One of the consequences of the development of the Orbico Group was the need to choose a system to support the management of an international organization. SAP ECC implementations took place first in Slovenia, Poland and Croatia. Bulgaria was next, already with the SAP S/4 HANA version. An important rule in the Orbico group is to maintain the local characteristics of business in individual countries, while striving to standardize the system settings and functions in these countries. Therefore, a decision was made to treat the project in Bulgaria as a reference project for the entire group (not only for the SAP system but also for satellite systems), which allowed a template to be built for rollouts to other companies. The system went live at the end of 2022. S/4 rollout to Romania is currently underway. Orbico's partner in the described projects was All for One Poland.

Orbico is Europe’s largest distributor of a wide range of consumer goods, mainly FMCG. Over the years, the company with its headquarters in Croatia has grown through the acquisition of leading local companies in the region of Central and Eastern Europe with a similar business profile. The advantage of such a business model is the quick expansion into new markets thanks to the strong local position of the new company. However, there are also some disadvantages. The entities that have been operating independently so far are not so easy to adapt to the corporate business model. Certainly, a disadvantage is the lack of uniform IT tools for management and reporting.

Not always far-reaching unification of business processes and IT systems is the best option, especially in the distribution industry, where knowledge of local markets, a well-developed sales and distribution network, and contacts are crucial. If companies in individual countries operate efficiently and profitably – why change it?

SAP for Slovenia, Poland and Croatia

The Orbico Group strives to standardize management systems and obtain a coherent IT platform based on SAP systems. The first attempt was the implementation of SAP ERP in Slovenia. In the next step, in 2018, the company carried out the implementation of SAP ERP in the Polish company of the group, with the support by All for One Poland (formerly SNP). The scope of the project included finance and controlling, materials management, sales and distribution, and SAP Process Orchestration. The latter element is particularly important due to the large number of other components in the company’s system landscape that required interfaces for data exchange from/to SAP to be built. These are primarily: a mobile application for sellers and sales representatives operating in the field, a warehouse system, a system supporting retail and a B2B sales platform.

A positive assessment of cooperation with All for One Poland resulted in a similar project, this time for the FMCG distribution business line in a Croatian company, in 2019-2021. The modular scope of work in SAP was the same. The implementation experience and elements from Poland were largely used in adapting the solution to local needs. Interfaces for data exchange with other systems operating in Orbico Croatia were also built.

Flexibility and commitment

The cooperation with All for One, started, for Orbico Group already in 2016, but it intensified in 2018 when they won a tender as a leading SAP partner for implementations within Orbico Group. Since then, we finished together 3 major implementations, one additional is to be completed this year, and several smaller but also important projects. After the first, necessary synchronizations, the cooperation went smoothly. In a distribution business that is very dynamic and sometimes depends on external parties plans, flexibility is a key factor for success. That includes frequent changing of plans, different prioritization, and the ability to make fast moves.

So far, All for One was able to follow us, so we appreciate All for One flexibility and commitment to be there for their partners when needed.

We hope for further cooperation and many successfully finished projects in the future.

Arno Smolic, IT Director Orbico Group

In Bulgaria – S/4

Another country where the SAP rollout was planned was Bulgaria. However, circumstances changed. The manufacturer of the SAP system announced the end of support for the SAP ERP ECC version. Although the end date was postponed several times (the current end date of support for the ECC version is 2027), it became obvious that a large and expensive project to implement a system with a short expiration date was simply irrational.

Therefore, Orbico decided to implement in Bulgaria a new version of the system – SAP S/4HANA. At the same time, the prepared solution was to become a corporate template and the basis for S/4 rollouts to other countries – at least as regards similar business processes. The autonomy of local entities will be preserved. It was assumed that differences resulting from the local characteristics of business in individual countries would be respected in subsequent rollouts.

The project in Bulgaria was carried out in 2020-2022, also together with All for One Poland. Engaging the same partner made it possible to leverage the experience of the implementation consultants participating in the work in Poland and Croatia, as well as their knowledge of Orbico’s business. The project used a significant part of the concepts and solutions previously implemented in these countries. However, due to large business differences in individual entities, a typical migration project from SAP ERP to S/4 was not chosen.

Best practices for building a template

A significant phase in creating a solution that is to serve as a template for other entities is to define and describe processes and solutions that are common to all companies (baseline) and the ones specific only to a given entity that are known to be different in other companies (gaps). Their identification requires extensive experience in SAP implementation and business knowledge. Therefore, it was a big help that the Bulgarian project brought together the same All for One Poland consultants and IT/SAP specialists from Orbico who had participated in the work at companies in Poland and Croatia.

The Bulgarian company is one of the largest entities in the corporate group, therefore the construction of the SAP S/4 template based on the solution for this company guaranteed the identification of most common processes.

A good practice for building an SAP template for a corporate group is to use a well-thought-out naming convention for common processes and processes specific to individual entities. In Orbico, the decision was made to add country-specific letter designations at the beginning of the names of the technical elements of the solution and to assign a separate designation for elements identified as common to all companies.

To keep template consistent

As an IT business solutions director and project manager on the side of the Orbico Group in all mentioned projects, I can say that our cooperation with All for One was a great success. The multi-subsidiary nature of our company added complexity to the project, but the planning and management of the project in cooperation with our partner ensured that everything went smoothly.

In my experience, the most crucial aspect of planning and managing such projects is clearly understanding the specific requirements of each branch. Besides that, we need to keep our “global defined template” consistent – during analysis we are looking for deviations (so-called gaps). This allows us to meet the unique needs of each project. Effective communication and collaboration between the project team and representatives from each local team is also essential.

Managing competencies is also critical in such projects. It is important to ensure that team members (especially locals) have the necessary skills and knowledge to carry out their assigned tasks. This can be achieved through many knowledge sharing sessions and regular performance evaluations with the partner.

Overall, I would highly recommend All for One as a partner for SAP implementation and rollouts in a multi-branch company. Their expertise, continuity, attention to detail, and communication skills made the projects successful. We look forward to continuing our partnership with them in the future.

Jurij Petruna, IT Business Solutions Director, Orbico Group

Integrations

Orbico is a typical distribution company selling in B2B and B2C channels. Its daily business operates thanks to a number of domain-specific solutions. These include retail applications, e-commerce platforms, mobile solutions for sales representatives, applications that support marketing and sales in these channels, as well as warehouse systems and systems for electronic communication with partners (EDI) – provided by both Orbico and its contractors.

Such a rich landscape of systems requires a solution that helps integrate, collect, distribute and organize data. This is the role for SAP Process Orchestration – a module that supports the integration of SAP with other systems used in the company. Some of the solutions are common to the group, but each Orbico company also has its own landscape of related systems. Nearly 60 interfaces to these applications have been prepared in Bulgaria alone.

Now Romania

SAP S/4 is currently (as of April 2022) being implemented in a Romanian company, using model processes prepared in Bulgaria. Where it is required by the local market environment or by law – the system will operate according to the local concept. However, it is already apparent during the implementation that some processes – identified as typical for the company in Romania – largely overlap with those prepared for Bulgaria. Required modifications include, for example, changes in interfaces, adding new fields on screens, etc. This approach – using and adapting work already done – speeds up the project and reduces its costs.

The project kick-off in Romania is planned for October 2023. Other companies of the group are already waiting in line for the implementation of the SAP integrated system.

Orbico Group is the leading distributor for over 500 quality globally known brands ranging from beauty care products through food and non-food products, technical and electrical appliances to pharmaceuticals, toys, textiles, cigarettes as well as motor oil products. It cooperates with over 170 suppliers from all over the world. The company specializes in distribution and logistics services, delivering goods via multiple channels, including B2B and B2C channels. It is present in 20 countries and regions of Central and Eastern Europe, such as: Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia (headquarters), Czech Republic, Hungary, Kosovo, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia. It employs over 8,000 people.