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Berner Group

We assume support costs can be reduced by about 20 to 30 percent. Berner benefits considerably from centralized and secure data and device management, particularly in countries where it has not previously been possible to deploy a mobile solution, due to the lack of localized versions.

Gustav Fuchs
Berner project manager

The Berner Group is one of Europe’s leading direct distributors of small parts for professional use in the construction, automotive, and other industries. Berner has a loyal base of customers and partners and has affectionately come to be known as the company with just as much heart as brains. Faced with the challenge of replacing its existing mobile solution with one that would protect against outages, provide reliable, high performance of data replication and meet pan-European requirements, Berner turned to Sybase. The resulting solution delivers cost and time savings in all of Berner’s business processes.

Business Advantage

  • The new Berner field sales application has reduced errors and process idle time, increasing productivity and margins. Business processes have been optimized in all regions, the application quickly adapts to the constantly growing number of users and support costs have been reduced by 20 to 30 percent.

Benefits

  • Delivers high performance and reliability
  • Reduces field sales force process idle times and errors
  • Reduces support costs by 20 to 30 percent

Sybase Technology

  • SQL Anywhere
  • MobiLink
  • Sybase Professional Services

Industry

  • Manufacturing & Distribution

Download the full success story in PDF format.

The Berner Group is one of Europe’s leading direct distributors of small parts for professional use in the construction, automotive, and other industries. Around 8,000 well-qualified and expert employees—of which 5,500 are in the field—make sure every day that customers in more than 20 European countries receive comprehensive care and professional advice. Its range of services includes a selection of small parts such as chemical engineering products, tools, workshop equipment, drilling technology, anchoring technology, and more. Berner’s strength is its total focus on the customer, ensuring with its onsite presence and logistics chain, a guarantee that customer delivery within 24 to 48 hours from its selection of over 25,000 items is possible.

The need for a new mobile solution
Berner’s distribution employees call on numerous customers every day. The field sales force needs to have accurate and up-to-date information regarding the customer, sales, and price history. A majority of Berner’s regular customers are at small- and medium-size businesses, especially in the automotive, construction, and heavy industries and a majority of them maintain their machines and equipment themselves. Berner’s employees need to be able to provide individual consulting at the customer’s location and place orders from Berner’s large product lineup using customer-relevant specifications, all without dependency on a network.

In order to guarantee high quality in distribution and logistics, Berner needed to support their field sales team with a new mobile solution. The new solution required features that would offer support to field sales employees while they were preparing customer calls and taking orders. A particular advantage to the new systems would be fast and reliable data transfer at the push of a button. Berner project manager Gustav Fuchs recalls the weaknesses of the old, existing mobile solution: “Adding features to the existing mobile solution is just as impossible as creating additional language versions that meet pan-European requirements. In addition, failures and outages can occur during data replication, and problems can arise while modifying master data.” With its old file-based solution, Berner was dependent on a single operating system and couldn’t make full use of the functionalities in SAP.

Conversion to a new solution would have to happen with minimal training and without interrupting ongoing business and delivery processes. Berner required data replication that was reliable and provided high performance as this was the area where their existing solution no longer met their strict standards The key success factors for a new mobile application would be easy operation for users and process-optimized integration.

“In addition to covering the functional requirements for mobile field sales force software, the cost effectiveness and investment security of any new solution are the top priority from a strategic point of view,” Fuchs adds. “Accordingly, we have to build on existing system architecture linking to SAP-ERP and SAP-BI.”

Sybase SQL Anywhere selected as both database and synchronization platform
Berner tested five systems from different providers as a part of a selection and evaluation process. As part of the selection process, Berner tested data synchronization between the server and terminal device. In addition, performance and handling were analyzed while writing up orders and doing product searches. Criteria such as “total cost of ownership” and customer care also played a critical role in the selection.

eMotion relies on the power of SQL Anywhere
Ultimately, SQL Anywhere from Sybase stood out among the five competitors. SQL Anywhere is a comprehensive platform that delivers data management and synchronization technologies for fast development of database-driven applications. Using the data synchronization technology, data access is expanded to enterprise applications and systems for mobile systems. The front-line applications are implemented via design and management tools that make it easy to administer the systems. In addition to Sybase’s SQL Anywhere Professional Service Team, full-service IT service provider Systemhaus Freudenberg IT, was selected to be involved in the development and integration of the SAP requirements.

Once Berner selected SQL Anywhere as their database, they went about making full use of its robust feature set. SQL Anywhere’s redundancy and high availability of database and synchronization processes was particularly important to them. Called, eMotion, the new Berner application is used by all Berner subsidiaries operating SAP - approximately 4,500 users per subscriber. “eMotion manages up to 1,000 master customer data elements as well as approximately 25,000 product master data elements that can be combined with various customer and material conditions via an order and bid management system,” says Fuchs, the eMotion project leader at Berner. “In addition to master data, our employees get route planning as well as a link to a reporting system for daily reports, for instance, or HTML-based contact history.” This ensures that an employee has all information at hand that he or she needs to prepare for appointments, sales negotiations, taking and processing orders, and distribution reporting.

Impressive technology, impressive results
Connected to SAP on the back end via the SQL Anywhere database and synchronization platform, eMotion, also allows employees to have all customer and product data available offline. The offline model provides Berner field sales employees the ability to work regardless of network coverage. Often times this includes workshops, rural construction sites, or automotive workshops have only weak network coverage or none at all. The data is then synchronized to the back office every time the device is able to make a connection.

Berner’s various divisions are all seeing the benefits of eMotion. “The employees’ response to eMotion has been extremely positive,” Fuchs reports. “The application enjoys great popularity because it offers high performance as well as a great deal of intuitive usability with easy-to-control functionality.”

Thanks to a professional monitoring service and customer-oriented support operations at Sybase, support is organized quickly and reliably. “We assume support costs can be reduced by about 20 to 30 percent,” Fuchs says. “Berner benefits considerably from centralized and secure data and device management, particularly in countries where it has not previously been possible to deploy a mobile solution, due to the lack of localized versions.”

Thanks to the SQL Anywhere-based eMotion application, Berner has also created a future-proof system. Currently Berner has connected more than 2,500 employees. It is planning to connect a total of about 4,500 employees internationally. Beyond this, those business processes that are relevant to distribution control will get mobile versions at future development steps. People at Berner can now achieve more security and higher professionalism in all their business processes. Field sales force idle time processes and errors can be reduced, which in turn results in a savings of money and time. “To sum it up,” Fuchs says with satisfaction, “we have achieved higher quality and reliability for the entire value chain of the Berner Group.”


 

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