Diehl Aviation: Quick Start with SAP ECTR

by Dr. Uwe Wächter

As the preferred partner of the international aviation industry, Diehl Aviation stands for highly specialized cabin solutions. The company bundles all aviation activities of the Diehl Group. Among its customers are well-known aircraft manufacturers such as Airbus, Boeing, Bombardier, and Embraer. At Diehl Aviation in Laupheim, customer production documents are stored in the central SAP system and retrieved in the plants using a production information system. This used to be done via a self-programmed SAP interface. After the used production information system had been discontinued at short notice, a new solution had to be found quickly, preferably SAP-integrated. Thanks to SAP Engineering Control Center – SAP ECTR – and a concerted campaign, this was achieved promptly – in less than four months!

Course Redefined and Optimized

The aircraft supplier receives manufacturing documents from its customers, such as drawings, parts lists or assembly documents, in various file formats. To visualize CAD documents of any format, the Diehl plants in Laupheim and Hamburg previously used many different viewing systems in parallel. For the employees, this meant that they first had to list all relevant documents in the production information system based on the order number. Then they had to call up the CAD documents in a suitable viewer. This was not only cumbersome but it was also a massive time and cost factor for the company, given the approximate one thousand production locations involved. Also, the heterogeneous system landscape was very maintenance-intensive, which caused high additional costs.

The operation of the previous production information system was cumbersome, time-consuming, and ultimately inefficient. The switch to a simpler and more efficient solution was, therefore, urgently necessary for cost reasons alone. The “desired solution” was to include integrated document management and viewing – as well as a uniform 2D/3D viewer for all plants. In addition to these general wishes, what was specifically required was:

  • Clear list display of all relevant documents per production order
  • Easy retrieval of the document list by scanning the order barcode
  • Fast, convenient visualization of the generated neutral formats (TIFF, PDF, JT files)

Targeting with SAP ECTR

After benchmarking, Diehl Aviation opted for the strategic integration platform SAP Engineering Control Center. In a product comparison, SAP ECTR proved to be the only solution that met all customer requirements down to the smallest detail thanks to the intuitive user interface. With ECTR, documents of all kinds can be managed in a structured manner, linked to any SAP data and displayed as required, and neutral formats can be embedded in the SAP 3D Visual Enterprise Viewer (SAP VEV). In short, with SAP ECTR, Diehl Aviation was able to replace both the old production information system and the many previously used viewers at once.

DSC Added to the Crew

The integration project started in the same month that the discontinuation of the legacy system became known, under the management of SAP. Diehl Aviation at the Laupheim location explicitly requested the cooperation of DSC, the manufacturer of SAP ECTR and a recognized expert for customer-specific PLM integration solutions. Together with DSC and Diehl, SAP took on many crucial tasks related to SAP ECTR. The crucial tasks ranged from requirements analysis and conception to development and implementation of customer-specific enhancements to installation and support during integration tests. In the end, key user training (e.g., for team leaders and inspectors from the production line) and go-live support were also provided.

Documents Ready to Go

Extensive migration and conversion work was required to integrate the existing documents seamlessly into the new solution. Above all, the adaptation of the customer’s data structure to the SAP ECTR data model was necessary. DSC took care of this – from creating the adaptation concept to the smooth structural migration of the document-related metadata. The next step was to convert the existing documents into the following formats: JPG for the SAP ECTR preview image and JT and TIFF for viewing with SAP VEV. DSC partner SEAL Systems took over the conversion work using CADverter (Theorem Solutions). In addition, SEAL Systems implemented a solution that automatically converts new documents into the mentioned formats – with the SEAL Corporate Conversion Server. Thus both existing and new documents are available for viewing at any time.

Material Brought on Board

A particularly time-critical challenge was the assignment of documents to materials. It used to “hide” itself with four relevant parameter values in the material short text of the SAP material master. Also, the values were incomplete, and the parameters followed the customer’s logic. Using additional programming, the DSC specialists emulated this logic to transfer the existing assignments correctly and losslessly into SAP ECTR. Given the several hundred thousand documents involved and the very tight schedule, the transfer had to work out right away. And in fact, everything went smoothly.

Solution to the Point

After only four months, the new solution was launched on schedule. Since then, Diehl Aviation in Laupheim has successfully deployed SAP ECTR at around 1,000 workstations. The production employees only have to scan the barcode of the relevant order form on the system. SAP ECTR then immediately displays all order-relevant documents, the SAP parts list and the drawing visualization for the material to be produced. Employees can see everything they need at a glance – with almost zero effort. So it’s no coincidence that the new solution is well received by those affected. The management is also satisfied, given the benefits achieved:

  • Significantly leaner system landscape and processes
  • Substantially lower maintenance and care costs
  • Uniform viewing system for all plant locations
  • Standardized data structure and document formats
  • Significant time saving and process cost reduction

Approach to Additional Destinations Planned

With SAP ECTR, Diehl Aviation has not only solved an acute problem but has also taken the first step towards shop floor integration – a significant advance towards the digital value chain. With this goal in mind, Diehl is currently implementing CAD integration (CATIA) at the Hamburg location with DSC partner CENIT. As a result, approximately 200 Diehl design engineers will soon be able to manage their documents simply, securely, and efficiently in the SAP system: both with SAP direct access from CATIA and via SAP ECTR. Also, the CAD data can flow automatically into the SAP system and can be used company-wide, i.e., across all locations – always up-to-date and consistent.

As soon as the Hamburg project is completed, the CAD integration will be rolled out throughout the group. As part of this, Diehl also wants to make integrated viewing available for other business processes. Among other things for purchasing – for the first time, purchasing staff would now have the possibility to view 3D designs directly in the SAP system using the generated 2D/3D neutral formats, which was previously not possible. For purchasing, these new possibilities represent an extreme simplification in the purchasing process.

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