ENERVIE group and Processand optimize the meter-to-cash process with Celonis Process Mining
ENERVIE Group is a leader in the field of digitalization. They have already proven this in the past with several pilot projects. The Process Mining implementation of the purchasing process in Celonis was one such project.. Together with the implementation partner Processand, great potential was identified and added value was generated. The foundation for a successful cooperation was established.
ENERVIE Group’s goal is the optimization of the M2C (meter-to- cash) process – the heart of the energy industry. The process is incredibly complex, due to many outside factors affecting its lifecycle. Implementation partner, Processand, provides support for value creation.
Ground-breaking Process Mining technology from Celonis
Cooperation between the key players
Established Competence Center
ENERVIE - Südwestfalen Energie und Wasser AG is the group of companies comprising Mark-E Aktiengesellschaft, Stadtwerke Lüdenscheid GmbH and ENERVIE Vernetzt GmbH in southern North Rhine-Westphalia. The ENERVIE Group supplies electricity, gas, heat and drinking water to around 400,000 customers and energy trading partners. This makes ENERVIE one of the largest independent energy service providers with its own generation in North Rhine-Westphalia, as well it stands for efficient energy solutions nationwide.
After a successful initial implementation partnership between Processand and ENERVIE, the focus on the second step was the heart of the energy industry - the meter-to- cash (M2C) process, which covers the reading of the energy meter through billing through to the receipt of payment. Efficient and error-free processing is essential for energy service providers, such as the companies in the ENERVIE Group. At the same time, this process in particular is highly complex as many internal and external stakeholders are involved. ENERVIE Vernetzt is the distribution network operator (DSO) that provides the network. The electricity providers Mark-E and Stadtwerke Lüdenscheid are in turn responsible for supplying the customers. The metering point operator (MSB), which is also located at ENERVIE Vernetzt, takes care of the installation, operation, reading and maintenance of the meters as well as the actual measuring.
The process is heavily regulated by the EU and the German Federal Network Agency, which standardize communication between the various market participants and service providers. This seems like an opportunity, because it would be easy to automate the processes, however, the regulations change regularly and, therefore, present companies like ENERVIE with major challenges. Data migrations, system changes, and ever new adaptations create inconsistencies in the many systems, which have a negative impact on the lack of transparency.
The target process is quite simple. An asset must first be read, then invoiced, and finally booked correctly. "Things can go wrong at three different stages: meter reading, invoicing, and posting," explains Steffen Pohl, Data Scientist at Processand. "We wanted to start there and find out where things might be going wrong." A typical scenario: The meters of a plant are read correctly, but no valid billing can be generated. Through the Process Mining analysis, several causes for this deviation were identified. For ENERVIE Vernetzt, this means a high financial loss, which triggers a long chain of faulty processes. If a meter cannot be billed in one year, this will continue in the following years.
"We knew something was wrong, but we couldn't tell what it was. We couldn't name or quantify the problems." This is how ENERVIE digitization expert Jannis Nacke describes the initial situation. In terms of individual cases, the problems were manageable. However, a manual evaluation failed due to the large amount of data - for the past one and a half years alone, more than one million meter reading documents had to be analyzed.
Interview with digitization experts Jannis Nacke and Max Aberman, Competence Center Digitization of the ENERVIE Group
How did the competence center for digitalization come about for the group of companies?
Nacke: The ENERVIE Group has been pushing the issue of digitalization from an early stage. As early as 2018, the Digitalization Competence Center was created to oversee smaller projects in the area of document management and robotic process automation. Soon after, the pilot project with Celonis Process Mining in purchasing started in 2020 - at that time still from the technical department. The potential of this unique technology was quickly recognized and extended to other areas of the company. Today, the topic of Celonis Process Mining is managed centrally by the Competence Center because we perceive it as an enormous leverage in our digitalization strategy.
What is the task of the competence center in Process Mining projects?
Aberman: We are the link between the specialist departments or subsidiaries and the Processand data scientists. For both sides, we are the first point of contact for this project, coordinate the stakeholders, organize workshops, and conduct training. We make small adjustments to the tool ourselves and communicate the larger issues to Processand. Together with the departments, we look at the analyses and derive measures from them.
Nacke: We also do a lot of educational work and take away the teams' fear of the powerful tool - Celonis Process Mining. We act like consultants since we don't even know the process ourselves at the beginning. It is also important to us that our colleagues do not perceive us as a revision or a control body. We first want to identify the problems, communicate them, and work towards solutions together as a team.
What are the next steps in Process Mining at the ENERVIE Group?
Aberman: Our vision at the Center of Excellence for Digitization is: "Away from reacting. Toward acting. Create space for value creation." Processand has provided important momentum in the Value Creation phase - now it's our turn to drive this forward. In the spirit of "Continuous Improvement", we regularly hold workshops with our colleagues at VNB and MSB. Our goal is to continuously improve the processes.
Nacke: We want to get the departments and individual teams to the point where they can work independently with the tool. At the moment, we provide support in creating dashboards and analyses, but we want to empower our colleagues to do this themselves in the future. We want to ensure that digital technologies don't just take place in project teams, but that their full potential is also realized in everyday business.
Aberman: However, Celonis Process Mining is only one part of our work. We try to create synergies across departmental boundaries and learn from successful projects. In doing so, we proactively look for potential and evaluate new digital technologies that could create added value for the ENERVIE Group.
What makes ENERVIE and its subsidiaries a digital pioneer?
Nacke: The competence center is a key driver of digital transformation. I am of the opinion that it is not possible without such a unit. In many other companies, this is often done on the side, but the topic of digitalization is simply too big to drive it forward alongside day-to-day business.
Aberman: We have already come a long way in comparison with the rest of the industry and would like to push this even further. Even though the energy sector is not under quite as much pressure compared to other industries, we want to develop a competitive advantage as pioneers. It's great fun to be involved in this and to take the right steps.
The goal was therefore to identify the structural problems, cluster errors, and find ways to fix them in an automated and collected way. The project started in March 2021 with a scoping workshop led by Processand. During this process, the Processand team led by Steffen Pohl and Daniel Bucher worked closely with Jannis Nacke, Max Aberman and Luzian Wieczorek - the team from the Digitalization Competence Center at the ENERVIE Group. The first step was to understand the actual process. Processand dove deep into the process, talked to VNB, MSB, and the Competence Center and penetrated the pain points.
The necessary transparency was created with Celonis Process Mining. This analytical technology brings together all digital process traces and visualizes actual processes. Companies receive objective data- driven transparency about their processes. All relevant data are already available as so-called event logs in the information systems - they only have to be used. "There was no 'single source of truth' before - and we have now created one with Celonis Process Mining," reports Pohl. Whereas previously numerous steps in SAP as well as specific know-how were necessary to obtain certain information, today it is easily accessible.
"With the help of Processand, we were able to map many use cases into Celonis," says Max Aberman. "Within a very short time, we were able to see exactly what was previously a complete black box." The transparency already led to initial results: for example, the team was able to detect deviations from the target process and identify possible reasons for them.
Transparency alone does not create added value. The biggest milestone followed in August 2021 with a Value Creation Workshop. "In this phase, we focus on specific use cases, analyze the data, share our experiences and identify process deviations and inefficiencies together with the customer," explains Lead Consultant Daniel Bucher from Processand. At this point, process errors are quantified for the first time and the financial impact for the company is determined.
Together with the team from the Digitization Competence Center and the experts from the relevant departments, the Processand team analyzed frequent sources of errors and recurring patterns - for example, due to missing measured values or problems with delivery bills. "Processand came up with some exciting use cases and provided vital input," reports Jannis Nacke. "Then it was up to us to turn the right screws and optimize the processes."
Based on the evaluated data and error clusters, quick successes were achieved with mass corrections. Problems with delivery bills were solved, faulty meters identified and replaced. The result is impressive. "We have already been able to minimize missing billings by about a third," says Aberman.
And that is just the beginning. The project team would like to continue to eliminate the remaining issues in order to be able to make a clean start into the next few years. In another area, work is already underway to automate process steps. Celonis Process Mining will thus also be used for communication with the MSB in the future. The currently manual and small-scale weekly planning of tours and the determination of the already read plants by the service provider will be successively optimized.
Today, both the preparation and evaluation of meter reading tours are automated. Because reports are mapped in Celonis on a daily basis, errors can be identified more quickly and accurately, and the causes can be determined. Previously, individual cases were the focus of attention - now patterns are recognized and structural sources of error are eliminated. In the next step, the planning of tours will also be based on Process Mining-generated logic - and this logic will then automatically decide when the service provider needs to go to a particular plant. In the second instance, the ENERVIE Group can then track whether the service provider has adhered to the specifications.
For ENERVIE, this is a big step in its digitalization strategy. "We have long since moved on from the classic representation of processes to a clean data basis and can draw a completely new benefit from SAP," says Nacke. "Process mining merges with business intelligence here." At the same time, further analyses are necessary in many places.
"A process mining project is not completed after a few months," Pohl knows from experience. "Together with ENERVIE's competence center, we are continuously working on further development and optimization." Even though the value creation phase is already in full swing, Processand, together with the competence center and the specialist departments, continues to attach new, more focused use cases. Most of them can be traced back to the basic problem of missing settlements - and step by step they result in a transparent overall picture of the complex M2C process.
The fact that the ENERVIE Group was able to analyze, optimize and partially automate this process so successfully is not only due to the groundbreaking Process Mining technology from Celonis, but above all, to the good cooperation between the key players. Carsten Halbe, head of the network management department at ENERVIE, also draws a positive conclusion: "We have created the right combination of experts at Processand, very experienced colleagues from the specialist departments, and the competence center, which coordinates and communicates the interfaces. In the end, the system only works well if everyone involved also trusts the results of the analysis."
The successful projects in purchasing and in the M2C process are now seen as a model for further digitalization projects within the ENERVIE Group. Since August 2021, core processes in the associated sales department at the energy provider Mark-E have been put under the microscope. In the future, reporting and sales accounting will be mapped and optimized in Celonis. Here, too, Processand supports the implementation and subsequent process optimization as a strong partner. In addition, the competence center has been created as an internal, independent body that supports the departments and drives forward the digital transformation. "It's quite unique for a medium-sized energy company to have such a unit that drives digital transformation," Steffen Pohl agrees. "You can see what successes can be achieved when digitalization is really taken seriously." Lighthouse projects like these make the ENERVIE Group a pioneer in digitalization, even beyond the energy industry.
The Munich-based consulting firm with branches in USA (Austin), Czech Republic (Prague), and Taiwan (Taipei), specializes in Process Mining, Business Intelligence and Advanced Analytics. Today, Processand is one of the leading Process Mining consultancies worldwide and supports companies in their long-term Process Mining initiatives. In each case, the focus is on operationalizing data-driven insights and creating a factual basis for strategic decisions.
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