Hosted architecture sets the stage for future innovation

Hosted architecture sets the stage for future innovation

Leading European grain processor eyes real-time pricing with IoT.

In the milling business, many elements factor into an ideal pricing model:

  • What’s the long-range climatology forecast?
  • What quality of grain are farmers reporting?
  • How are commodities markets trending?

Get the formula right, and you can lock into a 15- to 24-month deal at the perfect price.

And that’s very much the aim of Karsten Roesener, chief information officer for GoodMills Germany, the largest supplier of flour to the European market—in fact; the company operates 25 sites and is responsible for producing 1.4 million tons of flour, almost 20 percent of Germany’s domestic demand.

That real-time pricing model is still a vision, not a reality. “You can’t do everything at once,” Roesener says, adding that there were more urgent priorities. But its foundation, he says, has been laid with the company’s recent move to a cloud infrastructure.

Roesener was appointed GoodMills’ first CIO in the summer of 2013. His highest priority was a complete renewal of the IT infrastructure, hardware, and software for the company’s German operations.

The existing infrastructure ran on reliable but aging minicomputers on a site-by-site basis. The enterprise resource planning (ERP), client-server, electronic data interchange (EDI), and document management solutions were proprietary; e-mail, messaging, customer relationship management (CRM) applications, and others numbered about 30.

Bring on the Cloud

After an intensive software selection process, Roesener was charged with the task of creating an entirely new application stack built around ERP software from SAP AG. But rather than build it on-premise, Roesener opted for a cloud implementation of the ERP system.

“We could have built it into our existing structure, but we would have needed two full-time administrators and a lot of hardware,” Roesener says. “We needed a simplified IT department. We wanted to focus on business processes, not infrastructure.”

With limited time, budget and resources, along with an increased emphasis on business focus, GoodMills chose to move to a managed services platform hosted by Freudenberg IT (FIT), a Cisco Powered™ service provider specializing in SAP implementations, manufacturing execution systems, and managed hosting.

The Cloud Advantage

A cloud-based infrastructure offered GoodMills a number of advantages over an on-premise solution, says Denis Reinartz, operations director for SAP private cloud services with FIT.

“There are many big advantages, beginning with the re-focus on business processes and application development instead of basic infrastructure maintenance,” Reinartz says. In the cloud, he adds, applications can be provisioned in days instead of months, and GoodMills can take a software-as-a-service (SaaS) approach for certain applications, with FIT handling licensing and asset management challenges.

“The vision of GoodMills’ IT department is to support the business, instead of offering facility management and focusing on legacy infrastructure,” Reinartz says.

The application stack built around the core ERP services includes Microsoft SharePoint and Exchange services for e-mail, messaging, and collaboration. Videoconferencing services are also on the roadmap.

The Benefits of an Overhaul

The overhaul has already paid dividends. GoodMills’ supply chain had 70,000 customer and supplier numbers, because of its disparate systems; that has been reduced to 6000 by eliminating duplicates.

Also on the radar for Roesener is the need to harmonize material numbers. There are currently about 2000 per plant, and Roesener figures they only need about 25 each.

Meanwhile, the next step for GoodMills and FIT is to bring the vast network of sensors and data feeds—the Internet of Things (IoT)—into the equation. Production facilities will be integrated with core ERP services, and GoodMills plans to leverage FIT’s expertise with manufacturing execution systems in an SAP environment to simplify production processes.

And while the GoodMills vision—drawing all the relevant data together in real time to craft the perfect deal at the perfect price with the click of a mouse—may be in the future, it’s certainly within reach.

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