Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A word on Customizing and Configuration...

As we all know, SAP comes pre-configured with settings in the customizing tables in the Enterprise IMG. Sometimes, a company makes use of SAP’s efforts to provide pre-configured solutions for industries and for mid-sized companies, SAP has engaged in partnerships with system integrators who provide a more or less advanced All-in-One solution which can be implemented in a very short amount of time and with a very affordable price tag.

SAP in its purest delivery – without any pre-configuration – has already many settings in its customizing tables. When you add pre-configuration for industry solutions (provided by SAP), you will find more entries in those tables and many of these will have a prefix ‘Y’. So there might be an additional material type configured to the Oil and Gas Industry Solution named YOIL. As we move onto more pre-configuration, maybe as part of an All-In-One solution provided by a certified SAP reseller in your industry, you find even more settings in the customizing tables. And most of these will start with a Z. Lastly, your implementation consultant will add more Z’s as they help you to fit your requirements into the SAP system landscape.
The less your consultant understands all options, policies, strategies and functions available in standard SAP, the more Z entries you will find yourself with. I have seen installations where almost every customizing entry was replaced by a Z entry, but it was doing the same thing as the original entry.

You are now operating in ZAP!
The problem with your ZAP system is that no one will be able to trace back what was originally intended and the implementation consultant, who had various ideas, is long gone. As you are trying to run your business with SAP you might run into the following problem: 12 months ago a new product was introduced to the market and you wanted to carefully assess the acceptance of your customers. After an initial production run to have some available inventory, you decided to produce more after there was real demand. Therefore a MTO strategy was decided and a safety stock set, so that initial customer orders could be delivered right from inventory. The availability checking rule was set to look for stock first and if there was none available, it switches over to promise using the replenishment lead time. Now the product is accepted and you can see that there was steady, consistent demand historically. It is time to switch over and make the product to stock.

As you maintain the rules in the material master record, you find strategy group Z7 and availability check Z2. Those must be MTO, you think. So you pull down on the field to see possible options for an MTS strategy. All you find is myriad of Zx entries with a vague description that could read like “MTS with final assembly” or “MTS with comp fcast”. Short of having access to the IMG with transaction SPRO, you can’t figure out what these settings do. Now you contact your IT department and ask for help. They sit down with you, go into the IMG and show you what a Z4 does. “It is a make to stock strategy that works with a forecast”. “ok”, you say, “what requirement does it generate?” “A Z4 creates a requirement ZSF which will be consumed by a ZKS sales order requirement, if the line item category ZNOR is set in the sales screen. But if you want the ZMS to consume the ZSF, you will have to use strategy Z5”.

“All I want is making sure that I can put forecast requirements out there to which our production scheduler can produce. I then want the sales representative to check for available stock and if there is nothing there, they tell the customer that they need to wait until the next receipt comes in” you might say.

In a ‘pure’ SAP system, I would tell you to use strategy group 10 which creates a LSF forecast requirement and the availability checking rule 02 which checks without replenishment lead time so if it does not find available stock it looks for the next production order to come in to confirm a promise date for the customer. If you consider the customer important, then I suggest you add strategy 40 to the strategy group 10 as a sub-strategy, so that your sales representative can switch over to a different sales order requirement. This time, when there is no available stock, the requirement will fall right into the production schedule and tells the shop floor to do whatever they can to fulfill this important customer’s request.

I cannot recommend this type of policy if I don’t know what your ZAP was set up for. And neither can anyone who wasn’t involved in the original setup of ZAP.

Very often, people are too quick with the Z entry. There are, I believe around 35 different strategies maintained in ‘pure’ SAP and I have not come across a company or industry for which this is not sufficient. Challenge your team to make use of what’s provided. Go back to SAP standard and more importantly: learn about the options in the standard so you can apply them.

This is easier said than done since there are not many people around who can explain all these options and it is very difficult to teach them to yourself. SAP documentation is sparse and sometimes hard to understand. And once you find yourself in ZAP, it’s very hard to get out. Once there are 50,000 materials maintained with material type ZALL, it requires a herculean effort to do the right thing.

Strive to get back to the basics and try to avoid work-arounds, add-ons, modifications or Z settings. Of course, you can’t radically change and replace everything that has been done during the implementation and since, but once you understand more about all the options and settings that come with the SAP delivered, standard software license, you might come to the conclusion that some, or maybe more, of the requirements CAN actually be actuated in the standard.