Getting I.T. Right: Don’t blame SAP

Panalpina-bigDHL’s New Forwarding Environment was based on an SAP system, but don’t point the finger at the Germany-based enterprise software giant. Other examples of successful SAP rollouts can be found in many systems – most recently at two Panalpina locations: Singapore and Switzerland. Beginning in December 2015, Panalpina began the rollout of its SAP Transportation Management (SAP TM) application in these two nations to cover the needs of shippers, forwarders and carriers, and to replace the firm’s legacy systems.

“We worked very closely with SAP, which has proven to be very helpful,” said Alain Dejalle, chief transformation officer for Panalpina. “This is one of the larger SAP implementations, and it’s a young product, so no best practices have been built yet. With a new product, you have many things to correct.”

One key to the early success of the rollout is that Panalpina is able to run both its new SAP TM system and its old legacy system in parallel. “We can temporarily go back and forth between the old system and the new, if needed,” Dejalle said. “So far we’ve had no material escalation with the customer. The customer shouldn’t notice any transition, so we’re very encouraged that went well.”

Some benefits came quickly, said Andrew Thorne, head of SAP TM business management at Panalpina. “Forwarding is still one of the most manual and labor-intensive sectors of our industry, especially when compared with the kind of process automation in warehousing. Sometimes someone would type in the same thing twice or copy it down wrong. The SAP TM system helps reduce data entry work.”

Next in line for deployment, Panalpina said, will be Italy, followed by Germany, the United States and China. “We’re generally treating these rollouts as pilot projects,” Thorne added. “We’re reviewing them to understand what we did well, what we did wrong.”

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