Configuring SAP R/3 and an Assessment Term Paper

Pages: 7 (2159 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 10  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Business - Management

Configuring SAP R/3 and an assessment of the Production Planning Module

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems act as the center of data and information synchronization throughout an enterprise, requiring extensive integration to both legacy and third-party applications, databases and programs to support the many processes necessary to efficiently and profitability manufacture products and deliver services. Originally created to support the many processes within accounting, finance, logistics, manufacturing, supply chain management, service and other functional areas from a single database, ERP systems today include support for many customer-facing processes including Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and more intensive support for supply chain management (SCM), and the coordination of production planning as well. The first ERP systems concentrated on the order management process, with SAP AG of Walldorf, Germany emerging as a global market leader over the last fifteen years. The intent of this paper is to evaluate the configuration process for the SAP R/3 ERP system, illustrating the insights and knowledge gained through the process. In addition, SAP R/3s' Production Planning Module is also analyzed and discussed at the workflow level.

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TOPIC: Term Paper on Configuring SAP R/3 and an Assessment of Assignment

Any ERP system installation must first be driven by very clear and well defined series of strategy-driven objectives if the system is going to be actively used. One of the most valuable lessons learned was that the simplest of accounting processes within Accounts Payable and Accounts Receivable, in addition to the most basic transactions that the order management module of R/3 needed to be thoroughly mapped and understood first. The initial series of modules also installed with the SAP R/3 instance needed to have initial processes defined beforehand to be correctly installed. In addition, later in the installation process, the definition of each screens' fields and the sequencing of screens overall required that each process be well defined, clearly, and in simple steps relating the information needed from the SAP R/3 instance to each screen. A disadvantage of the R/3 interface is the lack of flexibility at the graphical interface layer and must be compensated with using Business Process Management (BPM) and Business Process Reengineering (BPR) techniques to make each process being automated with R/3 as streamlined and simplified as possible before the ERP system is installed. It became clear that without BPM and BPR being applied to even the most fundamental of processes, the installation process for both R/3 and the Modules including Order Management and Production Planning would be iterative and time-consuming.

An integral part of the SAP R/3 installation process is defining integration parameters and options that enable connections to third party databases including IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, Sybase and others. SAP R/3's baseline functionality for database integration is a disadvantage to using this specific ERP system, as the install process itself does not allow for other software providers' specific versions of databases. Instead, during the installation completed to integrate SAP R/3 with an Oracle 9i database also running on the Sun server, adapters from Oracle were needed and advanced ODBC module from Sun were also required. Even with these adapters from both Sun and oracle, the Order Management Module did not populate Bills of Materials based on Parts Masters from Oracle. After many hours of testing and work with the adapter and SAP R/3-4.6.1 upgrades for ODBC integration did the integration work correctly. The key take-away from this is SAP R/3, while the hub of manufacturing and production scheduling, transaction, order management, supply chain and pricing functions does not integrate easily with third party databases. Just as with the initial installation of R/3, mapping of business processes specifically for this step proved to be critical as well. Process integration points between Oracle database fields that needed to be mapped to R/3 Order Management Module fields to make the graphical interfaces work. The lack of integration between SAP and Oracle made the technical strategy, defined to support business processes, all the more critical. The "as is" technical strategy of the ERP systems and the "to be" strategy after the SAP R/3 system was installed made it possible to have work-arounds to the lack of Oracle integration in the R/3 system for the Oracle 9i database running on a Sun server. In the later phases of solving the integration challenge with the Oracle database it was discovered that the SAP Application Server being used was running pure ABAP as a foundation vs. The newer, more advanced hybrid ABAP/Java Application Server that incorporates support for Sun-based servers at the UNIX level. Once the hybrid ABAP/Java server was installed, the adapters and connectors for the Oracle 9i integration worked as needed.

Finally at the application layer, the advantages of the R/3 system are that the graphical interface and logic of the baseline and modules are well integrated to each other to the ABAP command level. This made creating screens based on the Order Management Module straightforward and easily tested. Yet the mapping to Oracle fields through the SAP Application Server didn't work to begin with, only after ABAP-specific mappings back to the specific record types and fields did the integration again work for the graphical interfaces as well. It is clearly a major challenge to integrate data elements from 3rd party databases and applications to the SAP R/3 interface structure.

In summary, the advantages of completing an SAP R/3 configuration, from the one completed with the Order Management Module, show that SAP's decision to move to the hybrid Application Server architecture combining ABAP and Java was a wise one, especially fro integration into Sun server-based environments using Oracle 9i databases. Another advantage of the SAP R/3 configuration process is that it forces the teams involved to be process-centric and focused first on business process clarification first, then redefinition. Without process maps supported by an "as is" versus "to be" technical strategy the configuration would have taken days or weeks longer. The disadvantages of the SAP R/3 configuration process and a challenge of the entire configuration is that ABAP-based fields, those based on the proprietary programming language of SAP, do not map well to oracle data fields without the use of adapters and connectors that require extensive trial-and-error to make work correctly. SAP's reputation for proprietary data structures based on ABAP proved to be correct and painful to overcome in a mixed environment of Sun systems and Oracle databases. The R/3 application interface itself is difficult to work with even with ABAP fields being designed into them, and requires extensive time and effort to customize with fields emanating from 3rd party databases and applications such as Oracle. The challenges of working with SAP R/3 also reflect the need for ensuring business processes are supported by technical strategies before the actual installation process begins. This experience of completing the installation is consistent with the work completed by O'Leary, D.E., 2000 (pp. 235-237) and Purnendu Mandal, a Gunasekaran, 2002 (pp. 47-55).

Figure 1 shows the configuration process.

Figure 1: SAP R/3 Configuration Process

The many challenges of integration as defined in this paper are further supported by the extensive research of Fang Zhao, 2004 (pp. 679, 680) specifically on the areas of Siemens Australia and their project planning efforts to plan for systems integration across their organization. Further the work of Thang N. Nguyen, 2005 (pp. 135-140) also specifically illustrate the challenges of integration across ERP platforms. Pernille Kraemmergaard, Jeremy Rose, 2002 (pp. 199-200) also illustrate the requires of managers to plan for and create more effective technical and process strategies in conjunction with the actual SAP R/3 integration strategy.

Production Planning Module

The order management process in many organizations is the most daunting and challenging from both a process and system integration perspective. When the order management process itself is integrated with the sales and operations planning function and coordinated with production planning, the need for a high level of systems integration becomes clear. The entire production planning process in many organizations is similar to what is shown in Figure 2, which is derived from the research of Purnendu Mandal, a Gunasekaran, 2002 (pp. 47-55), Mahesh Gupta, Amarpreet Kohli, 2006 (pp. 687-672), and Mike Kennerley, Andy Neely, 2001 (pp. 103-105) in addition to in-class discussion and analysis.

Figure 2:

The scope of the Production Planning Process in manufacturing organizations

The need for multiple levels of integration is apparent in the diagram show in Figure 5. At a minimum, five critical system components need to be integrated with, and this can take the form of anything from scripted FTP sites to the use of adapters and connectors that provide for real-time integration across the entire SAP R/3 instance. Fang Zhao, 2004 (pp. 675-968) discusses how at a minimum there needs to be five system integration points to support the various stages of the planning system including Sales and Operations Planning (S&OP), long-term material and costs planning, Demand Management, and Materials Requirement Planning (MRP). Marit Schallert, 2003 (pp. 325-337) in his research shows how hand-built adapters and connectors did not scale for all the necessary transactions and their… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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