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The Architect’s World – Episode 2

As a Solution Architect, it becomes mandatory to get a firm grasp on the business issues that are to be addressed using the SAP NetWeaver stack. In this blog, we will formulate a business case of a Shopfloor Execution System. In the subsequent blog, we will try to address this business case from a Technical standpoint.

The SFE system Overview

Let us discuss a hypothetical case in point for a Composite Application – A Shop Floor Execution (SFE) Application that ensures accurate manufacture of Make to Order (MTO) and Retail(MTS) desktops. It is used during the production process to capture and track information about base units, add parts to them, produce labels for identification, and ensure that operators don’t add incorrect parts to units. SFE also works with the internal SAP R/3 and legacy applications and processes to keep accurate accounts, update product and order information, and produce reports.

Let us walk through the bird’s-eye view of the entire production process, showing the SFE’s role within it. It summarizes the flow of information, units, and parts through the process, and should help us understand how operators and other organization resources use the Shop Floor Execution system.

Now, as an ESA Architect or a Solution Architect (however you are christened), over and above the process functionality, its important to design the solution on the SAP NetWeaver Platform.

Production Process Overview

Post the MRP run, the production process contains several processes within it. First, various information sources update SFE with order, BOM, and other information on a regular basis Then, using the order information, the Input Process begins building a unit to fill a customer order.

The output process takes the unit and completes it, checking to make sure that the computer was built correctly during the entire process. This is based on preconfigured business process validations.

Additionally, two processes, Repair and QA, take place for some units. For example, if a unit is damaged during the Input process, it goes to the Repair Process. Or, if QA randomly selects before it’s shipped, it will go through the QA process, where QA audits its production information. This becomes an process chain-link while we lay down the ESA roadmap for the SFE.

Currently, the SFE isn’t involved in the Aging process. This is to keep this case simple.

Updating the SFE Database

Each day, the SFE database gets updated with the latest shop floor information. New Bill of Materials and orders from SAP R/3 flow into the system. At the same time, Shop Floor Execution processes run, controlling the time it takes to release orders and the reassignment of cancelled orders. After the SFE ages orders for two days, it releases them to production, beginning the Input process.

Overview of the Input Process

Once the Shop Floor Application releases an order for production, the Input Process begins. A Line Operator prints a travel card (MTO) or a WIP label (MTS) to keep track of the unit during production. We use this segregation to address both processes. After activating the unit, they use the SFE serial capture (scanning) to add components to it, scanning each component to the travel card or WIP label.

While the Operator scans components, SFE starts a “Tac Time” timer to track the total time the Input Process takes. It also validates each component as it is scanned, ensuring that the operator doesn’t add any incorrect parts to the unit.

At the Input Configurator, the Operator inspects the unit, inserts a disc, then scans the unit to begin the CD creation. SFE validates that all the required parts have been added correctly during the Input Process. This ensures that the unit is complete and correct when it leaves Input. We will not go into details of o/s, database, application server etc…

Then, SFE sends a WIP move to SAP to record Input Process completion.

After the Input Configurator, the Operator sends the unit to Aging. If the unit is damaged, however, it goes to Repair. Once the unit completes Aging, it enters the Output Process.

Overiew of the Repair Process

During the Input process, if an operator discovers that a unit needs repair, they send the unit to Repair before it gets to Aging. As they physically move the unit, the Operator scans it, so SFE can track its location while it’s in Repair.

Once the unit physically arrives in Repair, a Repair operator evaluates the problem to see whether they can repair the unit with available parts. If they can, then they repair the unit and scan the unit to return it to Production. The unit then completes Aging and moves to the Output process.

If the unit arrives in Repair and needs a part that is not in stock, then the Repair personnel scans the unit again to move it to “Awaiting Parts”. During this scan, SFE sends a WIP move, and reconciles the WIP transactions for both the unit and the job the unit belongs to. That way, SAP has an accurate record of both where the unit is, and where the rest of the job it originally belonged to is.

Once the part arrives, the operator scans the unit back to Repair, and SFE records another WIP Move for the unit.

The Repair operator repairs the unit, and sends the unit to Aging, then to Output.

Overview of the Output Process

During the output process, the unit goes through several stages of checking, each stage confirming that it successfully completed the previous stage.

First, once the unit completes Aging, it begins Final Inspection. At the end of Final Inspection, the process flags the unit’s CD to confirm it completed the process.

At the next stage, the output configurator, the process checks for the first flag, then sends a new confirming file to the server. Operators then scan output parts (such as cushions and cartons) using SFE. When they’re finished, they scan the unit to print a AWB (MTS) or Shipping Label (MTO).

At that point, SFE completes the third stage of verification, checking that the file was sucessfully written to the server. Then it checks that the operators correctly scanned the output parts. If the unit passes these checks, it prints the correct label, sends a final WIP Move to SAP, and ends Output time tracking.

The operators pick up the sucessfully printed labels, and for MTO, print an MTO label.

Finally, the operators prepare the unit for shipment. A few randomly selected units go to Quality Control.

Understanding the Quality Control Process

If a unit gets selected for QC before it’s shipped, Operators move it to QC, then retrieve production information from the SFE, then audit the information. This ensures that the unit completed production completely and correctly.

Then they physically move the unit back to production. Future is adding additional SFE features, allowing the operators to use a SFE scan to move the unit to QC in the system, and move it back to production when it’s finished.

That way, the SFE is able to track the location of units that go to QC. The QC units are physically moved to another area which denotes the QC area. This also records a movement type change in SAP for the item when it is moved to and from QC, allowing SAP to account for QC’d units (This does not exist as on date)

Leading on the ESA Roadmap

The above case will be looked at from a Solution Architect’s perspective to explore different options available for us with the above case – in my next blog.The idea is to fit the above case on the SAP NetWeaver platform and see if it really makes sense.

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  • Hi Kartik, It is nice that you have picked up the ball on the macro dimension of implementing business solutions with the NW platform. With the customer scenario now defined, let us see how a solution architect goes about his job in tackling this scenario. Awaiting the next one... Pranav