startup environment, would reach its limits given the sustained quick growth of VirtaMed. The volume of documents and invoices grew constantly, but there was no common database. This led to rising overhead and increased administration costs. It was not always clear what data was the most up-to-date. "In standardized areas such as production or service, we lacked uniform standards and binding organizational structures. What we want to continue to deliver, however, is a reliable, consistently high level of quality", Norris says. In the future, data should be stored centrally at a “single point of truth” in order to make it easier to track processes and to analyze business figures flexibly and easily.
When looking for a suitable business software system, the main focus was on flexibility. "We are creative and need a lot of lee-way in our processes. Word was an ideal tool for us to use to produce and customize offers. We also expected a similarly high level of comfort from the new ERP system," Norris explains. The project team looked at demonstrations of solutions from Sage, SAP and Oracle, but ultimately decided on Microsoft Dynamics NAV. COSMO CONSULT, Europe's largest Microsoft partner, was awarded the contract for implementation. "We had a lot of "light-bulb" moments already during the presentation. The solution came very close to what we expected in the standard configuration, meaning the software plus additional modules. Therefore, it was easy for us to imagine implementing the project with COSMO CONSULT," says the Strategic Project Manager. In addition, COSMO CONSULT has an excellent reputation, and as a Microsoft Gold and Manufacturing Partner it has a large team. That made it easy to have faith in the project.
VirtaMed manufactures to order. Almost every product is individually tailored to the needs and requirements of the customer. Sometimes the products that are ordered do not even exist yet and need to be developed in-house. In order to make the production planning more flexible, the project team added the industry solution cc|discrete manufacturing to Dynamics NAV. This allows VirtaMed to make changes at virtually every stage of the production process. The various simulators are represented in the form of master parts lists. Checklists help VirtaMed’s employees adapt the models to the specific requirements of the customer - similar to how a product configurator works. At the same time, parts lists for individual orders are generated for the production process.
In the area of order processing, the add-on module cc|document management pack provides additional design freedom. For example, employees can add longer text passages or images to offers. There is also great flexibility for producing reports and evaluations. "With no other system would we be able to customize documents and forms to the needs of our customers so well," says Norris. All incoming and outgoing correspondence can be stored on the Microsoft SharePoint portal server via the add-on module cc|dms. Due to the tight integration of both systems, receipts, contracts and documents appear directly in the customer's file under Dynamics NAV.
Individual adjustments were made especially in the area of logistics: Here, VirtaMed uses advanced serial number tracking to identify the simulators sold. From the serial number of the simulator, the installed components can be unambiguously identified via the hierarchical linking of the multi-level parts lists. " This way we can determine the exact configuration of each simulator. We know which parts are installed and what software the device is running. With this information, we can provide our customers with the best advice," Norris says.
Currently, 15 concurrent users are equipped with Dynamics NAV. For the Strategic Project Manager, transparency is one of the most important achievements of the new ERP system: "We now have more information available than ever before. Our processes run smoother, and they are of consistently high quality. That was exactly what we had envisaged." Central areas such as production and materials management can be very precisely planned with cc|configure-to-order and Dynamics NAV. This ensures, for example, that there is always sufficient material available to carry out orders in a timely manner even without having excessive stock on hand. Because all data is stored in one place, the management has direct insight into all business areas, which makes planning and control easier. "If, for example, there are vendors that we need to monitor, we can quickly analyze their performance and take action in time," explains Norris. In addition, manual interventions along the process chain are avoided because the most important applications - Dynamics NAV, SharePoint, Office 365 - are already closely linked. The team thus saves time and can rely on the data being up to date. With the new ERP software, VirtaMed has not only optimized its current processes, but at the same time set the course for the future. Thanks to the flexible, open technology, new applications and cloud services can be integrated easily. "We work in efficient, seamlessly integrated processes. This will allow us to continue to grow, without increasing the administrative burden," Norris says.
As a next step, VirtaMed plans to roll out Dynamics NAV in the United States. To ensure that the parent company and its subsidiary work with the same master data, the add-on module cc|data integration suite takes care of the synchronization of both clients. In this way, all data is managed centrally and double entry is avoided. Maintaining consistency and efficiency is crucial when both the parent company and the US subsidiary are gaining more and more ground in the simulation training market.