In preparation for its migration to SAP S/4HANA, Rhaetian Railway in Landquart, Switzerland, revised its 180,000 material master records for rolling stock, catenaries, tunnels and bridges with simus systems. The pilot project already revealed that the software and methodology provided by simus classmate would be indispensable for the main project. Following the successful classification and migration of 108,000 records, the system is now being used in construction, maintenance and materials management to quickly search for and create new materials, assign classes and automatically generate short texts.
As a commercial enterprise based in the canton of Graubünden, Rhaetian Railway delivers excellence in transport services to Switzerland’s largest canton: around 1,600 employees ensure that 12 million passengers safely reach their destination each year. The 385-kilometre network transports around 603,000 tonnes of goods and 509,000 cars each year. At the same time, Switzerland’s largest metre-gauge railway fascinates with its unique scenery, for which the Bernina Express and Glacier Express lines have been awarded UNESCO World Heritage status. The trains overcome gradients of up to 70 per cent to transport passengers up to 2,253 metres above sea level.
Maintenance, modernisation and digital twin
A high level of maintenance and modernisation is behind the line’s outstanding performance. Built between 1889 and 1914, the line has 115 tunnels, 606 viaducts and 45 galleries, as well as rolling stock some of which is over 100 years old. “For us, this includes anything on wheels,” explains André Bieri, who, as technical manager for rolling stock, coordinates maintenance and conversions. The main workshop in Landquart is the mainstay of this. And a comprehensive IT infrastructure provides the workforce with support. This is being modernised for rolling stock in accordance with a road map adopted in 2018 for the introduction of a digital twin of the infrastructure. Milestones included the replacement of a product life-cycle management (PLM) system, the introduction of the CREO Parametrics 3D CAD system, the integration of a new ECAD system, and the introduction of application life-cycle management (ALM) software including the connection of the newly introduced S/4HANA ERP system to the PLM system.
Merging different material masters
“We were faced with the challenge of merging and consolidating the 180,000 material master records from PLM and ERP that had accumulated over more than 50 years. But one thing we couldn’t do with our resources was to eliminate the data corpses, duplicates, inconsistencies and different maintenance statuses among the materials,”
reports Reto Hansmann, Digital Twin Project Manager.
Internet research led them to a partner who could process the material masters:
“simus systems convinced us in initial discussions with their experience, systematic methodology and simus classmate software,”
explains André Bieri. This would allow large databases to be processed effectively based on increasingly customisable sets of rules. To test this, a pilot project was initially launched in March 2021. “It quickly became clear that simus systems would not only be able to support us with processing the material master, but also in other tasks involved in the migration”.
And so began a fruitful collaboration that had to make do without any local meetings.
“simus systems provided us with valuable services during the SAP implementation, more or less unplanned. Processing the material logs made up the first piece of the mosaic,”
explains Reto Hansmann.
This process involved sifting through some 180,000 material logs up to 50 years old. What would be almost impossible to do manually could be accomplished with automatic processes: here simus systems provides a basic set of rules for the simus classmate software, which can then be adapted to the specific requirements of the customer. After each clean-up run, the rules can be refined and improved until the desired results are achieved in all categories.
This includes establishing a suitable classification system, which should then lead to a systematic and structured ordering of the diverse content. The assignment of classes with clear descriptions of specific attributes not only makes searching easier, simus classmate can also generate the short texts for S/4HANA automatically from the key attributes of these descriptions.
Finally, it was possible to automatically transfer the 108,000 relevant material masters that remained after the purge to S/4HANA using the simus classmate interface.
Continuous quality assurance
“During the migration preparations, we really got to know and appreciate the qualities of simus classmate. So we thought, why not use the software to maintain data quality in day-to-day operations?”,
explains Reto Hansmann. As a result, the software was rolled out on 34 workstations in the Design Department to support a regulated material master plant process. When articles are opened in PLM and ERP, it triggers a workflow that leads to the correct classification and generation of short texts. A core team of four administrators received training at the time of the roll-out so that they can deliver user support in the future. The classmate FINDER module was also introduced to help users quickly find what they are looking for in the mass and variety of materials. The search options available go far beyond simply inputting texts or designations. “Its user-friendly and intuitive operation helps the search engine score highly over the ERP system and it attracts a larger user base as a result,” remarks André Bieri. “We now have 55 licenses in use, including in Materials Management.”
The migration to S/4HANA was successfully completed in April 2023 after around two years of work. André Bieri and Reto Hansmann look back on the projects they completed with simus systems with satisfaction: they sum it up with the following words:
“The cooperation was a perfect fit from the very beginning, both in human terms and professionally. It was and still is a pleasure to work together on such challenging tasks.”
When asked about the advantages achieved for the company, they mention in particular the dynamic support during the migration and ERP roll-out.
“The benefits are difficult to express in figures. However, the ability to quickly find all the objects facilitates and accelerates the diverse range of tasks involved in maintenance, servicing and repair,”
states André Bieri.
In the future, they also plan to extend the material master plant process to the plant views in S/4HANA together with simus systems.
Image rights: Rhaetian Railway