Together with the provider of technical recycling and sorting solutions, Cluster Reply has developed a user-friendly web portal.
Suppliers of capital goods are legally obliged to provide instructions and spare parts. This is also true for TOMRA Sorting, which develops sorting solutions for the recycling, food and mining industries. One task of the TOMRA Sorting Digital Team is to optimise processes relating to the provisioning of instructions and spare parts. It develops relevant digital solutions for this purpose in the Internet of Things (IoT).
"This process happens between maintenance staff and purchasing on the customer side and the sales and customer service team on our side", Dr. Felix Flemming, VP and Head of Digital at TOMRA Sorting, describes the situation. "These different parties often need time to coordinate before the spare part can actually be shipped. The aim here is to minimise loss of time and confusion."
A process, which can usually take up to an hour or sometimes even longer, should take at most minutes, ideally seconds.
"What's happening behind the scenes is the easy way for us to upload and manage these visualisations of the machines and configurations as well as to integrate them with our Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, which we use to manage our spare parts."
TOMRA Sorting Digital was aware of the complexity that results from such an ERP integration before the collaboration.
"It's not as easy as you'd think to find a supplier who can do this."
With its numerous PaaS services, Azure Cloud provided the technical basis for the development. The integration into the existing ERP system was correspondingly easy to implement.
The ASP.NET Core Web app is hosted using the Azure App Service, with a user interface based on HTML, Bootstrap and JQuery. The backend was entirely implemented in C#.
An Azure SQL database and an Azure BLOB storage is used to store the 3D visualisations of CAD components. The user interface was seamlessly integrated into the existing TOMRA Insight portal for this.
It was possible here to use already existing design specifications and mock-ups, i.e. sketched ideas of the final surface.
After consultation with stakeholders in the company and the drafting of a vision, concrete requirements were formulated. These requirements were prioritised according to urgency. Following a workshop designed by Cluster Reply, it was clear what the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) should be: the web application described above. The first step was implementing the web application together with the Recycling business unit. It is designed so that it can be transferred to the other business units of Food and Mining.
A test-driven development (TDD) approach was chosen for the development. TDD is characterised by the fact that the tests are implemented first and then the actual functionality.
This allows bugs to be detected thanks to a high degree of automated test coverage.
An agile approach was followed from the beginning of the development. The solution was worked on in sprints: time-limited and repeatable work cycles. The goal of each sprint is to finalise functional components of the planned product. This type of development provides advantages such as a high degree of flexibility and transparency as well as rapid completion of new product increments.
"Customers see a 3D visualisation of their machines – what we refer to as an 'exploded view'. They then select a spare part and place it in a shopping cart," explains Dr. Flemming. Similar optimised process steps, which now only take minutes or seconds, are otherwise commonplace in B2C. "Since we're in a B2B environment, the next step will be requesting a quote."
Dr. Flemming considers web apps in the B2B sector with a comparable customer focus to be an innovation. "In the context of a connected machine, this is definitely the right way to go, because we not only create added value with the machine itself, but also with the processes relating to the machine: how a customer operates it, how they can easily order spare parts, how they can access documentation. This is currently not standard in our industry."
Ultimately, a user-friendly web app also creates more customer satisfaction in the long term: "Overall, our product is easier to use and leaves a positive impression."
In addition to these requirements, further positive synergies were created. Dr. Flemming describes how internal processes were structured and automated more efficiently during the development process. "The solution has also helped us to better structure the spare parts information of the next generation TOMRA Sorting machines. The new application is not yet in use, but we have given our organisation and some customers an insight into the new way of managing spare parts – and they were enthusiastic."
TOMRA Sorting Solutions develops sensor-based systems for sorting, peeling and process analysis in the food, recycling and waste management and mining sectors. TOMRA Sorting belongs to the Norwegian company TOMRA Systems ASA, whose shares are traded on the Oslo stock exchange. Founded in 1972 and with its approximately 4,500 employees around the world, TOMRA generates a turnover of approx. NOK 9.3 billion.
Cluster Reply is a Reply Group company specialised in consulting and systems integration for Microsoft technologies. The company's key focus is on innovation. It supports the development of Microsoft products, from on-premises to cloud applications for areas including the modern workplace, business applications, applications and infrastructure, and data and artificial intelligence.