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Best Practices to Streamline Your Supply Chain Labeling from SAP and SAP S/4HANA

June 21, 2018

Thank you for registering for this live Q&A. Find the transcript on supply chain labeling below.

Matthew Shea: Hello, and welcome to today's SAPinsider live Q&A. We will be chatting for the full hour about Enterprise Labeling Solutions and how SAP customers can leverage them to keep up with changing customer demands, comply with regulatory requirements, and fulfill B2B and emerging B2C distribution channels by integrating and driving labeling directly from SAP ECC, SAP S/4HANA, or SAP EWM.

Joining me today to answer your questions are Loftware's Linda Bowers, Lori Thorp, Ken Allen, and John Kelser.

I've posted a series of introductory questions for the panelists to introduce Loftware and their solutions. You can enter your questions into the module below. Please enter your full name as your display name first, click "Set", and then write your question.

Matthew Shea: Who is Loftware?

Lori Thorp: Loftware is the global market leader in Enterprise Labeling and Artwork Management Solutions. We have over 30 years in the industry with over 5,000 customers in over 100 countries. With a presence throughout North America, Europe, and Asia, Loftware has unparalleled ability to offer sales, services, and 24x7 support across the globe. We have skilled experts, trained in developing and delivering solutions across all industries including highly regulated industries. Hundreds of global leading companies who run their business with SAP use Loftware's Enterprise Labeling Solutions to drive label printing throughout their supply chain. Loftware's certified SAP labeling solutions are specifically designed to integrate with SAP ECC, SAP Business Suite on SAP HANA, and SAP S/4HANA.

Matthew Shea: What is Enterprise Labeling? 

John Kelser: Labeling is an Enterprise concern along multiple dimensions but is based on label accuracy. Today, if an organization has access to information, that information should be used to ensure the label is printed correctly each and every time. Accessing this data can become cumbersome to manage, so at the heart of Enterprise labeling is integration.

With integration comes the ability to naturally generate labels as a result of a normal business practice. For example, our SAP customers enjoy triggering label printing from standard SAP transactions using certified integrations. This allows them to complete a normal transaction and have the correct label, printed with the correct data, at the correct time, to the correct printer without any additional effort or processes. To accomplish this, not only are there integrations into systems of record for the data, but also that is respects the corporate governance related to roles, responsibilities, and security.

Enterprise labeling leverages the investment in systems for managing data required for labeling and removes the process complexity of producing those labels, all while fitting into the IT infrastructure and governance processes. The result is a labeling platform for the global supply chain. It gives customers the ability to automate and integrate labeling directly with SAP applications and your existing business processes. This configurable approach to labeling supports high-volume global printing, offering customers dynamic, data-driven printing to address labeling variability when producing labels and documents. 

Matthew Shea: How are customers using your solution?  

Lori Thorp: Customers use Loftware to manage all of their supply chain and production labeling tasks on a global scale. We provide enough flexibility out of the box with our products that customers can easily tailor it to their specific requirements. Loftware products are highly configurable to address all your business needs. We have customers like Harley-Davidson using our enterprise labeling solutions throughout production while other customers like Givaudan are using a highly configured solution throughout their SAP Competency Center.

Matthew Shea: Do you offer SAP-certified integrated solutions?    

Linda Bowers: Yes. Loftware solutions have multiple SAP-certified integrations.

Matthew Shea: What sorts of labels do you do?     

John Kelser: We can support any sort of label/document you need. From shipping labels to production labels or even asset tags and RFID.

Matthew Shea: Does it require programming to integrate your solutions with SAP?    

Linda Bowers: No, our integration is out of the box with standard SAP output configuration.

Matthew Shea: How does your solution manage the label printing?

Lori Thorp: SAP triggers printing directly to Loftware via RFC or BC-XOM integrations. Loftware manages the printer and label selections, and can apply business logic as well to react quickly to change requests. Whenever possible, we leverage the printer’s native language to increase speed and accuracy.

Matthew Shea: What are the advantages of using Loftware?

Lori Thorp: Loftware offers certified integration with your SAP instances. Our combined platform leverages business rules, certified integration, and unrivaled print capabilities allowing your labeling solution to grow along with your business. Loftware’s configurable solutions can reduce supply chain complexity and help save time and costs.

Matthew Shea: What are native drivers?

John Kelser: Our native drivers allow customers to minimize network bandwidth by speaking your printer language (ZPL II, IPL, etc.). This allows our software to print labels almost instantly even across the slowest networks.

Comment From Christopher Jaeckle: Which technology should be used to connect ERP or EWM to Loftware to achieve a fast printing speed keeping a good reliability?

Lori Thorp: Our certified integration comes out of the box; no additional technology stack is required.

Comment From RTeatorNGK: How do you support the OEM automotive requirements?

Lori Thorp: We have supported the automotive industry for years by using dynamic labeling principals such as dynamic content selection or template selection to support the various OEM requirements. We have seen these requirements on a plant-by-plant level and solved it with Business Rules.

Comment From Christopher Jaeckle: What is your best practice solution to print labels from EWM with required information from ERP which are not available in standard EWM, still keeping a very fast printing speed?

John Kelser: Use certified integration to EWM and SAP and use business rules to expand the transaction request to dynamically create the correct label set for the transaction. The goal is for the transaction to generate all the labels necessary without any additional processes. Business rules, combined with data from the transaction, drive the selection and printing of the labels required, as well as the content on the labels.

Comment From Christopher Jaeckle: Follow-up question to: "Which technology should be used to connect ERP or EWM to Loftware to achieve a fast printing speed keeping a good reliability?" In regards to method used, IDOC, telegram, etc., which one is the best choice to have a good speed?

Lori Thorp: We support RFC and BC-XOM. We work with your team to understand your specific requirements.

Comment From RTeatorNGK: We currently have templates and pass in text files through an interface. Is your technology similar or are there standard APIs that you use, or ... something else.

John Kelser: Both actually. We can support label transactions via standards-based integration. We fully support passed text files as in a file drop. And we have certified integration for SAP.

Comment From JP: With Loftware solution, do we not have to define and develop outputs in SAP?

John Kelser: We need the data, we don't need any layout information.

Comment From Ben K.: What are Loftware's key differentiators from other solutions that exist in the market?

John Kelser: 30 years of experience, a proven methodology for success, and industry leading technology to support labeling.

Comment From Jay Nguyen: How does designing, creating, and transferring labels to my vendors who do not have Loftware work? Does my vendor have to recreate the label or can they just take the file and drop it in their system? How well does Loftware play with other software?

Lori Thorp: We have a web-based remote print agent that can be used by 3rd-party vendors to print labels securely from the central location. We play very well with other applications with a variety of integration capabilities. John Kesler did a webinar recently that discussed this specific type of label situation. You can download the webinar here.

Comment From Joshua Staple: How about Color Label printing?

Lori Thorp: We fully support color printing natively in our product.

Comment From Phil Matthews: Are there any differences between integrating Loftware with EWM compared to SAP S/4HANA?

John Kelser: Nope! Same tech stack.

Comment From Joshua Staple: Can you discuss the ability or integration to allow a third-party supplier to be able to utilize spectrum to print labels?

Lori Thorp: We have a web-based remote print agent that can be used by 3rd-party vendors to print labels securely from the central location. We play very well with other applications with a variety of integration capabilities. To learn more, please feel free to download John Kelsers webinar.

Comment From Reyes: I have a label template for every customer and would really like to minimize that. What would you suggest?

Lori Thorp: Loftware’s business rules allow customers to streamline their label templates. We highly encourage the use of variable data wherever possible to allow a single template to be used for many different customers/products/locations. We can retrieve the variable data from your source of truth, or we can provide the ability to store the data within our solution. This provides our customers with the ability to be very simplistic with the data sent from SAP, and lets Loftware do the heavy lifting by enhancing the print request based on information contained in the request.

Comment From Phil Matthews: What technical method do you recommend to send SAP data to the Loftware template?

John Kelser: Our certified integration supports RDI, Smartforms and Adobe Interactive Forms via the BASIS layer.

Comment From RTeatorNGKCa: Do you then have standardized templates from the Automotive Manufacturers? Can we plug and play into these by just passing data?

Lori Thorp: We do, and they can be imported into your environment and then customized to fit your needs. We encourage the use of variable data.

Comment From Phil Matthews: What specific functionality can Loftware provide that is not available in standard SAP S/4HANA labelling?

John Kelser:

  • Time to market for changes.
  • Native print queues and drivers.
  • Single template can support multiple printers.
  • External labeling built in.

These are a few of the topics that our customers are trying to solve when they move from SAP labeling.

Comment From Mike Colegrove: We have quite a few customer-demanded label models which require embedded UCC128 data and others that do not require serialization but do require data. We already have existing templates from another tool to build these labels. We want to minimize the risk of transforming to a new platform. What tools and best practices do you suggest to migrate label model to the software platform?

Lori Thorp: We have a Professional Services group that will come on site, review your processes, and guide you through a successful implementation. This includes template consolidation. We do have the capability to migrate from our own products as well as other applications.

Comment From Jay Nguyen: What is the average cost of installing Loftware? Can you provide a rough estimate?

John Kelser: The costs are completely dependent on project scope. We would like to follow up with you to provide a specific answer.

Comment From JP: What are the hardware requirements for the Loftware solution?

John Kelser: Most of our customers are working on a VM platform using windows or Linux. We support over 1,000 printers natively.

Comment From Phil Matthews: Does your UI support multiple languages?

Lori Thorp: Yes we support French, English, Spanish, German, Portuguese, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, Russian, Korean. As far as printing languages, we fully support multibyte languages.

John Kelser: Adding a language can be added without any code change or release requirement. It is built from the ground up to support multiple languages.

Comment From JP: Was the Loftware solution implemented with wireless battery-operated document printers? Please provide examples of the battery printers that are supported by Loftware.

John Kelser: We are printer-agnostic and support printing to over 1,000 printers natively. Wireless printers are supported, however latency to the printer can cause end-user satisfaction concerns.

Comment From RTeatorNGKCa: Does your process allow for the integration of multiples templates, into a pre-designed configurable sequence? NGK can send Pallet, Container, Box, and Material labels in differing quantities and sequences.

Lori Thorp: Absolutely. We can expand a print request using business logic to print multiple different labels/docs to different printers.

Comment From RTeatorNGKCa: Do you support real-time input for the label data (scanner captured)?

Lori Thorp: Yes. We not only support direct printing out of SAP; you can easily configure a data entry screen that will collect data and execute business logic to send a print request.

Comment From Randi: I don’t want everyone having the ability to design/edit labels. Would I have the ability to control that?

Lori Thorp: Yes. Loftware’s Enterprise Labeling solutions provide complete role-based access control (RBAC). From a label management standpoint you can give access to anyone you want and say – this person can only print these labels. That person can print and design labels, etc., based on your company’s needs. Every aspect of our solution is governed by our access control.

Comment From Jeff Reynolds: My question is around a Governance Model and best practices. Our company is currently using the Loftware Enterprise Solution for generating labels. Currently, IT manages most of this effort but we are looking to empower the business to take on a greater role in this area. Our concern is developing a governance process to ensure that company standards are maintained, minimize redundancy, etc. What advise can you provide in this area?

John Kelser: Best practices are to:

  • Leverage the source for the data such as the ERP or regulatory system.
  • Leverage data to drive labeling decisions via business rules.
  • Leverage role based access and control.

These become layered to provide a platform for corporate governance. Label logic can be set up to be managed by the corporate IT, for example. This logic can be leveraged and enforced company-wide, for example. This provides a platform for the right people to make the decisions and have them used company-wide.  

Comment From Sean: We do a lot of on-demand labeling outside of SAP. How do you support that?

Lori Thorp: Yes, even though you are triggering labeling from SAP we allow you to concurrently do any type of on-demand printing. This is the norm for a majority of our customers using our SAP integration. We have thousands of customers printing On-Demand daily. We also can pull data from multiple sources outside, and inside, of SAP

Comment From FHB: Flexible solution: Any experience related to hospital pharmacies with in-house production which requires different forms. Data source will be the same, but due to different products it requires different label sizes. Is it possible to have different forms (e.g., label sizes) to be printed out at the same printer, and does it require multiple templates? What are the limitations in that respect?

John Kelser: Yes, we fully support this requirement and do it every day. When using the same printer, the stock change-out needs to occur. The number of templates depends generally on the stock size of the label to be printed. The limitations tend to be around the physical label stock.

Comment From RTeatorNGKCa: Do you allow for multiple libraries of templates for testing/production?

Lori Thorp: Yes. Loftware allows you the freedom to store as many label templates as you want within our product.

Comment From Kaycie: We are constantly relabeling supplies on the warehouse floor. Do you have any customers experiencing the same thing?

John Kelser: Yes, and it is expensive both in man hours and excess inventory. We fully support supplier-based labeling that is fully controlled by you. There can be a huge ROI on this topic.

Comment From RTeatorNGKCa: Once a label is communicated to the printer, by whatever method you choose, can you reprint that label? (Communication error, printer jam, etc.)

Lori Thorp: Absolutely. In validated environments, we can control who has the ability to reprint labels. Customers can choose whether or not to secure reprints.

Comment From Jacob Harris: Could you describe a business rule?

Lori Thorp: Yes. Our business rules are xml, but we provide a business rule configurator that allows you to build business logic without specific xml knowledge. To clarify, business rules allow you to make decisions about what data to add, and what printer or label to select based on other information in the print request.

Matthew Shea: Thank you Loftware for answering so many questions today! I will send everyone an email when the transcript of the discussion is posted. Please feel free to visit their website or contact them to request a consultation.

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