Greenfield implementation at a technology start-up

New implementation of SAP S/4HANA at Heliatek

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New implementation of SAP S/4HANA at Heliatek

Stable, transparent - and future-proof
The challenge

The processes in the company were not fully defined and documented until now. In addition, the start-up lacked an integrated and scalable SAP ERP system.

The solution

Heliatek implemented SAP S/4HANA according to the greenfield approach, with SAP S/4HANA as the digital core and using SAP best practices. This was preceded by the definition, design and documentation of all end-to-end processes.

The customer benefit

With SAP S/4HANA, the company now has an end-to-end process landscape in SAP standard and a future-proof, scalable SAP ERP system as a basis for further growth.

The client

Heliatek is a technology leader in the field of organic photovoltaics. The company produces lightweight, thin and flexible solar films that convert almost any building surface into a solar power generator.

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"Everything went well at the go-live, also because of the good preparation." Thomas Martin, CFO at Heliatek "Everything went well at the go-live, also because of the good preparation."

We are confident that the system will also prove itself in the production ramp-up. Initial indications suggest that the implementation is a success.

How do you introduce SAP S/4HANA to a start-up and non-SAP company whose processes are still barely described and documented?

That was the central question that those responsible at Heliatek asked themselves - a company from Dresden with over 200 employees that manufactures ultra-light, flexible and sustainable solar films. "Before the project, many of the processes were still running the way they often do in start-ups at the beginning - basically just on demand across the room, which is necessary in the start-up phase, but slows down the processes in productive operation," says Thomas Martin, Heliatek's CFO.

However, this should change fundamentally with the introduction of SAP S/4HANA. The company has grown enormously in recent years, is planning further growth and consequently needed a powerful, up-to-date and scalable IT architecture with end-to-end processes.

The goals included further developing the company and creating the basis for good operational and strategic decisions.

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"For Heliatek, we were able to build SAP S/4HANA completely with best practices" Fabian Wick, Project Manager at GAMBIT "For Heliatek, we were able to build SAP S/4HANA completely with best practices"

Our motto was: We do not build a system analogue to the processes, but we build the processes analogue to the standard.

As close as possible to the SAP standard

Those responsible therefore wanted a modern end-to-end process landscape with SAP S/4HANA that was as close to the standard as possible. "The situation was of course also an enormous opportunity for the still young company. Because we were able to use SAP S/4HANA to build a target system architecture with the best practices - from scratch and almost 100 per cent in the standard," says Fabian Wick, Project Manager at GAMBIT Consulting.

Heliatek is a company that is transforming from a very strong R&D-focused company to a mass production company. The company was founded in 2006 as a spin-off of the Technical University of Dresden and the University of Ulm and will go into mass production with its worldwide unique product as well as unique machines and processes. The huge advantage of the product: the solar films are suitable for almost any building surface, on almost any substrate and perfect for retrofitting buildings - whether horizontally, vertically or on curved surfaces, whether on concrete, metal, bitumen or even glass.

Prior to the start of the project, Heliatek used, on the one hand, a self-developed Manufacturing Execution System and - only for the two areas of finance and purchasing - the non-integrated ERP system Microsoft Navision. However, this IT was no longer sufficient for the company's further growth.

Selection of the ERP system and the provider

In the initialisation phase of the project, the company therefore first dealt with the selection of a suitable ERP provider and system, created a detailed catalogue of requirements and proceeded with the selection of a partner and staffing with internal employees.

There were several reasons for the change to SAP: On the one hand, several executives in management had already gained experience with SAP, and on the other hand, the company needed a scalable and also proven ERP system.

After deciding on SAP, Heliatek defined a catalogue with well over 300 of the most important requirements from the central areas of the company - from logistics to finance to production. "We wanted to clarify exactly what we really needed in order to be able to derive the next steps from the results and also to be able to search for a suitable partner," says Thomas Martin from Heliatek.

After several rounds with various providers, those responsible finally decided on GAMBIT Consulting. "We particularly liked GAMBIT's project approach and what we saw, heard and experienced in various test workshops," says Thomas Martin.

We determine whether system conversion or SAP implementation according to the greenfield approach is the right path to SAP S/4HANA for your company when creating the SAP roadmap.

External and internal project management function

A special feature of the project was that GAMBIT not only took over the external project management function at Heliatek. With Fabian Wick, GAMBIT also provided the internal project management. "This was new for us in this form for a greenfield project, but in retrospect it proved to be a very good solution. In part, this constellation acted as a project accelerator due to the proximity to Heliatek management and colleagues at GAMBIT," says Fabian Wick.

"However, we were not able to realise one of our project goals, that quickly became clear," says Thomas Martin. "We had planned to carry out the project as an onsite project - but the Corona pandemic threw a spanner in the works." In the end, he says, 99 per cent of the entire project was mastered remotely with GAMBIT - basically as a pure "home office implementation".

This virtual and digital collaboration required not least professional and intensive change management. Thomas Martin: "The topic of communication was one of the key issues here from the very beginning, in order to weld the whole team together, to clarify the meaning of the project and, above all, to instil a stronger thinking in end-to-end processes among our employees. We have therefore communicated from the beginning on various channels and with different formats - from trainings to staff meetings and newsletters."

The End-to-End Process Design and the Happy Flow

The implementation project first began with an intensive phase of end-to-end process design. "First, we defined, discussed and documented all conceivable processes together in workshops," says Fabian Wick. "I also like to talk about the happy flow here, i.e. the ideal process flow. We defined this and then also additionally defined all exceptions that go beyond the standard."

The documentation of the processes was first done in Excel and then transferred to the open source tool With the help of the software, the consultants created process flow charts, which were used, among other things, to train the project participants.

The definition and documentation of the processes also served the project team as a basis for mapping with SAP best practices. "Our motto was clear: we are not building a system analogue to the processes, but we are building the processes analogue to the standard," explains Fabian Wick. All change requests for solutions outside the standard were specifically reviewed by the Heliatek board as "guardians of the standard".

In this way, the team developed a suitable target system with SAP S/4HANA as its digital core, defined and designed the target processes - and implemented them. "Everything went well at the go-live at the beginning of February 2022, mainly due to the excellent preparation. Now it remains to be seen whether the system will also prove itself in the production start-up. However, we are very optimistic and the first signs indicate that the implementation is a success," says Thomas Martin.

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Meinolf Schäfer, Senior Director Sales & Marketing

Do you still have questions about our project at Heliatek?

+41 41 418 45-24


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