A scenario that frequently occurred in the new federal states after reunification: the Treuhandanstalt agency privatised state-run East German enterprises in the former GDR or, if the company's efficiency or competitiveness could not be ensured, closed them down. Zahnradwerk Pritzwalk was successfully privatised — a success to which IT ultimately made a considerable contribution.
Following a party congress resolution by the SED socialist party, a gear wheel factory was founded in Pritzwalk in Brandenburg in 1967 and started production in 1969. The 1400 employees at the state-owned Zahnradwerk Pritzwalk mainly produced gear components but also—as was normal for East German companies—consumer goods such as birdcages up until 1990. Only half of the employees worked in production; the others performed tasks in various administration areas, the medical department or the company's own nursery. When the company was privatised in 1993, 123 employees were taken on.
Today, the family-owned company with 350 employees produces gears wheels ranging from approximately 100 millimetres to about two metres in diameter and with a maximum weight of roughly five tons. Turnover is currently around EUR 50 million.
Until reunification the information technology was based on products from the East German company Robotron. After privatisation the new managing director introduced a PPS system from a small software company that went bankrupt shortly afterwards, whereupon the company acquired the licences to further develop the system themselves. "Therefore the IT department was still able to map all the functions of the company in 2008," explains the managing director of Pritzwalk, Dr Carsten Binder. However, this system had all the disadvantages of a DOS-based system. It was very slow and then there was the typical DOS screen, no mouse capability and a lot of keyboard shortcuts.
"If we wanted to get our daily sales data, it sometimes took up to five minutes. On the whole, everything was mapped. But the system's speed, flexibility and consistency did leave something to be desired," recalls Binder. A process analysis was therefore performed in the factory together with the Brandenburg University of Applied Sciences, from which targets and requirements were derived. After validation of the market, three ERP systems ultimately remained on the shortlist for selection. Armed with a detailed requirements specification, a core team from the university, management, and key users from all departments carefully scrutinised these programs.
Finally the decision was made to use the Microsoft Dynamics NAV ERP solution. A key argument for this was its closeness to Windows, which was already familiar to the employees. In addition the system mapped all required functionalities and specific business processes, such as the oven logs in the hardening shop, could be integrated by making simple adjustments. Special requirements, for example, relating to quality assurance, are now covered by additional modules from software partner COSMO CONSULT, which not only offers implementation and support but also develops additional programs, all of which are fully integrated into Dynamics NAV. "We manufacture many products for the marine, offshore, power engineering and power plant construction industries that are subject to an acceptance test. It is therefore essential for products to have forward traceability," says Binder. This means it is possible to determine at the touch of a button which products have been manufactured from a certain batch or which batch of raw material has been used to produce a particular gear wheel.
Further adaptations were made for the hardening shop. Here, the strict sequential production process is interrupted and batches are collected and compiled according to technical parameters such as the hardening depth for the relevant material. The continuous production process is transformed into a batch process. The entire heat treatment process, including the atmospheric composition, is precisely documented and archived by the ERP system. At the end of the hardening phase the system automatically records all the data on the respective production orders so that this process can also be seamlessly traced for each part.
The modules developed by COSMO CONSULT include, amongst others, cc|mobile solution, cc|quality management and cc|supplier evaluation. With cc|mobile solution, all goods are registered via a mobile device using barcodes, so that the data collected is sent directly to Microsoft Dynamics NAV where it is stored and processed. The supplier evaluation solution assesses all suppliers based on an up-to-date grid system and classifies them according to their delivery reliability and quality. The number of complaints is taken as a basis for quality. A workflow enables interaction between sales, logistics and purchasing, so that, for example, the logistics department can see the new order immediately after the order is accepted. The hardening shop also documents all activities.
Thus, a complete data collection is created that covers the entire manufacturing process. In the final inspection the parts are measured again and a log is created that is automatically assigned to the respective production orders. All measurement logs that are generated during the order run are also stored in the system. Only when all the data has been collected and evaluated is a final completion report generated and the product is added to the finished parts stock. Invoicing can also be tracked precisely. Once an invoice is dispatched, the amount automatically appears in sales.
"Overall, a few things have changed here — and improved as a result. First and foremost, the excellent transparency of Microsoft Dynamics NAV must be mentioned. I can look up current sales, manufacturing capability and new orders at any time," says Binder, naming the benefits of the new system. "We see ourselves as a quality leader and manufacturer with a very wide range, and the additional modules from COSMO CONSULT offer us real added value over and above the universal ERP standard," continues Binder. As he is constantly talking to customers, it is essential for him to be able to get production information or drawings from the ERP system quickly. The reliable control of production and constantly updated information on the key performance indicators provides additional security for company decisions. Binder is sure of one thing: "Our IT system means we can live up to all the requirements of the market and meet the highest demands." Consequently the company is already planning its next projects with COSMO CONSULT.