Realization of a digital request process using low-code

Initial experiences with Simplifier in an Industrie 4.0 hackathon were convincing.

1. Initial situation and challenge

The international technology and engineering company PALFINGER is the world’s leading supplier of innovative crane and lifting solutions. Its core product is the hydraulic knuckle boom crane. The cranes are fully configurable. PALFINGER’s product range is correspondingly large, offering a wide variety of solutions for a wide range of requirements.

At the company’s in-house Mounting Competence Center (MCC), these configurable products are built onto carrier vehicles. The vehicle can be from any conceivable manufacturer. There are various options here, because PALFINGER not only creates/manufactures the crane superstructure, but also the vehicle construction. This entails a certain amount of engineering effort.

Palfinger AG

  • Indutry: Technology and engineering company
  • Main location: Bergheim
  • Employees: approx. 11,100

However, as is often the case in life, not everything can be combined with everything else. Some wishes are mutually exclusive and should therefore be screened out in advance during the inquiry process.

Inquiries from dealers and distributors in this regard are currently sent to the Engineering MCC in a wide variety of ways and levels of detail (by e-mail, WhatsApp, fax, handwritten, etc.). This results in errors or incomplete information. This in turn leads to a high clarification effort before the preparation of the offer can be started.

“The clarification time to find out the technical feasibility and costs used to be very time-consuming. We needed a solution that would help us retrieve all the important information in a uniform manner so that we could provide customers with the most suitable offer as quickly as possible. Here, the low-code platform Simplifier helped us to implement a complex internal process 100% digitally in a short time and to successfully use it productively.”

Marius Stehling, Global PALFINGER Production System & Industry 4.0 Manager, Palfinger AG

Therefore, a standardized form was needed that requests the urgently needed minimum information. This is the only way to check whether the request is technically feasible and what it will cost. If the minimum information is not available, the engineer is forced to ask the sales colleague – who in turn has to obtain the required information from the customer. This enormous clarification effort represents a massive complication for PALFINGER.

Originally, PALFINGER had considered tackling this challenge with Excel lists. However, due to insufficient performance, this was quickly discarded. Alternatively, editable PDFs would have been conceivable. Here, however, the problem arose that no photos or other media files could be added.

PALFINGER gained its first experience with the low-code platform Simplifier in an Industrie 4.0 hackathon organized by Pioneers and startup 300 in May 2018. At that time, PALFINGER was one of four industrial companies that had set a very individual requirement for the participating companies as part of the hackathon event, and Simplifier, with a small developer team consisting of 3 employees, was able to master the challenge with a convincing result and prove the advantages that a low-code platform can bring to the implementation of digital challenges.

In the case of the digital request process, it was finally decided that an application that is both web and mobile capable would be the best solution – Simplifier offered the most flexible platform for implementing the existing requirements.

2. Solution and results

The challenge of simplifying the inquiry processes for customers and delivering them to PALFINGER with complete data was created by an app in the form of a digital form. This is used to generate a PDF from the information received. This is sent to the defined PLAFINGER mailbox via the Simplifier platform and attached to the offer as a request.

In this way, PALFINGER has all the information it needs to prepare a quotation in a centralized form. The customer, in turn, can configure what he wants in this form in a uniform manner. Based on his specifications, he finally receives the individual offer that is right for him.

The goal is that all applications, including future ones, should be created and offered via one platform. It is also necessary to standardize the company’s own processes in the ERP system. Simplifier should ensure that app development is centralized and that the integration of necessary systems makes it possible for context-relevant data to be available for every other application without much additional effort.

„The level of detail of our requests has varied greatly in the past. It was important to develop a solution that handles processes in a standardized way as far as possible. Simplifier helped us in the implementation to reduce this complexity to the essentials. Also the requirement for a guided query and the variety of associated queries could be easily implemented with the low-code platform. When using the app, this gives the customer the secure feeling that everything has been thought of and we have all the information we need to create a quote.“

Clemens Mayr, Project Manager PALFINGER

The Simplifier Difference

Simplifier has made it possible to map an important and time-critical process for PALFINGER, which was previously time-consuming in the collection of information, simply and including the connection of required systems on a 100% digital basis. The result of this first app alone was that massive savings in time and effort were achieved in the recording of information and, consequently, in the preparation of quotations. Due to the very simple operation of the app, the quality of both the inquiries from dealers/customers and the individual offers that PALFINGER can create based on them are significantly higher – and the response time is significantly shorter. As a result, customers quickly receive an offer that is precisely tailored to their needs.

Application development is also much faster with low-code. This in turn leads to significantly lower costs and a much faster roll-out.

In the current expansion stage, the offer data is stored in a database. These are available for the further process. If required, these can be processed later in other systems (e.g. in an order management tool). This represents the first step for a solution that can be thought bigger in the future – be it in the direction of the SAP system or in a self-developed order management tool.

The app is currently bilingual (German and English). An absolute must for an international player like PALFINGER. This means that non-German-speaking customers can also order their desired configurations. This requires a timely expansion of the application, which is another advantage of a low-code platform.

Top Facts Simplifier

Significant increase in efficiency

Increased quality assurance

Reduction of complexity

3. Outlook

In order to further drive the digital transformation, PALFINGER is striving to rely even more on Simplifier.

One long-term goal is that in the future, data will also be communicated between different systems and ultimately everything will be configurable in the SAP system.

In order to take the company’s international approach even further, it is planned to offer other languages (e.g. Russian) in addition to German and English in the future.

At present, the apps are only optimized for desktop use. However, this is not to remain the case in the medium to long term. In the interests of enterprise mobility, the company is also considering mobile mapping of the process. This would enable orders to be placed much more quickly. Because it is independent of operating systems and devices, Simplifier is ideally suited for this purpose.

“If there is a change in the processes, the flexibility of Simplifier is a significant advantage and makes it easy for us to adapt the application in a short time according to the changed requirements, test it immediately and make it available live right away, which is a significant advantage over the traditional creation.”

Marius Stehling, Production System & Industry 4.0 Manager, Palfinger AG

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