Press Release - 19.08.20

Process Optimization: Eliminating the Blind Spots

Six common gaps in digitization and how to close them

Driven by the experience gained from the Corona pandemic, companies are planning to accelerate their digitization. According to a survey by Haufe, 70 percent of the participating companies have identified a potential for further digitization of their core business during the crisis. Trends in technology are not decisive here, says software provider proALPHA. It is far more important that companies check their processes for disruptions and time killers.

The first half of 2020 showed small and mid-sized enterprises quite plainly the importance of seamless digital processes – a rather painful lesson to some. Those who want to be crisis-proof in the future should thoroughly check their processes throughout the company. The software provider proALPHA knows where to find the typical weak points:

  1. Purchasing: close collaboration with engineering
    Employees in purchasing rely on current engineering data to place correct orders early on. This particularly applies to engineering in parallel to production. The purchasing team also has to be involved at an early stage when it comes to the procurement of long-lead parts. There is an ideal scenario for this: a direct and deep integration between the CAD system and the ERP system. Employees in purchasing then have direct access to released bills of materials and drawings, so that they can take action in good time.
  2. Time management: direct benefit of operating data
    The operating status and labor time are inherently related. If a company uses different systems for plant data collection (PDC) and time and attendance (TNA), and these systems are not connected with each other, identical data have to be entered multiple times. This redundant work is laborious and error-prone. If the plant and time data are coupled to an ERP system like proALPHA, however, the master data are immediately available wherever they are needed. For instance, when an employee clocks out at the end of his shift, his last activity is clocked out automatically, too. Another benefit is that absence times like sick leave or vacation are always up-to-date for finite planning in production without any delays or the need to enter them manually.
  3. IT: Integration of special applications
    The IT landscape of many companies is quite heterogeneous: different technologies and solutions with many interfaces are high-maintenance. To standardize and accelerate electronic information flow and to increase its reliability, more and more companies are relying on service-oriented architecture. A central component for this is an integration platform like the Integration Workbench (INWB), which is based on an enterprise service bus. It ensures a simultaneous and standardized data exchange in real time, for example for the purposes of quality assurance or machine data entry. This notably speeds up processes. Customer requests by phone become a thing of the past, because they can now see the stock numbers of standard items in a web portal. The INWB can also be used to replicate master data between subsidiaries.
  4. Accounting: manual processing of incoming invoices
    Scanning and importing invoices is only the first step towards end-to-end automation. Invoices also need to be checked with regard to form and content, and after their release the necessary posting records need to be prepared. Only then is this process really digitized. This frees up resources and increases overall efficiency in accounts payable accounting.
  5. ERP-to-machine communication
    The latest machines have modern communication interfaces. But how can older machines and plants be connected to the ERP system, the control center? A simple, yet extremely efficient option is to switch a mini computer in between the machine and the ERP system. A Raspberry Pi receives production commands, processes them and forwards them to the machine. In reverse, it transfers machine data to the ERP system. This way you can prepare your old machines for the future.
  6. Service: cooperation of in-house service and field service
    Whenever the in-house service team is incapable of providing assistance through a remote session, technicians have to go on field service. Companies which mostly communicate online save a lot of time and inquiries. This already starts with a digital work order. It tells the technicians which diagnostic equipment or special tools are required for the service. To analyze and fix the error at the customer's site, they can access the latest documentation or maintenance instructions. The contactless identification of parts by means of RFID, QR codes and barcodes allows them to complete service calls faster. They can quickly check the availability or delivery times for replacement parts on their mobile phone and order them immediately without having to contact the control center. The technicians can also report their service calls and initiate the invoicing process on their mobile phone. To that end, product information and customer data have to be integrated in the service calls.

SMEs had been planning to increase productivity and optimize their processes even before the coronavirus pandemic hit the world, they just failed to implement this as intended. This was indicated by a survey conducted by teknowlogy | PAC and proALPHA in the spring of 2020. The pandemic then worked as a burning glass. It increased the awareness of weak points and the need for action. Companies should use this momentum to detect and tackle the flaws in their processes.

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Susanne Koerber-Wilhelm will be happy to answer your questions and provide you with further information about proALPHA.

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