A leading producer of accumulators creates new standards of IT issue management in the enterprise

The origins of the factory Centra SA date back to 1910, when it started the production of batteries. The name “Centra” officially emerged in 1925. After World War II the factory was nationalized, still producing batteries and since 1970 also accumulators. Since 1995, the Centra SA has become part of the American corporation EXIDE Technologies, which is the largest producer of automotive accumulators in Central-Eastern Europe. Thanks to takeover, Centra SA gained access to modern technologies and methods of business management and it was able to fully exploit this fact. Due to the large capital investment (38 million USD) over the past 4 years the company has increased production by about 80% and has about 40% stake in the Polish market. The company manufactures two lines of accumulators – under the Centra and Exide brands – for passenger cars. The assortment of Centra also includes accumulators for trucks and tractors.

About the company
With the acquisition by the U.S. company Exide Corporation, Centra has gained access to modern technologies and management methods and markets.

The challenge
After the acquisition of Centra SA by Exide Technologies, the rate of production has significantly increased. The new owner has invested in the Centra’s factory in Poznan and it has given the factory access to new technologies. Centra SA, as the first company in Poland, has received a certificate confirming compliance of quality management systems with the guidelines of ISO / TS 16 949 and it has surrendered to the certification of compliance with ISO 14001 environmental standard. Centra has been also certified by IQNet, which includes 38 management systems certification bodies (as required by international standards such as ISO 9001, ISO 14001; industry-specific standards such as ISO / TS 16 949) from around the world with headquarters in Switzerland.
In view of increasing production, new technologies used in the Centra SA and sharpened quality requirements, the IT department needed tools for efficient management of emerging information technology issues within the company. The tools were supposed to help the IT department to respond to the needs of workers so that the difficulties arising from the failure of systems or equipment to be minimized and do not cause losses in production.
So far, the IT department has received notification of failures by telephone – the workers who have a problem call the IT staff, report them the details of the problem and determine time when the problem will be corrected. The absence of an employee who received the notification automatically extended durations of solving the problem. With the increasing automation of processes and having to meet the company quality requirements imposed by the certificates obtained, the notification and correction system ceased to take an exam, because it did not allow for good control and management of tasks and thus to assess the effectiveness of actions.
The biggest IT pain points were:
• difficult to assess the use of IT resources,
• insufficient control over the implementation of tasks,
• poor working time management and the difficulty in assessing the workload of workers.
Centra SA has decided to implement new software to automate and simplify the control of IT processes. Above all, it needed a tool that would allow on the one hand for easy and quick notification of problems to the IT department allowing it to follow the further course of these notifications, and on the other hand would allow for better working time management and control of tasks implementation. As the work of the IT team to service notification of employees of other departments was project-based, it was decided to implement Microsoft Enterprise Project Management (EPM) to improve this process.

The solution
The company looked for a cheap and easy to use solution that would meet its expectations and at the same time would have been quickly accepted by employees. The company has benefited from the Microsoft software so far, so it was decided to extend their existing software for project management tools from Microsoft. This allowed Centra SA to achieve economies of scale resulting from the use of a single platform, but also to gain high acceptance of workers, who has started working on the system quickly and without time-consuming training. Immediately after the implementation of EPM, it has integrated seamlessly with other elements of the Office system platform and has began functioning in Centra SA.

The solution includes:
• Microsoft Office Project Professional 2003 for creating schedules, analysis, planning and resource management in the project;
• Microsoft Office Project Web Access that provides access to projects and project documentation stored on Project Server;
• Microsoft Office Project Server 2003 – a platform for project management and project portfolio management in a company that provides centralization and standardization of project information.
As part of the Microsoft Project Server 2003 there has been included the SharePoint technology. It has enabled the creation of web sites for team collaboration on documents, and has allowed for management, versioning and sharing of documents and information, as well as for tracking errors.
EPM has been designed for monitoring of the maintenance task implementation and SharePoint has been designed to record the problems reported by employees of all departments of the company.
The implementation began with the preparation of a helpdesk website that has replaced the phone calls as a convenient way for employees to report the problems and their IT needs. Each of the employees of the company has access to the website and at any time can log on and type in his or her problem. Next the information is sent to the IT administrator, who gives the appropriate notification statute and assigns the task to the IT team. The adoption of a clear and logical data structure has allowed each user to view the problems systematized according to preset criteria: the status, priorities and how advance is the implementation of the solution. Particular problems, after the development, are in the form of mailing lists, allowing you to trace the successive stages of the implemented solutions and IT staff attention. This also allows the notifier to join the discussions at each stage and to ask additional questions or to add or clarify information about the problem.
On the other hand, the information contained on the helpdesk website can be exported to a spreadsheet and analyzed freely. This is a mine of information for further processing, such as the selection of the most common problems in specific sectors and deciding what IT investments and training is necessary for employees to improve the quality of work.
Additionally, EPM has made it possible to further manage the information and resources. Views of reporting, as defined in the course of implementation, are available for persons with one click and all documents related to the problem (at fixed templates) are collected in one place. This allows you to very easily determine which problems have already been completed, which ones take place as planned and which ones, and for what reasons, are at risk of delay. With such data, the IT manager can modify the schedule of activities and reorganize his workers so that they meet established deadlines.
EPM allows you to store and analyze historical data – with the emergence of the problem once again, the IT manager may at any time follow step by step actions taken in previous cases and better assess the opportunities and needs in the current case. This makes planning more reliable and consistent.
The IT department can create a database of FAQ common problems, which will allow users, through a pattern of actions in this case, the self-removal of small failures, not requiring the intervention of a specialist.
Another important benefit for IT department associated with the EPM implementation is a possibility to mange the staff. The technology allows IT employees to adjust to the strict corporate goals, allocating them in accordance with the highest priority projects. On the other hand, the IT department manager has a tool that allows him to fairly accurately measure employee engagement and productivity.

Business Benefits
“Today, when IT is a kind of a backbone of enterprises it is important to look for tools that will help keep the spine in good condition. EPM has proven itself as a tool for this purpose” – says Adam Kosakowski, IT Manager. – “EPM has enabled us to solve the major problems that faced the department quickly and without major expenditure. It has also created new quality standards of management of IT problem notifications across the enterprise.

Simple management of notifications
By creating a set of views, adapted to the needs of the IT department, the review of notifications by the most important criteria is instant. These views include a full set of required indicators (type of problem, the status, the deviation from the schedule, the person responsible), which until then had been dispersed. This allows you to find out quickly what is the status of work and to take corrective steps fast, if necessary. Through the use of already possessed licenses of Microsoft, Centra SA has managed to both solve a specific business need and maintain a homogeneous computing environment.

Secure planning
Meeting all of the information in one place makes it possible to safely plan activities and tasks. It also lets you keep responding to emerging problems, estimate possible delays in the work, and modify the allocation of tasks to staff in order to meet the deadlines contained in the schedules.
Additionally, based on historical data stored in the EPM, the IT manager can better plan actions and use tested case scenarios.

Single database
As a result of the implementation of EPM it was possible to collect all the information into one easily accessible database, which is a mine of information for further processing. With the standardization of notification pattern and ability to export data between the helpdesk website and spreadsheets, data can be arbitrarily grouped and analyzed to yield information that until now were unreachable. This translates into better work planning, IT investment in the future, finding weaknesses in the IT structure of the company and consequently greater functionality across the enterprise.

Team work management
With EPM and project-based management of notification implementation, the IT manager has a clear picture of workload of each employee, can precisely measure their commitment and productivity. He can easily, if necessary, reorganize the division of labor and move workers to more priority tasks.

Quick solution to a specific problem
Centra SA needed a simple, effective solution to a specific IT problem very quickly. EPM has proven itself well in this space – provided appropriate management tools without having to make long-term analysis and concept development. Implementation was completed after two weeks.

Minimum training
Thanks to the already well-known technology, the IT staff required only a short training. The helpdesk website is available via a web browser and requires no training.