Sarlin enters the mobile age with Lean System
A family business tracing its roots back to 1932,Sarlin is a familiar name in Finland’s industrial circles. Automation is Sarlin’s oldest field of operation, but the company is also known for its compressed air products and services required not only by industrial users but also hospitals and scuba divers. In gas and energy technology, the company provides natural gas, biogas and LNG systems as well as environmentally friendly energy production plants along with the related maintenance services.
Sarlin’s service business was in the forefront when the company started looking for a new ERP system. While all ERP suppliers came up with fine solutions for sales and inventory management, Sarlin had a hard time finding a system that could support its maintenance service – an important part of the operation – and also provide for mobile users.
“In line with our drive to have our service business generate a larger share of the revenue than before, we set out to try and find a system that would best accommodate this side of our business,” says Lea Karekki, the manager in charge of Sarlin’s quality and environmental matters.
“The new ERP also spelled a complete revamp of our operating concept,” says Päivi Lindgren, administrator of Lean System at Sarlin.
Maintenance plan as the foundation
Altogether about 90 members of Sarlin’s staff are Lean System users. The system is used in sales, procurement and project management as well as for client meeting reports, travel expense management and inventory management.
The company’s service business is built upon equipment maintenance plans, based on which the maintenance tasks for the subsequent period are generated automatically. The supervisor is responsible for planning the tasks in more detail and allocating the necessary resources for them. The process works in the same way in invoicing as well. All invoicing relating to the contracts can be handled with automated functions.
Maintenance technicians provided with smart tablets featuring MFE apps
Another major change that took place in conjunction with the ERP system replacement was providing the maintenance technicians with smart tablets with the Mobile Field Engineer (MFE) application installed on them. MFE has become a key tool, as it provides the technicians with on-the-go access to the client’s equipment maintenance data and also features the necessary reporting tools.
”“The client signs the task as completed directly on the tablet and receives a report on it right away. Moreover, the materials used, working hours completed and travel expenses incurred are instantly allocated to the appropriate task. Previously all this was done on multiple paper documents, which meant extra admin work both for the technicians and the office staff”, says Marko Sirviö, a specialist in compressed air and gas system technologies at Sarlin.
At the same time, the history data is stored on the device cards.
Sirviö also mentions that the operating hours of the equipment are recorded by the system; a minor detail, he adds, but nevertheless important for the maintenance of client equipment base. In the days of conventional paper records, this piece of information was often omitted inadvertently. On MFE, however, users are required to enter the number of hours before being able to set a task as completed.
An accomplishment more significant for Sarlin is the speeding up of invoicing.
“Previously the technicians sent the work orders to the supervisor at some stage, and the supervisor then recorded the maintenance task details and took care of the invoicing,” Sirviö explains.
“When monitoring this, we found that invoicing times have indeed reduced dramatically with the new system,” Karekki confirms.
The new technology got a good reception from the maintenance technicians, although their age range is wide and not all of them were experienced smart device users to begin with. ”The MFE interface is good, and the smart tablets were received well. Obviously introduction of new systems always poses challenges, and in this case it took some time to sort certain things out, but Roima was quick to make the necessary changes and we have been happy with what we got”, Lindgren says.
”Every user was also offered a keyboard, but none of them took one. Now they all operate the tablet with a stylus,” Sirviö says.
Maintenance module developed for Sarlin’s needs
The selection of the new ERP system was preceded by a phase of meticulous determination that took almost a year. The objectives defined for the new system were to enable efficient controlling of resources and provide employees with access to key information relating to the service.
Once Sarlin had decided on the ERP supplier, they had Lean System up and running in about 10 months. At the same time, the company’s warehouse at Kaivoksela in Vantaa went through a complete makeover including the introduction of a warehouse automation system. Furthermore, Aditro’s Wintime and Personec W software were integrated into Lean System for financial administration and salary calculation.
”The system introduction went really well. Our entire team was highly motivated, even though everyone had to do this work in addition to their other duties. I assumed the administrator’s role only later. Roima gave me good support, and the necessary rectifications were implemented quickly”, Lindgren says.
In the same context, Roima and Sarlin collaborated on the development of the maintenance module to have it meet the company’s specific needs. ”Our joint collaboration efforts yielded successful results,” Lindgren says.
The old data was moved into the new ERP system by way of bulk transfer, apart from the open orders that received a different treatment: in the course of the final training day, the participants stored their own purchase and sales orders manually into Lean System.
“Nobody got to go home before the numbers added up,” Päivi Lindgren says with a chuckle. “But there were no interruptions; we were able to dispatch deliveries and send out invoices as per usual from day one.”
Sarlin Oy Ab
• Founded in 1932
• The Sarlin Group’s consolidated net sales amount to EUR 60 million
• A trailblazer in industrial compressed air and automation and environmentally friendly energy technology.
• Some 90 users of Lean System
• Around 30 users of Mobile Field Engineer