The Voigt group is undertaking an ambitious project in an effort to set the right course for the future. After expanding their site in Niederbipp, Voigt chose SAP EWM in line with their SAP IT strategy, with KNAPP as their implementation partner.
For over 100 years, the Voigt group has been a reliable partner in healthcare. With three subsidiaries, Voigt AG Pharma Großhandel (pharmaceutical wholesale), Voigt Industrie Service AG and Voigt International AG, Voigt offers individual customer solutions in many areas of the pharmaceutical sector.
Lukas Röbl, Head of Process Management and Project Manager for SAP EWM at Voigt and Gerald Lassau, Managing Director of KNAPP IT Solutions, discuss the challenges involved in a project of this calibre, the expectations placed on an IT partner and software trends.
The Voigt group has been operating on the market for over 100 years. What makes this business stand out and what are its core areas of expertise?
Lukas Röbl: As a family-run company, reliable and lasting partnerships with our customers and long-term goals are particularly important to us. To achieve both these things, we have to be able to impress our customers with tailor-made and often individual solutions.
Our main strength is our great understanding of the pharmaceutical sector. This comes into play when supplying pharmacies, drug stores and suppliers of doctors’ surgeries as part of our wholesale business, as well as when supporting our industrial customers through our pre-wholesale subsidiary. Another factor behind our success is the fact that for the most part, we manage and develop our system landscape independently. As result, we don’t rely on external resources to integrate new customers or to fulfil customer-specific requirements and we can respond flexibly to market demands.
What are the greatest challenges in your warehouse in terms of logistics and IT?
Lukas Röbl: The principle challenge in the pharmaceutical sector is the combination of declining margins and increasing process and quality requirements. The cost pressure is primarily shaped by the price reductions enacted by the state. By contrast, the increasing process requirements can be seen in connection with the current issue of serialization and product traceability (FMD). We are raising the degree of automation to deal with the growing cost pressure, which also makes the complexity of our internal processes and the demands placed on our system landscape considerably greater.
Over the last few years, Voigt’s pre-wholesale business grew so rapidly that we needed external storage capacities to handle most of it. The expansion of the Niederbipp site will centralize the activities in the Swiss midlands. This will provide extra space for further growth and a solid basis for reducing our logistics costs in the long term. The primary task will be to successfully putting the newly created capacities into operation without compromising production.
What made you choose an SAP EWM by KNAPP solution? What do expect from KNAPP as your implementation partner?
Lukas Röbl: The optimum integration in the existing system landscape (SAP ERP) and the possibility of Voigt operating and developing the system in the long run were pivotal deciding factors.
We believe that in choosing SAP EWM, we have opted for an incredibly stable warehouse management system, which is well-established on the market and which will fulfil our complex requirements. What’s more, the added benefit of being able to assign all tendered installations to a single supplier was a significant plus.
In terms of KNAPP acting as our implementation partner, we expect optimum mapping of all processes in line with our requirements, which includes the sub-systems in use. Furthermore, we are counting on intensive support and sharing of knowledge from the development phases through to the test phases and successful startup.
Software is something that you cannot see or touch. How did KNAPP illustrate the functions and processes in your warehouse during the creation of the General Specifications document to give you a clear picture?
Lukas Röbl: After taking comprehensive actual recordings of our storage and distribution processes at both of our sites in the Swiss midlands, KNAPP had acquired knowledge and understanding for our processes early on in the project engineering phase. These recordings were then complemented by the experiences of those responsible for the various processes at Voigt during several rounds of talks to enable KNAPP to depict them in SAP EWM the best way possible. Regular reviews also took place during which KNAPP presented in detail the functionalities and input dialogues that had already been developed. Together with Voigt, they were scrutinized and finalized.
Which concrete advantages will Voigt benefit from through the use of SAP EWM (Extended Warehouse Management) by KNAPP as a WMS and WCS?
Lukas Röbl: It makes it possible to implement a material flow system that is already integrated in EWM. This reduces the effort involved in functional and integration tests for the systems and installations. The same applies to connecting SAP ERP to EWM using standard interfaces – they are easy to expand for individual projects.
How does KNAPP differ from other SAP EWM implementation partners?
Gerald Lassau: KNAPP’s customers who have an SAP strategy benefit from the best of both worlds – logistics and IT.
KNAPP not only brings SAP EWM expertise to the table as implementation partner, but also experience from over 1,700 warehouse software projects (WMS and WCS).
This enables KNAPP to provide a solution for the entire system and guarantee the functionality of the WMS and WCS, which is critical to success, using their own resources and the special, tried and tested EWM by KNAPP approach. The main focus is on truly understanding the customer’s business processes and the requirements of the material flow, as well as high usability, which is provided by KNAPP easyUse for work stations – whether they be goods-in, repacking, picking or packing. KNAPP knows its automation solutions and control concepts better than anyone and can reduce the time involved in startup and hypercare to a minimum by emulating sub-systems, while also providing a 24/7 Hotline service for the entire system, including SAP EWM.
Industry 4.0, the Internet of Things or big data management – how do you assess the current trends that are shaping the software sector of today?
Lukas Röbl: The latest trends in information and communication technology will have a huge impact on our future business processes. Modern surveillance and control systems for example, will reduce the error rates in picking and delivery processes to almost zero. At the same time, customer requirements regarding data exchange, the provision of information on the outbound delivery status and last but not least, delivery flexibility, will increase considerably.
How does KNAPP map them?
Gerald Lassau: Mapping all processes and material flow strategies in SAP EWM guarantees maximum transparency and flexibility with regards related SAP modules (ERP, TM, S4/HANA, etc.) all the way through to our customers’ business partners. This is complemented by KNAPP innovations such as easyUse, which are then implemented in SAP technology, or KiSoft developments such as KiSoft Pack Master or RedPilot, which are connected using interfaces. As a result, our EWM customers benefit from continual development of the SAP standards on the one hand and on the other hand, from KNAPP innovations such as usability or swarm intelligence of the Open Shuttles, which can supplement EWM as and when required. Our aim is to achieve the maximum value in terms of logistics and to use SAP as much as possible, including the EWM direct connection to the PLC / real-time control system.
What is the core area of expertise of KNAPP IT Solutions?
Gerald Lassau: KNAPP IT Solutions GmbH is the SAP EWM expert in the KNAPP group. By the end of 2018, over 50 SAP EWM projects were implemented and put into operation by KNAPP. This makes KNAPP a leading international EWM implementation partner for SAP, with SAP Recognized Expertise in supply chain management in Austria.
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About KNAPP IT Solutions
KNAPP IT Solutions GmbH has been the KNAPP group’s SAP EWM expert since 2012. Over 60 SAP EWM specialists provide all the services involved in conception, implementation, testing, installation and support (incl. a 24/7 Hotline) for SAP EWM. Their core area is complex manual/RF, semi-automatic or fully-automatic warehousing.