In this Q&A, Supply Chain Management expert Gina Voutyras provided expert advice on the importance of gaining integration visibility between systems, and on how to leverage SAP EWM to simplify the process.
If you missed the chat or need a refresher, you may view the chat replay or read the edited transcript below.
Meet the panelist:
Gina Voutyras, IBM
Ms. Voutyras is a Senior Managing Consultant in Supply Chain Management who specializes in warehouse management, logistics, and distribution business optimization. She has experience in process optimization, efficiency management, solution design and development, and project management with emphasis on inventory and warehousing, including external logistics supply chain management for over 10 years. She successfully led and managed long-term business transformation projects enabled by SAP. Her experience includes successful performance of multiple, full-lifecycle, global ERP implementations across wholesale distribution, retail, e-commerce, life sciences, and healthcare industries. She has deep expertise in the design, implementation, and deployment for global ERP implementations that includes deploying different solutions such as SAP ECC, SAP EWM, Manhattan WMOS, and third-party and custom inventory solutions.
Mr. E. Emery: Welcome to today’s live Q&A. I am pleased to be joined by Logistics & SCM, PLM, Manufacturing, and Procurement 2017 speaker Gina Voutyras of IBM as she answers your questions on key integration techniques to take advantage of an SAP-to-SAP EWM solution.
Gina has 10 years of experience in process optimization, efficiency management, solution design and development, and project management with an emphasis on inventory and warehousing, including external logistics supply chain management. She has successfully led and managed long-term business transformation projects enabled by SAP.
Comment From Jeanne: We have been live for a year with our EWM implementation. We are exhausting our delivery number range in ERP very quickly (3 times within a year).
Gina Voutyras: Yes, when you integrate with SAP as the ERP, your inventory is synchronized. Therefore, the SD side of SAP will utilize the inventory levels at the IM level during an availability check prior to dropping the deliveries to EWM for execution.
Comment From Jinoy Joshy: SAP EWM should be embedded in SAP ERP like conventional WM. Integrating EWM and its steps should be done in back end by SAP.
Gina Voutyras: There are two different options for integrating EWM with SAP - both centralized and decentralized - similar to SAP WM. However, EWM is not embedded like WM; it is on a different SAP SCM system, not the ERP system itself.
Comment From Guest: The S/4Hana 1610 simplification list mentions integrated EWM as a key new feature. I assume you are saying EWM stays on SCM?
Gina Voutyras: I haven't gotten the chance to deploy the S/4Hana 1610 solution of embedded EWM just yet. But it still has the stand-alone option for which the integration layer is still an important criteria to consider when choosing your WM platform. In my experience, many customers choose the stand-alone version.
Comment From Guest: How long would it take to convert from WM to an EWM solution? Will it be (almost) automatic (oblivious to the users), or is it considered a new implementation, especially if ERP is being upgraded to S/4HANA?
Gina Voutyras: Implementation plans can vary. It is, of course, a bit simpler when a WM system is already running with regard to many configuration elements, but EWM has features and functions you will want to take advantage of through a true design phase. Additionally, the transactions are different, so the users will need to be trained and brought up to the EWM processes before going live.
Comment From Scott: What are the most common mobility integration technologies you see with SAP WM/EWM? Are customers happy with ITS Mobile or are they looking for newer mobile interfaces and applications?
Gina Voutyras: ITS Mobile is certainly the default platform, and it has quite a few good applications. More recently, I have seen clients move to GUI on mobile tablets. This way all the features and functions are available to them. I do expect SAP Fiori applications to really take off, though, as lugging around a tablet in a high performing warehouse is still a pain. Fiori applications, if developed correctly, can become highly mobile when applied to the latest mobile technologies (phones/watches/etc.).
Comment From PR: Hi Gina, 1) What are the main advantages of using qRFC in integrating SAP EWM with SAP ERP (e.g. ECC) compared to using IDoc technology? 2) Does EWM’s latest release fully cover opportunistic cross-docking? Thanks.
Gina Voutyras: Hi PR,
1) I go over both of these techniques in my session on March 6th - please attend!
2) In my opinion, the latest release gets a lot closer to fulfilling customer requirements for opportunistic cross-docking. But there is still room to grow!
Comment From Prab: How does the EWM integration solution make transactions like Diff_Analyzer (and others) redundant if inventory is always synced up to the IM storage location level?
Gina Voutyras: Prab, interesting question. Actually, I have found that customers still like and find use for the Difference Analyzer even when fully integrated. But if we are monitoring the integration layer, then yes, the results when running the difference analyzer should be few and far between!
Comment From Rama Krishna: Hi Gina. We are using SAP WM for the distribution center, and in the current setup we use EDI for receiving orders, submitting ASN, and invoicing. As I understand it, integration points with EWM are inbound delivery and outbound delivery. How will we be able to send the ASN for shipment if packaging and HU are in EWM and shipment is in SAP?
Gina Voutyras: The great thing is that the packaging and HU information comes up to the ECC layer at the delivery confirmation step. So that data is right there to be added to your SAP TM shipment processing for delivering ASNs out to the customers.
Comment From Naveen: Considering that SAP ECC and EWM integration poses many issues, mainly while reversing transactions, and the data gets stuck in the queues, will EWM embedded within ECC as envisioned in an S/4Hana landscape be a better design for deploying an EWM solution for customers?
Gina Voutyras: Check out my session on March 6th to talk through those common integration issues you mentioned and how to avoid them. There are many factors that go into the decision when choosing embedded vs. stand-alone warehouse solutions. In my experience, most customers ultimately choose stand-alone. I will not say whether one design is better than the other as there are valid reasons to choose a stand-alone solution. But the S/4 offering certainly adds more features, perhaps eventually tipping the scale back towards embedded solution.
Comment From PR: For business continuity scenarios, in your experience, have you seen clients try to prepare the EWM system de-coupled from the ERP to avoid being constrained by ERP downtimes (upgrades, etc.)? Imagine a 24/7 warehouse with EWM and the possibility (by exception) to drop and process orders with same day delivery independently, and assume that the required output forms (like invoices) can be generated from other applications (e.g. a front end that has also price information). Will EWM be designed to manage a full order fulfilment cycle w/o requiring the input from SAP ERP? This also means that later (when ERP is up again), the flow will need to be replicated retrospectively as invoice management needs to be aligned with the physical WM.
Gina Voutyras: In my experience, absolutely, this is one of the main reasons I see for why customers are choosing to go with the stand-alone warehouse solution route. EWM can be designed and enhanced to manage the full order fulfillment cycle - including all the paperwork/customer EDI required for delivery. However, I don’t see this as a standard offering just yet.
Comment From Raghav: Please share your thoughts on discrete MFS solution integration with SAP EWM.
Gina Voutyras: If you choose SAP as your MFS solution, the latest EWM release addresses many shortfalls EWM had in the past with manufacturing. I recommend checking out the EWM 9.2 release notes to see the many options that it provides for managing manufacturing staging with qRFC integration techniques.
Comment From Isaac Peña: From a project management perspective, and from your experienced point of view, what should be the expectation of blueprinting in terms of the outcome and documentation within this phase? I mean, should we expect a full and deep detail of our process design documentation with all single corners and a very deep detail of the business requirements?
Gina Voutyras: As the systems implementation business has moved to faster, quicker deliveries with new methodologies like Agile project management, the documentation deliverable requirements have blurred. I think the best principle is to clearly define documentation expectations in the prepare phase based on the mode of working. Keep in mind the support plan when defining these requirements because these documents are usually what the systems support after go-live is based on.
Mr. E. Emery: Thank you, Gina, for all your insightful answers, and thank you to everyone who participated in the today’s chat. You can review the Q&A chat replay at any time, and we will alert by email you when the transcript of today’s discussion is posted.