Wemhöner uses the complete PSIpenta ERP solution
The plant manufacturer has been using business software from PSIPENTA Software Systems GmbH since 2003. Following the switch to Release 7.1.3 in 2010, the company is now changing its hardware too. Linking to the myOpenFactory communication platform has also generated huge savings and efficiencies in order processing and invoicing.
Almost all of us will at one time have walked across or lovingly touched products produced on Wemhöner machines. Wemhöner Surface Technologies GmbH & Co. KG from Herford in Germany produces machines and production systems for refining timber products. These include base products for furniture manufacture and for door, panel and timber floor construction. Single or multi-stage continuous presses or short-cycle press systems are used for furniture and laminate floors. 3D vario presses produce interior fittings in the automotive sector, special presses and other composites.
With a market share of over 50%, the owner-managed machine builder achieved revenues of over €60m in 2009 despite the economic crisis. Of this, over 90% of products were sent for export. Some 250 employees at the head office in Herford contributed to this success, and since 2006 a further 75 employees have been working for the Chinese subsidiary in Changzhou. Company representatives working on-site handle worldwide sales.
In 2003, the company introduced a new ERP system in Herford. Due to costs, a requirements specification was not drawn up first. "A snapshot of the company at any given moment was enough to justify the new system," explains Norbert Wagner, responsible for data processing and organisation. Instead, a requirements catalogue was drafted, listing urgent requirements according to priority. Based on this, a project team defined sixteen points that the new software had to satisfy. "We are systems manufacturers," says Wagner, discussing the company's current position, "which essentially means we manufacture item 1 on the bill of materials and therefore usually have very long procurement times."
The core components of these machines are frame covers or large heating plates with delivery times of two to four months. An ERP system needs to be able to map such a configuration with advance planning or similar tools. Ultimately, six software companies made the final selection that had to be able to meet these key points. Naturally, none of them were able to tick every single box, but it was still a relatively easy decision. As Wagner recalls: "One bidder met 13 points, while the others met only a maximum of eight." Since then, the Herford base has been using the complete PSIpenta ERP solution from Berlin-based PSIPENTA Software Systems GmbH (version 7.1.3 since the start of 2010).
By mid 2009, Wagner and his colleagues were already starting to see a drop in performance with version 7.0.3. Although this did not lead to critical situations, there were times, for example during inventories or major post-costing, when it became clear that the HP Unix machines were at their limits. The decision was therefore taken to introduce new hardware with the new software release. The company also wanted to use only a Linux operating system in its backbone/server configuration. The hardware costs for proprietary Unix systems were deemed to be simply too high. "The stability of Linux machines is just as good, and in principle, they are twice as cheap," says Wagner.
They therefore commissioned external software partner PerFact to develop the IT infrastructure and the distribution of the servers across two separate server rooms in order to ensure the applications remained failsafe. Two Linux servers were implemented in a cluster on which the applications run in normal operation. This means that the hard disks of one server are mirrored live to the other server via a network connection with DRBD so that the most up-todate data volumes are always available on two servers. Distributing the system across two rooms ensures maximum system reliability. The Heartbeat System – a high availability solution – also ensures that the servers do not just run in backup mode. As such, half of the services run on one server node while the other half run on the other. Should one of the nodes fail, the other is always able to migrate all services within 30 seconds.
The PerFact specialists then executed the programs from their own offices. An Oracle database was installed on one server, and the new PSIpenta release on the other. Only minimal adjustments to the start scripts were necessary in the ERP system in order to allow the start/ stop mechanisms of the high-availability system to shut down and reboot the system in an emergency. Everything was tested under full capacity conditions, amongst other things by interrupting the power supply.
This constellation ensures not only the best possible failsafe protection, but also high flexibility. If for example hard disks need to be added in one server to increase capacity, it can simply be completely shut down and everything continues to run on the other server. This means that even a major update can be tested without difficulty. Following this method, PerFact completed the implementation of the new operating system and the new PSIpenta release including tests in just a few weeks without any problems. Wagner described this phase as "quick and painless".
In PSIpenta, Wemhöner has also integrated MES modules from the Berlin company such as SDC and TA: "This allows us to perform post-costing, forecasts and make plans," says Wagner, who also values the integration of the design and design data in the manufacturing system. "We use an EDM system in which plans are transferred to all areas of the business via PSIpenta and can be printed out on a BDE terminal," says the data processing project manager. He continues: "This means the entire process chain from design through to production planning right through to the manufacturing level is integrated in one system."
In the new PSIpenta release, objects in the project area that combine the widest range of manufacturing orders are also vital for Wagner. One production line – 120 metres long, 30 metres wide, eight metres high – can consist of 10 or 20 different individual machines that are linked together. When such a machine is shipped out and installed in the customer's system, customer support orders are usually triggered even at this early stage. It could be that a component has failed or perhaps the customer wants to change something during installation. Whatever the reason, the line components can change. This is where the project objects come in: not only do they include the line orders, they also list replacement parts orders and any subsequent deliveries. "If there are 100,000 BOM lines for example, it's very easy for something to go missing," says Wagner.
Even just a few years ago, the normal route for a purchase order was by fax. Professor Schuh from RWTH Aachen University set up a research project with a range of partners to replace this communication system with automation. One of these development partners was and remains PSIPENTA GmbH. Together, the research team developed the myOpenFactory communication platform and set it into mass production.
"Major suppliers love automatic processes," says Wagner. This is why Wemhöner uses myOpenFactory in which data such as purchase order data is translated into a specific standard via an adapter integrated in the ERP system and sent to the myOpenFactory server. Using their own adapter, the vendor then creates their own proprietary settings. Unlike faxes, order confirmations are also returned via this method, and are automatically sent to PSIpenta if the purchase order data matches the confirmation data.
Any conflicting confirmations are sent to a client where they can be assessed by the purchaser. Once the order confirmation is approved it is automatically maintained in the ERP system. This process led to a reduction in administration costs at Wemhöner of up to 70%. The same process is used for inbound invoices that are received via the platform: again, there are no more administration costs for entering invoices. Wemhöner communicates not only with smaller suppliers via this platform, but also with major business partners like Siemens, Bosch Rexroth and Festo.
The myOpenFactory cooperation platform enables the secure transfer of documents for intercompany order processing with "electronic data integration" (EDI). Small and medium-sized companies can communicate easily and economically (see fig. 1) with the widest range of business partners. All that is needed is a single interface – from the installed ERP system to myOpenFactory. Low-cost standard connections for many ERP systems or the web portal are available for all other partners.
The data exchange format is streamlined and based on standard paper documents. It only requires 183 different fields (compared, for example, to the 5000 fields of an EDIFACT purchase order). myOpenFactory only filters out those documents that have significant differences from the information that is required. This considerably reduces the time required for order processing.
Interchangeable documents: enquiry, quotation, order confirmations, change order, status request, status report, stock query, stock report, call off, delivery note, goods receipt note, invoice, credit note, complaint, payment reminder