Microsoft disaster at Liqui Moly
I found a very interesting article today:
“This is a huge image damage for us”
Ernst Prost, boss of the mineral oil manufacturer Liqui Moly, hopes for the help of a special Task Force of Microsoft – and denies a complicity in the floppy software introduction.
Mr. Prost, you dramatically described a flawed introduction of the Microsoft Dynamics software in your Liqui Moly company. How exactly do the problems in everyday life express themselves?
Ernst Prost: The software saves a lot of time, which means my people have to work longer. And yet, the results are still unsatisfying, especially in the areas of production, materials management, work preparation and shipping. This causes considerable frustration for my employees.
How exactly do these unsatisfactory results express themselves?
Overall, the software for a single operation takes a long time, so that my employees are increasingly frustrated sitting in front of the monitor and look at an hourglass. In addition, it often provides incorrect figures: Often there is goods that we believe according to the software to be in stock, in fact not at all. Hundreds of orders remain stuck in the system, so we’ll double-check one or the other job, but only write a single invoice. In addition, we have to rework or correct almost every single order.
How do you catch the problems?
We’ve hired a lot more people in production and picking, we’re now working in three shifts and on Saturdays – simply because the processes take so long that we’re effectively slapping the problems with the time and man factor. The list of all error messages that we have now put together for Microsoft includes 27 pages with several dozen service tickets.
How did Microsoft respond to this list?
Microsoft is busy, they want to have the list translated in English again, which is somehow significant. And from a ticket we should now make 20 single tickets. We also did everything. In other words: Microsoft is really up to date now and knows under what circumstances we are currently suffering.
Does Microsoft itself take care of that or do they assign the black Peter to a software partner?
First, our software partner took care of it. But, what I did not know myself: Microsoft has its own task force with 100 to 200 people just for such cases. And they now want to fix the problems together with us and our software house. That’s just like in our own industry: If you have a problem with a VW and the workshop does not get any further, eventually Volkswagen will have to do it.
And how do your customers react to your problems?
In some cases I hear even more drastic things. Because they miss business. Customers who rely on us for years and decades are disappointed because they do not get the goods they need to do their own business. I even get some bad letters of disappointed customers and even first claims for damages are on my desk. And that really drives me – not so much the sales we lose. But we have to disappoint customers in the countries we serve worldwide – customers who have trusted us for at least three decades. We are now sending semi-empty containers or even air freight to Korea or Japan, so that at least some of the goods arrive at the companies and we can avoid the toughest bottlenecks. This is all a huge image damage for us.
They have long driven the motto: “Never touch a running system” – and have trusted their age-old system, then switch to a new system in a Big Bang. In the eyes of many IT consultants, this approach is predestined for problems. How much do you contribute to the disaster?
Jumping from the IT Stone Age into the 21st century – that’s not how it was with us. Let me give you some facts: We have 18 permanent employees in our own IT department, we started the project three years ago – right from the start with a software partner. The task of switching from our mainframe computer program to a standard software was clearly defined from the beginning. In addition, we have not set a specific date for the change, but wanted to change only when everything really fits. We have neither time pressure built budgets and limited and certainly not hammered.
But apparently it still did not fit …We tested it over and over again – and even canceled the start three times at short notice within these three years, like a rocket launch in Cape Canaveral. Because we were not there yet and otherwise would have bashed our heads against a wall. And if you go away from a mainframe, you have to switch completely – that’s not in small steps. We did not go blue-eyed.
What has it cost you to this day?
I put it all together and come to a total of almost ten million euros. It’s no laughing matter.
What does your software house say? Where is the main reason for the misery?
There is not one reason. Of course we also tested before – everything worked. And when we went live, a lot of things did not work out. That’s very frustrating.
Is it perhaps because you have changed too much of the software?
True, we’ve made some software adjustments to the needs of Liqui Moly. For example, there are certain requirements for dangerous goods that we have to take into account. But that’s no different – show me a company that stays completely standard with such a software project.
When do you think your system runs smoothly?
Microsoft has just switched on and wants to take care of it. I find that very classy – and also necessary. After all, such a project falls back on them, not on any software house. Now I’m in good spirits that the commitment of Microsoft is now coming to a happy end. That requires blood, sweat and tears – but we can not go back.