Tokai COBEX is a global company that manufactures cathodes used in the production of primary aluminium. It also fabricates carbon electrodes used in smelting applications and furnace linings that enable the production of pig iron blast furnaces.
The company is headquartered in Wiesbaden, Germany and has two production plants in southern Poland. It employs around 700 people.
Fund managed by Triton acquired CFL CE GmbH as a carve out from SGL Carbon SE in 2017. In 2018 the acquired business was rebranded as COBEX and in 2019 it was sold to Tokai, a Japanese manufacturer of carbon and graphite products, becoming Tokai COBEX.
When funds managed by Triton acquired COBEX its IT capability was integrated with its former parent company, SGL Carbon SE. As part of the carve out agreement there was a Transitional Service Agreement (TSA) for SGL Carbon SE to continue to support COBEX’s IT systems until 31 March 2020.
To help COBEX carve out its own IT capability the company engaged Intuitus to provide it with an interim CIO.
Intuitus had provided funds managed by Triton with technology due diligence on their acquisition of COBEX.
“It was a really good situation and very convenient for us because, by the time we met with Intuitus, they already had quite good knowledge about our IT structure and IT systems as they’d been involved in the transaction with Triton,” says Andrzej Hotlos, Managing Director at Tokai COBEX, “This meant, of course, that Intuitus were also fully aware of what had been requested by SGL and the timeframe, this was a big advantage for us. From the first meeting there was a really good understanding of our business.”
How Intuitus helped
“We had been part of SGL for 20 years and during that time we relied heavily on its IT capability. SGL had a big IT centre with dozens of people, we only had a few local IT guys. As we didn’t have the experience to manage the carve out ourselves, the support from Intuitus was very, very important.” continues Andrzej.
“Throughout the project Intuitus provided us with regular status reports detailing what had been done, what was scheduled to be done in the next period, any issues that had come up. Everything was addressed very clearly in line with defined milestones.”
“The team was always very responsive and we had great communication and support from them. In particular, the consultant spent almost two years in Poland. He built a great team in COBEX, generating a lot of trust and respect. Intuitus offered us both unparalleled IT experience and excellent leadership.”
The team was always very responsive and we had great communication and support from them ... Intuitus offered us both unparalleled IT experience and excellent leadership.
Finalising the TSA
“From the very beginning, Intuitus actively participated in the discussions and negotiations with SGL. The first step was to finalise the TSA. In COBEX we didn’t have anybody who was experienced in this area, so having the Intuitus team, who were able to talk peer-to-peer with SGL’s Head of IT and represent COBEX’s interests in these discussions, was fantastic. The Intuitus team took care to ensure that we got everything that was included in the original agreement and didn’t have to pay extra.”
“The Intuitus team also helped us create the IT strategy. They planned how we would replace the ERP system but also how to organise the IT service and infrastructure. The team prepared the respective budget, timeframes and necessary resources. It was a very complex project that required a lot of resources, experienced people and time.”
“Intuitus provided very good advice and great support when we were selecting the ERP system. The advice was built on years of experience in many different companies. Intuitus was also able to advise on the selection of a system integrator and service provider. The Intuitus team took the time to check the market carefully, check the offers, talk to people and carefully select the providers.”
Intuitus provided very good advice and great support when we were selecting the ERP system. The advice was built on years of experience in many different companies.
“As well as the Intuitus team we also dedicated four, later five, FTEs to the project. We knew how important and complex the project was and so it was important to have the resource in place to deliver,” says Andrzej, “We also earmarked one of that team to pick up the IT Director role when Intuitus completed the project. This meant the Intuitus consultant was able to coach and mentor this guy to ensure there was a smooth transition.”
Results and Future Plans
“Personally, for me, it was the biggest and most complex IT project I was a part of in my professional life,” concludes Andrzej, “The project was completed on time and on budget. We were very happy and so was our shareholder, Tokai. When Tokai acquired us they didn’t change anything within the IT strategy. They were happy with what Intuitus had designed.”
“It was a fantastic feeling, on 1 April 2020, to celebrate our ‘independence day’ after we cut the final link with SGL. We are now standalone in all areas.”