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Forging the digital future of steel through automation

The digital era is bringing about a radical transformation in many industries. Online business is growing in importance – even for B2B companies. Debrunner Acifer AG therefore already began automating its order processes several years ago and is actively driving further digital transformation.

Automating order processes digital transformation

Social media, online encyclopaedias, E-business: society is increasingly going digital. Research is often carried out on the internet and online stores are enjoying rising sales, for example internet giants like Zalando and Amazon.

Not only B2C companies are affected by the digital changeover, however; digitalisation is also growing in significance in the B2B market. According to the German economist Gerrit Heinemann, 80 per cent of B2B transactions already start today with a search on the internet.

Efficiency through system links to suppliers and customers

To remain competitive in a dynamic online market, companies must continuously review their structures and develop solutions for efficient processes.

Those operating with inefficient workflows in their analogue business will find themselves struggling with the same problems even after digitalisation. As a specialist in steel and metals, Debrunner Acifer AG has therefore been investing for years in the digitisation of its processes.

An important part of Debrunner Acifer‘s strategy is the automation of process chains involving suppliers and customers. The Switzerland-wide B2B company has created direct connections with suppliers, third-party vendors, E-marketplaces and customers via EDI systems, ERP systems, planning software and warehouse management systems. Customers enter orders in the ERP system or submit CAD drawings electronically, triggering an automated purchase process.

One of the ways Debrunner Acifer AG has laid the groundwork for further expanding its degree of automation is by building a new Logistics Centre for C-parts in Kölliken. Another step in process optimisation is taking place in Birsfelden – with the expansion of the country’s largest central warehouse for steel. The investment in the automated high-bay warehouse improves efficiency, increases availability and enables precise distribution.

Central database for the E-business platform

A further precondition for efficient ordering processes is the standardisation and digitisation of product data. Debrunner Acifer AG has developed a central database that enables the standardised maintenance of all data on its comprehensive range of more than 160,000 products. The information in this digital database can then be used to create publications such as print catalogues, brochures and flyers as well as to keep the E-business platform supplied with current product data.

Automating order processes digital transformation

Users of the E-business platform can take advantage of the E-shop with its quick entry and item import function as well as the “Steel and metals finder” quick search option, along with several additional features. For over 15 years, Debrunner Acifer has been working with its customers to develop warehouse management solutions such as weighing systems, barcode detection and the bws®Label – an electronic label that displays the minimum inventory and the quantity ordered.

As a service provider for steel and metals, Debrunner Acifer has also been pressing ahead with the digitisation of machining processes such as flame cutting for steel sheets and the splitting of aluminium parts. Customers can transmit their drawing data electronically and place the corresponding order with just a few clicks. The technical data is forwarded to the central steel warehouse in Birsfelden, where state-of-the-art machines accurately carry out the order.

E-shop sales on the rise

Thanks to the innovations on the E-business platform and the largely automated ordering processes, Debrunner Acifer AG is now handling almost one third of all sales online – with a continuing upward trend. The company therefore intends to continue to shape the digitalization of the future and to improve processes even further. This makes it all the more important to promote personal contact with customer and to understand their concerns.

Debrunner Acifer is part of the Klöckner & Co Group, a pioneer in steel-industry digitalisation. Through its in-house Berlin start-up kloeckner.i, Klöckner & Co is driving the digitalisation of the steel industry’s supply and service chains, with the objective of building an internet-based industry platform. This gives Debrunner Acifer access to valuable expertise and to the latest international developments in the field of digitalisation.