Belbal’s (MBF) plant in Tczew produces about half a billion balloons per year, in a broad range of colours and sizes. Belbal’s balloons decorate family celebrations, add colour to anniversaries, galas and sports events, and promote popular supermarket and restaurant chains. They are valued for their high quality, interesting design, their broad range of options, and meeting requirements of demanding clients worldwide.
The need to implement a tool for comprehensive management of the company, as well as improving the efficiency of the process of organising production and distribution are the main reasons for implementing an integrated system. 7milowy, offering SAP SPRINT ERP – the most popular SAP Business All-in-One solution in Poland – was selected.
The implementation project started in July 2011 and after a mere six months – in January 2012 – the system was launched into production.
The scope of implementation of SAP SPRINT ERP in Belbal included the following areas:
- Financial accounting (SAP FI),
- Fixed assets accounting (FI-AA),
- Financial liquidity management (SAP TR),
- Controlling (SAP CO),
- Sales and distribution (SAP SD),
- Materials management and purchasing (SAP MM),
- Production planning (SAP PP).
The system is used by over 30 of the company’s employees.
SAP FI versus outsourced accounting
The standard scope of functionalities was implemented in the finance area, allowing for full bookkeeping of economic events (chart of accounts, drawing up financial reports for statutory purposes, managing settlements, managing till and bank accounts).
It is worth mentioning that Belbal has no finance/accounting department in its organisational structure. Those processes are outsourced to a specialised company. The basic benefit of such a model is a significant reduction in the costs associated with that area and eliminating issues related to organising the operations of accounting (cost of jobs, maintaining a relevant level of skills, training, ensuring stand-in employees etc.).
The business assumption from the outset of the project was that implementing SAP FI should not require any organisational changes in that area. Belbal acquired a separate SAP license for the needs of its accounting services provider, which allowed for the inclusion of this third party in the scope of the system’s operation. Employees of the accounting firm were provided with SAP FI module training and, since the production launch of the system, they have been performing the same scope of finance/accounting services, but using the new tool.
The implemented SAP controlling tools support recording, planning, settlement and analysis of costs and income in the company for management purposes.
Apart from the standard SAP CO tools, the company’s needs are supported by a report for the Belgian owner specially developed by 7milowy’s consultants, making it easier to analyse the distribution processes. Belbal Polska uses two main distribution channels: the company conducts active sales domestically and internationally; additionally, the Belgian parent company is a significant buyer, with its own sales channels. The report collects information on the individual amounts sent to the Belgian parent. Feeding that data to the system operated in Belgium allows significant simplification of the process of accepting goods at the warehouse. The process is implemented in logistics modules of SAP.
Production – Printing – Packaging
Production of balloons is quite a precise and diverse process, with three main steps: the production of a balloon, printing it, and packaging. Aside from the main production-management functionalities, the implemented system – in each stage – had to be adjusted, taking into account the expectations of monitoring the production quality and work efficiency parameters.
To monitor quality in SAP, a number of parameters related to the flow of the production process are monitored (such as detailed distribution of temperatures, humidity or frequency of performing specific technological operations). 7milowy devised a dedicated transaction that allows for the entering and transcribing of a large amount of data, integrated with the standard process for confirming production and materials’ consumption.
Thanks to this, without significant intervention in the standard SPRINT solution, it is possible to record industry-specific parameters and events; furthermore, the system is fed with all data required to correctly settle production. The data collected in the database allows for analysis of the impact of the flow of the production process on the manufacturing cost. Additionally, information on the tasks and activities of the individual employees is collected. These extensive parameters related to efficiency and quality are used, among others, in the bonus scheme.
Each day, millions of balloons produced (in many sizes, colours and production lots) are recorded in the system. For practical reasons, the unit used is a kilogram. Ultimately, however, the indicated inventory must be settled per piece, which is the trade unit. In such cases, even with the most precise weighing equipment, differences (called leftovers) will be shown when changing to another unit – often a very small difference, but from the perspective of the program’s algorithm, these are always significant enough to indicate them. For obvious reasons, no rounding is allowed in warehouse management. Therefore, a solution was prepared that allows for the quick settlement of the inventory according to the actual amounts, preserving the correctness of the operation in financial/accounting terms.
A significant part of Belbal’s balloons are additionally printed. These are both one and multi-colour prints for special occasions, advertising (e.g. ordered by large retail and restaurant chains), or for advertising campaigns for various companies.
What’s interesting is that the print is made on inflated balloons. Production in this stage is subject to detailed control; its results are recorded in the system. To do that, additional mechanisms were developed that support the monitoring of defects occurring as part of individual operations performed in the printing department. The breakdown also provides statistics per employee, allowing for assessment of efficiency.
Packaging is the last stage of the production process. The high versatility of packaging designs is typical of this industry. These are both large packs of uniform products (e.g. 500 or 1000 pieces) and smaller packs with different products mainly meant for sale in retail chains (e.g. 3 pieces of multi-colour balloons with various prints). As a result, the number of ready-made goods indices, representing combinations of sizes, colours, prints and methods of packaging, is currently at several thousand and still growing.
Some packaging (especially large packs of uniform products) is made in the plant. On the other hand, the preparation of smaller packs, which are varied and assembled as per detailed guidelines, is commissioned to subcontractors. The process is managed in SAP by settling the materials provided, and registering the amount and quality of work. On that basis, the rates for subcontractors are also calculated. The entirety of the processes was modelled using the standard functionalities offered in the SPRINT package.
According to European Union law, balloons are classified as toys and, because of that, are subject to specific rules on safety and certificates of approval applicable in that industry sector. One of such requirements is the ability to identify and withdraw the lot in which a product was released. The requirement of tracking a production lot is related to the need to ensure an indication can be made as to when (and of which raw material) a given product was made, where it was sent, and where it currently is.
Management of this process in SAP SPRINT ERP and experience in this regard were one of the main criteria for selecting 7milowy as the system provider.
Managing orders became simpler. Also, thanks to the easy way of tracking the entire route of a product, priorities can be set and the distribution can be planned faster and more efficiently.
Warehouse and Sales
Warehouse work is managed using functionalities available in the module for managing materials and supplies in SAP SPRINT ERP. Additionally, the project implemented solutions for using barcodes and wireless scanning terminals. To do that, processes such as transfers within the warehouse and releasing were simplified and suited to support terminal transactions.
Thanks to the SD module, the process of sales and invoicing has become nice and simple. Each client and product has the sales and price terms assigned. Devising price lists with such a diverse product range was possible thanks to preparing the so-called product hierarchy. Managing orders has become easier. Also, thanks to the easy way of tracking the entire route of a product, priorities can be set and the distribution can be planned faster and more efficiently
Solutions of the SD module also allow for quick quantity/amount analyses of sales by distribution channel and client, as well as by a specific product. Combining MM and SD modules provides cost analysis, which is very helpful.
As Mirosław Ciapalski, the Managing Director of Belbal Polska stresses: “The important factor in selecting a partner was how comprehensive their offer was. 7milowy proved the perfect partner – they provided a system license, implemented it, trained the users and ensured the technical infrastructure required for SAP installation”.
A strategic decision, combined with the selection of a system provider, was also the choice of support model. 7milowy is a part of BCC Group (since 2018 SNP), which offers a full scope of services related to IT/SAP outsourcing. Belbal chose full outsourcing – hosting and administration of SAP SPRINT ERP is provided by the Outsourcing Centre of the SNP. 7milowy, on the other hand, supports users.
The main task of 7milowy’s consultants is remote support for Belbal’s employees in the daily management of SAP. The application service covers all areas of the system implemented in the company: financial accounting, controlling, materials management, sales and distribution and production planning. As part of the agreement signed, 7milowy also ensures system development and organises comprehensive training courses on operating SAP.
7milowy proved the perfect partner – they provided a system license, implemented it, trained the users and ensured the technical infrastructure required for SAP installation
Qualitative Parameters in the System
Belbal’s requirements of quality control for each stage of production – as well as the high degree of correlation between efficiency and quality of work, and the bonus scheme – meant that the implementation project brought the need to transcribe a large amount of basic data in the system. Owing to that and the development of a few system extensions, it is now possible to precisely track multiple qualitative parameters in each stage of production, and to assign individual activities in the process to specific employees. Additional work required by the client did not extend the time of project delivery significantly. The system – implemented in the full functional scope available in SAP SPRINT ERP – was launched after only six months.
Belbal Polska (MBF sp. z o.o.) is the European leader in production and printing of high quality latex balloons. The company is a part of Belbal Group and acts as the main manufacturer within the group. The company provides direct services in eight countries and exports to 60 countries across all continents. The company employs over 200 staff.