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S/4HANA brings Cloostermans the power of centralised data

  • Arne Goudeseune
    Arne Goudeseune

A Belgian family-owned company, Cloostermans provides some of the world’s biggest production line machines to large manufacturing companies across the globe. To optimise interactions between all departments involved in its entire engineer-to-order workflow, the firm found a powerful ERP solution in SAP S/4HANA – and an intuitive interface in SAP Fiori. Flexso was their ideal integration and custom development partner.

A combination of standard SAP processes and tailored applications

Cloostermans designs each manufacturing machine from scratch, down to every bolt and screw. “We are a very flexible company,” explains Sandra van den Heuvel, SAP project manager at Cloostermans. “Our customers’ desires are extremely important. Co-creation and co-design are logical results of the business we are in. Flexibility is the core of who we are, which demands a lot from the ERP system as well.”

To get the many departments involved in the engineer-to-order flow on the same page, Cloostermans chose to implement a new on-premise ERP system based on SAP S/4HANA 1610 – the first implementation of its kind in Belgium. This solution was selected because of its high performance, adherence to best practices and SAP’s strong reputation. “When it comes to multi-facility scenarios, SAP offers significant advantages over other ERP systems, and Flexso’s presentation was very convincing,” continues Sandra.

Co-creation and co-design are logical results of the business we are in. Flexibility is the core of who we are, which demands a lot from the ERP system.
Sandra van den Heuvel, SAP project manager at Cloostermans

In close collaboration with Flexso, Cloostermans embarked on the project – named Eagle – of transforming its existing independent processes into one integrated engineer-to-order flow.
“We began by applying the standard SAP processes, and then developed custom applications for more complex processes,” says Arne Goudeseune, consultant at Flexso. “These applications plug in at the beginning or end of a standard process, keeping the SAP digital core untouched and easy to upgrade.”

Aligned logistics and financial data, detailed production insights

Before moving to the SAP S/4HANA, master data was segregated into two separate silo’s: logistics data vs. accounting/financial data. Because there were two different perspectives of each supplier or customer, the data was prone to errors and duplicates. After centralizing the data, errors are apparent almost immediately and can be corrected before they cause problems.

Even more, in the legacy system, some production actions were nearly impossible to trace. “It used to be challenging to trace a material’s stage of production – where it was located in stock, if it was being treated or coated by an external partner, which machining processes had been completed, etc.,” Arne goes on to say. “SAP is much more transparent, and significantly more information is gathered about a material’s status and location.”

Because everything is connected, the system clearly illuminates where inefficiencies and areas of improvement are, which helps us rethink our processes in an informed way.
Sandra van den Heuvel, SAP project manager at Cloostermans

The reporting capabilities of Cloostermans have also taken huge leaps forward following the centralisation. “Because all the relevant data for each process is available, reports can be tailored to drive accurate decision-making,” Arne asserts. “Costs are now captured in a 100%-accurate way, for correct insights into the man-hours spent and the true costs of each component.”
“Even more,” adds Sandra, “because everything is connected, the system clearly illuminates where inefficiencies are, which helps us rethink our processes in an informed way.”

The business benefits

  • Aligned logistics and accounting data, for accurate costing and detailed reporting.
  • Lower risks of errors and no duplicated data.
  • Completely digitized CAD engineering processes.
  • The ability to precisely locate materials in the warehouse and track production steps.

Digitising complex, paper-based processes

In addition to boosting data-driven production and reporting capabilities, Flexso helped Cloostermans digitise the engineering process as well, which relied on stacks of paper CAD drawings being sent to the production and purchasing department by engineering teams.

Arne: “We created a bespoke tool for production and purchasing employees. This application allows them to view up-to-date digital CAD drawings of machines and machine components and to make decisions from these at the beginning of the production phase, rather than flipping through binders of paper.”

Focussing on the big picture

Although the SAP Fiori interface on top of S/4HANA makes digital processes more intuitive, logical and familiar, convincing employees of the benefits of the new system has required a structured approach.
SAP S/4HANA is a future-focussed solution that relies on the latest technologies to drive business growth, but because more data is being collected, processes may take more time to complete in the short term,” Arne explains. “This offers enormous benefits later in the project, however. It’s important to focus on and clearly communicate the benefits for Cloostermans, now and moving forward, to bring the maturity level up and generate buy-in.”

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