In today’s competitive, globalized environment, it has become crucial for organizations to have a global transportation management solution (TMS) to manage their multinational businesses. However, selecting and implementing a global TMS system is easier said than done. The solution and its design not only need to support current as-is processes but also be adaptive enough for future improvement opportunities.
For any TMS solution to be adopted in the market it is critical that it is robust enough to provide a wide range of functionality out of the box. It should be flexible to run a variety of end-to-end transportation scenarios within the same instance. Another critical feature of a TMS system, both from an IT and business perspective is its integration capabilities. From an IT standpoint, it needs to fit seamlessly into an organization’s existing IT setup. It needs to be able to communicate with different technologies with ease. From a business standpoint, it needs to provide a platform for easy collaboration with external business partners, ensuring the smooth execution of the business.
A large number of shippers and logistics service providers already use an array of SAP solutions to run all or part of their businesses, the main component being SAP ECC. SAP TM integrates seamlessly with SAP ECC, SAP EWM, SAP BW, and SAP GTS.
For this blog, we will concentrate only on integrating SAP ECC and alternatively S/4Hana with SAP TM.
In standard, integration of transactional data such as sales orders, purchase orders, STO, and inbound and outbound deliveries between the SAP ECC and SAP TM is achieved using the SAP Process Integration (PI) system or SAP’s reliable messaging approach, which allows the system to system communication without additional communication infrastructure for specific use cases. Standard web service to-web service communication is available through the SAP PI system that may be deployed depending on the required business scenarios.
The SAP PI middleware plays an important role in integrating multiple SAP ECC instances with one centralized SAP TM instance vs. multiple local SAP TM instances or logical systems. It adds the flexibility of accurate routing of the transaction data between source and target systems and also provides the functionality for value mapping, without losing the opportunity to consolidate and process requirements originating from different sources.
For large multinational corporations, it is fairly common for each division or business unit to have a separate instance for the SAP ECC system. Even with a setup like this, it is possible to use one global instance for SAP TM.
All these multiple SAP ECC systems can be connected to the same SAP TM platform in multiple ways:
Using the same SAP PI system: In this case, SAP PI would play a critical role in routing the transactional data to the correct source ECC system.
Using Multiple SAP PI systems: If each of the ECC systems has a separate SAP PI system as well, we could potentially link these SAP PI systems to the SAP TM instance. However, this would have a piece of routing to be done within the SAP TM box to ensure the transactional data flows to the correct ECC instance.
Using SAP TM as a middleware: In instances where the SAP ECC is not on the right enhancement pack level or release, integration between SAP TM and SAP ECC can also be established using RFC connections or Idocs for example. However, this only is advised in full awareness of the resulting process dependencies. These integrations would have to be integrated into SAP PI from scratch and it would definitely limit the functionalities that can be used on the originating SAP ECC or dependent on Release level SAP R/3 Enterprise or R/3 4.6c for example.
Integrating with Non-SAP legacy systems
For shippers and logistics service providers that do not run on SAP or at least are confronted with a legacy OLTP or CRM system that will generate transportation requirements, the integration options to SAP TM would be the same as with integrating a standard on the SAP TM side.
The key advantage of this method of deployment is that most of the custom development activities would be restricted to the source system and can be done specifically to the source system, keeping the integration from the SAP TM standpoint fairly standard.
Implementing SAP TM as a standalone system: One of the key benefits of the SAP TM solutions is that it can be deployed without integrating with any other legacy system. All business functions that are relevant to transportation can be handled within the SAP TM instance. Order management, transportation planning, carrier selection, and rating, and financial settlement can all be handled within the TM Box. Order-related information can be fetched into the SAP TM system using EDI or RFC call that would in turn create the transportation requirements in the SAP TM system. Similarly, the freight settlement and financial information can be sent to any system outside the TM instance using EDI / RFCs or even standard web services.
Master data is the backbone for any system to be able to function efficiently. When dealing with multiple source systems for the master data, it is important to analyze each source system for the status quo and avoid overlaps in master data elements and specific naming conventions that need to be addressed.
SAP Transportation Management provides an out-of-the-box infrastructure for master data management and integration to SAP ECC named Supply Chain Management Basis, and synchronization even for organizational information. There is also a strong framework provided by SAP to establish, advance, adjust and alter incoming master data to any of the SAP Business Suite’s Supply Chain Solutions.
Most master data objects in the SAP Transportation Management system have fields that can but used to identify which source system the object was received from. For example, on the business partner entities in SAP TM, the responsible institution field tell you which source system the Business Partner was created from and under which role. The Identification tab on the business partner can also be used to re-use the same business partner master data in TM but map it to different master data sources, after being received from the legacy system or certainly SAP ECC.
On the same lines, other master data objects such as the organizations' structure, materials, and locations have unique fields to help differentiate them.
For any organization looking at transforming their supply chain process and IT infrastructure, striving for higher efficiency, transportation and logistics can be key a component of focus. SAP Transportation Management solution provides organizations with just the right tool to work with on a global scale, providing the flexibility to integrate all systems. We at ArchLynk have been successful at extracting maximum value from SAP Transportation Management for all of our clients.
ArchLynk’s best-in-class Benefit-Driven Implementation approach is based on the assumption that vision, infrastructure dependencies, process, and scenario design are what define the structure of any Supply Chain IT Innovation investment. Our consulting team brings the experience and knowledge in the solution to you in order to define what a first step, proof of concept, project, or even a roadmap for you could look like.