How does Sensonor keep track of production and logistics?
They make sensors that are used on the Moon and Mars. How do they keep track of production and logistics?
In a relatively secluded office building in Skoppum, just outside Horten, there is a Norwegian industrial company that develops and produces a selection of advanced sensors. They are so advanced and precise that they are used in prestigious projects worldwide.
Norwegian sensors are thus located on the rovers on Mars, on the space station ISS, on satellites, fighter planes, and weapons stations. They are found on boats and submarines, in drones and in self-driving cars.
– We make gyros and IMUs. Inertial Measurement Units (IMUs) are devices that measure rotation in all directions and measure movement in all directions in addition to rotation. It enables navigation. With a known starting point and measurement of acceleration and rotation, you can calculate where you are in relation to the starting point. While gyros detect how much you change orientation or pointing angle, says Hans Richard Petersen at Sensonor-
– We deliver to defense customers, industry and commercial customers. We have the highest performing products in this category, and over the last ten years, we have been on a journey that has allowed us to get into many different applications, with many customers we did not expect.
Quality above all
He says that Sensonor has roots dating back to the 80s, and that they have for many years worked towards the car industry in Europe. A corporate culture was established focusing on reliability and quality, as the car industry has rigorous requirements. After the financial crisis in the late 2000s, however, Sensor acknowledged that only working towards this industry from a Norwegian point of view became too expensive, and began to explore other areas. With software compensation and new electronics, it became possible to get outstanding performance from the sensors, and the company started to focus on space travel and defense.
– Today, the robots from Boston Dynamics are stabilized with our sensors. We are on installations on the ISS, the moon, and hundreds of satellites. What is unique is that it is the same product that is used in the room and on the ground. We sell the same sensors for the defense and for the commercial industry. Much of the value in our products is to standardize and maintain a steady production of a few varieties instead of adapting the product to each customer.
Hans Richard points out that many of Sensonor’s customers are pretty conservative and demanding companies:
– It takes time to convince them, and when they first buy something, they do it for too long at a time. From the first contact until things start to go into production, it usually takes five to six years. We then have to deliver full traceability of all production, we must have data on everything we make, and customers need access to the data. They must be able to check data for 5-10 years back. And then we must have a proper system for this.
Need for a new ERP system
– We have used IFS since 1997. We were then a pilot customer and among the first to use a graphical interface in IFS. We use that system within logistics and purchasing, production and maintenance, and finance and document administration. We have had some upgrades of the solution over time, but we have been sitting on the same version for many years now. We came to a critical point where we risked using an unsupported version of IFS, and had to decide whether to go for another ERP system, or upgrade IFS, says Dag-Tore Wiulsrød in Sensor.
It was eventually decided that IFS should be upgraded, and at the same time it was discussed internally in Sensonor how the use of ERP could be further developed. Thus, the process was divided into several phases, first a purely technical upgrade to a new version, and then phase two, where the goal is to replace in-house developed solutions with IFS.
– We have self-designed tools for planning and material management. We want to move these over to more standardized solutions. Self-designed tools are vulnerable, and it is much easier to get assistance and higher reliability when things are standardized.
– We have a lot of data, we grow as a company and get more and more products. We can no longer base material calculations and production management on complex spreadsheets. That is why we need better and more standardized tools. Not least, we have a greater need to be able to report to our owners and integrate with their computer systems. We therefore also need a better reporting system, he says.
Need a complete overview of the data
Wiulsrød points out that Sensonor’s products are very advanced, with a complex production process. A lot of time and resources are spent on calibration and testing, and it often takes many weeks to move units through production. All this must be traceable. A customer may experience something strange in five or ten years and will need to be able to look at data to check what the product looked like initially. It requires a lot from our ERP solution.
Dag-Tore Wiulsrød mentions that Sensonor was recommended to use an IFS partner to implement the upgrade project. Throughout the process, therefore, Addovation has been helpful in its expertise. Many of those who work in Addovation have a background from IFS. They have good resources and competent employees, and it made the most sense for us to work with them. During the first phase of the project, it was delivered both on time and on cost, and it all went very painlessly.
– We have also moved our databases over to Addovation, which has meant that we have had minimal downtime and good capacity for response time. We do not want to store our data outside Norway, but we wanted to move the databases out of our premises to get smoother maintenance and better operational reliability. We get this from Addovation.
Sensonor is well underway with phase two of the IFS project, which mainly includes MRP functionality. The goal is to remove more and more self-developed systems and manual solutions and integrate more and more towards IFS. Addovation will follow up the process, supporting and helping Sensonor.