Supporting growth at Serax with SAP S/4HANA
When companies grow and internationalize – like design label Serax has been doing for years – they reach the limits of their IT infrastructure. Transitioning to a cloud-based solution like SAP S/4HANA Cloud was Serax’ highway to drive further growth and optimize their processes.
Serax is a Belgian design label with a broad portfolio of tableware, pottery, design furniture, lighting, and accessories. Throughout its 30-year history, the company has been growing steadily.
“Our recent expansion has been mostly organic, driven by our 5-year growth plan”, explains Ragna Qvick, Digital Business Manager at Serax. “We have sales hubs in multiple countries in Europe. And two years ago, we opened a new entity with its own warehouse in the US. At the same time, we’re continuously expanding our product range and attracting new designers.”
From SAP Business One…
To manage their operations and supply chain, Serax was using the SME-focused SAP Business One platform since 2005. “But we were reaching the limits of the system”, says Ragna. “As we had developed a lot of custom functionalities over the years, new updates were becoming very complex. Moreover, the US entity worked with its own ERP which was not integrated with ours. If we wanted to support our growth, we needed one centralized system and database.”
Serax was also hosting SAP Business One on an external server. “This proved to be quite cumbersome”, says Sara Goris, IT Product Manager at Serax. “Users had to log in with a VPN, and we had no integrated digital workplace. To make our system fully futureproof, we decided to move to a cloud-based solution.”
… to SAP S/4HANA
After researching possible tools, Serax decided that SAP S/4HANA was the way to go. “In fact, our original idea was to implement a Warehouse Management System (WMS) to get a better view of our stock”, Ragna explains. “But integrating a WMS with SAP Business One would have been costly and complicated, while S/4HANA includes a WMS.”
When defining the scope, we realized S/4HANA would offer much more benefits: a shared platform with the US entity, the digital supply chain, continuous upgrades and optimizations and integration with our existing tools.
Together with Flexso, Serax determined the scope and roadmap for the implementation:
- Reviewing the business processes
Review and adapt the way of working to the S/4HANA best practices.
- Integration with other tools
Including a new B2B platform, customs applications and Garvis, which adds AI-capabilities to the forecasting.
- Improve business intelligence
Implementing SAP Analytics Cloud for real-time operational reporting and insights.
One of the big challenges was the master data integration. “This is a complex task, but it’s absolutely crucial for a successful implementation”, confirms Ragna. “We not only embedded SAP Analytics Cloud, but we also gathered data from several external sources into one central database. All these data sources are now centrally managed in S/4HANA.”
The biggest challenge during the implementation? “The fact that our own users weren’t sufficiently available”, says Ragna. We had to stay operational, and we didn’t have enough time to support the implementation. This had some impact on timing, but with a lot of hard work, good project management and great teamwork from both our colleagues and the Flexso team, we made it work.”
Life after go-live
The go-live was a success. “Our operations in Belgium and USA were up and running from day one”, says Sara. “Invoicing happened in a controlled way in the first few days after go-live and we kept a very close look on the integrations. After one week it was clear that the daily business could continue as before. We had no business disruption whatsoever. Of course, all internal and external stakeholders needed some time to adapt to the new way of working.”
The results are just as impressive. “We have a much better view on planning and forecasting”, says Sara. “The stock control and order delivery are much more efficient. Our departments are now all working with the same data as well. Our customer service, for instance, has a clear view on stock, planning, rescheduling and reallocation. They can create priorities based on customer segmentation.”
From static to real-time analytics
Another challenge for Serax was the operational reporting. “S/4HANA Cloud has an embedded operational reporting tool with real-time data that covered a lot of our reporting needs”, says Ragna, “To combine those insights with financial and strategic reporting, we implemented SAP Analytics Cloud, which has an out-of-the-box integration with S/4HANA.”
The first concrete use case is the financial group reporting, integrated with the S/4HANA finance module. This enables faster financial close and more insights in the financial results. For now, Serax is working on a unified way of reporting, but in the future key users will be trained to create reports for their specific business domains.
“We’re very happy with the results of this project”, Ragna continues. “On top of the S/4HANA implementation, Flexso developed some new apps and extensions that allow us to automate specific workflows, like document transfers. S/4HANA is the perfect platform for us to further innovate and optimize our operations.”
“It was really a project with a lot of complexities, that turned out to be a reference project. We’re now looking at more optimizations once end users are really accustomed to the new system. And we now have a futureproof system in place to further automate a lot of processes and support our growth for years to come.”