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Interview

Prof. Alfred Katzenbach,
Director of IT Management at Mercedes-Benz Cars Research and Development
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Quotation

“Smaragd is our central engineering platform. It stores and manages all design data and ensures high availabilty, around the world.“
Prof. Alfred Katzenbach,
Director of IT Management at MBC Research and Development

Facts

Smaragd
At a glance
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Smooth, efficient communications

Smaragd, a state-of-the-art platform, is the backbone of automotive player Daimler’s collaborative engineering. Its support center, operated by T-Systems, is located in Brazil – and provides around-the-clock advice and assistance.
While Paulo Righeto is saying “Boa noite, adeus” into his headset, his colleague Nilce Nakamura is greeting a caller with “Ohayô gozaimasu” – Japanese for good morning. The two IT experts are employed at the T-Systems Smaragd support center at automotive giant Daimler’s site in São Paulo. The ability to deliver advice and assistance in multiple languages for members of global collaborative-engineering teams is a unique selling point. And something T-Systems has been providing around the clock since January this year.
Some 17,000 kilometers north west of São Paulo – in Shin-Kawasaki near Tokyo – Nakamura’s caller has begun work on an advanced design for a chassis. A total of 8,000 engineers, at 40 sites around the world, are tasked with enhancing existing models and developing new vehicles.
ICT as an enabler
“Collaboration always involves complex, dynamic processes, and ICT provides the support we need to get the most out of these processes – 24 hours a day,” explains Professor Alfred Katzenbach, Director of Information Technology Management at Mercedes-Benz Cars Research and Development in Stuttgart (see interview on page 29). To support global collaboration between team members dispersed across Europe, Asia and the Americas, Daimler leverages a state-of-the-art product-management system called Smaragd. This enables the automotive player to streamline workflow throughout product development.
“8,000 engineers located between the Far East and America use a standardized platform that provides access to up-to-theminute data as and when they need it,” explains Markus Hörlein, Global Service Manager at T-Systems who is responsible for global Smaragd operations (GSO) “All stakeholders need to be able to communicate. And all processes, whether they were initiated in Asia, Europe or America, need to integrate smoothly with each other.” To this end, the GSO team ensures ongoing availability of central servers and local systems, as well as all geometric data. As a result, the Mercedes development teams from Mercedes Benz Cars (MBC) and Daimler Trucks (DT) can exchange information quickly and efficiently. Smaragd means emerald in German. And by coincidence, São Paulo’s neighboring town of Minas Gerais is a rich source of the green gemstones. But for Daimler Smaragd has little to do with precious stones: it is a cutting-edge system for managing geometric data.
The support center, manned by international T-Systems’ experts, is located on the Daimler plant in São Paulo. It ensures the smooth operation of Smaragd, a key element of Daimler’s vehicle development. “We pay particularly close attention to anything that could disrupt the flow of data between the development, testing and production teams,” explains Ralf Peter Walter who works on the global Daimler account. This includes the system for bills of materials used to enable the manufacture of vehicle variants. T-Systems ensures Smaragd is employed for hundreds of projects, and manages data for hundreds of thousand of components, tools and sophisticated 3D models. Design data for the project has reached a volume of more than 30 terrabytes. As Walter explains, “Smaragd is a global product-data-management system with 100 servers and four integrated databases. It offers optimum security and maximum availability.”
Multilingual support
T-Systems Brazil delivers telephone support for Smaragd in Portuguese, German, English and Japanese – just as Daimler specified. Nilce Nakamura, Paulo Righeto and their colleagues can answer all questions from Daimler development and production sites in the caller’s native language.
Another important location for Smaragd is the Slovakian city of Kosice. From here, T-Systems operates the platform’s servers and databases, the lifeblood of Smaragd. Walter compares this to “the engine of an oil tanker – you never see it, but without it, the vessel simply would not move.”
The team in São Paulo, headed up by Celso Nogueira, can process a large number of trouble tickets each month and, as Nogueira explains, “offer an end-to-end service.” In other words, the GSO team is responsible for the performance and availability of Smaragd and provides a central point of contact to desktop and network operators and software developers.
T-Systems Sales Manager Joachim Schmidt points out another advantage of Smaragd: “The key criterion for measuring our quality of service is the perceived availability of the system at the 8,000 workstations around the world, not just the actual metrics for individual servers.”
Earlier this year, T-Systems implemented a new monitoring system for the timely identification of problems. This includes defined thresholds and alerts that allow support professionals to drill down to details of the critical status of a process – anywhere in the world. What’s more, automatic alerts are sent to the Smaragd service center via email and all key parameters are monitored carefully – for example compliance with service level agreements. The introduction of this system has made Smaragd even better. As Markus Hörlein explains: “The GSO team now has complete visibility into all Smaragd operations. This is particularly important when it comes to identifying and resolving problems, and ensuring they can be eliminated in the future.”
Total transparency
Problem reports are displayed in a standard format and made available to Daimler staff via a Web portal, governed by access rights. In addition, they receive comprehensive documentation for the affected infrastructure and pro cesses, including the corresponding document management. Walter: “As a result, Daimler not only has total visibility into the global operation of Smaragd, but also into all planning (prototyping) stages, the production of new vehicles, as well as into all other processes that GSO manages.”