Integrated SAP ERP/PLM system for shorter processing times in plant engineering


The NEUMAN & ESSER GROUP (NEA) develops and produces reciprocating compressors, grinding and classifying systems as well as complete plants for the compression of air and gases in industrial applications. With the aim of further expanding its technological pioneering role, the group of companies is revising its IT landscape. The use of SAP ERP and SAP PLM makes plant engineering know-how more accessible worldwide, accelerates order processing, and at the same time eliminates numerous potential errors.


Innovations have a very long tradition at NEA. The beginnings of the family-owned company based near Aachen date back more than 180 years to the age of the (first) industrial revolution. Today, NEA is a globally positioned group of companies with approximately 1,200 employees whose core competencies include the manufacture of compressors for the compression of air and technical gases. Qualified employees and an innovation-friendly corporate culture enable NEA to produce innovative products in the shortest possible time: "We specialize in realizing extraordinary applications and therefore always have to be one step ahead of the state of the art," emphasizes Karl-Josef Kremers, Vice President Operations at NEA Germany.

NEA Compressor Technology (CT), which employs around 270 people in plant engineering, has six engineering locations in six countries worldwide. Their task is to plan and design the plant engineering around the reciprocating compressor, to procure the accessories and to supply the customer with a turnkey plant for his process requirements. "The engineering is always lead-managed by the local NEA company, which has the advantage for our customers that the purchased parts, such as coolers, motors, filters, etc., comply with local standards and are known and available locally," says Kremers.

Standardization of the IT landscape

Like other plant manufacturers, NEA faces the challenge of having to develop customized solutions under high time pressure. Synergies are released through a constant exchange of knowledge between the sites, so that the wheel has to be invented exactly once at NEA. NEA manages to reduce engineering effort through partial standardization of certain product components and global standardization of tools, methods and processes. "Standardization and networking of the IT landscape is the key," Kremers emphasizes. "On the one hand, we want to spread the know-how at the sites independently of specific customer projects; on the other hand, the experience and capacities of the individual sites should be made available for cross-site projects."

Added value for NEA

  • Up to 85% reuse rate through standardization of plant components and documentation
  • Improved quality thanks to globally standardized plant documentation
  • Reduction of error sources thanks to IT networking and dissemination of cross-site know-how
  • Shorter processing times, since data is available once for the entire NEA process chain
  • More efficient order processing thanks to IT standardization and global data access

Thinking bigger: Implementing SAP ERP and SAP PLM in parallel

Less effort required for parallel implementation of an integrated SAP ERP/PLM solution than for integration of stand-alone systems

Better consistency between technical and business processes

In the course of standardizing its IT landscape, NEA replaced an older ERP system that was still state of the art but could no longer cope with the growing demands of the company's structure, and introduced SAP ERP. Based on the SAP software, the company simultaneously implemented the integrated SAP PLM solution with the support of CIDEON, with which the CAD data and documents can be managed throughout the process. The aim of the integration is to interlink technical and logistical business processes more closely and to shorten processing times in order processing. Thanks to the "single source of truth", the company will also benefit in the future from greater reuse of existing drawings and documents in project planning and budgeting for new projects.

Parallel to the ERP replacement, a new CAD software solution was sought for the international engineering sites, as the manufacturer of the existing system intended to discontinue support in Europe. After an intensive evaluation of the CAD systems available on the market for plant engineering, the choice fell on Autodesk Plant Design Suite because it best met the requirements of the specifications. In addition to the comprehensive 2D/3D functionality, key criteria were the manufacturer's global presence, the cost-benefit projection, and the good integration options into the SAP world, as Mike Gorgas, the project manager responsible for the introduction of SAP PLM, recounts. "However, we only realized in detail which benefits could result from the integration of CAD and SAP during the realization of the projects with CIDEON," adds Kremers.

All competences from one source

With CIDEON, NEA found a partner for the implementation of the new CAD solution and its integration into SAP PLM that could offer everything from a single source. The software and consulting company recommended itself not only because of its expertise as a specialized SAP PLM and Autodesk Platinum Partner, but also because of its many years of experience in plant engineering and its global presence, which ensured support at NEA worldwide. "The fact that CIDEON could also deliver the Autodesk Plant Design interface to SAP PLM was another plus," says Gorgas. "This helped us enormously in this project because the process optimization specialists knew our requirements very well and were able to pass them on to their colleagues in interface development."

The experts from CIDEON advised NEA on the reorganization and optimization of its business processes. In a pilot project, they defined step by step how the cross-departmental collaboration and the company-wide integration of the subsidiaries should be designed and supported the project team in mapping the collaboration processes in SAP PLM. CIDEON also integrated special converter technologies that enable NEA to provide plant geometry to customers, general contractors, and operating companies in formats such as 3D PDF, STEP, RMV (Aveva), or Intergraph.

NEA now uses SAP PLM for CAD data management and plant engineering document management at all its sites. Although the foreign companies are largely independent, there were no acceptance problems during the worldwide rollout, as Kremers assures: "We see ourselves as a group and live it that way. There are regular and unscheduled meetings and workshops throughout the year, in which the need for such a system was formulated and the effects that one would like to achieve in order processing. So it was not a lonely decision by the head office, even though it was implemented from Germany."

"However, we only realized in detail which benefits can result from the integration of CAD and SAP when we implemented the projects with CIDEON."

Karl-Josef Kremers, Vice President Operations, NEA Germany

"The fact that CIDEON could also deliver the Autodesk Plant Design interface to SAP PLM was another plus."

Mike Gorgas, Project Manager Implementation SAP PLM, NEA Germany

"This helped us enormously in this project because the process optimization specialists knew our requirements very well and were able to pass them on to their colleagues in interface development."

Mike Gorgas, Project Manager Implementation SAP PLM, NEA Germany

Worldwide rollout of SAP PLM

Currently, about 50 to 60 users worldwide are using SAP PLM in conjunction with Autodesk Plant Design Suite, although not yet in its final expansion stage. "The software is so powerful, so we are rolling out module by module. By the beginning of next year, the last module should be available at the international sites," says Gorgas. The users are predominantly, but not only, the CAD designers. Employees in other departments are gradually being trained so that they, too, maintain their project-relevant information in SAP PLM and no longer - as in the past - in individual lists of different MS products. "This is the prerequisite for being able to trigger order processes in SAP or create inquiry documents in one go as soon as the ERP system is connected," says Gorgas.

SAP PLM is not yet being used everywhere in plant engineering in conjunction with the new ERP system. The rollout to the international engineering sites is scheduled to begin in the middle of next year. At NEA Germany, a template is currently being defined for the integration processes in logistics, which can then be implemented at the other engineering sites with just a few adjustments. "The overall effort for the parallel implementation of the integrated SAP ERP/PLM solution is lower than for the integration of stand-alone systems, while guaranteeing much better consistency between technical and commercial processes," assures Jan Coppel, project manager on the part of CIDEON.


In the current expansion stage, the benefits of the integrated ERP/PLM process chain for order processing are already becoming apparent. Kremers is confident that the data consistency will also have a positive effect on processing times: "Until now, data on a component or assembly was recorded several times in many process steps - from the drawing to the inquiry, the order to logistics and documentation - which was not only time-consuming but also prone to errors. With the new system constellation, we only have to enter the data once and can use it throughout the entire process chain. We see effects in the increase in quality and time savings that we had not imagined on this scale."

Standardized documentation worldwide

What is already noticeable at this stage are the better possibilities for standardization, both in terms of plant components and documentation: "We have set certain task priorities in the individual NEA companies. If, for example, Brazil or India creates and releases a new component, then it is in the system and can be used immediately by every employee in the NEA GROUP without distribution," says Gorgas. Relatively far advanced is the standardization of the P&ID flowsheets with the help of corresponding templates, which, for example, allow 85% of the design of a secondary system to be reused. This not only shortens processing time, but also ensures uniform, state-of-the-art plant documentation worldwide.

Next Steps

The preparation and provision of manuals, certificates and other documentation currently still involves the usual manual effort. Here NEA expects considerable rationalization effects from the integration of an output management system into the SAP environment. CIDEON has already presented the company with a corresponding solution, which will be tested next year as part of an evaluation. "We are implementing our vision step by step, taking into account the resources used, in order to root it soundly. After all, priority must be given to serving the production process in the best possible way at every stage of the rollout," concludes Gorgas.