#Successful S/4HANA transformation in partnership with Sycor.
#RISE with SAP in the Brownfield version.
KE Elektronik is a high-performing, innovative company with more than 3,500 employees. Being part of the US based Amphenol Corporation – which is one of the world’s largest interconnect manufacturers – makes it possible for KE Elektronik to combine the creativity and flexibility of a medium-sized enterprise with the growth potential of a global corporate group.
The core competencies at KE Elektronik are plastics technology, cable assembling, as well as construction and connection technology. In the automotive and aviation sectors, the company delivers directly to manufacturers/OEMs and to the leading tier 1 suppliers for electrical and electronic systems.
What began with cable assembling when the company was founded in Kressberg-Marktlustenau (Heilbronn-Franken region) in 1984 now encompasses research, development, production, and consistent sustainability efforts with a diversified portfolio at sites around the world in Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, North Macedonia, China, and Mexico.
After using SAP ECC for many years, it was obvious to the decision-makers at KE Elektronik that the migration to S/4HANA, the successor product to SAP ECC, was the next step. On the one hand, this was because of the announced halt to further development of ECC and the known end of maintenance for ECC – SAP had announced its intention to end maintenance by 2025. Although this was extended until 2027 – optionally even until 2030 – the fact remains that new solutions with future viability are needed.
On the other hand, the need for extensive changes on the part of KE Elektronik also proved decisive. “Naturally, we wanted to be very well prepared and start with an approach tailored to the company. Actively involving all employees and avoiding any delays with this implementation was especially important to us. Outlining a migration road map was therefore the first milestone. This is where we consulted Sycor since we have an ongoing partnership going back many years. A basis of trust has been established between the people involved, and we have found competent and reliable contacts at Sycor,” says Steffen Rapp, SAP Team Leader and the project manager in charge at KE Elektronik.
The partners started working on the project at the beginning of 2021. Narrowing down possible cloud versions was the first planning step. A preliminary decision in favor of RISE with SAP as the appropriate – and new at the time – solution was quickly made. “The full range of services met the needs of KE Elektronik very well, and RISE with SAP bundles applications, platforms, tools, and services in a form that appeared convincingly straightforward against the background of high quality and performance requirements. What’s more, the RISE model had only been on the market for just over six months, so it was still rather new. This aspect meant we could expect great interest and maximum support from SAP. We did in fact benefit from that in the course of the project. Sycor provided excellent support as the intermediary between our practical requirements and SAP. We were confident in our decision. That being said, we did take a leap of faith since there were no RISE references of relevance to us at the time,” says Stefan Haller, who assumes central responsibility for IT, materials, and logistics at KE Elektronik.
Chronologically, the project started in June 2021 with workshops on site at KE Elektronik. A core team comprising 25 people – including the Sycor experts – worked in various constellations on the functional areas of financial accounting and controlling, logistics, and the purely technical (IT) issues. An S/4HANA demo system was also used as part of the SAP Value Starter Engagement, serving as a graphic guide. Based on these workshops and several additional meetings with SAP, also accompanied by Sycor, a comprehensive big picture was developed with regard to the needs and associated requirements. This culminated in the desired road map in the form of a concrete project plan and tailor-made offer. The final decision in favor of RISE with SAP in the Private Cloud Edition was then made and the contract was awarded in December 2021. Converging the controlling areas was integrated into the S/4HANA road map to ensure the most pragmatic and time-efficient approach. Five formerly separate controlling areas were combined to one central area. This step, supported by SNP, is however still being implemented in parallel in the old system and in a separate test system.
Instead of starting the holidays early, the KE Elektronik and Sycor project teams had a different focus at the end of December 2022.
The well prepared go-live of the system was on the agenda. Unlike comparable phases in the past, this go-live was fully remote, so the work that had to be done could be completed in a Christmas atmosphere from home.
The first step was taken on 16 December 2022, when the company’s previous systems were shut down and no longer available to users. All the necessary work to restart on the basis of S/4HANA was done at the same time. Data migration was completed as scheduled on Sunday morning (December 18). The new system was ready to go at 6 am. IT completed the necessary follow-up tasks between 6 am and 5 pm so that the required tests could be started at 5 pm that same day. Here the teams encountered only one error (bug) during the test creation of delivery schedules. The source of the error was identified by narrowing it down step by step. This problem was eliminated around 1 am and the “breakthrough” for a successful go-live was achieved. All KE Elektronik employees were able to access the new system directly on the morning of December 19, with no errors – in part thanks to the intensive training on all relevant topics provided for the affected users in advance. Not a lot changed for the remaining employees. They were merely informed of the fundamental changes made “over the weekend” through central communication. Operations therefore continued smoothly – all this with a global go-live across different time zones.
In the subsequent hypercare phase, including over Christmas, the closely collaborating colleagues of KE Elektronik and Sycor maintained intensive communication to respond immediately to potential system issues. While the service providers were available and did have to intervene occasionally, there were no significant deviations at any time. “We are of course very pleased and feel our decision in favor of S/4HANA and Sycor was absolutely validated in view of the optimal go-live. Reliability, dialog among equals, and shared success have brought us closer together. At no time did we feel as though we were just a ‘ticket’. We reached our goal together as a genuine team. Our course for the future has been set,” says Rapp.
"We are of course very pleased and feel our decision in favor of S/4HANA and Sycor was absolutely validated in view of the optimal go-live. Reliability, dialog among equals, and shared success have brought us closer together. At no time did we feel as though we were just a ‘ticket’. We reached our goal together as a genuine team. Our course for the future has been set."
Steffen Rapp, SAP Team Leader and project manager in charge, KE Elektronik
“Outstanding collaboration as equal partners, which clearly benefited us, impressed us most during the entire project. This applies to our internal cooperation and to working directly with Sycor as well as the absolutely constructive collaboration between Sycor and SAP, and between Sycor and SNP,” says Stefan Haller regarding the partnership. Exactly this sort of efficient and effective teamwork was also crucial for the success of the project, especially since the planning was quite ambitious. For example, the project plan encompassed five project phases, with phases one through three all taking place in parallel. In phase four, the aforementioned situation had to be mastered that with the consolidation and convergence of the controlling areas, SNP was running on the additional sandbox system and also being tested in parallel on an S/4HANA test system.
Meanwhile the project has reached its conclusion and no “wrench in the works” has been identified to date. The RISE with SAP learning curve is subsequently viewed as important, since this is of course an adjustment for employees after using ECC for years. “Moving to the cloud was definitely the right decision for us. Evaluating the clear operating advantages of the RISE model compared to other cloud approaches will have to wait until we have used this system for a longer time. However, we are convinced that companies will reach a level of comfort in using the system even more quickly and effectively once SAP itself has accumulated more RISE implementation experience. We feel a bit like pioneers, but also enjoyed service-oriented support because of that. In addition, the RISE licensing model is definitely optimal for us,” says Rapp, summing up the early mover experiences that KE Elektronik is now building and expanding on.
For KE Elektronik, the entire S/4HANA transformation process is geared towards the company’s business development objectives. “Consolidation and efficiency optimization are one aspect. As our company’s IT department, we not only strive to drive innovations but to actively help shape them as well. This includes the latest technologies without outmoded, time-consuming, and unproductive silo systems. Our IT needs to be the backbone of effective digital innovation processes as a minimum, ideally also the driving force behind them. We as the people responsible for IT are thus tasked with ensuring future viability and innovative capacity. That includes making sure that legacy systems and heterogeneity do not result in a patchwork. With S/4HANA, we at KE Elektronik precisely meet this IT ideal and are pleased to make such an important contribution to value creation – for our excellent company and in close, trust-based cooperation with a partner like Sycor,” says Steffen Rapp, outlining the current state and strategic IT mission at KE Elektronik. “We are very well positioned for the ongoing digital transformation after taking this step.”