Pfeifer + SAP S/4HANA

To standardised processes and more transparency

Identical processes for identical facts. To ensure this throughout the group, Pfeifer is transforming the entire organisation and introduces SAP as a platform that represents or abstracts every business process. This is an important step in the company’s digitalisation and growth strategy, which is once again forging ahead as a pioneer in the wood industry.

It was and still is a huge organisational project that Pfeifer is tackling with the implementation of SAP S/4HANA. The motives and goals for this virtually coincide: To standardise processes, to stabilise them and to increase their transparency. It is about increasing information and process security of information and minimising risk through internal know-how and a large network of consultants in the background. But it is also about supporting growth. Because only scalable systems make it possible to implement the expansion-oriented corporate strategy at an operational level. The new platform makes all this possible. “The SAP system is the heart of the company,” Stefan Hammerl, Head of IT Applications at Pfeifer, sums it up.

Andreas Schierle

Head of Organisation/Process/Project Management

“The advantages of SAP affect the entire

Implementation where it makes sense

Pfeifer decided to introduce SAP as early as 2016, initially to the areas of Financial Accounting and Controlling. In 2017, the entire HR processes were also mapped in SAP. In 2019, it was decided to replace the old ERP system. Smaller projects in Technical Purchasing proved that the standard SAP processes worked for Pfeifer. Thus, a feasibility study was launched in summer 2019. It was intended to ascertain whether all logistical processes throughout the group could be mapped and define the scope as well as the costs. “Pfeifer has established SAP where it makes specific sense. For payment transactions, for example, we already had a functioning solution that remained untouched. But we mapped order creation, warehouse management, transport management, and to some extent even production planning in SAP," reports Hammerl. Before the system was launched, Pfeifer upgraded the project to the latest S/4HANA solution. The migration was then completed with relatively little effort: “Our approach was to adapt our processes to SAP's standards and not the other way around. This saved us a lot of money, time and resources and proved to be the right way to go.”

Project organisation and roll-out

In the framework of the feasibility study, the teams also discussed the optimal roll-out procedure. The result was that the two Tyrolean locations Imst and Kundl went live on 1 January 2021, the Czech locations at the beginning of November 2021 and the German locations at the beginning of January 2022. The roll-out comprised extensive testing of the processes to identify errors, retesting and a major acceptance test. The project was implemented using an agile project approach in the form of sprints, which proved its worth especially in times of Corona and the limited possibility of meeting in person. So did the participation of external and internal specialists: All the respective departments at Pfeifer deployed a process owner and several key users for each process. A project management trio consisting of Andreas Schierle (Head of Organisation/Process/Project Management at Pfeifer), Stefan Hammerl and an external consultant was responsible for project organisation. Ewald Franzoi, CFO of the Pfeifer Group, acted as client and sponsor of the project.

Stefan Hammerl

Head of IT Application

“The SAP system is the heart of the company. “We can use it to make
processes leaner, automate them and reduce potential errors.”

Leaner, more flexible & more secure 

The advantages of SAP affect the entire organisation. “We can use it to make processes leaner, automate them and reduce potential errors. As a platform and modern system, SAP supports many interface technologies and a large ecosystem of partners and consultants. For example, SAP is a prerequisite for our B2B online shop with self-service experience and takes significant strain off our employees there,” explains Hammerl. In addition to SAP S/4HANA, Pfeifer has also introduced the SAP BW/4HANA reporting platform as well as the SAP Analytics Cloud in order to be able to evaluate the accumulating information and derive measures from it. In addition, linking a CRM is already being evaluated.

Challenges and success factors

As expected, the biggest challenges did not lie in the technology, but in its acceptance and adoption. “Transforming large organisations is not that easy and takes time. Change management is central and we want to push it further in the future. On a positive note, some existing employees have taken on a leading role in the project and a lot of responsibility,” Hammerl reports. Naturally, the introduction of SAP will impact certain jobs. Traditional clerks, for instance, will receive new tasks. In general, interdepartmental work is gaining in importance. Hammerl once again points out the advantages: “SAP helps raise our team’s qualification, which is the right way to go from the Group's point of view. “From a personnel marketing point of view, SAP as a modern ERP standard also makes Pfeifer attractive to new employees. The IT applications department alone has grown from 4 to 12 extremely experienced employees. And those will not be getting bored any time soon in our innovative company.

Stefan Hammerl

has been with Pfeifer since June of 2018. In 2019 he took over the field of IT Application to advance digitalisation at Pfeifer together with a team of 12. Hammerl has been heading the IT Department since January 1, 2022, and, in this role, is responsible for implementing and developing the firm’s information and technology strategy.