Neapco Europe has two production plants – in Dueren in North Rhine-Westphalia (Germany) and in Praszka in the Opole region (Poland). As a supplier of parts and subassemblies for global automotive companies, the company is obliged to meet the most stringent quality and operational efficiency standards applied in the industry. It also requires the same from its suppliers and subcontractors.
The guarantee of high availability of the integrated SAP system and competent user support in case of failure are necessary to ensure the safety of such a demanding business.
When deciding to choose SAP Managed Services, Neapco expected full responsibility to be taken for the operation of SAP – from the technical layer (availability of data centers, physical networks and servers, an operating system and databases) through the application layer to the continuity of business processes (interfaces, data flow). Users were to be provided with remote support in solving everyday problems with the system.
In January 2020, the migration of SAP Neapco to the SNP private cloud began. In parallel, preparations were launched for knowledge transfer and “on-the-fly” takeover of system administration and support for key users of production plants in two countries. In March, a lockdown of the economy in Poland and Germany was announced. This forced the adjustment of plans, especially regarding the transfer of knowledge about the customer’s system. The previously planned sessions and meetings of key users with service consultants had to be held remotely. However, the new organization of work did not affect the schedule and since July (after the expiration of the contract with the previous provider) Neapco has been using the full SAP Managed Services package, which includes SAP support in the private cloud model, SAP administration and application management.
Knowledge transfer from CrystalBridge
Taking over the system from the previous provider in full gear can be compared to taking over the controls of an airplane by a new pilot during the flight. The downtime associated with switching to a new data center must be reduced to the necessary minimum. Open requests must be taken over and processed within the guaranteed SLA, and service consultants must quickly get to know the customer’s business processes. The users cannot feel any deterioration of service quality even for a moment – after all, business does not care about what happens outside the application screen. The system is supposed to work quickly and correctly.
In the knowledge transfer process, SNP uses the experience of consultants and numerous tools facilitating the familiarization with the customer’s business processes, interfaces, in-house developed solutions (interviews with key users, surveys, questionnaires, etc.). This arsenal also includes dedicated tools from SNP CrystalBridge, a data transformation platform. The CrystalBridge tools installed in the customer’s system enabled a quick and automated analysis of the SAP environment based on data from the production system. This made it possible to verify and expand the information obtained from key users and thus shorten the time needed to develop a better suited solution (including private cloud parameters) and obtain the optimal level of services.
Managed Cloud at SNP
Under the contract, SNP Poland provides private cloud services for Neapco in its own data center, and a service of administration of SAP systems (SAP ERP and SAP BW), a database and an operating system. The service includes infrastructure costs, proactive monitoring, handling of service and development requests, administrative support for the SAP landscape, and SLA guarantees. A service complementary to SNP Managed Cloud is SAP application management.
SAP application management service
The SAP application management service is provided to system users in both Neapco production plants – in Poland and Germany. Service consultants react to reported errors, and also make planned changes to the system, including uploading and testing manufacturer updates, as well as minor development work.
As the second line of support, we respond to requests from key users within the time specified in the SLA contract. Support covers all business areas managed in SAP: finance and controlling, sales and distribution, materials management and production, warehouse management, plant maintenance, as well as data warehouse (FI/CO, SD, MM, PP, WM, PM, BW).
24 hour support
Neapco factories operate three shifts and, as expected, support for critical requests from the production area and the process of issue from production is provided on a continuous basis – 24 hours a day, 6 days a week.
These customer requirements can be met thanks to two SNP service centers. When SNP service consultants in Poland finish their duty late in the evening, the baton is taken over by our colleagues from the service organization in China, who are responsible for handling critical requests from the production area till the morning.
Requests are recorded and handled using SNP Service Desk, a single point-of-contact application. Over time, the archive of requests contained therein becomes a useful base of knowledge about the most common problems and a repository of developed solutions. Communication between SNP consultants and Neapco key users is done in English.
The requests are distributed to dedicated SNP service teams, specialized in individual SAP areas and the SAP/IT technology layer.
The systems simply have to work
We talk to Andrzej Dawid, IT Supervisor at Neapco Europe, about the importance of SAP managed services for a company from the automotive industry, and how to choose the right partner for cooperation.
How does the specific nature of the automotive industry translate into expectations regarding critical IT services and their availability?
The automotive industry requires that critical systems for a company simply have to work. One of such systems is SAP. Without it, our company will neither produce anything nor send anything to the customer. Therefore, as part of the agreement with SNP, we have determined the level of SLA that satisfies us. We not only secured for ourselves support during “office” working hours, but we also arranged for a package of extended support “after working hours” and on weekends.
Why did you choose SNP as a partner of managed services for SAP?
We wanted a partner that is present on the market globally. SNP is such a partner. Although Neapco uses SAP only in plants in Europe, in the future, there will be no problem with maintaining or implementing systems outside Europe if Neapco grows. We also wanted a partner with experience in all migration types. In this case it was a migration from the previous company, which supported us until the end of June 2020.
An important aspect is the future of the SAP system. A potential migration to SAP S/HANA also requires a partner who is familiar with it and has experience. Another aspect in favor of SNP was that although it is a global company, it also operates intensively on the local market. It has extensive experience in the legal regulations and customs applicable in Europe – in Poland and Germany.
Andrzej Dawid, IT Supervisor, Neapco EuropeThe beginning of our cooperation coincided with the difficult time of the economic lockdown in Germany and Poland. How did it influence the organization of work? How was the communication process?
Neapco has long tried to use modern remote communication methods whenever possible. This is characteristic of companies that operate globally. We quickly switched to the Microsoft Teams platform and communication was done only remotely. There were no major problems with it, although of course we missed meetings and workshops planned on-site at the plants in Praszka and Dueren, where we hoped to meet the consultants in person. I hope our users will have an opportunity to meet in person SNP consultants who support them with their knowledge and skills on a daily basis.
What are the biggest advantages of maintaining SAP in the model you have chosen?
SNP is fully responsible for the continuity of our system’s operation. We avoid gray areas at the junction of ranges of services from different providers. The user reports a problem in the service desk application and expects a solution. They do not need to know whether the problem is related to the technical layer, database or application – this is dealt with by SNP.
I have one partner with whom I discuss all aspects of SAP development and maintenance. Any IT manager who uses the services of several external providers will perfectly understand what I mean.
And specifically? Can you provide an example of a reported problem/solution proposed by SNP that improved the quality of the system operation?
At the very beginning, SNP advised us not to use the solution based on the SAP system operating in a cluster. This solution was more problematic and costly than it was beneficial. It was better to agree on a specific value of the guaranteed SLA. And that’s what we did.
What would you advise other IT managers considering managed services for SAP? How to prepare for it internally, what should be taken into account when choosing a provider?
That’s a good question.
Of course, you have to start with “hard” factors, such as SLA, a technology platform for the data center, competences, a size of the team… You have to define well your requirements and what you expect from the provider. This is best done with specific numbers.
“Soft” factors are usually difficult to describe and define. This always comes out later during the negotiations. There are different offerors. Some offer everything the customer wants, but you can sense that there is only an empty facade behind it. There are also companies that are acting too cautiously, with no flexibility and you can immediately see that there will be problems. And finally, there are companies that are open and say directly what they will deliver and what you can expect from them, but you can see that there is knowledge and experience behind it. You have to be able to sense this at the negotiation stage. And at the very end there is money…
Neapco is a leading provider of innovative drive solutions for original equipment manufacturers and the global automotive industry. It designs, manufactures and distributes high-quality drive shafts, differentials, die-cast aluminum housings and spare parts for passenger cars, trucks, off-road vehicles, agricultural and industrial machinery. It has production and distribution plants in Germany and Poland, and employs approximately 1,700 people. Neapco Europe is part of the US-based Neapco Holding.