By Crispin Nicodemus
With the coming of IOT, the ability to track almost any part of your supply chain processes has meant that the potential that data and the information age offer, is perhaps most visibly seen in manufacturing operations. The old adage that ‘if you can measure it, you can manage it’ holds true and this provides a way for operations managers to reduce costs while increasing reliability and quality.
One of our customers has recently undertaken a project to take advantage of this. We can’t talk about who they are but, with their permission, we can talk about what we did.
The organisation has implemented an SAP module to track batch information from the raw material sources right thru to manufacturing, distribution and customer deliveries around the world. They wanted to further support this application by building an analytics platform to provide users with enhanced visualisation capability. When the project was being delivered, building such a complex data solution had not been done on the extension of SAP global traceability module before, and that’s not just in New Zealand, that’s globally.
There were a few challenges met along the way:
- Firstly, the customers wanted a real-time analytics solution as this will be used not only during usual day to day processes but during critical events where up to the minute information data is vital.
- Secondly, the out-of-the-box virtual data model did not meet many of the business requirements which are extensive and complex.
- Thirdly, the sheer volume of transaction data in the tens of millions posed challenges around run-time performance and system resource utilisation.
- Finally, there were also a number of technical and environmental constraints on the system landscape that the team had to deal with.
Why NOW Consulting?
NOW Consulting has a long-standing relationship with the customer, both as a data and analytics services provider and with their SAP platform, having previously helped their other departments using SAP HANA. The consultant NOW provided for the project has many years of SAP experience, something that was essential to the success of the project.
The applications selected for the analytics platform were SAP HANA for the data layer and Tableau for the presentation layer. Working as part of a wider team, a NOW consultant was engaged to build the data layer, bringing together a multitude of data sources into SAP HANA and preparing the data for visualisations in Tableau. The wider team was global, spread across many different locations and time-zones.
The project team chose to acquire data from their sources through replication using SAP’s System Landscape Transformation technology. The data models using HANA calculation views were developed in SAP HANA development tools for Eclipse. As none of the tables or views were persisted, the users can execute the in-memory model in real time.
The technical challenges were successfully overcome thru various initiatives including the use of advanced scripts, fine tuning of views for optimal performance and exchanging insights with SAP and other technical teams. As you find with any IT project, there were some business and environmental challenges encountered but the project team was agile enough to stay on top of things.
It took around eight months to build the data solution in several phases, which was then combined with the Tableau layer and rolled out to the end-users. The solution provides rich information about batch, product, locations and other master data. It shows manufacturing and distribution locations on the world map. It presents a graphical and detailed track forward view of a batch at varying consumption levels: manufacturing, shipment, delivery, stock on hand and in transit, returns, transfers, etc. The scope and depth of what was created means that the key users and analysts have much more ‘live’ information presented in an easy to use visualisation layer to track their products efficiently.
The project was on-time, on-budget and has met all the requirements the customer set. The results have been great and the users are getting tremendous value from it as an extension to the main batch tracking module.