Media interruption free identification technology
At MBDA Deutschland GmbH
MBDA Deutschland GmbH is Germany's leading global missile systems company. It develops, produces and maintains missile systems and their associated components for the army, air force and navy, employing around 1,300 people at its sites in Schrobenhausen, Ulm und Aschau am Inn. It is a legally independent 100% subsidiary of the Europe's MBDA and part of the EADS Group. Together with its 100% subsidiaries TDW and Bayern Chemie, and various programme coordination companies, it forms MBDA Deutschland. As part of its introduction of a media interruption free identification technology, MBDA Deutschland GmbH also decided to implement the media interruption free labelling and inventory management of its tangible assets.
The aim of the tangible asset inventory project was to significantly reduce the enormous administrative costs and simplify procedures, thus coming one step closer to a paperless management system. This should save a considerable amount of time and the annual stocktake. The tangible asset inventory must be consistent and retrievable at any time.
Initial situation with "dockets and Excel spreadsheets"
Tangible asset management and stock-taking were previously extremely time consuming and expensive, and involved a lot of paperwork. Each time a new item was created in the system, every employee received a type of "docket" with their tangible asset. Acceptance of the tangible asset had to be confirmed with a signature and the "docket" returned to the accounting department. The acquisition process on its own was laborious, time consuming and not very reliable. There was no overview and the tangible asset inventory was incomplete. The stock-take was performed at irregular intervals, as is usual in SAP. This involved each of the approximately 100 cost centres receiving an Excel spreadsheet of the tangible asset generated in SAP. The stock-take itself had to be performed by the "best employees", as only they had the necessary background knowledge. Once the stock-take was complete, the cost centre managers had to manually reconcile their Excel spreadsheets with the SAP system and report back to the accounting department. This was only partially achieved. Paper labels were used for identification purposes, but they quickly faded or got dirty and were no longer (clearly) legible. Some tangible assets could no longer be found and therefore were never recorded. The entirely manual reconciliation of the roughly 20,000 assets by the accounting department was also too complex. Overall, this method was very error-prone and time consuming for each of the individual departments.
Requirements for a media interruption free tangible asset inventory
The main requirements for the new system were that the tangible asset inventory should be as straightforward as possible for all departments in future, error-free and involve little effort. MBDA Deutschland GmbH placed a great deal of significance on the reliability of 100% coverage. It had to be possible for anyone (e.g. even temps, students, apprentices, etc.) to be able to perform the stock-take quickly.
The new system also had to have a stable connection to the existing SAP system. And, the new software also had to be able to run on the existing mobile handheld scanners. The labels used for identification purposes had to be clearly legible and UV-resistant, i.e. durable.
Mobile tangible asset inventory with MembrainPAS AM
Due to the superior functionality of the products, Membrain had already been selected from among various providers for the logistics and production "media interruption free identification technology" project back in 2008. The positive experiences from this project were pivotal in the decision to use the MembrainPAS AM mobile solution in the tangible asset inventory project. Membrain GmbH develops package software and is a market leader of mobile data acquisition solutions. With SAP specialists and the SAP-certified partnership, Membrain customers also profit from a professional connection to their SAP system. In spring 2012, the Membrain software was awarded the Innovationspreis Mittelstand for innovative SMEs and Industriepreis for outstanding industrial solutions.
Commissioning the new system
1. Recording and identifying the tangible assets using a barcode scanner
First of all, the new, clearly legible, UV-resistant barcode labels were procured that included the company initials, company code and a unique registration number. If the barcode does not scan, it is also possible to enter the asset number or serial number, for example. Then, all of the tangible assets were recorded; those that still had an old label were married up to the new label and combined.
2. Information flow
To read the new, unique registration number, the barcode label on the tangible asset is scanned with a handheld device. The handheld device is then placed in the docking station in order to transfer the data to the MembrainRTC server (Real Time Communicator) that communicates with the SAP system in the background.
3. Management and monitoring via the Windows application (console)
The tangible asset master data of the SAP system are imported to the PC via a user-friendly, intuitive Windows application (console). MBDA Deutschland GmbH has three console screens. The accounting department use their screen to generate the inventory orders for each cost centre and enter the data once the stock-take is complete, before checking the inventory results in the SAP system by pressing a button. The cost centre managers are able to see on their console only those tangible asset orders assigned to them by the accounting department. Then they assign the inventory orders to the relevant employees. These procedures are all managed by an integrated, media interruption free workflow process that runs in the background. The IT department is a special tangible asset management instance and has its own, third screen. This gives it access to all the lists of assets assigned to the IT department. The employee can then use the respective user interfaces to decide how to proceed with the respective asset.
4. Mobile tangible asset inventory work flow
The MembrainPAS AM automated asset inventory is now performed annually. The asset accountant uses the Windows application to generate the inventory orders in the form of workflows for each of a maximum of five of the one hundred cost centre managers. These are opened by the cost centre managers in the Windows application and the order and inventory management employee entered. The inventory management employee logs on to the mobile device and receives a list of their inventory orders. From then on there is no need to be connected to the network, as the mobile application operates entirely offline. However, there is an entire inventory amounting to 20,000 tangible assets in the background that the employees do not see. If the employee comes across a tangible asset that does not belong to that cost centre, it can still be recorded. The employee scans the location number and then records the tangible asset found in that location. All those tangible assets with a value above the profitability limit are recorded (> EUR 150.00). The status of the inventory management order is reported back to the relevant cost centre manager each time synchronisation occurs. This can cause workflows to change at any time, e.g. the transfer of inventory from other cost centres and the transfer of inventory to other cost centres. Changes to the status of the inventory can also be accepted or rejected within the console.
Once all of the tangible assets have been recorded, the employee ends the stock-take. The cost centre manager checks, edits and confirms the entries. As part of the workflow, a "scrap" order can be requested for tangible assets that are no longer required. The accounting department then receives, checks and enters the data in the SAP system. This enables an automatic reconciliation and cross-check against SAP. IT tangible assets are handled separately. Newly acquired IT devices are registered by the IT department. This makes it possible to record several IT devices simultaneously using what is referred to as a serial registration. If an IT tangible asset is no longer required, the cost centre manager informs the IT department. The department collects the tangible asset, checks whether it can be reused, and reports back to the accounting department via the console (e.g. scrap).
The implementation of MembrainPAS AM introduced a multi-faceted tangible asset inventory solution with automatic reconciliation in the SAP system that both sides can be proud of. "Just the speed and transparency alone that we have gained from using the new system have considerably simplified our inventory procedures. We now also have an overview of our current situation stocks," reports Mr Ziegler, Project Manager at MBDA Deutschland GmbH. The tangible assets are now recorded electronically using mobile handheld scanners. A data interface ensures automatic reconciliation with the SAP system. An annual stock-take can now be performed by anyone quickly and error-free without high administrative costs. All of the tangible asset procedures - from procurement to stock-taking - have been optimised and accelerated. Our employees are also enthusiastic about the new system that they found easy to use just after a brief amount of training. Making adjustments for tangible assets that could no longer be found or were no longer required was a nightmare for the cost centre managers - now they are pleased they no longer have to deal with any "legacy items". The assembly line communicates with the Oracle database and the AS 400 system, providing all clients with access to the necessary information. We've also been able to continue using the tried-and-tested input devices of the vehicle assembly line. So, despite all the different technologies, the manner of working has remained the same.
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