SAP S/4HANA is an ERP suite and is used to manage financials and reporting processes. These processes basically revolve around activities of accounting, sales forecasting, manufacturing planning and execution, as well as support and shipping logistics. The ERP suite also assists organizations in planning orders and tracking profitability by providing manufacturers with a real-time visualization of their financial status. With an ERP system in place, companies can track orders from receipt to production and delivery in order to gain a better understanding of inventory levels, delivery lead times and production bottlenecks.
But that’s not all. Food and beverage manufacturers are also increasingly hard pressed to meet greater production and pricing demands from customers, face competition from the constant flow of new entrants into the marketplace, as well as face challenges in managing increasingly complex global supply chains and product structures. Their PLM platform should help processors meet ever-changing regulation and safety requirements on ingredients, processes, packaging and more.
In the race to gain market share and not to lag behind competitors, increase their share of shelf space, move into emerging markets, and meet changing consumer preferences, the food and beverage industry are required to continuously increase their product variations, making product development more complex. Managing products to meet rapidly changing regulatory demands is also adding to the complexity, and in addition to the evolving regulatory environment, this all means assuming more risk. A new regulatory requirement often demands rapid, company-wide action. Coordination across disparate groups, both inside and outside the company, however, can be costly, difficult and time consuming.
The system must be flexible in order to buttress the wide gamut of iterative innovation. To stay competitive, food and beverage manufacturers must have the capacity to deal with the convergence of new item designs at the tempo of changing customer demands and requirements , and align those concepts with a range of exclusive product offerings that are beneficial and profitable for the firm. And on top of this, there is a constant evolving collaboration between the innovation team (mainly the brand and product) and the technical (production) team, which needs to be envisioned and designed to ensure that the idea is feasible and the product can be delivered right on time. But such an evolving and iterative collaboration is not adequately supported by the ERP systems. Smarter brand planning and consistency, better brand innovation and execution, consistent brand compliance and sustainability are a few other factors which also make PLM imperative.
All of these challenges drive the need for a unified data set that all stakeholders can access. And this demands the integration of ERP with PLM.
SAP S/4HANA Integration Options
SAP supports SAP S/4 HANA deployment in two ways
|SAP S/4HANA integration options|
|SAP HANA Cloud Integration||X||X|
|SAP Process Orchestration||X|
The following table illustrates the main differences between SAP Process Orchestration (PO) and SAP HANA Cloud Integration.
|SAP Process Orchestration (PO)||SAP HANA Cloud Integration|
|On-premise installation in customer landscape||Cloud-based integration platform|
|Costs associated with hardware, installation, patches, and product licenses||Engineered for cloud: multi-tenancy, rolling software updates, horizontal scalability. Subscription-based usage|
|Used for on premise or hybrid integration scenarios||Flexible integration options: hybrid or cloud-to cloud scenarios|
|SAP Process Integration (including B2B add-on and Connectivity add-on)|
SAP Business Process Management
SAP Business Rules Management
|Web user interface for configuration, deployment, and monitoring data integration and simple BPMN-based modelling of process integration flows|
|Pre-packaged contents for on premise||Pre-packaged integration content with mappings, API and adapter configuration, and connectivity|
|Operations by customer||Operations by SAP cloud managed services API management capabilities within SAP HANA Cloud Integration; focus on security, including data isolation|
For integrating third party applications or PLM with an existing on-premise edition of S/4HANA, we have good number of standard options available. You can integrate using one or combination of the below methods:
- Web Services (Services Oriented Architecture)
- HCP (HANA Cloud Platform) integration
- SAP Process Orchestration
SAP HANA Cloud Integration is SAP’s adaptation to cloud technology, which offers out-of-the box capabilities to easily integrate data and processes. This adaptation of cloud technology is more of a multi-tenant cloud infrastructure which enables the integration of SAP with almost every other IT system, irrespective of whether it is an SAP, non-SAP or a Custom application. Its other striking feature is its capability of letting users quickly extract values from iFlows, another prepackaged integration offered by SAP. And like with any other cloud platform, users don’t have to worry about acquiring or maintaining any additional hardware, nor do they have to worry about setting up any middleware framework or any costs associated with intensive management of the underlying integration. Also in respect to this implementation, users will have full freedom and flexibility to extend the standard integration offered by SAP and customize fully according to the needs of their own use case.
As was the case with the on-premise version, the cloud version also contains multiple options on how to implement integration. You can opt for HCP, integration services or web services.
HCP or commonly known as HANA Cloud platform, is the first choice for integration. It comes pre-loaded with numerous integration packages, each covering a business process on its own. Also, with every new release of HCP, SAP adds new packages to the existing collection.
Also, HCP lets you use side-by-side extensions to enhance the scope of integration with the outside world. It is feasible for both on-premise and cloud integration. In addition to side-by-side, there is also in-app extendibility, however, the latter is limited within the application.
Next in the line come the web services. S/4HANA Cloud provides API’s which adhere to industry standards and rely on REST, SOAP and OData services. Detailed documentation is available online and is of great help for users. You can use these API’s for integrating HANA with non-SAP systems. At present, there are more than 50+ API’s which cater to the most common integration scenarios. Do not forget that S/4HANA still supports the traditional SAP API’s, mainly BAPI and IDOC. You just need to set up the connection and they are ready for use.
Overall, ERP systems and PLM systems fulfill their own set of requirements. However, when integrated and used together, they provide end to end control over the product life cycle and its manufacturing processes. But bear in mind that these two systems are not interchangeable. An ERP system mainly deals with keeping transaction activities on track, whereas a PLM system describes the life of a product at any specific point in its life cycle and maintains the product’s historical records. But before businesses start on the path of integrating ERP with PLM, they should first streamline their manufacturing processes with an effective PLM. This minimizes organizational inefficiencies and transition costs, as well as optimizes the capabilities of each system across the entire organization.