Tamel, a part of the Austrian ATB Group, is one of the biggest manufacturers of electric engines in our part of Europe. The company in Tarnów employs about 1000 people.
The SAP ERP rollout project in the Austrian parent company started in autumn 2010. The unit responsible was the SAP Competence Center of the ATB Group, located in Spielberg, Austria. The project consisted of the rollout of the system in version 4.7 used throughout the ATB Group, to which Tamel belongs, and the creation of a new client for Tamel.
Interestingly, the SAP system was nothing new to the employees of Tamel. Since 2000, they had been using SAP 4.5 supported by a local IT organization. Therefore, there was no need for general training courses in the system; it was enough to present to the staff the changes and new functionalities that had appeared in the newer version (4.7). The end user was provided with many innovations, such as new reports, new transactions and a more powerful management of display variants (layouts) in the transactions presenting line items. Tamel accounting staff also had to switch to thinking of SAP functionalities such as transaction codes. In the 4.5 version, reports and programs were selected from the Menu tree, and there was no need to know the transaction codes. In the 4.7 version, everyday work begins with a personalized user screen with a section of favorite transactions that are available with a mouse click.
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In 2011, the rollout slowed down, disruptions occurred, and the communication between the Polish and Austrian teams became less frequent and less effective than at the beginning.It was one of the reasons for engaging BCC (now All for One Poland) to assist with the project.
BCC consultants were responsible within the project for the verification of the new system concept and for the development and negotiation with ATB of new assumptions in case there were important differences between Tamel’s needs and the corporate solution.
The ATB model differed from the one used in Tamel’s SAP system, hence the importance of the latter task – making compromise arrangements that would be acceptable for the business representatives in Tarnów and experts responsible for individual modules in the integrated system in Spielberg.
Examples of such issues included differently used valuation classes or account assignment configuration settings (OBYC transaction), purchasing printouts, or the settings of material-movement confirmation printouts. The selected elements are presented later in this article.
In each of these cases, much time was devoted to determining the details at Tamel, conference calls with partners from ATB, drafting the specification, and testing after changes were made in the configuration or after the creation of new enhancements or forms. A large amount of time in each case was devoted to determining the details at Tamel. Other time consumers included conference calls with ATB partners, specification drafting, and testing (after configuration changes or the creation of new enhancements or forms).
BCC consultants took part in the following project phases: the first integration tests, the in-depth module tests, the development of changes in the concept, the module and integration tests after the configuration changes, and the go-live support. BCC supported the SAP rollout in Tamel in such areas as finance, controlling, materials management, and sales and distribution.
BCC started by determining an important issue – whether BCC consultants needed to enter SAP configuration changes manually. According to the Austrian Competence Center, the system was ready for testing at that stage, and the FI module configuration should have enabled the majority, if not all of Tamel’s financial and accounting processes. However, this assumption was incorrect. Therefore, it was decided that the changes in FI and CO would be made by the Austrians, while BCC consultants would test their own solutions on a test system.
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Chart of Accounts
The decision as to which elements of the basic enterprise structure would be shared with other companies, using a certain instance of the system, is always a major issue in rollout projects. Apart from using the same client, all of ATB Group’s company codes had the same chart of accounts. The same rule was to be applied to Tamel.
Situations in which companies from different countries share the same chart of accounts are always a huge challenge for an FI consultant due to limited room for manoeuvring. Tamel’s accounting staff, however, faced an even more difficult task. After many years of using the SAP system on an exclusive basis, they adopted a completely new GL chart of accounts. The old order was destroyed. “Sevens” were replaced by “fours” and “fives”, and “fours” mainly with “sixes”. Firstly, that required getting rid of old habits and mental shortcuts, and secondly, it posed a challenge in the process of mapping the old accounts to the new ones. Certainly, many new accounts were created especially for Tamel, but in many cases we had to meet half way and adopt the standards for the Austrian chart of accounts.
In addition, the treatment of general ledger accounts had to be changed due to the specific requirements for the assignment of controlling objects in some of them. Many of the accounts are used in other ATB companies and they serve slightly different functions in the CO module than their equivalents at Tamel. In some cases, it was even necessary to make fixed assignments of statistical internal orders.
Month-End Cost Allocation
The month-end cost allocation was a purely CO issue which required additional analyses. The task was so demanding that, along with a BCC (now All for One Poland) consultant and Tamel’s employees, an additional business consultant was invited to take part in the project. Moreover, the assistance in FI turned out to be necessary, especially in the reporting of allocation results.
An Important Link
The first unsuccessful attempt to roll out the 4.7 version from ATB to Tamel took place in 2010. At that time, there was no methodical approach which would allow for appropriate work organization and the handling of difficult situations, and so the project was discontinued.
Having learned a lesson from the first unfinished rollout, the second attempt assumed the engagement of a Polish implementation company to manage this undertaking. Previously, the project lacked a partner who would be able to work out a compromise between the specific requirements of the plant in Tarnów and the system model existing in ATB. In 2011, BCC was called in to the project to serve as a link between key users and the Austrian Competence Center. BCC consultants helped us in defining discrepancies, analysing them, and working out some compromised solutions. This resulted in success. Apart from obvious business benefits for the headquarters and our company, end users of the SAP system also perceived this change as positive. Initially, the local project team and users showed a very distrustful attitude towards another attempt to carry out the rollout, but soon everyone noticed the benefits of this change and accepted it. An important element of motivation for everyone involved in this project was the awareness that the next step in the short-term horizon will be the extension of the SAP system functionality to cover production and the implementation of the PP module in Tamel.
Agata Hajduk, IT Coordinator, FSE Tamel SA
Migration of Accounting Reports
In 12 years of running SAP in Tamel, its internal IT organization had built the tools that met the reporting requirements of system users. Those reports used different SAP technologies, such as SAP Query, Report Painter, Report Writer and drill-down reports.
During the rollout, it was important to determine which of those reports would be used in the future, because – as it turned out – many of them had already been inactive and some of them duplicated the functions of others. Additionally, some reports didn’t include the option to change the company code in the selection parameters, or that feature was permanently embedded in the program. It was not that important in the old system, because only one company code was used. Therefore, it was necessary to update the source code of these programs so that they didn’t get data from other companies using the ATB client.
Classification of Materials
A major challenge during the project in Tarnów was the classification of materials and the automatic account assignment mechanism.
Up until that point, the system had been based on the intensive use of valuation classes. At the beginning of using the SAP system in Tamel, more than 20 of them were created to distinguish any possible variations of engines and parts manufactured. Over time, many of these products disappeared from the offer, leaving a footprint of unused valuation classes. During the rollout of SAP 4.7, the headquarters in Austria required a significant reduction in their number. This, unfortunately, also involved the necessity to group classes that are still in use into bigger sets. This requirement was difficult to meet from the point of view of Tamel’s logistics.
A compromise on this issue was a result of many discussions between both parties, and some mediation by BCC (now All for One Poland) consultants.
For the purposes of reporting in FI, such a detailed division of valuation classes was not needed – 7 types of this characteristic were enough. Tamel kept old valuation classes as an entry of material indexes in FI data in a field created especially for this purpose, used for reporting after the rollout. Many reports used cost accounts availed of this characteristic which allowed for the fastest data search, although this was not the only solution.
To Strike a Compromise
The effectiveness of the SAP rollout in Tamel was quite apparent. Uniform reporting across the group or strategic planning capability, increases the flexibility of the group’s decision-making. The model solution, which we were to adopt, assumed that the implemented system would be thoroughly compliant with the corporate standard, and that the changes would be reduced only to the minimum required by local law. Such an assumption posed the risk that – after 12 years of using the SAP system – the in-house developed solutions, partially different from corporate solutions, resulting not only from Polish law but also from the thoroughness of our business activities, would be removed.
The first rollout attempt was designed without the participation of a local implementation company. This proved to be the wrong decision. There was no entity to serve as a link between the two parties, negotiating all the changes, mediating, and sometimes even alleviating disputes. A year later, we returned to the project deciding in favour of the assistance of BCC which, due to its experience in implementing similar projects, supported us in this endeavour and we were able to finish it successfully.
To avoid hazards, we first defined the roles to be fulfilled in the implementation by all the parties and project participants. Working in a project undertaken by three parties (and not two, as previously) may raise additional challenges in communication and decision-making (e.g. a formal approval of changes to the implementation as compared to the corporate solution).
As practice showed, a good implementation partner is the key to success. We could not have carried out this project successfully without the support of BCC. Knowledge, experience and the strong commitment of the BCC consultants helped us strike a compromise on many controversial issues pertaining to different solutions in the SAP system.
Currently, Tamel uses a corporate SAP system which is uniform across the group, allowing us to standardize the working practices and reporting of the performance of the group’s individual companies. The introduction of common terminology and criteria for the evaluation of results facilitated the communication between Tamel and the entire ATB Group. By using best business practices, we streamlined some processes and functions in Tamel, while retaining the part of local solutions that we needed.
It was undoubtedly a difficult project. We worked hard towards its success together with BCC. However, looking back, we learned a lot during this implementation and now we can use this knowledge in other projects. We are currently working together with BCC on the implementation of SAP in the area of production planning (PP).
Martin Neumann, Board President, FSE Tamel SA
Tamel (Fabryka Silników Elektrycznych Tamel), part of the Austrian ATB group, is one of the largest manufacturers of electric engines in our part of Europe. It offers general purpose engines, as well as explosion-proof, flameproof, single-phase, multi-speed and special engines which are constructional modifications tailored to the individual needs of the most demanding customers. The plant in Tarnów employs approximately 1000 people.