Improving PM Efficiency with OCI
The Open Catalog Interface (OCI) is an incredibly powerful tool. Take a minute to think about how you bought the little things you need around the house before the internet. How did you go about replacing a broken handle on the refrigerator or finding a replacement throttle cable for a lawnmower? Do you remember how much time was spent waiting at a parts counter for a clerk to fumble through a shelf of repair manuals just to fill out an order form? And after all that waiting being told that the delivery time would be three to six weeks?
Thanks to the internet and some exceptional programming by manufacturers and distributors I can do a Google search for a mower widget, be presented with screens full of suppliers, view a picture of the part (and where it goes on the mower), have the installation manual one click away, order the part from nearly anywhere in the world and have it delivered to my door step in a matter of days. I may be showing my age here, but this is as amazing to me as someone seeing an airplane for the first time. We truly do have the world at our fingertips. We have been empowered, but we seem to have fallen a little short when it comes to implementing this same wonderful capability within our corporate computer systems.
Take a stroll out of your office and wander down to the Plant Maintenance (PM) Planners area. One of the first things you will notice is that the Plant Maintenance folks have a lot of book cases, filled with the repair manuals that our afore mentioned clerk spent his time looking for our part in. We have done some work to make this easier by providing them with task lists and equipment bills of material. For common repair items we have even set up MRP to know what is needed ahead of time and automatically order the parts for a timely delivery. However, getting this to work has meant that we have required the maintenance folks to enter each item that they consume manually into the system, as well as placing them in the correct portion of the Bill of Material hierarchy.
While this may seem like a minor inconvenience to those of us sitting behind desks in office buildings, consider that the complete Bill of Material for an off-road truck consists of over 8000 items. Less than 200 of these are needed regularly enough to justify maintaining the master data in a BOM. Over the twenty year life of the truck 7000 of the items will never be ordered. What do we do about the other 1000 items that will need to be purchased? What are we doing to help the PM folks order the right part.
Many of the larger, more technically astute equipment manufacturers have made a significant effort to help their customers address this need for equipment specific parts information. After all, they can reduce their costs by minimizing reorders and restocking for incorrectly ordered parts. Caterpillar (the manufacturer of many of our off-road trucks), Letourneau, and other large equipment manufacturers make their parts information available over the internet using a protocol that talks directly to SAP systems. This includes providing the information in structured BOMs including exploded parts lists, parts illustrations, information on assembly information and superseded part information. The method used to link SAP PM users directly to their suppliers, while keeping the processes and approvals required for corporate controls in place is the Open Catalog Interface (OCI). While typically thought of as a part of SAP’s SRM, the Open Catalog is a component of SAP that can have a direct impact on the efficiency of a Plant Maintenance department. The PM folks always get the right part, but sometimes it takes a couple of tries, and each of these tries affects equipment availability.
This is the first of a series of Blogs and Wikis that explores the use of the Open Catalog Interface as a tool to improve PM organization efficiency through the use of the SAP OCI. Business cases and empirical examples will be posted in the Blog section, with configuration and set-up examples being posted to the Wiki.