Success Story: ALSTOM AG
Global system for monitoring the supply chain in plant construction
ALSTOM is a global player in the energy and transport sector with headquarters in Paris and more than 70,000 employees in 70 countries. The Swiss ALSTOM Group, with over 6,000 employees in the power plant and transport sectors, is one of the largest industrial companies in Switzerland. ALSTOM’s power plants produce around a quarter of the world’s electricity. The ‘Transport Logistics Advanced’ (TLA) system was developed for the ALSTOM Power division (power generation).
The construction of power plants faces very individual challenges, as the projects are carried out in cooperation with several participants – distributed around the globe. Many months often elapse between the planning, commissioning, logistical movement and the final installation on site, and communication between the participants must be well organised. The coordination in the planning phase and a structured handling of changes before and during the transport are a critical factor for the reduction of lead times in power plant construction. This reduction of throughput time is one of the bases for ensuring competitiveness.
The initial situation
As early as 1990, a solution was implemented on behalf of the customer to make material data from suppliers available on the construction site. The file transfer is carried out via data carriers on floppy disks. The suppliers and the construction sites use a Visual Basic application with an MS Access file for data storage. The data is enriched centrally by the customer with transport information for the construction sites, using an Oracle Forms application with Oracle database. In later phases, the use of the Internet as a central platform is repeatedly considered. However, the convenience of a client server application and the usually poorly developed infrastructure in the construction site countries mean that the considerations based on the internet remain only theoretical.
The PTA has always been able to rely on ALSTOM’s continuous and targeted support. The trust placed in us by the customer contributed greatly to the success of the project. During the course of the project, ALSTOM was largely responsible for training the new modules within the group and worldwide, thus enabling the smooth introduction and expansion of the applications.
The TLA system has been chosen as the central tool within the ‘Material Handling’ department. To this end, suppliers enter the materials and packaging into their local module and can send them to the central logistics department for checking, scheduling and further processing. From there the materials and packaging are added to the transports and forwarded to the construction sites. The installation is documented at the construction sites. For the integration of engineering and prefabricator (as “extended workbench”) solutions are designed and presented on the basis of prototypes. By using the .NET Framework 2.0 and considering object-oriented methods, user-friendly basic functionalities and a stable architecture for all modules involved are created.
The application must be embedded in an existing system landscape. A technical integration is therefore obvious. For the ALSTOM management, the automation of further routine work steps and thus the saving of valuable working time is always in the foreground, in order to be able to provide more performance with the same number of staff. Lotus Notes is used as the mail system in the ALSTOM Group. In logistics, about 15,000 mails per year are generated per construction site for processing. An interface that is convenient for the user provides the appointments as default values in Lotus Notes via ODBC. Using templates and intelligent placeholders, an individual mail is automatically generated. The sent and received mails are linked to the affected business process via hyperlink by automatic recognition algorithms and can be viewed by all authorised persons via HTTP on a domino server in the browser.
The realised suggestions for improvement from the users are implemented in the software, which is distributed worldwide, through an automatic update procedure. The user can update his local module at the push of a button via an internet portal. If he needs additional support, he can register in the TLA community and use a forum with integration into the application help and telephone support. Further development of the application is ongoing.
The current application ensures the uniform use of key technical terms in each language. This ensures both quality and versatility of application for the customer. The translation process is optimally organised and it is possible to add new languages and install them separately at any time. The help documents are created on the basis of MS Word and integrated into this process.
To underline the new tasks, ALSTOM also intends to distinguish the project externally from the initial solution. For this reason, a modern work of art will be commissioned to illustrate the parallel concepts of information exchange. The result is a 4-part picture that appears as a uniform entry mask in the applications. Each image on its own represents a function in the process and the images as a whole represent a superordinate concept:
Start dialogue of the new application: Example construction site “Site”.
From top to bottom, the functions supplier, transport (Home), prefabricator and site are displayed. As an accompanying function, the engine ring appears in the left-hand area of each of the four individual images.
The tasks of the PTA
The initial solution of the application is developed for ALSTOM Germany by PTA Germany from 1990 to 2004. After the 2004 ALSTOM project was internally relocated from Germany to Switzerland, PTA quickly adapted to this situation. In 2005 a new organisation is created within the PTA Group, so that the customer can be supported locally from the start of production. The applications are then migrated to the new technological platform for ALSTOM Switzerland. In addition, essential and expanding functions are designed and implemented. PTA Switzerland supports the project on site with qualified support staff and in the areas of technical conception, project management, IT conception and implementation.
“Today’s power plant business requires a global logistics process – the integration of suppliers is an indispensable prerequisite in this respect. The TLA application enables suppliers to record material and packaging data by means of a stand-alone solution. This data, together with transport information, is transmitted to the construction site. Thus the global process becomes transparent for all parties involved. This complex project could only be realised through an open, communicative and solution-oriented cooperation with PTA. Due to the constant change in the logistics environment, the application will continue to be adapted and developed in the future.”
Sandro Lepori , CHST Transport Logistics