Development of an Enterprise App for Vendor Audits – inovex implements complete digital audit solution for Bosch
Every year, the long-standing car parts manufacturer Bosch uses hundreds of audits to keep tabs on its global vendors at their premises – a complex process which will, thanks to a customised mobile app from inovex, soon run seamlessly and digitally from the factory floor to a central database. The result: Better-quality data is more efficiently collected and more quickly available.
Visit the vendor site with a tablet; then click through to the backend.
The quality assurance requirements in the automotive industry are very high. In order to adhere to Verband der Automobilindustrie (VDA, The German Association of the Automotive Industry) standards, vendors must regularly inspect and evaluate their vendors at their various locations. In what are known as process audits, auditors enter individual external production locations to analyse business processes in the supply chain and manufacturing processes and to identify potential process vulnerabilities.
For Robert Bosch GmbH, a leading global automotive supplier and technology provider with vendors all over the world, these audits involve a huge amount of resources every year. The global concern – whose mainstay is automotive parts technology – uses more than 300 million parts daily, a process involving several thousand direct suppliers. 6,000 employees in Bosch’s central purchasing department oversee the group’s global adherence to quality regulations, and around 650 vendor audits are currently performed each year.
Until mid-2012, these audits were performed exclusively in a conventional, semi-digital fashion. Comprehensive, paper-format audit documents were compiled in preparation for the visit to the vendor’s premises. Next, the auditors used questionnaires to manually gather on-site data and to make notes on processes and conditions in the production halls. This data was then manually entered into Excel spreadsheets. After some (in several cases, complex) overnight calculations and interviews with the vendors in question, additional manual entries were made. This was the usual – but tremendously resource-intensive – process.
Increasing Efficiency Through Mobile Digital Data Entry
It was clear to the Bosch development team surrounding Mario Einsiedler (Head of Quality Assurance), Mehmet Kazanci (Purchasing), and Christian Kutsch (Corporate Sector Information Systems and Services) that the existing audit process required optimisation. Not only did the audits involve a great deal of work and expense, but the manual data transfer process also made them vulnerable to errors. The team therefore launched an innovation within the company. Auditors will now use a mobile software application to connect to Bosch’s backend systems. Mobile devices, like those which have become increasingly popular since the launch of the iPad in 2010, have become more useful in the business world, and would place no excessive demands on hardware procurement processes.
At the same time, from the very beginning, the particular features of the company's established business processes needed to be taken into account. The auditors had (among other things) to be able to access production areas swiftly, to quickly make notes, to attach drawings or photos for documentation purposes quickly and correctly, and then to rapidly export the results. As there was not always an Internet connection available in the application area, the solution also had to be available offline. Where content was concerned, the standardised process brooked no compromise, and the sensitive data collected also placed high security requirements on the development.
inovex GmbH deployed its mobile development experts to implement an app for Bosch which was tailored precisely to all these requirements and which completely fulfils all of them. The BCP Audit App is based on an in-depth analysis of the group’s existing processes and uses intuitive touchscreen tablets to significantly simplify data entry. It also has a handwriting recognition function for auditors’ notes. The auditing process is fully integrated into Bosch’s business systems, thus completing the digitisation of the entire process – from an individual auditor at any location in the world to the group’s own Robert Bosch Supply Relationship Management (RB-SRM) system.
This mobile application, which was based on iOS and HTML5 and which was implemented in 2012 by inovex engineers, is already in use in multiple regions. It improves the quality of the data by eliminating sources of error, while simultaneously allowing more audits to be performed in less time. As a result, the solution has been credited by Einsiedler, Bosch’s quality control expert, with a 15% increase in efficiency. The new app will, in future, be deployed worldwide for all Bosch’s vendor audits.
New Solution Successful Through Simple, Secure Operation
The most significant features of the Bosch App include:
- The straightforward, intuitive user interface (GUI),
- The intelligent integration of familiar elements from the legacy process,
- Integrated handwriting recognition for notes, as well as
- Separate encryption of the application with password protection.
The technical implementation of the solution was performed by inovex in close collaboration with the Bosch team. The app’s straightforward operation is important in that it plays a major role in employee acceptance of the new solution. In addition, no intensive training is required to implement the changes in the company. Despite the easy-to-use operation (which looks and feels like a native iOS app), striking visuals like categories and coloured highlights were deliberately used to remind users of the previous process. This recognition makes user orientation easier and increases acceptance. The smooth implementation of the requested handwriting recognition function is important because it (where required) automatically converts the auditors’ additional handwritten notes, precisely as they were taken down in the field, into digital text. This was the only way that the process could be fully and intelligently digitised.
Finally, mobile devices have particular requirements when it comes to data security, due to their increased risk of theft or loss. In addition to and independent of the devices’ security features, inovex implemented a separate encryption system for the Bosch app, one with its own password-protected access. Additional key features of the solution include the convenient integration of photos from the mobile devices’ own cameras. These are necessary to document complex concepts or as evidence of problems detected during an audit. They can also be directly linked to the procedure concerned. Moreover, there are various import (inspection documents, questionnaires) and export functions (reports via PDF, email). For the first time, too, the app allows auditors early insights into the results of an audit. The iPad interface (which was also implemented by inovex) integrates the application seamlessly into Bosch’s backend system (RB-SRM tool).
inovex Makes Mobile Megatrend Usable for Business
Companies today are often faced with a challenging dilemma. On the one hand, they need to be flexible towards their customers and partners when it comes to handling business-critical data, while, on the other, they must fulfil their company’s need for a standardised, integrated IT environment. Data should be available within the company with as few media gaps as possible and rapid access to it becomes a competitive advantage. The mobile megatrend which is on every consumer’s lips also presents businesses with considerable potential for savings when it comes to internal processes.
The use of laptops in such cases is not always viable or desirable – as the number of industry audits still carried out using clipboards clearly shows. Tablets and smartphones can bridge this gap. In addition to vendor and quality management, these mobile solutions could also be used in numerous other application areas, like field sales, maintenance or market research. The appropriate application for the mobile platform plays a key role in each case. inovex’s Mobile Development Team can implement tablet and smartphone applications as well as – as in the case of Bosch – develop applications using HTML5, native iOS technologies, and Android, an area in which inovex employees number among Germany’s leading experts. inovex therefore effectively covers the entire relevant mobile device market. As in this case, the development of hybrid apps, which combine the benefits of platform-independent development with the use of hardware-related functionality, will continue to play a significant role.
Only Clearly Understood Business Processes Can Be Successfully Digitised.
The tremendous potential inherent in digitising and mobilising business processes can only be leveraged if apps precisely model workflows. It is, therefore, crucial to the efficient digitisation of existing business processes that the underlying procedures are, firstly, correctly analysed and that the solution is then precisely tailored to fit them.
There is a real risk that an application will not match the intended process and is, therefore, either rejected or fails to provide any real-life added value – and it causes many IT projects to fail. Using the correct methodology enables such cases to be prevented. inovex experts discussed the Bosch auditors’ methods and requests in great detail before modelling them exactly. The agile methods used by inovex throughout the project enabled executable versions of the program to be directly aligned with user requirements and potential difficulties to be immediately resolved.
“The digitisation of a business process requires, first and foremost, that we have a precise understanding of this process within the client’s organisation. Only clearly understood business processes can be successfully digitised.”
– Dominik Helleberg, Head of Mobile Development at inovex GmbH
As in the case of Bosch, success speaks for itself. The group is already involved in identifying additional application fields within its diverse departments. It is also collaborating with the VDA to offer a separate commercial version of the solution, which garnered tremendous interest when it was presented at the VDA’s quality management symposium in April 2013.
inovex implemented a tailor-made mobile application for Robert Bosch GmbH’s vendor audit process. The app, which runs on the iOS platform, simplifies the existing, business-critical processes at Bosch and makes vendor auditing much faster and more error-free. The new solution facilitates efficiency improvements of up to 15%.
- Mobile auditing
- End-to-end digital process
- Improvements in efficiency of up to 15%
- Tablet solution with standard hardware
- Handwriting recognition
- Separate encryption and password protection
- HTML5 cross platform
- Development with Sencha Touch
- Hybrid application with Apache Cordova
- Cordova PlugIns via Objective C
- Integration of 3rd-party C libraries
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