Saint Gobain finds the right material for business growth

With SAP and IBM

Published on 16-Oct-2012

"With improved information, the Saint Gobain Construction Products team makes more accurate business decisions, providing a better service to customers and improving our operating efficiency." - Chiara Garancini, Business Project Manager, Saint Gobain.

Saint Gobain

Industrial Products

Deployment country:

Business Integration, Business Resiliency, Enterprise Resource Planning, Small & Medium Business, Virtualization

IBM Business Partner:


The Saint Gobain Group is one of the leading industrial corporations in Europe, specializing in industrial materials and products for sustainable development. With around 20 companies belonging to the group, and with more than 2,000 employees and dozens of production plants in Italy, Egypt, Greece and Turkey, Saint Gobain is fast establishing itself as an internationally-recognized corporation.

Business need:
Saint Gobain’s Building Construction Division in Italy was looking to simplify management of the customer buying experience, a key part of which was to improve logistics service levels.

Working with SAP and IBM® Global Business Services®, Saint Gobain implemented the AGILE global template across company locations in Italy.

Enables customers to interact with Saint Gobain more easily and buy more services from a single touch point. Increases business efficiency and provides greater opportunities for cross-selling and logistics optimization. Centralizes and standardizes the IT environment. Reduces IT operations costs and improves efficiency in the local finance shared service center.

Case Study

The Saint Gobain Group is one of the leading industrial corporations in Europe, specializing in industrial materials and products for sustainable development. With around 20 companies belonging to the group, and with more than 2,000 employees and dozens of production plants in Italy, Egypt, Greece and Turkey, Saint Gobain is fast establishing itself as an internationally-recognized corporation.

Looking for new business strategies
Weber, Isover and Gyproc – three of the companies within the Saint Gobain group specializing in the development and production of industrial and building materials – form the Saint Gobain Construction Products joint venture. In response to increased pressure on the sales and logistics departments, the companies wanted to centralize and simplify their procurement, shipping and delivery systems, which would help to increase productivity and improve business decisions.

Silvia Miola, Business Project Manager at Saint Gobain, explains: “The first steps towards a complete unification of Weber, Isover and Gyproc took place in late 2010. Despite belonging to the Saint Gobain Group, the three companies were still operating as independent business units.”

Chiara Garancini, Business Project Manager at Saint Gobain, adds: “One of the key challenges for the newly born joint venture was to gain deeper insight into the overall process, from orders to logistics and sales, to enable us to respond appropriately to the status of their business throughout all the different workflow stages.”

The IT environment at each company was highly customized according to its specific business requirements. Because the joint venture would create additional business needs, the solution team decided that the best approach would be to implement a fully centralized ERP solution.

The principal challenge was the numerous production plants in different locations across Italy, as Silvia Miola explains: “Having so many production plants and offices spread out across Italy was starting to slow down logistical operations and processes, and was preventing the three businesses from working in a centralized and unified fashion.”

Developing a comprehensive project for effective centralization
The team at Saint Gobain Construction Products decided to undertake a project named “Arcobaleno” (Italian for “rainbow”) to implement integrated SAP applications based on the AGILE template. This fully centralized IT solution is supported by the SAP Shared Service Centre and runs on IBM infrastructure. Arcobaleno was a 360-degree project, which aimed at achieving higher standardization of processes and reporting in order to enhance business growth and gain faster and deeper insight on stock and sales.

In order for the project to run smoothly from development and simulation to implementation, SAP and IBM joined forces to provide Saint Gobain Construction Products with technical support and consulting. A major challenge for IBM Global Business Services was the cultural and language diversities within the team, formed of people from Italy, the UK, France and Germany. IBM was able to showcase its skills and competence in managing and finalizing the implementation of the SAP template, and supplying in-house training after the project was complete.

IBM Global Business Services assisted with the rollout of the template across Europe, starting in September and concluding for all three companies the following year, in November. Although the companies are unified technically and follow shared processes, legally the companies continue to be separate entities, which require full auditability of data. During the rollouts, IBM Global Business Services was also responsible for the launching of several technical go-lives and the development of business simulations, which contributed directly to the smooth and error-free performance of the solution.

IBM assisted with process standardization, project and change management, the internal communications plan, and training of key users, including the cultural issues that arose in this global company. The planning process helped avoid any service interruptions for Saint Gobain, resolving a key business concern for the group.

Silvia Miola remarks, “SAP and IBM organized extremely useful and practical workshops together with the main representatives of each of the three companies. The results were amazingly positive. Each company collaborated and cooperated towards a single mutual goal: the implementation of a centralized, standardized IT solution, which would bring significant benefits to the new organization.”

Choosing the AGILE template
Based on the AGILE template, Saint Gobain Construction Products has implemented several SAP applications and modules. For the company’s logistics, the IT department chose SAP Sales and Distribution, Logistics Execution, Materials Management and Production Planning, whereas SAP Financials and Controlling are now used for the legal and reporting areas.

The integrated SAP applications deployed within the logistics department allow the company to create and control individual transactions more easily, improving inventory management. SAP Production Planning in particular helps Saint Gobain Construction Products in the planning and execution of manufacturing, and allows the creation of forecasts of sales figures for each product, enabling the company to plan its future business actions. In addition, the integration of SAP Financials and Controlling with SAP Sales and Distribution and SAP Materials Management will enable Saint Gobain to select any financial transaction and examine in detail whether it is a purchase order, sales order or material movement.

Chiara Garancini adds: “The SAP Controlling module will allow Saint Gobain Construction Products to gain more accurate and reliable information, and I am confident that we will benefit from it when planning future market strategies.”

Saint Gobain Construction Products has also implemented SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse and SAP Advanced Planning and Optimization. These applications help the group to plan and optimize its supply, demand and production planning processes, delivering a single, comprehensive view of orders and sales, and driving business intelligence.

Chiara Garancini comments, “In the past, our planning was developed and completed manually on paper. SAP Advanced Planning and Optimization has improved our planning processes remarkably.”

With this solution in place, all of Saint Gobain Construction Products’ activities – from financials to logistics, and from payroll to human resources – are managed from one SAP platform running on IBM System x3650 M4 and other IBM System x3650 class servers.

The IBM servers feature Intel Xeon processors, with the IBM System x3650 M4 taking advantage of the new Intel Xeon Processor E5-2600 series, which automatically regulates power consumption and intelligently adjusts server performance according to the application needs, maximizing both energy efficiency and performance. Optimized I/O performance reduces latency by up to 30 percent, making data flow more rapidly and making applications more responsive.

Built-in hardware-based encryption capabilities encourage pervasive data encryption, yet with a significantly reduced performance overhead, to strengthen data protection across all applications. The Saint Gobain team chose IBM technology based on the high availability and resilience offered by the IBM servers, and the strong synergy between IBM and SAP was a value-added factor.

In addition, Saint Gobain is moving its SAP application data to a new storage landscape based on IBM System Storage SAN Volume Controller virtualization technology, with IBM System Storage DS8300 and IBM System Storage DS4800 disk arrays.

Reaping the rewards of a standardized IT environment
The AGILE template has allowed Saint Gobain to streamline its workflow processes, keeping the number of transactions and human processing to the very minimum. The solution provides a real-time view of stock levels and sales, enabling Saint Gobain Construction Products to make decisions based on up-to-date information.

Chiara Garancini comments, “Having information available in real time is a considerable step forward, because it helps us to dramatically cut response times to our customers. We use the sales data to forecast future demand and plan future production, which contributes to reduced wastage, cuts our unsold stock levels and optimizes throughput. With improved information, the Saint Gobain Construction Products team makes more accurate business decisions, providing a better service to customers and improving our operating efficiency.”

The IBM and SAP solution has significantly simplified and accelerated the rollout of business operations across Saint Gobain Construction Products, unifying workflows and facilitating the smooth and centralized management of purchase orders, shipping and deliveries in each of the three companies. The centralized IT environment has helped increase business efficiency, and dramatically reduced the time required to process shipping orders and deliveries.

Silvia Miola concludes, “Relying on a single shared SAP platform has helped the three companies to optimize their workflows, reduce human involvement in processing shipping orders, and redistribute human resources by allocating them to more valuable activities.

“Thanks to the unified SAP solution, employees from Weber, Isover and Gyproc can freely and easily handle purchase orders, deliveries and shipping across and between the three Saint Gobain companies.”

Products and services used

IBM products and services that were used in this case study.

Storage, Storage: DS4800, Storage: DS8300, System x, System x: System x3650 M4

System Storage SAN Volume Controller

GBS ISV Community: SAP, IBM-SAP Alliance, IBM Global Business Services

Legal Information

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2012. IBM Italia Circonvallazione Idroscalo 20090 Segrate - Milano Produced in Italy October 2012 IBM, the IBM logo,, System x, System Storage and Global Business Services are trademarks of International Business Machines Corporation, registered in many jurisdictions worldwide. A current list of other IBM trademarks is available on the Web at “Copyright and trademark information” at Other company, product or service names may be trademarks, or service marks of others. References in this publication to IBM products, programs or services do not imply that IBM intends to make these available in all countries in which IBM operates. Any reference to an IBM product, program or service is not intended to imply that only IBM’s product, program or service may be used. Any functionally equivalent product, program or service may be used instead. All customer examples cited represent how some customers have used IBM products and the results they may have achieved. Actual environmental costs and performance characteristics will vary depending on individual customer configurations and conditions. IBM hardware products are manufactured from new parts, or new and used parts. In some cases, the hardware product may not be new and may have been previously installed. Regardless, IBM warranty terms apply. This publication is for general guidance only. Photographs may show design models.