In the latter part of 1999, SAP quietly
introduced a product named SAPConsole to address the issue of supporting
character-based RF (radio frequency) devices in a completely native manner.
Since that time, there has been an incredible amount of interest in this
SAPConsole is a translator, and its main
purpose is to translate SAP's graphical-based screens (SAP GUI) into character-based
screens. It does not contain any business logic, external databases, or
complex functionality. Rather, it is an alternative frontend to the SAP
Simply stated, SAPConsole translates most
SAP GUI screens to their character-based equivalents. And, like an SAP
GUI session, SAPConsole connects you to SAP in real time.
Components of the SAPConsole Solution
It is important to note that every component - the RF terminals, access points, Telnet server, and
SAPConsole - serves as a "pipe" to the centralized SAP business logic
and transactions that support the desired functionality.
The RF terminals themselves are thin clients,
meaning they contain only terminal emulation software and cannot operate
without the connection to SAP - unless you design a "store and forward"
component. Access points simply serve as an ethernet bridge, allowing
the wireless terminals to connect to the hard-wired network via TCP/IP.
The Telnet server allows each RF terminal to attach to the NT machine
in a character-based mode (VT220 emulation). Selection of the Telnet server
component is crucial since the server can offer several desirable features
or be customized to solve additional RF-related issues.
The technical requirements for an SAPConsole
solution are listed in Figure 1.
|Windows NT/2000 workstation or server
attached to the network
Pentium III, 500 MHz, 128 MB RAM, minimal disk requirements.
Estimate between 2.5-4 MB RAM per session, with the number of sessions
limited only by RAM. You can utilize one centralized machine or
several machines to host SAPConsole.
|SAPConsole application, available on SAP GUI CD Release
4.6B or later
Needed to install SAPConsole and supporting DLL files on Windows
Consists of sapcnsl.exe application, supporting DLL files, and
SAPConsole Administrator control panel applet.
|Telnet server that supports VT220
Any commercially available Telnet server that supports VT220.
Can add significant functionality to an RF solution. Average costs
are about $5-$10 per client.
|Any device that supports VT220 emulation
||RF devices include (in alphabetic order): LXE, Intermec, PSC, Symbol,
|RF access point(s)
||Required if using RF devices.
||SAPConsole Technical Requirements
The functionality of SAPConsole is often
misunderstood. Since SAPConsole does not contain any business logic, all
functionality is within the R/3 system and all development is accomplished
inside the ABAP Workbench. The basic functionality of SAPConsole depends
on which release of R/3 is implemented.
For Release 3.1H through 4.6A,
R/3 does not contain any functionality developed specifically for a mobile
RF user. This does not mean that SAPConsole cannot be implemented. In
fact, each component works exactly as described here. The missing piece
is "SAP R/3 delivered" functionality - simply put, there is none. Custom
"RF-enabled transactions" must be created or purchased instead. Fortunately,
if you choose to explore this path, there are companies that can help
provide that missing functionality.1
However, with Release 4.6B, SAP
R/3 includes a functional area known as Mobile Data Entry (MDE). As with
most R/3 areas, it includes business transactions and the respective (IMG)
configuration2 used to customize those transactions (see Figure 2).
Currently, these transactions only offer LES (Logistics Execution System)
functionality. Release 4.6B includes 22 MDE transactions, and Release
4.6C adds 26 more, including support for handling units. Although each
transaction is operational once configured, SAP has incorporated numerous
user and screen exits to allow extensive customization of each MDE transaction.
Additionally, custom transactions can be added to enhance total system
|Release 4.6B and above
||Put Away (Confirm Transfer Order or Storage Unit)
|Picking/Replenishment (Confirm Transfer Order
or Storage Unit)
|Physical Inventory Counts (in WM3)
|Load Control (using shipments)
|Release 4.6C only
||Goods Receipt using Inbound Delivery
|Goods Issue using Outbound Delivery
|Various Handling Unit Functions (Pick and Pack,
||Mobile Data Entry Functionality
Regardless of whether the transactions
are custom RF-enabled transactions or part of the MDE function, they only
differ from other R/3 transactions in one way - screen real estate. MDE
transactions use only the upper-left quadrant of the screen. This method
has been successfully utilized for years in the UNIX and mainframe environments,
so application screens can be properly displayed on smaller-screen RF
devices. Using the ABAP Workbench, a developer has complete control over
screen content and size.
SAPConsole and Third-Party Alternatives
Prior to the release of SAPConsole, RF
support for SAP R/3 was addressed by third-party certified middleware
systems. There are several technological approaches to RF middleware systems,
and each one has its share of successes and failures. Is SAPConsole a
replacement for middleware? For many companies, across almost all character-based
RF applications, SAPConsole has turned out to be the best option available.
Figure 3 highlights some of the
main differences between SAPConsole and available middleware solutions
(as a general category) that can be factors in deciding on an approach
to RF support with an SAP system.
||Addressed by SAPConsole?
||Addressed by General RF Middleware Alternatives?
||Yes. Real-time response.
||Most solutions are not real-time.
if SAP is unavailable
|No, but there are some alternatives.
||Yes, if local database and synchronization mechanism
|Connection to other host systems (mainframe, AS/400,
||No. However, if legacy data is available in R/3, it
becomes instantaneously available to an RF user.
||Some solutions offer this capability.
||Technology is included with the SAP system. Telnet Server
cost is minimal.
||Potential for high middleware server and client license
||ABAP Development Workbench.
||Numerous options. Native printing solution is available
||Numerous options. Could be proprietary.
|RF device support
||Any VT220 device.
||Could be tied to specific manufacturer.
|Support and maintenance
||Supported by SAP. Utilize the investment in SAP-trained
||Third-party support. Usually requires specially trained
||Testing can be performed without additional hardware.
Allows testing from SAP GUI.
||Needs operational middleware in place.
||Follows same upgrade path as all other R/3 application
||Can be complex, time consuming, and costly.
||Using COM technology, customers can (using C++) write
their own I/O engine and modify others.
||Can be complex, time consuming, and
||Customers can easily modify the information presented
||Can be complex, time consuming, and costly.
||Comparing RF Support in SAPConsole and Middleware Solutions
Are there reasons for new projects to
implement middleware? Every company has different constraints and requirements,
and to say an SAPConsole solution provides all the answers is misguided.
So, yes, middleware makes sense if your operations are 24x7 and the SAP
R/3 system cannot offer 100 percent uptime. Material handling is another
area where middleware enters the picture, and other examples could be
added to the list. However, over the years, middleware implementations
have had mixed results, so take great care during the decision-making
Maximize Supply Chain Performance with SAPConsole
As businesses scramble to fulfill customer orders, regardless of
geographical boundaries and time zones, information delays will
increase the chance of error and decrease customer satisfaction.
How do you maximize supply chain performance? Real-time, accurate
data transfer is a critical component in managing inventory across
the entire supply chain, and handheld devices can be essential to
Use a Wireless Approach for Instant Data Access
To provide better customer service and optimize warehouse activities,
companies must have instant access to information about their resources
so they can carry less inventory, fulfill orders faster and more
accurately, and improve profitability. A key component is access
to real-time information, and one way to achieve this is through
a wireless network, and the bridge that receives and transmits radio
frequency signals from the handheld device back to the network.
Lower Costs While Optimizing Resources
SAPConsole supports all major warehouse processes provided by SAP
Logistics Execution System as well as all SAP R/3 modules. Because
RF terminals communicate data directly to the SAP system, companies
will increase ROI through the efficient flow of goods in the warehouse.
Since SAPConsole is native to SAP, resources will be optimized,
errors will decrease substantially, and workers will require less
education. All of these factors contribute to a reduction of warehouse
costs, and because SAPConsole is free to SAP R/3 users, total cost
of ownership is dramatically reduced.
Gain a Competitive Advantage
Companies who have implemented SAPConsole within their R/3 environment
are enjoying the ability to collect shop-floor data in real time
including: plant maintenance inventory, goods inventory, picking,
packing, warehouse storage, and physical inventories, among others.
Additionally, SAPConsole can print barcode labels of purchase orders,
packing and transfer slips, work orders, and any form needed, all
of which can be easily scanned back into the SAP R/3 database. Barcode
printing is by no means limited to mobile RF devices. SAPConsole
supports printing to local printers and mobile RF printers that
have IP addresses. The ability to collect, process, and validate
information in real time is now a necessity for businesses to remain
competitive, yet alone succeed.
With native connectivity, real-time data
updates, and an extensive library of customizable transactions, SAPConsole
gives project teams a long-awaited and solid alternative to RF-based middleware.
Additional functionality can easily be added to SAPConsole by utilizing
existing company resources, therefore maximizing a company's investment
in the SAP system.
SAPConsole has many advantages over existing
solutions, and its continually growing installation base is proof of further
acceptance of this easily implemented character-based RF solution. As
more information becomes available, companies are increasingly excited
about moving toward a native RF solution - SAPConsole.
1 Datavision-Prologix is one such company, with experience in creating
custom RF-enabled transactions for SAP R/3 Releases 3.1H through 4.6A.
2 The configuration is based on the R/3 system's Implementation Guide.
3 Warehouse Management component.
Chris Schultz is a senior member of the Datavision-Prologix SAP practice,
specializing in wireless applications, including SAPConsole. He has hands-on
experience with both middleware and SAPConsole implementations. Prior
to SAP data collection, Chris spent 10 years designing software and integrating
material handling/data collection systems. Chris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Datavision-Prologix provides wireless systems integration, enterprise-wide
data management systems, mobile computing and wireless networking solutions.
Headquartered in suburban Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Datavision-Prologix
serves more than 3,000 customers in the healthcare, field force automation,
warehousing, manufacturing, and education industries. A leading integrator
of SAPConsole, Datavision-Prologix employs an in-house team of SAPConsole
experts dedicated to implementing wireless barcode data collection within
SAP R/3. For more information or to request an SAPConsole white paper,
visit the Datavision-Prologix web site at www.datavision.com.