The Infosys global supply chain management blog enables leaner supply chains through process and IT related interventions. Discuss the latest trends and solutions across the supply chain management landscape.

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July 26, 2013

Importance of Proactive Master Data Maintenance in SAP SCM Support

In my current project about a year ago, North America region Supply Chain Planners were having major concerns related with flawed planning resulting from incorrect or no Source of Supply (SoS) for receipt elements such as  Purchase requisitions &/or Planned orders. These regular concerns were impacting planner community's confidence & trust with an existing APO solution & team managing it. This project was in a steady state from almost 2-3 years having Level 2 (support group based onsite at client locations) & Level 3 (support group based in offshore locations) model.

Internal team discussion revealed that other regions' (LATAM, EAME & APAC) planner community were also having similar concerns. We conducted a thorough analysis of these concerns & compared results in different geographies. Analysis showed that around 70-80% of issues faced in support could be classified or could be attributed to incorrect Master Data Maintenance & triggered a thought process of "Importance of Proactive Master Data Maintenance". I think this is the most important, ironically, easily ignorant area in APO Support projects.

We came up with an action plan of having a MDM Quality Report based on Product-Locations master data, Transportation Lanes & Production Process Models (PPM) master data from APO Production environment. These 3 master data elements contributed to almost 50-60% of planning issues. Some simple queries were designed in APO, in line with this action plan, to monitor this data on monthly basis.

Dumps of Product-Locations & Transportation Lanes were taken and queries were designed to check some basic parameters. For instance, if Product-Location has procurement type In-House Production ("E") and if it is missing a corresponding PPDS PPM, then we flagged it as an error code. Missing PPM means no demand on raw materials resulting in less procurement leading to reduction in order fill rate. PPDS PPM gets generated from SAP ECC Production Version (combination of Bill of Materials & Routing) maintained in SAP ECC material master via Core Interface (CIF). These error codes were then shared with Asset Planners & were requested to give their inputs. Corrective actions in SAP ECC by Planners resulted in proactive resolution of concerns of Planned Orders missing SoS. This exercise was done before the monthly planning cycle start.

Over a period of time, similar queries were developed; for instance, report a code if there is No T-Lane to Externally Procured (Procurement Type - F) product location from a In-House Production Location (Procurement Type - E) in its supply chain. Supply Chain Planners were involved to correct this situation & issue of Purchase Requisitions missing Source of Supply got addressed.

This exercise yield positive results, in terms of planning community getting their confidence back in APO system & overall solution, over a period of time. Planning errors got reduced to 20-25% & planners & BPA (Business Process Analysts) from client side appreciated monthly MDM Quality reports. Of course this is & will be an ongoing activity as each month some new codes get added from planning perspective, either they are new products introduced or existing products getting extended to new planning locations. We were also able to identify any specific "Training Needs" for planning community in the long run. Final Objective of this exercise is "to get it right the first time" when planners maintain any planning critical master data.

Our support group now enjoys positive feedback from planning community and they appreciate the value added by this initiative. This emphasized that "Proactive Master Data Maintenance is very IMPORTANT & will help to get expected planning results, confidence in APO as planning solution & help build confidence in support team". 

It will be interesting to know views from other projects or consultants in this area & any special efforts/ideas they take/have to ensure that a planning function is not getting impacted due to incorrect master data.


July 11, 2013

BIRT Reporting Redefined!!

Reporting is an important aspect of any Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) package implementation and upgrade program and it contributes directly towards the success or failure of the program. The level of analysis performed on the reports demonstrates the maturity of the EAM program and the application within the organization. The pattern that I have observed over the years indicates that the reporting complexity increase as the EAM system becomes more and more matured. It starts with a simple list report and then progresses to more complex analytical reporting. Failure analysis, Cost and forecast computation etc. are few of the examples of such complex reporting. With reports being used by different roles within the organization ranging from a person in the field to directors and executives in the management and each one of them having distinct requirements, the available out of the box and ad-hoc reporting is sometimes incapable of scaling up to their needs.

Maximo, an EAM package revolutionized the reporting concept with the introduction of BIRT ((Business Intelligence and Reporting Tool), an open source reporting tool with came packaged within the Application from the onset of Version 7. BIRT is a well-integrated tool with the Maximo application. It provides flexibility and simplicity to the end users to generate ad-hoc reports while equipping the report developers with various options to design and develop multi genre reports

Herewith sharing some of the uncommon BIRT reporting options from my Maximo implementation experience which is worthwhile exploring

1. Stored procedure based report - In one of the implementations there was requirement to perform really complex calculations in the report. These repetitive and complex calculations affected the report performance but the stored procedure based report reduced the overall performance impact.

2. Secured web service based report - One of the requirements was to provide user with the live data from the external application by providing Maximo input information. Instead of integrating these two applications a middle way was found to provide users data by accessing the secured web services hosted by the external application using the BIRT report. Maximo information was passed as input and the users received instant access to the information that they were looking for without leaving the Maximo application. This helped to bring the single application feel.

3. Function based report - Similar to stored procedure based option where same complex calculation was required within the report multiple times the function based approach helped to improve the reporting performance and simplify the design for the developers

4. Dual database based reports - User requirement to query multiple databases for the aggregation of data was fulfilled using the option of querying two databases. This provided the view for two different data records in a single report instead of integrating or having a data warehouse solution.

5. Database insert/update report - One of the reporting requirements was to insert and /or update the database table based on the schedule. Here report was developed and scheduled to update the database and then email user with the updated information.

6. Report aggregation and printing - One of the reporting requirements was to aggregate six to seven reports into one and print them as package with a single click.

7. Reports as PDF's - Combined Maximo and BIRT features to launch the Maximo reports as direct PDF's with a single click of the button reducing the number of clicks for the end users before they verify and print the report.

July 1, 2013

Asset Management on Cloud

In last couple of years, within our Infosys Asset Management practice, there have been multiple discussions about feasibility of having asset management applications on Cloud. That made me getting into discussing with product managers of couple of Asset Management software providers, about the market trends, technical feasibility, clients' preferences etc. This note would summarize that discussion.

First, lets understand the basic benefits provided by a cloud application or why a company would choose to have its application to be made available on cloud. Cloud mainly offers two advantages (i) Cost Advantage, (ii) relief from managing upgrades, patches, hot fixes, hardware infrastructure etc.

Also, cloud does not mean hosting alone. There have been some cases, where a client buys licenses from product vendor and gives them to a third party hosting service provider for hosting. In these cases, clients are still burdened to worry about getting the patches, fix and upgrades etc, so this is not a cloud based application in pure sense - especially for enterprise applications. The only advantage these models provide is capital investment on infrastructure.

Further, for many enterprise applications, though clients want to use cloud based application but they still want to have data to be stored on-premise due to data security, local regulations etc. Hence the application can be made available on cloud, in virtual world, but data is to be within client' premises.

Having understood cloud and its advantage, now let's see what Asset Management packages need and their characteristics along with business need in cloud context. There are two main points to consider (i) Asset Management Users, (ii) Data Security.

Typical asset management users are field forces, planners and schedulers. These are the people whose exposure to software applications is limited as compared to Procurement, Finance, CRM users. They get limited time to work on software applications. Hence, they need easy to use and faster applications and cannot afford low performance solutions. Hence a cloud based software needs to be as fast as accessing the data over WAN and LAN.

For many of the asset intensive organizations, data security is very important. Utilities may not want to expose their asset network to outside world due to safety reasons, to avoid sabotage. Nuclear generation plants have heavily restricted data which in most cases cannot even leave plant boundaries. Oil & Gas companies also have high degree of data safety, especially around their oil & gas producing assets. So, they would prefer data to remain on-premise, however software could be on cloud.

Also many of the sizable utilities, petroleum companies have already invested heavily in IT infrastructure, which makes them think twice to opt for cloud based options.

But at the same time, there are many industries where asset data sensitivity is not that critical like Facility management, hospitals, educational institutes, manufacturing plants etc .  Many of the small & medium size companies are also looking for cheaper options where they don't want to invest into capital expenditure. Cloud base asset management software is a right choice for these organizations.

Another point to consider is that cloud based asset management software applications have not reached maturity level of cloud based ERP due to a smaller market size. Maturity level and market size of HR, CRM, Finance and Manufacturing processes is quiet high as compared to that of Asset management. Hence, there are not many asset management software providers offering cloud based offering. As the market grows and processes gain more maturity levels, there would be more providers.

So, small and medium businesses in growing economies would see more and more cloud based asset management software usage in coming days.


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