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Corporate-wide process documentation at Conrad Electronic
How the renowned electronics distributor Conrad Electronic completely restructured its process documentation.
Conrad Electronic was established in 1923. Since 1946, the company has been based in Hirschau, in the Upper Palatinate, a region in the north east of Bavaria. For four generations Germany’s best known electronics distributor has been managed by its owners. With some 150,000 articles sourced from the global “world of IT” on its books, Conrad is positioned as offering a much more comprehensive selection of products than electronics dealers, who simply focus on high-volume electronics equipment.
Although its B2B business is growing more strongly, Conrad is firmly rooted within the B2C environment, with 5.1 million customers. As a modern, multichannel supplier, Conrad sells its products not only over the internet but also through its branch outlets and by catalog. In total, Conrad is active in more than 100 countries worldwide, with everything running through the logistics center in Wernberg out to the individual countries. 40,000 packages are dispatched daily from Wernberg, with the annual volume at 6.7 million deliveries containing a total of around 120 million articles.
The terms “process documentation” and “key user” had negative connotations at Conrad based on past experiences of unsatisfactory projects. Consequently, the first challenge was to convince management, directly affected employees and end users that tts’ approach was different: it was not simply a matter of documenting a process structure, but rather creating documentation that by its very nature would make it useful to all employees and therefore the entire organization. In parallel, business experts (key users) had to be selected and trained. These business experts were to document the processes, create the user documentation, and finally train their colleagues.
“Originally we wanted to change a few processes and we wanted quality. What has actually come about as a result is a complete restructuring of the entire organization. The ideas we developed together with tts became a living reality; in the process, some of the people who were most skeptical came to be counted among the greatest supporters.”
Georg Thoma, Departmental Head, Conrad Electronic SE
The main task for tts was to offer counsel on the entire process and documentation structure, ensuring that it met the needs of individual users while also functioning as an end-to-end solution. In just 50 consultant-days tts built a company-wide process and documentation structure and trained the relevant business experts, who could then document their processes independently.
In the course of several workshops, tts agreed the process and documentations structure with the IT managers and the managers responsible for process quality. In doing so, tts took care to ensure that from the very start, potential business experts would be involved, and not just those that had been specifically named: it was important to have everyone, who would later be responsible for maintaining the process structure, on board. Thus everybody was involved in the decision-making process and one of tts’ main concerns was addressed, namely, to turn “affected” people into “engaged” people.
Once the process and documentation structure had been established, tts created a prototype example of an end-to-end process with the help of a few (by then defined) business experts. This enabled the testing of the process and documentation structure before it was rolled out across the entire organization. To do this, the customer order fulfilment process was analyzed across all of the company’s departments and broken down to the individual sub processes and process steps.
Working within this prototyping framework, tts also educate some business experts in the process structuring methods of tt knowledge force. The top priority here was to identify and describe process variations as well as the classification of roles and their specific relationship to the processes and process steps. As a result of the extensive consultancy and methodical training from tts, as well as the ease of use of tt knowledge force, the employees at Conrad were soon in a position to develop the process structure for themselves as well as creating the required documents.
The introduction of integrated process-documentation ensured a more transparent modus operandi at Conrad Electronic. Everybody now knows how the individual company departments mesh together and everybody appreciates that they are working on a common project, whose name is “customer satisfaction”. Processes are now consistently and coherently documented across all of the company’s functions. The individual country subsidiaries were incorporated into the new structure within four weeks.
In so doing, Conrad took the existing German process environment and simply adjusted the “delta” according to local requirements. All new processes are now being conceptualized at the international level and agreed with the national subsidiaries from the outset. As a consequence of making all of the SAP end user documentation available, and based on its structured process approach, Conrad has reduced the number of customer complaints by 20 percent.
In addition, there was a significant decrease in the average amount of customer-contact time per order. Nobody needs to ask, “Why should logistics care what is in the marketing newsletters?” because everybody knows: what is advertised must be in stock and available for despatch.