User report: Successfully tackling the high requirements of special-purpose machine manufacturing
Replacing the old, proven ERP system after 25 years requires a thorough procedure to select the new program and supplier. In the process, individual developments and specific industry requirements, such as investment security and future security, also have to be taken into account. Bahmüller has done everything correctly.
Wilhelm Bahmüller Maschinenbau- Präzisionswerkzeuge GmbH in Plüderhausen is a traditional mediumsized mechanical engineering company, a family company in its second generation of management. Originally founded as a repair workshop, the company soon offered its own machines and has developed various product ranges over the years. The company now has a market presence with three divisions in which everything is developed, produced and distributed fully.
The most profitable division is the grinding machines division, which primarily produces for the automotive industry. This is where cylindrical grinding machines, which are used to carry out internal, external and simultaneous cylindrical grinding processes on highprecision parts are produced. Another division consists of semi-automated or fully automated corrugated board processing facilities with an aperture width of up to 5.5 metres. These systems cut, fold, stamp, glue and tack corrugated board to produce packaging, which is then bundled and palletised. Traditional, customer-oriented contract manufacturing. The third segment produces Bahmüller clamping tools. Firstly, standardised tools are produced in accordance with DIN and American, Japanese or other standards. However, modular tools, including one-off special tools, are also produced.
From the beginning of the 1980s Bahmüller used a PPS system which operated as a hardware platform on an HP 3000. In 2006 Hewlett Packard finally announced that it would be discontinuing further development and support for the hardware. "That was a welcome motivation for us to look around for a modern ERP system", recounts CIO Marco Jaßniger. After 25 years, the weaknesses of the old system that needed improving were showing, especially in terms of the multiple plant management options. Therefore, in 2007 Bahmüller started an intensive ERP selection process with a project team of 30 key users from all departments.
In the end, two providers remained in the final selection in which the ERP standard PSIpenta from PSIPENTA Software Systems GmbH was finally chosen. "The nearly unanimous vote in favour of PSIpenta provided an excellent starting position for the introduction, as everybody was pulling in the same direction", comments the CIO on the result of the vote. Bahmüller includes over 30 modules in the ERP system, thus covering all the classic matters, states Jaßniger. It ranges from sales, procurement, classic PPS, SFDC, work time logging and access controls through to EDIFACT and e-business, i.e. e-shop integration. The shop, especially for spare parts, is integrated directly into PSIpenta with no need for intermediate data storage. Thus, an order is generated immediately in the ERP system when a customer purchases a spare part. Software from PSIPENTA's partner, Varial, is used in the financial accounting, and Pro.File from Procad, also a partner of PSIPENTA, is used to connect CAD to the ERP system. Another partner, intex, supplies the iCenter for automatic invoice processing and archiving.
An important criterion in the selection was the issue of multiple sites. Although the office in the USA used to have a separate IT system, all programs are now run from the German site in Plüderhausen. American and Chinese colleagues are connected and have access only. In addition to the organisational advantages in the generation and processing of customer orders, the warehouse management also feels the benefit. The article stocks of the different offices, which have their own warehouses, as well as the consignment warehouses on the customers' premises, are managed by the head office. Support and services provided between plants are also processed and settled in PSIpenta. Thus, an assembly worker from China can be commissioned directly from Germany to carry out repairs or maintenance in Thailand.
"It was a strategic decision on our part to install all programs in Plüderhausen only for the purposes of data security and know-how protection", says CIO Jaßniger. The offices have their PCs or laptops on site, which are connected via access rights, and they can work using the ERP system. And everything that is entered into the system in the offices appears on the monitors at the central office. "Therefore an update is also relatively simple, and if problems arise we simply flip the switch. The office is disconnected, and the data and our know-how remain securely in-house."
There are yet more highlights for the Head of IT: "Every company does things slightly differently, so it is essential to react quickly and flexibly to changes and adapt to current situations." With the old system several steps had to be carried out, especially for subcontracting individual operations. Bahmüller is pursuing a strategy of providing good rough-cut planning in advance, but not yet scheduling production meticulously. Production then has a time slot and carries out detailed planning at relatively short notice. If a bottleneck occurs, PSIpenta provides a convenient way to outsource the backlog that has accumulated before the work station quickly and simply. From an IT perspective, the adaptability of the system with Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) is an additional major advantage. It ranges from minor things, such as verifying the plausibility of inputs, to complex functions with interfaces to other systems. "This ensures improved data quality and greater transparency over the whole process", acknowledges Jaßniger. For him the new system is extremely practiceoriented and speaks the language of mechanical engineering. "We construct special-purpose machines and no standard products, so we have particular requirements. Even if you have selected the right system, it is just as important to have the right partners", thinks the CIO, adding "We identify with PSIpenta and its approach and we feel understood." For this reason, several other things are on the agenda with PSIPENTA, such as the expansion of archiving with the iCenter and the greater integration of customers into the ERP system.
Author: Voker Vorburg, freelance journalist