Month: May 2015

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Service Management – Taking Advantage of the Notification User Status

Now in my many consulting engagements, one thing I’ve seen consistently overlooked is the notification status.  When I ask why don’t you close your notification when you’re done with them?  I always get the same answer, we don’t have the time.  Now I understand that everyone is busy, and extra steps take extra time, but today I’d like to point out why using the notification status can help your service organization.

Now, the first thing to notice is that by default, service notifications do not have a lot of status options.  For the most part, it’s open, closed (there are more if you use the tasks, but that’s for another day).  So it’s pretty easy.  There is also the ability to add the user status (another thing I highly encourage, more on this later).  So we’ve established that there are simple choices in the service notification…  but they are often not used.

Now, the whole point of this post is to tell you why you’re missing out if you don’t use these.  Just like everything in SAP, you can collect data, metrics, and lots of useful information if you just enter it into the system.  I did a post the other day talking about how companies miss the boat by either not entering, or not using the info that SAP offers.  Well, this is directly related to that.

Entering the status of the notification allows you to use standard SAP transactions (IW58 for example) as a work list of notifications that require attention.  More importantly, it can give you the metrics to see how well your call center is performing.  Since SAP collects all the data for you, you just need to tell it when you’re done, you can have instant statistics on how many notifications were created, how long were they open, how many were closed, and even who closed them.  If you run a call center, this information could be vital to determine if you have enough representatives in the call center, are they able to close the majority of calls without follow-up, how many were questions vs. an actual return or RMA request?  All of these metrics can be extracted from SAP (if you want to see this in action, check out the demo for Broadsword, and it will show you a program that shows you all of these metrics.  All of which extract standard data from SAP.

The whole key to this is…  someone needs to perform the tasks of setting the status (user status, or just closing it).  Like everything, the data is no good if no one is looking at it, but if you are a proactive organization,  you are probably looking for ways to cut costs.  Knowing how your call center is performing can give you some key insight into now only your employees and their skill sets, but also into your products and how well they meet the needs of your customers.  (you can tell this by the number of returns, the reason for returns, and the number of repairs).

Well, I hope this was useful… as always, thanks for reading and I’d love to hear from you,

Thanks for reading,

Service Management – Service Availability (pt 2)

I wanted to pick up where I left off yesterday.

Finally, you need to assign the availability check to the plant/order.  And you also can change the check for creation vs. release.

As a note, if you create an order type as a copy from an existing order type, you will still need to maintain this data.

IMG->Plant Maintenance and Customer Service->Maintenance and Service Processing->Maintenance and Service Orders->Functions and Settings for Order Types->Availability Check for Material, PRT’s, and Capacities->Define Inspection Control


Here are the settings you can control:


Material Availability

  • No Check – skip material availability checking
  • Check Material Availability when saving order
  • Checking Rule – defined above
  • Component Check Type – allows you to determine the type of checking to perform
    • ATP check – checking against every single component according to ATP logic
    • Check against planned ind requirements
  • Conversion – Controls whether a planned order can be converted to a production order if one or more material components are not available. This key only relates to the collective conversion and partial conversion planned orders.


PRT Availability

  • No check – skip PRT availability checking
  • Checking Rule – same as above
  • Conversion – same as above

Capacity availability

  • No check – skip capacity checking
  • Overall profile – The profile is evaluated when the No check indicator has not been set. If you do not enter a profile, the system uses profile SAPSFCG013
  • Conversion – same as above

OK… so now you’ve seen the settings.  Here’s how you use it in day to day life.


Press this button to availability.  There are several important system status that relate to availability:

MANC – Availability not checked
MSPT – Missing parts
MACM – All parts Available

If you use IW38/IW39 or Iw72/Iw73 and you look at system status, this will give you the quick look to determine if you have components available or not.  Please note, this doesn’t do a hard allocation of the components.  it simply says, based on the availability check (see above) that it is in stock.

I hope this little overview gives you an understanding why availability could be an important piece of service that you’ve overlooked.

Now, if you’d like to take this to the next level, Proximity gives you the ability to run this availability in mass for all your orders, so you can instantly see the most up to date status.

Thanks for reading,

Service Management – Service Availability

This is another post I did a long time ago.  I even devoted quite a few pages to this in my book.  In many of my past implementations, this was something that not enough customers took advantage of.  So consider this a subtle reminder of the cool things available in ECC.

Today, I want to talk about Service Availability.  I’ve seen it used sporadically in places, but never very well.  So I want to talk about the how and why.  Now, before I get into the meat of the topic, let me explain why this part is important.  Just as in sales, knowing if all of the components are available is extremely important to managing your workload.  SAP provides the same availability functionality in the service order as it does in the production (except of course, running it in mass…  but for that, check Armory by JaveLLin Solutions. couldn’t help the shameless plug).  Transaction IWBK is actually a good transaction to show you all of the availability associated with a service order, and it even gives you fancy traffic lights to let you know at a glimpse if everything is available.  In addition, the status of the service order itself lets you know if all components are available.

Now, you may be asking, why do I care?  Often you have a decent workload of service orders and you require components in order to begin work on them.  Wouldn’t it be nice to see at a glance if all the components are available to know if you should start working on the order?  Perhaps you released the order to get some MRP requirements out there for parts.  Well, if you don’t know when the parts are available, how do you know when you can start working on the order?  Meanwhile, the clock is ticking for getting this part back to the customer.  Your metrics look worse and worse, all because you don’t know if you have parts to start working on a repair.

Alright, you understand the problem, so what can you do about it?  First thing you need to do is make sure the availability check is configured the way you need it.  Just like the availability for sales and production orders, you can have a unique one for service (or more often you’ll use the same one that production uses).  The screen shot below shows you were to find the configuration to see what in the system.


If you look at the Define Checking Rules, you’ll see the following.  Please note, SM is the default.

Next go the Define Scope of Check…  this is where the real work is done. Remember, that the scope of check can be different depending on the material availability check. This example shows 02 – SM

IMG->Plant Maintenance and Customer Service->Maintenance and Service Processing->Maintenance and Service Orders->Functions and Settings for Order Types->Availability Check for Material, PRT’s, and Capacities->Define Scope of Check


Every one of these options determines things that the availability check includes or excludes.  Every organization is different, so I can’t tell you there are default settings to use.  I can tell you that you should experiment with whatever you do select.  Have a service order with some components and make sure your settings do what you expect.  ATP is touchy…  powerful, but touchy…  I’ll go over the basic of this screen, so you have some idea where to start.  My best recommendation will be find out what is working for your production group and start there.

Stock Section:  I don’t claim to be an availability expert, but I know the setting well enough to explain the basics.

  • Include Safety Stock – This means that safety stock should be considered as available in the availability check.  In most organization I see this checked.
  • Stock In Transfer – Include stock that is being transferred into the plant
  • Include Quality Inspection Stock – Include stock in quality inspection.  Normally, I see this NO selected.
  • Include Blocked Stock – Just what the name says.  Again, not normally checked.
  • Include Restricted Use Stock – Include restricted use batch stock.  Not normally checked.
  • W/O Subcontracting – exclude any vendor or subcontract stock from the check.

Replenishment Lead Time

  • Check without RLT – This one is always confusing.  You check the box if you DO NOT want to use replenishment lead time from the material master.  It depends on if you want availability to find a date, even if none are in stock.  Typically in SM, I see this checked.

Storage Location Inspection – this allows you to turn off the storage location check and look for stock only at the plant level.

In/Outward Movements

  • Include purchase orders – just what it says.  Checked by default.
  • Include purchase Reqs – just what it says.  Checked by default.
  • Include dependent reqs – should it include a requirement that is generated from an upper level demand.  Checked by default.
  • Include reservations – just what it says.  Checked by default.
  • Include Sales requirements – include demands from sales orders.  Checked by default.
  • Include deliveries – include deliveries.  Checked by default.
  • Include Shipping Notifications – not checked by default.
  • Incl.depen.reservat. – take dependent reservations into account.
    •       Do not check – DEFAULT
    • X   Include all reservations
    • A   Only include withdrawable reservations
  • Incl.rel.order reqs – take stock transport orders/requests into account.
    • X   Yes
    •       No – DEFAULT
  • Incl. planned orders- if you don’t take these into account demands from planned orders (potentially placed before this order) will not be taken into account.  Stock could be stolen from a planned order if you don’t take this into account.
    •       Do not check
    • X   Check all planned orders – DEFAULT
    • A   Check firmed planned orders only
    • B   Only check planned orders that are completely confirmed
  • Incl. production orders- if you don’t take these into account demands from production orders (potentially placed before this order) will not be taken into account.  Stock could be stolen from a prod order if you don’t take this into account.
    •       Do not take into account
    • X   Take all production orders into account – DEFAULT
    • F    Only take released production orders into account

This is probably enough for now.  Next time I’ll show you how to finish up the configuration, and more importantly, how do you use this once it’s configured.

thanks for reading,

Service Management – Equipment vs. Serial Number Records

I originally posted this about 2 years ago, but since this topic still comes up, I thought it might be a good idea to throw it out there. again.

I get this a lot from different customers, “What is an Equipment Records?”.  Normally, my answer is always the same.  It’s equivalent to the serial number.  After spending a few minutes playing with the configuration and looking at the output, I realize that my answer isn’t completely accurate.  So that’s why I wanted to talk a little about this on the blog.

First, let’s take a look at the serial number.



Now, the biggest thing to take into consideration is the category.  Based on the configuration behind the category, will impact if there are other tabs that show up.  For example, if you chose a different category that included Configuration, you would also get the configuration tab (for Variant Config info).  But in general, you won’t get a lot more than what you see right here.

Now, let’s contrast this with the equipment record:



Notice all of the extra tabs and buttons you get by default.  Some of these views are configurable and can be turned on/off if you choose.  While much of this information is manually populated, you still have it all available

So there you have it…  why equipment is more than just a serial number.  My personal feeling is to always use an equipment, and let the serial number profile drive it automatically, but if you truly have no need for any additional data, just stick with the simple serial number structure.  I hope this helped you…  it’s actually helped clarify it in my own head…

Thanks for reading,

Sales and Marketing – Why Closing is Not always the answer

Well, after just getting back from the big SAPPHIRE NOW show, I’m once again reminded that building relationships with all of the people that I met needs to be job one.  I recently got connected with a top notch software sales person, and Jeff is helping to guide me through the process.  If you’ve followed my adventure, you know I’m an engineer/programmer at heart.  That means the whole sales and marketing side of things is uncharted territory.  I’m starting to figure out bits and pieces, but having someone that I can bounce my logical ideas off of is invaluable.

Now, one of the real revelations, which actually is good for me, is that so much of the stuff I’ve been learning when it comes to sales is wrong.  You always hear about closing, and getting the prospect to make commitments is job one.  Well, Jeff turned me onto a book called SPIN selling.  In a nutshell, this book breaks down the simple facts that selling small items is a whole different ball game than selling large item (like software).

I haven’t finished the book yet, but so far, one of the big revelations is that closing just isn’t the way to build a relationship.  Closing works great for customers that you will likely only see once.  Why is that?  because in a one time sale, it’s not a big deal if a buyer gets “buyer’s remorse” because you already made the sale.  But when you deal with large sales, you can rarely get the sale after a single conversation or visit.  This means, that if you put the pressure on your prospect early on, they will quickly write you off as someone they don’t want to do business with.

Large sales require a relationship, because likely you and your customer will be dealing with each other a lot, before and after the sale.  You better get along with whoever that is, otherwise, it will be a painful relationship, no matter how good of a deal your getting.

Thanks for reading,

Solution Manager – setting up the SAPRouter

Well, my latest adventure, that I thought would be easy, was upgrading some of my systems.  My original plan to have my new EHP5 system up and running to do my demos for SAPPHIRE.  Well, needless to say, nothing ever goes as smooth as it is supposed to.  Now, granted, I’m no basis person, but here’s what I discovered, for any of you small businesses out there.

1.  EHP5 cannot be installed or upgraded to without Solution Manager.  This was my first issue.  I had a solman box a couple years ago, but never used it.  It was so far out of date, and not even a part of the landscape, that it really wouldn’t have mattered.  Either way, obstacle one…  get solution manager installed.

2.  This brought me to my second issue.  It turns out that you can’t use Solman to do a new installation unless it’s connected to SAPRouter.  I’ve been down this road before.  When I’ve tried to get OSS to look into some of my SAP issues, they are always telling me to connect to SAPRouter.  So I tried, until I learned you must have a dedicated static IP address.  Well, I’m a small business, so I use my home network (if you’ve seen some of my early posts, I explained the headaches I’ve gone through making SAP work on my small network).  So, now I need to get SAPRouter…

3.  Issue 3, getting a static IP address and getting it setup.  Well, it turns out, for $15/month AT&T will give you 5 addresses.  Great, problem solved???  of course not.  Getting anyone that knows how to setup Static IP has been a royal headache.  After multiple hours on the phone, and being transferred more times than I can remember.  I finally someone that could at least get me close.  I hope…  As of today, I can finally ping the static IP address.  Now, I can finally put the installation back into the hands of the professionals I hired.

I guess now I just have to wait and see if the configuration I did worked…  and what my next “opportunity” will be in this adventure.  I can’t wait till I get to try to install a HANA system 🙂

thanks for reading,

Service Management – The Internet of Things

At SAPPHIRE, I learned about a whole new concept called the Internet of things.  While, I’m sure to those of you better than I am at keeping up with the latest and greatest technology advances this is old news.  But to me, this was brand new and quite interesting.  Now like so many new concepts, I’m sure it is still evolving, and I may not quite have the full picture, but here’s what I see.  The concept with the Internet of Things is the idea of constant monitoring data collection for your or your customer’s equipment.  Let me explain this a little better with an example that fits in my world 🙂

You sell a product that is under warranty.  Let’s just say that your warranty is for 10,000 hours of use.  It could even be more complex, like every 2,000 hours, you send a technician to perform routine maintenance.  All of this can be difficult to track unless you have technicians consistently on-site to monitor the amount time the machine has been running or trust your customer to send consistent updates on the usage.  Well, in comes the internet of things concept.  You input a simple little device that is connected to the internet so it can send data back real time, and actually contains it’s own mini db to hold all the data if you’re not connected.  I’m not gonna lie, this is really cool to me.

In comes SAP HANA.  The idea is that you can be doing real time monitoring of everything in your customer’s fleet.  if anything exceeds the norm or has issues, you can instantly use SAP to create an incident and have a technician dispatched.  Very slick.  According to everything I saw, there is ever predictive analysis tools that can take educated guesses on the next failure, so you can have a tech dispatched in advance to help prevent downtime.  It’s all very cool, very high tech, and very slick.

Now, of course, there is a catch.  What are you going to do with all of this data?  How much of this data do you really need to be real time?  and how much technology needs to be in place for the Internet of Things to work.  Well, I’m still bit fuzzy on this myself, but over the coming weeks, I’m going to start digging into it.  I want to find out how I can make it work for ECC customers that don’t have HANA.  I’m sure this will limit the functionality, but I want to find out if there are things that can be done with this cool new concept without costly upgrades or new servers…  if any of you have good information you can point me to, please let me know.

Thanks for reading,

Service Management – is it really a module in ECC?

At SAPPHIRE, I often found myself explaining what Service Management was and how it worked in SAP ECC.  It really got me to thinking.  Is it really a module within SAP?  And I guess the best answer is yes and no.  Let me explain a little further, and maybe you can tell me what you think.  So, if you look within SAP Configuration (SPRO), is there a folder for Service Management (or even Customer Service).  Well, yes there is.  However, the interesting part is that the majority of configuration for SM is not contained within this folder.  In fact, nearly every part of the configuration is performed within Plant Maintenance or Sales and Distribution.  A little is in the logistics execution, but in general, to set up the SM processes, you use PM and SD.

Now, if this is the case, it sure sounds like it is NOT it’s own module, at least not in the way I describe it.  Here is why I do think it is still it’s own module.  Within each of these big subsets (SD & PM), there very specific pieces of configuration that only apply to SM.  Further to the point, SM is really only SM because these two modules are so closely linked.  No matter how you perform your service, you need both SD (to do some billing) and PM to collect some cost, in order to make it SM.

One of the biggest issues, IMHO, is the connection between these 2 modules.  The process works, and is effective.  Unfortunately, there isn’t good reporting or visibility of the entire process out of the box in SAP.  SAP does a great job of showing you the PM stuff, and a great job of showing you the SD stuff.  What is missing is the full picture.  Because these 2 interact so heavily, to get a true understanding you need to see the SD & PM at one time.  This is where I come in.  My dashboard was the first piece I built that really helped with this.  Being able to look at a repair sales order or a service order and see the revenue and cost in one place.  Since then, I’ve built tools on the back-end that also show you the front end info that spawned it, and vice versa.  My goal with my applications to give the business an end to end picture, no matter which variation of SM they are using.

Thanks for reading,

Service Management – What is it?

While I was at SAPPHIRE, I got hit with a question over and over again, and it initially surprised me.  I always thought if you worked in SAP, you had a general knowledge of all the modules, but I quickly came to realize that Service Management (also called Customer Service) was very commonly unknown, even in the SAP community.  So this was kind of a wake up call to me, and a perfect opportunity to explain what it is that I do.  So, let me tell you exactly what SAP Service Management is and some of the things it isn’t 🙂

SAP SM (Service Managment) is also called CS (Customer Service) within SAP.  A while ago, they re-branded the module.  I can’t explain why, but to this day, some people call it CS, some call it SM.  SM seems more common, and also more clear, so that’s why I stick to that term. The shortest explanation is that service management is for all the processes that occur after you sell/ship the product to your customer.  SM is most commonly used for the following sorts of processes.

  • Call Center or Help Desk calls
  • Return for Credit
  • Return for repair
  • Exchange
  • On-Site (Field) Service repairs
  • Any of these processes can also fall under the warranty umbrella as well.

In my experience, SM is most commonly used in manufacturing environments that have products (often serialized) that can be serviced, fixed or replaced.  Now, there are exceptions, like software (still a serialized product) that can use many of the SM processes as well.

Another question, I got a few times is if it was the same thing as Solution Manager.  The first time I was confused, and I needed a little more clarification.  I haven’t been a big user of SolMan in the past, so I didn’t realize they had an issue resolution (like an internal issue system) inside of SolMan.  In general, I would NOT advocate using SM to do this function.  The notification within SAP is about the best thing you could use for it, and in general, it’s not the best vehicle to perform this function.  Something like ServiceNow, Quality Center or other items are much better for dealing with user issues, testing issues, etc…  I believe in SM, but to me it’s meant to be used when dealing with entities OUTSIDE of your business.  This should be for your customers, not your internal users.

I hope this helps define a little better what SAP SM is…

Thanks for reading,

Variant Configuration – How do you know if a product is a good fit

I recently had someone ask me the question, if I’m stuck deep in the world of make to stock, can I still use VC?  For me, the case was usually pretty simple.  Even when I worked in a company that converted everything to a material variant, it was still an easy business case to use VC.  Of course, every business is different, but here’s what I look for when I try to decide if it’s a good candidate.  In my opinion, a product is a good fit, regardless of MTO or MTS.  Now, don’t get me wrong, MTO is so much easier because you don’t have the residual master data, but in general the BOM and routing maintenance is still worth the trade off.  So here’s what I look for when I evaluate a product for VC.
1.  are there clear rules defined for the product?  by this, I mean are the rules pretty stable?  this is common when you deal with products with a variable length or variable qty of something.  My first job worked heavily with cable lengths, interchangeable connections, and boxes of different sizes.  These attributes make it worth while, even if you make MV’s.  But, if you are constantly changing rules, adding new characteristics, MV’s quickly become unwieldy.  Keep in mind, a material variant is a snapshot of a configuration.  If you change the rules and a new value is added or determined, you need to “refresh” all of your material variants in order to make sure your BOM rules fire appropriately.  While this isn’t impossible, as your number of MV’s increase, so does your effort level for even simple changes.
2.  is there a “relatively” static BOM?  By this I mean are you adding a new component every time you make a new part?  or is the BOM the same, just changing quantities or swapping A for B?  if you fall into the second category, you passed my second test.  However, if you will need always alter the BOM for ever new configuration, you really need to look more at ETO (engineer to order).  If you are using ETO, MTS is pretty much out the window.
3.  The next thing to factor in is if it really needs to be MTS.  Now, in general, many companies are used to dealing with MTS, so MTO seems scary, cumbersome, or just “Not a fit”.  Many times, this is just a lack of understanding.  In a lot of places I’ve worked, you can make a small piece of the VC puzzle MTS, and then just add that MTS component as one of the components of your configurable BOM.  IN this way, you can still handle the quick turn around you accomplish with make to stock, without creating thousands of materials that will never be ordered again.
4.  Another big concern is returns.  My first job, we went down the path because it was an old version of SAP (3.0F) and there is now good way to perform a return on a configurable item.  Now, this has improved over the years, but it will still be a hassle.  Typically, to perform a return, you either need to bring the stock back as customer stock, and it lives on the original sales order.  Or if you want to put it into stock, you can create an MV.  In general, to me, this is still a better approach than making a MV for everything.

Now, the specific case for handling VC in a MTS environment.  The easiest way to justify still using VC is in the engineering drawings needed to produce the material, the BOM and routing work necessary for every new material, and the engineering change group (if applicable).  I had a recent client where we needed to make configurable materials into MV’s whenever they are needed for service.  The process takes about 5 minutes to create a new material and it’s ready to roll.  Can you make a normal material that fast?  at my first job, we built an entire VC function to do it all auto-magically in the background (we even added rules to help define the MV values).  So…  I hope that helps you out.

Thanks for reading,