SOLYP Informatik’s 3rd Best Practice Meeting, on 13 October 2016 in Frankfurt am Main: Forming the Future – How Schuler AG are forming the future with SOLYP3

Tuesday, 25. October 2016

Insights into concrete strategic processes, a lively exchange of ideas and an inspirational atmosphere – with virtues like these, the third Best Practice Meeting was a convincing success. Around 20 people responsible for strategy, and who came from the widest variety of industries, met at the Villa Kennedy in Frankfurt. Thomas Herrlinger, head of strategic business development and investor relations at Schuler AG, was the guest speaker. He presented this traditional machine maker’s strategy process and invited colleagues to join in discussion.

Digital strategy process of world standing

What do a cola bottle, coffee capsule and a mudguard have in common? That’s right, they were probably manufactured on one of the presses made by Schuler AG, the world’s leading manufacturer when it comes to forming technology. Since 1839, the business based in Göppingen, Baden-Württemberg, Germany has been manufacturing industrial presses for the global market. In the last year, the company’s 5,200 employees generated around €1.2bn. 

Eight globally active divisions with profit and loss responsibility reflect the manifold fields in which the presses are deployed, as well as the heterogeneous market structure. Thomas Herrlinger explained in detail how annual planning documents for each division, so-called ‘blue books’, are created for each division; from ‘Automotive’, the strongest division, right down to ‘Services’. For the last two and a half years or so, this has been realised completely digitally using SOLYP3.

Thomas Herrlinger emphasised that the most important blue book chapter is the one in which growth strategies and new markets are defined, and then explained how SOLYP3 reconciles top-down and bottom-up planning, thus sowing the seeds for strategy success.

Versioning and plausibility: The benefits of a digital strategy process

An enormous benefit of the digital strategy process using SOLYP3 is, according to Herrlinger, “that topics can be played out right there where the responsibilities lie.” Especially the definition of new, attractive market segments, underpinned by expected sales volumes and a development trend, requires the knowhow of the divisional level. The strategic thrust to conquer new markets is initiated here.

Strategic planning using SOLYP3 offers two substantial advantages compared to using a system based on Excel and PowerPoint:

      • The system can be closed to the divisions at a certain point in time, in other words, ‘versioned’. This avoids the need for constant readjustment of market assessments in countless files, and the resulting pool of data is the ultimate basis upon which the board make decisions.
      • Dashboards enable you to undertake plausibility tests. Does the expected market trend agree with the strategic initiatives? Furthermore, thanks to the constant comparison with earlier planning, possible inconsistencies can be uncovered at an early stage.

In a counterflow procedure: Top-down definition, bottom-up collection

The strategy process using SOLYP3 focuses on the questionnaires: client-specific templates in which hard data such as incoming orders, turnover and results parameters, as well as soft data such as trends, market assessments and competitor analyses is entered. Thomas Herrlinger gave a detailed description of how Schuler AG create their planning books. The questionnaires therefore enable a synthesis between bottom-up and top-down planning.

A rollout for the future

Responding to a colleague’s question as to whether he would introduce the SOLYP3 strategic intelligence software at Schuler AG again given the chance, Thomas Herrlinger responded with a resounding yes. He said that the gains in the efficiency, agility and transparency of the strategy process are huge. The convenience of saving all data in a central database, instead of working in countless versions of Excel files on various different servers, is an enormous advantage of a digital strategy process.
For the SOLYP3 rollout, Herrlinger requested from the company a realistic timeline, as well as sufficient time for a thorough test phase and sustained user training. Schuler AG invested around a year into the implementation of SOLYP3.

We would like to thank Thomas Herrlinger from Schuler AG for his brilliant talk, as well as our guests for the stimulating discussion, and we look forward to the next Best Practice Meeting in 2017!