Digitisation without compromise
Digitisation without compromise: while numerous other companies continue to procrastinate, Kopter Group AG, in partnership with Swisscom, is actively pursuing its vision of becoming a fully digitised company. How is this unique project being managed? Kopter reveals all.
Text: Felix Raymann, Images: Raisa Durandi, 18 october 2018
In the assembly workshops of Mollis in the canton of Glarus, the engineers are putting the prototypes of the first Swiss-built helicopter through their paces. Certification of the SH09 utility helicopter should be completed in 2019 and the company will begin serial production shortly afterwards. The Swiss helicopter is already proving popular with customers, with numerous orders already placed for the state-of-the-art, high-performance aircraft. “Our first customer was Air Zermatt, since when we have received more than 60 purchase commitments and around 100 offers for our helicopter. Interest is huge, especially in the USA, but also in Asia, where our single-engine helicopter can fly without any restrictions,” says Cecile Vion-Lanctuit, Kopter’s Head of Communications and Marketing.
Kopter Group AG engineers inspect the latest SH09 prototypes before ground testing.
The company is putting as much energy into digitisation as it is into its helicopter production and testing. Kopter Group AG, which was purely an engineering firm until recently, is currently undergoing a remarkable transformation into an industrial manufacturer and, in the future, service provider. Its IT requirements are much more stringent as a result. Moreover, all parts of the company will be digitised. “We have the advantage that, as a relatively new company, we have not inherited any old structures or IT systems. We can start building our products and services from scratch, without any baggage,” says Günther Saathoff, Kopter’s Vice-President Information Technology, who is clearly proud of how the digitisation process has been effectively implemented. The foundations are in place, but the transformation remains a monumental task. That is why projects are being developed step by step – some of them in strategic partnerships such as the one with Swisscom.
Kopter is already beginning to record some initial successes: in a joint use case, the company’s financial data is being structured and displayed using an SAP business intelligence solution (SAP Business Objects BI). Thanks to the analytics solution, information can be made accessible quickly at any time, since it no longer needs to be manually collected from the SAP system. “Until recently, for any evaluation, each user had to download the latest financial data from the system and work on it in an Excel file. Now, all current information and figures are available to all authorised users in a clear format,” says Günther Saathoff. The consolidated presentation of data means that information about suppliers, contracts or invoices, for example, is visible on the graphic interface. Saathoff demonstrates the BI dashboard using the order volumes of Kopter’s suppliers: “With a few clicks, I can create evaluations and adapt them to different questions during a meeting. Before, if someone had asked for a report with different figures during a meeting, I would have had to bring the Excel evaluation to the next meeting. Now, everyone gets the latest data within seconds.”
Cécile Vion-Lanctuit, Head of Communications & Marketing, and Günther Saathoff, Vice President Information Technology, describe Kopter’s vision.
The IT chief’s example shows how the first productive application is already helping to increase efficiency. Yet this is only a first small step towards fulfilling the vision: “Once all the financial data and controlling has been optimised in this way, we will also integrate logistics, production, sales and distribution, in other words the complete SAP system together with all interfaces, into the system.” In future, it will be possible to use all applications in the browser – whatever the source of the data and whatever software is running in the background. In order to ensure the applications are as useful to the business as they can be, users are already being included in the development process.
Greater efficiency and access to data without media disruption are not the only benefits of BI. It is also creating brand new data evaluation opportunities that are simply not feasible with manual methods. “Let’s take all the sensor data that the helicopters generate, for example,” says Saathoff. “Every second, the aircraft will produce data concerning location, temperature, pressure, vibration, the condition of equipment and the engine. Thanks to empirical data evaluation, for example, we will be able to tell, via predictive maintenance, when a component needs replacing, how we can best plan our logistics or what recommendations we can give to customers to ensure the most effective operation possible.”
The use of numerous sensors creates a huge increase in the quantity of data that needs to be processed. “Since we don’t have the necessary know-how within the company, we are relying on Swisscom’s experience. They give us a lot in terms of SAP, BI and big data,” explains Saathoff.
There are few standard solutions for Kopter Group AG. The vision of a fully digitised company includes central data storage for all areas of the business, which results in complex processes. “We will make all the data available in homogenised form in a data lake. Kopter cannot use the data with the required level of flexibility unless it is stored in a neutral rather than an application-specific format,” says Matthias Mohler, Head of Analytics Consulting at Swisscom. The flexible application possibilities and new data usage options are welcomed by Günther Saathoff, who is resolutely pursuing the vision of a digitised company. For him, IT is no longer just a service, but a productive part of the company that can generate unprecedented opportunities for the business.
Kopter Group AG, based in Wetzikon ZH with around 300 employees, develops, produces and maintains utility helicopters. The SH09 is a high-performance Swiss-made helicopter with which the company hopes to capture the market. It is designed for use in tourism, surveillance, medical and rescue services, and transportation. The first Swiss-built helicopter is currently under development, with certification expected in 2019.
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