“We were looking for a partner with solid enterprise-level references to convince us that the project would be finished according to our requirements and on the required delivery date.”
Roman Bulat, Head of Information Systems Structure
Vimetco is a global aluminum and aluminum products manufacturer, with vertically integrated facilities, such as extraction and primary or complex processing. Vimetco processes over 680.000 tons of aluminum annually. The company operates in Sierra Leone, China and Romania and it is listed on the London Stock Exchange. In Romania, Vimetco holds the majority of shares of the aluminum manufacturer Alro Slatina, as well as of the alumina manufacturer Alum Tulcea, and the commercial activity is undertaken through Vimetco. The products manufactured in Romania are NADCAP certified, in accordance to the requirements in the aerospace industry, Airbus being one of the main clients. The activity on the local market involves over 5.000 employees distributed in various locations. The aluminum production is a very delicate sector of activity; therefore, Vimetco is regularly audited by both authorities and clients
Within Vimetco ALRO, there is a corporate portal available on the internet and developed on a freeware platform in early 2000. Though, this portal is completely out of date in terms of functionalities and design, and the team that created it, is no longer working for the company. Because of the outdated technology, the development potential of the platform was minimal. Basically, that portal hosted a document database, enabled to post notices and offered the employees minimal data about the exchange rate, international stock quotes and internal trainings. The portal did not offer options to index and archive documents, and thus the searching activity became almost impossible. Furthermore, the document versions did not register, therefore, the employees could not rely on the latest version of the document.
“Previously, most of the documents were solely kept
, in each department. This situation blocked the collaborative work , and it was very difficult to search and identify the latest version of a document”states Nicu Durău Human Resources & General Affairs Director, ALRO Slatina - Romania. Obviously, this situation was affecting the employees’ productivity and was generating errors, including during the audit processes
In 2010, after debating with the main departments and analyzing their requirements, the IT department along with the Human Resources department at Vimetco ALRO created a business case to develop a new intranet portal.
After analyzing the solutions existing on the market, Vimetco ALRO chose the Microsoft SharePoint platform, due to the notoriety of the product and their local and international references. “We want a product to be present on the market even in10 years’ time, and Microsoft offers a clear roadmap for SharePoint. Moreover, there were various references regarding Microsoft SharePoint-SAP integration project. This element was very relevant to us” assesses Roman Bulat.
Other solutions were also identified but they did not meet the requirements defined by the project team in Vimetco ALRO. After choosing the platform, Vimetco ALRO organized an auction to choose a Microsoft partner, capable to develop a quality project. During the auction, TotalSoft imposed itself due to the best references and an experimented team.
“We were looking for a partner with solid enterprise-level references to convince us that the project would be finished according to our requirements and on the required delivery date” declares Roman Bulat, Head of Information Systems Structure at Vimetco ALRO.
The project was undertaken between July and September 2011 and consisted of the development of an intranet portal based on a Microsoft SharePoint 2010 platform, integrated with Microsoft Exchange Server. At the current stage, the solution covered only the companies active in Romania, but there were plans for extending the intranet for the company’s offices in other international locations as well.
Based on the requirements list defined by the Vimetco team, TotalSoft configured the SharePoint platform developed additional functionalities and ensured the integration with third-party applications, including SAP. The company’s organizational chart was mapped in SharePoint so that users have their own working place, and the platform was integrated in Active Directory. This enables a unique authentication at station/ PC level as well as a quick setting of a customized policy regarding the access to resources and information. A general area of public interest information was developed: internal notices, forums, phone register etc. as well as sites dedicated to certain departments. The site for the purchasing department includes working procedures of the department, quotations of various products, the approved suppliers’ list, forms, balance sheets as well as an in-house document approval flow. Similarly, the site dedicated to the financial-accounting department includes working procedures, financial indicators, a document library, financial situations etc.
The section for the Human Resources Department allows the access to standardized forms, collective agreement, labor legislation, internal regulations, tax deduction files, human resources library, training etc. The portal was integrated with the Human Resources Management platform used by ALRO to obtain data regarding employees directly from the database and to automatically retrieve data from the time sheet completed in SharePoint.
Furthermore, the IT department has a dedicated site containing a forum with questions and answers regarding the problems that the users deal with, project management, templates for the project documentation, manuals etc. In addition to the data structured in each department, data of general interest concerning the employees were brought in the SharePoint interface through the means of certain web services, from internal and external sources.
Old documents were indexed, archived and moved in a common location to simplify the search. The portal was integrated with Microsoft Outlook in order to notify the company’s employees of various events: document approval, document modification or placement etc. Users are provided with Task Management functionalities. The interface is bilingual (Romanian and English), and in order to facilitate the adoption, it was customized with Vimetco’s characteristics (colors, logo etc.)
The portal enables access to up to 1.000 concurrent users and it can be accessed in each of the three locations in Romania, as well as remote, from abroad. “Vimetco is a production company, and the working environment is not exclusively in the office. Therefore, one of the main ideas of our project is to offer ease of use and order in the information structure”, appreciates Nicu Durau.
The development of the intranet portal on Microsoft SharePoint technology and a high rate of use made the project bring benefits on several levels, such as streamlining the internal collaboration within Vimetco ALRO and improving the company’s image.
- Improving the company’s image and the relationship with the business partners. Vimetco ALRO partners, the providers or clients, require access to the corporate portal to consult the technical documents, production regulations and instructions. SharePoint enables this access and contributes to the creation of a professional image and high quality standards. “When you have business partners in the aerospace industry, such image is mandatory in the development of long-lasting relationships. Before, we would send these documents via email, but it was a solution that generated misunderstandings related to receiving messages and their versions. Subsequently, in order to streamline the business relationships, we decided to use software tools as our partners”, appreciates Roman Bulat.
- Reducing costs by integrating HR management tools in SharePoint allowing filling in the time sheets in a digital format and automatically exporting to the payroll application. “These operations were performed manually, on paper and lasted one month, given that there were 5.000 employees. After implementing the solution developed by TotalSoft, we reduced the number of the human resources involved in this activity, and thus, the operation was completed in only one week. Through this benefit only, and the investment in the project was justified without considering the other gains,” assesses Roman Bulat.
- Improving the collaboration among employees. Though absent before, collaborative working became a basic element within Vimetco ALRO after implementing Microsoft SharePoint project. The employees are able to commonly manage projects, workflows and documents and they can allocate tasks. Moreover, internal communication errors are removed after identifying the latest versions of documents, employees or departments that generated the modifications.
- Increasing employees’ productivity by enabling rapid access to applications and documents. SharePoint arranged the company’s documents, placing them in a logical and unitary structure as well as indexing them for an easier search. The time allocated to search documents on various servers or local stations is now used for a more productive activity.
- Simplifying the audit processes through quick and transparent access to documents. A company like Vimetco ALRO is annually exposed to several audits regarding the production system, environment, product quality, procedures etc. For any external auditor, Microsoft SharePoint is a well-known and reliable tool that enables the rapid access to any document needed, versions, employees that generated modifications etc.
- Accelerating the training process through a quick access to educational resources. The intranet portal provides the employees with a complex training documentation, including multimedia, and allows individual or group eLearning sessions.
- Quick access to the working space. All the applications are integrated through SharePoint and Active Directory, and the employees, with single sign-on, have access to all the applications they have rights for and currently use.
“Enhancing the internal collaboration and improving our image are the most important benefits that Vimetco ALRO registered by using the software solution developed by TotalSoft on Microsoft SharePoint technology.” Nicu Durău Human Resources & General Affairs Director, ALRO Slatina - România.
Case study written in 2012.