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Sea and airfreight company sails with SAP logistics

One mid-market sea and airfreight company decided to implement SAP for Logistics Service Providers and what benefits they expect to see from the software.

Sea and airfreight transport firm Rohlig & Co. plans to implement SAP for Logistics Service Providers in order to improve its processes and save costs.

Rohlig, which operates in a competitive transportation market, decided that it needed a new logistics system. The company has over 100 offices and needs to be able to open new offices quickly, with minimal resources. This was becoming a problem, as Rohlig would search for regional software providers at each location, wasting valuable time and resources that could have been spent elsewhere. By selecting a provider that the company considered to be global, it could roll out that software quickly at each new office without all the red tape, according to Dr. Bernd Pokrandt, chief financial officer at Rohlig & Co.

The company also wanted a product that would allow it to have "each customer one time in the system," so they would be able to "see all information, worldwide from a customer, from any office," Pokrandt said. This was not possible in the existing situation where many offices had different software from different providers, resulting in a very fragmented environment.

Established in 1852, Rohlig & Co. is a family-operated business. Based in Bremen, Germany, it operates in 25 countries representing over 100 trading locations. The company's model involves small offices in each location, and it employs about 1,500 people worldwide. Rohlig's competitors include Expeditors, DHL and Panalpina, which have over 10 times as many employees.

Rohlig needed software that could connect its offices worldwide. But as a smaller company, it couldn't afford to write its own or make extensive changes to a software package it purchased. It had to find a standard offering that could be used with relatively few customizations, but that the company could still "be creative with," Pokrandt said.

In its selection process, Rohlig & Co. looked at numerous products from companies specializing in forwarding software, including DCS/Ciel, FWL Technologies, Active Logistics, Reteco, Riege Software International, Komalog and Cargo Soft. Despite their size and while many of these companies presented compelling solutions, their stability worried Rohlig & Co.

For example, Riege Software International has been in business since 1985, and FWL Technologies has over 45,000 users on its software worldwide. For Rohlig & Co., SAP's history and size was a big selling point.

Rohlig & Co. will initially have a limited, Europe-only rollout of SAP for Logistics Service Providers. The implementation schedule starts in Germany where Rohlig's goal is to have SAP Finance operational by mid-2007. Simultaneously the company will start implementing SAP data warehouse BI to integrate other areas of the world (Asia-Pacific, America) with Europe.

In 2008 and 2009, Rohlig plans to roll out SAP Transportation Management in the U.K., Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy and Germany. With the limited initial rollout in mind, the company expects to break even on its investment in four to five years.

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After that, Rohlig plans a strategy review in order to decide whether to continue rolling out SAP and further investing in CRM technology.

Pokrandt indicated that Rohlig &. Co. expects significant core process improvements within its groups, including sales, operations and back-office services. For example, Pokrandt expects that the success rate of getting new offices up and running abroad will be improved significantly through higher transparency and more stable service procedures.

Because Rohlig's goals include becoming a presence in more and more countries, this is an issue of strategic importance. The organization is also expecting cost savings to result from automation and information sharing throughout the company and its subsidiaries.

Rohlig & Co. does not view SAP as just a vendor or themselves as just a consumer of the technology.

"The SAP technology is the backbone of our future application landscape," Pokrandt said. "We see our role as [that of] customer, but also as development partner."

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