Project management insights at an engineering service provider:
AviComp Controls plans and controls resources across different locations
AviComp Controls provides engineering services in the field of instrumentation and automation technology of plants. The company specializes in compressors and extruders, machinery and equipment used by companies in industries such as energy, utilities, gas, oil, petrochemicals and chemicals. Its customers include BASF, Linde, MAN and Siemens.
Instrumentation (measurement or control technology), in combination with automation, is an important element for operating plants safely. It is also a prerequisite for modernizing plants further, for example to introduce industry 4.0 concepts. In this context, plants and processes are designed and coordinated in such a way that as many components of a plant as possible can be operated automatically. Companies achieve automation by using, for example, mechanical, hydraulic, pneumatic, electrical or electronic devices as well as computers in combination.
How to plan, control, check and track?
As a service provider, AviComp Controls depends on being able to transparently manage its engineering projects with various internal and external resources across different locations. The challenge was, and still is, to be able to control and track projects and to deploy resources efficiently.
Which project phase are we in at the Singapore site? Who is working on it from Belgrade? How much resource capacity do we have available in Minsk, and which site managers do we need to inform if we want to relocate resources? In order to be able to answer questions like these and to gain a company-wide overview of all engineering projects, Denis Winkler, then team leader for project management at AviComp Controls, was commissioned by the management in 2019 to integrate a software solution. An IT problem also played a role: The previous Microsoft Projects tool could not be integrated into the ERP system "Navision" according to the company's ideas.
100% engineering projects
"Put simply, our engineering projects are processes in which engineers create documents as well as project-specific software - like specifications for control cabinets. Our processes extend from configuration and specification to software tests and inspections, and finally to acceptance by the customer," says Winkler. For example, equipment purchased externally for customers, such as a control cabinet, is first tested with software applications by engineers at the site, the software is imported, tested with the components, and finally accepted by the customer. Components include, for example, valves or transmitters for temperature or pressure for instrumentation, and sometimes local operator stations for automation.
In order to select a new resource planning tool, Winkler had started a test in 2019 in the Belgrade office, which he also manages operationally. "Before we finally decided on a software, we had tested two products consecutively for a month. After two days of testing, it was clear that InLoox met our requirements best." The integration with Outlook was another criteria, which is why AviComp Controls now uses InLoox. At the beginning of 2021, Winkler and his team had implemented the tool at the location in Leipzig and finally rolled it out completely via the AviComp Group on April 1, 2021.
In April 2021, work plans were illustrated for a total of 28 projects at AviComp Controls. For those projects, Winkler and his team used InLoox to break them down into tasks and activities so that the tool could help planning and executing them. More than 100 users now work with the tool. 25 of them are team leaders, project managers and management, as well as another 80 contributors. Since the project teams are spread across different locations, it is easier for users to use a cloud-based solution instead of access via a server. The cloud solution can also be managed more efficiently by administrators.
Planning more efficiently and saving time
Each project manager can use the tool to plan tasks more effectively, create reports and monitor plans more efficiently, and check whether tasks have been completed by project members or why they are not finished yet. Winkler's tasks include, for example, holding regular meetings with the buyer of a major customer. In InLoox, he can share his screen with the buyer to discuss the status of the project.
Not only does the tool make everyone's job easier, it also allows project teams to better utilize operations at all sites. Winkler says, "This allows us to look at workloads in Singapore, distribute peak loads if necessary by bringing in spare capacity from Belgrade or Minsk, for example. So in the end, we don't overload the company. Because we can track our resources cleanly online and include technical managers at other sites, we also avoid the risk of someone feeling left out." Overall, AviComp is very good at saving time with resource allocation. Of course, you have to feed the project with data to get results. In controlling, a further advantage is that project templates can be generated afterwards, so that project managers don't have to fill everything in again and again for newly created projects.
Standardized overview of project status and resources
According to Winkler, AviComp Controls has further steps planned for the future: "The dashboard will be expanded and used more extensively. In addition, we will take the solution to another level by connecting it to our ERP system 'Navision' in the future." To do this, we will use the existing API interface. It is planned that all data from merchandise management can also be displayed in InLoox in the future. It will then be possible to create forecasts for projects and schedule resources from the ERP system, and equipment will be displayed in such a way that it is stored in the budget plan and can be displayed in a way that is relevant for invoicing. The goal is to eventually have a tool that "provides an overview of the project status at a glance".