Firm goes mobile for faster Business All-in-One invoicing

Struggling for a simple way to reduce the time it takes to invoice its customers, one Swiss crane manufacturer found iPhones and a low-cost cloud solution were the answer.

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Fresh on the heels of implementing SAP Business All-in-One across its entire European operations, but still saddled with a dated system of invoicing customers for field service and maintenance, Wolffkran AG found going with SAP mobile applications was the answer to its problems.

The project has paid off. By using iPhones and a low-cost cloud solution that connects its workers with its SAP ERP system, the Swiss firm can invoice customers within a day, not months, and the company’s financials are more accurate.

“We are faster now, and we are better now,” said Wolffkran Chief Technology Officer Andreas Berg. “And there’s not as much paperwork.”

The problem

Back in 2006, the Swiss crane maker was fast outgrowing its Baan ERP system. Both it and its Swiss parent company wanted to go with something more up-to-date and more scalable.

Wolffkran eventually decided on SAP Business All-in-One, a scaled-down version of the SAP Business Suite for small and medium-sized companies. By 2008, the company had implemented Business All-in-One at its German production facility and at its corporate headquarters in Zug, Switzerland. By the end of 2010, all of its European subsidiaries were on board, including those in Austria, Belgium and Sweden. All of Wolffkran’s subsidiaries were running on the same instance, according to Berg.

The problem was that although the company had a brand-new ERP system that it says was meeting its financial, production and sales and distribution demands, the company was using an antiquated reporting system when it came to servicing and supporting its cranes out in the field.

“The problem was that for each service order, the technician had to fill out a form listing all the tasks he had done,” Berg said. “The form had six carbon copies.”

That meant that it took two to three months to send an invoice to a customer -- and each one required four signatures. With roughly 3,000 service orders per month, that was a major problem

“The monthly financial reports were never correct,” he said, “or they were behind, or missing.”

From months to a day

Wolffkran set about looking for a mobile application, but found many of the options too expensive or too time-consuming. Simplicity was also a requirement, given that the average crane technician is not a computer specialist, Berg said.

The system also needed to function with as little IT support as possible, given the small size of the field service department, he said.

Contact with Proaxia Consulting led to the idea of using Coresuite Cloud by Coresystems, an on-demand application that allows companies to store all their SAP data in the cloud. Companies can then access the data via mobile devices. Wolffkran also uses a SAP Connector developed by Proaxia.

The application is hosted on Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) cloud, and only costs roughly $20 per user, per month, according to Berg.

Berg said he and a Proaxia consultant talked about the idea one evening, and he then took it to his CEO that morning. “By 9 a.m., I had an answer.”

Of the company’s 60 technicians, 15 access the application via iPhones. The company is also looking at possibly using iPads as well, which would enable the technicians to include more detailed information in their service reports. Either way, the goal is to have the entire field staff equipped with mobile devices by the end of the year, according to Berg.

The iPhones are a hit with the technicians who have them, Berg said, and they’re thrilled they no longer have to do paperwork. Best of all, it takes one day to invoice a customer, instead of two months.

The future

Once the program is fully implemented, Berg said, the company wants to implement additional functionality that would allow the company to coordinate schedules with the technician, as well as be able to send technicians to particular jobs based on their areas of expertise.

Wolffkran is also in the process of implementing SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse, SAP BusinessObjects and SAP CRM for its sales force. It plans to equip the entire group with mobile devices by the end of 2011.

 

Note: This article has been changed since it was first published. Wolffkran AG uses SAP Business All-in-One.

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