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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  It was so far out of date, and not even a part of the landscape, that it really wouldn’t have mattered.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,

SAPPHIRE Now… What a Ride

Well, let me apologize for being MIA for the past couple of weeks.  I’ve been so consumed making sure I’m ready for the conference (and oh yeah, working through a go-live), that I just ran out of energy.  Speaking of the conference, it was an experience.  First off, let me just say that the logistics were amazing.  With the exception of a last minute hotel bump (I guess 2.5 months isn’t enough advanced booking), everything went smoothly.  The number I heard was somewhere between 18,000 and 19,000 people attended the huge SAP expo.  The interesting thing is, except for lunch and some of the keynote presentations, it never felt like there were that many people there.  If you haven’t been to the Orlando Conference Center, it is quite amazing.  The size of it is incredible, the logistics were mind boggling.

At no time did I have to wait in long lines for lunch, coffee or snacks.  There was always plenty room to sit down and do a little work (of course, I had my booth, so that wasn’t an issue for me :> ).  Then of course seeing all the crazy booth designs were quite impressive (and expensive from my understanding).  From a logistical perspective, it was great.

Now one of the things that surprised me was the traffic.  Obviously, you pay a chunk of cash to get yourself a booth at this massive conference.  In general, the amount of traffic flowing was a bit disappointing.  Now of course, the areas front and center had no issue…  plus they had booths 5 times the size of mine (probably a lot bigger in some instances).  However, at the SAP Insider MFG conference, traffic never seemed to be a problem.  I’m sure it’s due to the layout of where the sessions are held and the conference center itself.

Now the flip side is that when traffic came through, it was often high quality traffic.  So overall, I think I hit my goal of quality leads.  Now it’s up to me to work to make my product fit for these leads.  I got some great feedback, and have a good direction of where I need to take my stuff in order to improve my chances of closing some sales.  I was very happy to hear that most people liked what I had, and weren’t really looking for a lot more than what I was providing…  that doesn’t mean I won’t be providing a lot more…  but getting feedback like that really made me feel good.

Like everyone there, I think it was a good conference, and I got exactly what I was hoping for out it…  so far at least.  Now the hard work begins…

Thanks for reading,

Service Management – Changing Serial Numbers on Sales Orders

In my recent project, my friend Dave found something new.  If you assign an equipment record to a sales order as a technical object, then go back and change the serial number within the equipment record, the sale order doesn’t update.  I know… what a mouthful, and an obscure situation.  Now, this is probably not a real common thing, but if you need your serial number updated in existing documents, you need to do a little work for it.

First off, SAP covers a lot of this in note 94769.  But Dave found an extra little piece that wasn’t orignally expected.  If you want the documents to get updated, you need to add some code.  When you make the changes the processing is executed by a case statement. Unfortunately, the case that is true for the new value of the variable contains no code.

WHEN mode_upd_user. “user defined update

WHEN mode_upd_none. “no update

WHEN OTHERS.       “undefined

ENDCASE.

mode_upd_user is our new value. It does the same thing as mode_upd_none (nothing at all).

This change also disables the standard update (service contracts) that was happening in the portion of the case statement now deactivated.

In order to do what we need, we would have to copy the code in the case “WHEN mode_upd_serv. “update of service contracts”, insert it into the case mode_upd_user and modify it to select sales orders in addition to contracts. That is accomplished by changing this IF statement:

IF ( ser02-vorgang = ‘SDW1’ OR ser02-vbtyp = ‘G’ )

AND ( NOT ser02-sdaufnr IS INITIAL ).

To

IF ( ser02-vorgang = ‘SDW1’ OR ser02-vbtyp = ‘G’

OR   ser02-vorgang = ‘SDAU’ OR ser02-vbtyp = ‘C’ ) “update of service orders NEW!

AND ( NOT ser02-sdaufnr IS INITIAL ).

 

So, use this if you ever need to make sure that your serial number is always in sync within your sales orders.  Thanks Dave, and thanks for reading,

Keys to Success – Self Esteem is everything

If you really want to be successful, you need to have a high level of self-esteem.  I know what you’re thinking… duh!!!  but there really is more to than that.  The first and most important thing is that you can literally manufacture your own self-esteem at will.  I’ve heard this before, but sometimes I get so caught up, that I need a reminder.  Listening to Brian Tracy kicked me in the pants again.  So if anyone can make self-esteem at will, why don’t they?  and why isn’t everyone a success?  Well, first let me explain, in my layman’s terms, how anyone can increase their self esteem.

First, and easiest…  like yourself.  I know…  duh again!!!  isn’t that part of the definition of self-esteem?  well, as obvious as it sounds, many people, for one reason or another, don’t like themselves.  They beat themselves up, they focus on their mistakes, they tell themselves they aren’t good enough.  All of these things sucker punch your self-esteem.  But there is an incredibly easy thing you can do to build it up.  Simple repeat (out loud preferably), “I Like Myself”.  Anytime you feel a little down a little deflated, just take a minute and repeat that simple phrase 5 or 10 times (or more).  Just by telling yourself this, you pump yourself back up.

Next up, is the more sophisticated method…  but even more powerful.  Visualization.  you may have heard how athletes play an entire game in their mind before they take the field, they see themselves doing everything perfectly, and they do it over and over again.  Well, this works because your brain can’t tell the difference between this visualization and real life.  So if you replay a past victory over and over again in your head, your brain sees it as 50 victories (now remember, the same thing is true for your defeats).  So simply by replaying your past successes over and over again in your mind, you literally build up your confidence because your brain sees that you have done this 50 times, so doing it again is no problem.  Self esteem is often related to accomplishing goals.  so if you see yourself succeeding over and over again, your self esteem grows…  even though you only visualized 49 of those successes…

So…  remember, you can build your self-esteem anytime you want.  you can also crush it.  Take control of your thinking and you can succeed 🙂

Thanks for reading,

GUI Script vs. LSMW

Well, in my recent project, I quickly came to the conclusion that GUI script is an amazing tool, but it’s not the only tool.  Like so many of us, when we get a new “hammer” in the toolbox, everything looks like a nail 🙂  GUI Script has been my hammer.  I built lots of fun scripts to load data, only to find that scripting in a production environment is not always allowed (that was a setup back).

The next thing I quickly came to realize is that GUI Script is not nearly as efficient as a BDC program or better yet LSMW.  To give you a ballpark, I was attempting to create a bunch of equipment records.  It was very simple, just adding a description and a serial number and saving.  In GUI script, I could load about 3000 equipment in an hour.  Then, I put together an LSMW to do the same thing.  It processes through about 1000 records per minute 🙂  Now, don’t get me wrong, writing the GUI script is so much faster, it’s meant for small data loads.  If your doing anything of significant volume, you really do need an LSMW.

Short story, this was good to remind me that I have a hammer and a drill in my toolbox 🙂

thanks for reading,

Keys to success -take responsibility

well, I realized recently that I’m about due for a dose of self help :). Between the stress and trouble sleeping, I really should have figured it out sooner, but you know me. I have a few staples when it comes to focusing myself, and today was Brian Tracy. It’s funny, because his advice is so spot on for me, yet I still forget it and get caught up in bs of everyday life. Today, I thought I’d lock it in my own head by telling you.

Take responisibility. Those simple words can really make a difference. Brian talks about the psychology of it, but I’ll give you the short version.  By the simple act of taking responsibility for everything in your life, you can’t blame anyone else for you problems. This takes anger, blame, etc out of the equation.  And let’s face it, when you’re honest about it, you are responisible.

Lets use yours truly as an example. I’ve been involved in projects where I’ve become very frustrated because I was being micromanaged. While I don’t deal well with style of management, I had to stop and take stock of myself. It’s hard to know where to start. First off, I accepted the contract. While I may have unaware of the exact players and how thing would unfold, it was still my choice. Next, and probably much more useful, I realized that if I was more open about exactly what I was doing, what my plan was, and how I was going to accomplish it, I wouldn’t have given any reason to be scrutinized. It didn’t hit me until the other day when my wife asked me about it, and I responded with “well, they never asked till now”. That’s a mistake on my part, as well as a huge learning opportunity for me.

All of. This and more didn’t sink in until I heard the phrase “take responsibility”.   Sothe next time you’re angry, frustrated, or start to blame someone else for your problems, step back and really look at it objector. It’s not always easy, but trust me when I say it’s a far more productive way to live your life.

Thanks for reading,