Charlie Lewis of Air Products described how they have been using workflow and business rules (FICO Blaze Advisor). Air Products is a Fortune 300 company that primarily supplies industrial gases in a variety of markets. Charlie begun by describing the communication and work challenges of a diverse company across many countries where different groups have different perspectives.
Air Products had installed SAP worldwide to standardize the processes and ensure customers could be treated consistently. But this standardization made it difficult to define new products because these had been designed locally previously. Some of Air Products new products are dangerous, some are complicated, some can’t be sold in some places etc. And creating a product involves creating a material master, setting up suppliers, setting up production facilities, pricing and much more. Often tens of thousands of dollars to create one product which may turn out to be in the system anyway. All of this created a crisis in the material master group.
Material master complexity is an issue. 300,000 material masters with 50 supply chains. Many of these involve many different gases that must be combined exactly and that are all produced continuously. Companies often order trials of new products to see if they work. Products are ordered by PhD scientists and several weeks can pass in back and forth until the order entry people can get the order right. To support this process a set of spreadsheets that were emailed around was created. Issues included lead time, complexity and rework – poor quality, potentially dangerous products and much more.
Decided to use Blaze Advisor for rules and the SAP Workflow to solve the problem. The system collects information, calls the engineering resources for complex calculation and manages approvals. It takes only a couple of days now, not weeks, and does it very cost effective. Accuracy is up, with rework eliminated unless the customer actually changes their mind. The materials masters are right the first time.
- SAP Workflow for business review and tracking, integrated with SAP replaced the old workflow
- Blaze Advisor encodes the rules that were previously in people’s heads to make the decisions, prompt effectively to complete the data and more
- The need for detailed knowledge has dropped and those facing the customer can use the system to ask the right questions
Materials masters must exist for anything Air Products sells and this system runs thousands of rules (complex rules too) and many steps to make sure that all the information is collected, checked, priced and more.
The average cycle time has dropped from 6 weeks to 1.6 calendar days! At least a 95% reduction. Rework dropped by 98%, waste down by more than 95%, customer satisfaction up by 90%+, on-time delivery up by over 90%. No new hiring, more appropriate use of people, excellent safety and more. And the executive who pushed the worldwide SAP installation has said subsequently that this was the second most important project after only the project to move to a single instance of SAP. But the bottom line is that Air Products has some customers who buy so much that when they build a plant so does Air Products. And these customers would have been lost if the 6 weeks to get a sample of a new product that they needed to experiment.