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ERP Introduction: Always Look Ahead

Reading Time: 5 Minutes 01.03.2022 Currents & Trends

How Elma mastered the ERP implementation

Once the decision for an ERP system is made, the real work begins: it's time for the implementation. But what's the best way to tackle such a massive project? Since most companies only introduce a new ERP system after 10-15 years, it's a good thing to draw on the experience of others.

This is why we've asked Elma Schmidbauer about their ERP implementation project, their lessons learned and best practices. The three project leaders tell you all about this in our interview.


Fabian Merk
Head of Marketing & Corporate Development
Elma Schmidbauer


Oliver Brauer
Head of IT
Elma Schmidbauer


Matthias Dampmann
Head of Disposition and Production Logistics
Elma Schmidbauer

  1. What did the implementation project look like?
    Matthias Dampmann: Once we had chosen proALPHA, we had to figure out how to introduce our employees to proALPHA, how to map our processes, and so on. In addition to our core team consisting of 8 specialists from areas like Sales, Logistics and Production, we formed a key user team of 30 people. All its members are specialists who work with the ERP system on a daily basis, and their task was to get everyone on board and acquainted with proALPHA. This way we could allay any fears and concerns regarding the new system. It was definitely the best decision to get everyone involved early on.
  2. How long did the implementation take, from the conclusion of the contract until the go-live?
    Fabian Merk: We launched the selection process back in 2015, and go-live was in October 2018. We invested about 2 ½ years in the implementation due to our high demands on the one hand and the great extent to which we're using proALPHA on the other hand.
    Oliver Brauer: Yes, we indeed have a high level of utilization. We're using about 90% of the proALPHA core modules. And in the middle of this critical phase, we received the company's biggest plant order ever. We first had some doubts about managing such a huge order while introducing a new ERP system. We then discussed this issue with proALPHA and came to the joint conclusion that we shouldn't risk anything and therefore prioritize the order. Naturally, this also had some effects on the duration of the implementation.
  3. Has anything changed since the go-live?
    Matthias Dampann: Yes, a lot. We could advance many optimizations and therefore unlock a lot of potential thanks to proALPHA. This greatly facilitated our work and added a lot of transparency.
  4. What's the bottom line when you compare your specifications to the system you got?
    Oliver Brauer: We're not quite done with the implementation yet. We're still working on some optimizations. We came from a highly customized system that had accumulated almost 1,000 days of customizing over the years. We even had our own programmer who could quickly implement the required changes. With proALPHA, we only have about 140 days of customizing. That's quite a difference.
    Matthias Dampmann: Right from the start, it has been our goal to stay as close to the standard as possible and thereby ensure that we could install updates whenever required. We wanted to keep as many functions as possible in the standard version. We were also willing to adjust our processes to proALPHA and not to twist and bend the system until it matched our ideas. Who can tell if what we're doing is right anyway? We need to keep an open mind.

  5. What lessons did you learn from this project? What did you do right and what should you have done differently in retrospective?
    Matthias Dampmann: It was absolutely right to form a core team and a key user team. The core team still comes together on a monthly basis to discuss issues and drive optimizations. It's worth a lot to talk with each other, align processes and keep tabs on the development.

    What we could have done differently is to include further modules like APS (Advanced Planning and Scheduling) right from the beginning. This would have been better for our project.

    Another thing: the leading system that provides us with technical data is the PDM, the engineering program. Today, I would decide that differently too, in order to simplify and optimize the material flow.

  6. Companies usually introduce a new ERP system only every 15 years. This means, there is absolutely no routine. Can you give them any other advice?
    Oliver Brauer: We too are constantly learning. It's important to consider the whole implementation project an organizational project and not just an IT project. This also means taking the bumpy road, getting rid of old habits and of course also having realistic expectations regarding the workload of the project. And finally, everyone has to be aware that the project doesn't end with the go-live. There will always be a continuous improvement process.

    Fabian Merk: I'd like to emphasize this, too. It's basically all about communication. After all, switching to another system means a massive change to all employees. They might have the impression that you're taking away the system they came to love over the past 15 years. So it's important to communicate openly and to show the employees the advantages of changing the system in order for the ERP project to become a success.

    Matthias Dampmann: To me it was also important for everyone to understand that the project doesn't end with the go-live. The actual implementation comes after the go-live. This is when people gain experience with proALPHA and develop demands. The things we've learned in the months after the go-live are the real assets to us now. So it's important to keep the ball rolling as the project doesn't end with the go-live, but really starts to pick up speed then.

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