As there seems to be some blur about the usage of GIS for SAP Transportation Management, I spend today’s monday knowledge snippet to clarify this topic.
What type of GIS services can be used?
SAP TM can use GIS to determine
- geo-coordinates for master data locations using their address
- distances / duration between adresses (mainly used for planning and charge calculation)
- geo-map display (using SAP Visual Business as middleware)
- real street-routing points (show real-street routes on the geo-map)
Can SAP TM be used without GIS?
Yes, of course. The geo-map component is optional for all TM scenarios, what makes the last 2 services also optional. Geo-coordinates for locations are determined in SAP TM standard on region / country level and can be maintained manually to get a higher accuracy without a GIS. Basically location geo-coordinates are only required for the distance determination service (and of course when using the optional geo-map component). This service calculates in SAP TM standard a air-line distance (see http://scn.sap.com/community/scm/transportation-management/blog/2013/04/15/monday-knowledge-snippet-mks–32-as-the-crow-flies-air-line-distance) when no GIS is connected. Distances can also be maintained on transportation lane level, or determined out of a pre-filled buffer table, or even picked up out of an excel. When running scenarios without the need for very accurate and up-to-date distances or with low dynamics regarding locations (for example fixed set of own locations), this is completely sufficient.
Does SAP TM include a GIS license?
No, it does not. There are multiple reasons for this. To just name a few:
- SAP TM supports customers globaly and regional GIS requirements differ. While a single vendor might be strong in the US, it might be irrelevant in Europe. Or might not be able to deliver quality data in China. So whatever GIS vendor we would have picked, it would not fulfill our global approach.
- Many SAP TM customers already have tight relations with a specific GIS vendor and want to use exactly those GIS for SAP TM. So the major requirement was to have an open interface. And so does SAP TM.
- GIS services tend to change over time. As this functionality is no core competency of the SAP TM development team and currently not supported by the SAP NetWeaver basis, it is not possible to maintain such a standard integration fulfilling our customers expectations. In addition, core functions of our transportation solution could not be delivered due to the loss of development capacity.
- GIS connections at our customers differ quite a lot and we see that most of these implementations are actually customer specific. Additional fields like road tolls, different dependencies between the used strategies, and so on.
What needs to be done to use GIS?
1.) First of all – pick a GIS vendor fulfilling your requirements. A few questions to ask:
- For which SAP TM scenario do you want to use GIS and why? -> First of all understand what you are aiming at.
- Does your project have regional or legal requirements?
- Is your project globally distributed and may there even be a need to pick multiple GIS vendors?
- Can the vendor fulfill your requirements regarding data quality and service availability?
- What is the license fee? Per user? Flatrate?
- Which types of technical integration does the GIS vendor support? Web Services? Hosted services? In-House servers?
- Does the GIS vendor offer a full package of all GIS services including geo-map content?
Get in contact with the GIS vendor and get your license. Maybe in the beginning a demo license to see if the technical integration is working okay.
2.) Connect to the GIS. Basically you can connect SAP TM to any server / service that can be called technically. The integration is always a customer project requiring ABAP knowledge.
3.) Test your scenario carefully.
Is there help for the GIS integration topic from SAP side?
First of all check consulting note 1685381. It contains a white paper on GIS services explaining in detail how the GIS services are used and need to be configured. In addition, it has a cookbook attached explaining how to connect to an external WebService from SAP TM using standard tools. There is no GIS vendor specific cookbook available.
Secondly, SAP offers a consulting package including support for the GIS topic including the development part. You can check the central community here: https://community.wdf.sap.corp/groups/gis4saptm
Is there anything special to take care of for the GIS integration?
Well, I see 3 top priorities:
- Data quality: Make sure the selected services deliver results according to your requirements. Any deviation here will result in inaccurate planning or charge calculation.
- Service availability: Make sure your technical landscape ensures a high availability of the used services. SAP internally we use regularly scheduled test reports to check this availability. In case the server is down or does not answer valid requests, our admin (in this case me 🙂 ) is informed using e-mail.
- Performance: GIS services are used in performance crucial processes. Make sure you understand the buffering concept and that the connection implementation is done respecting the performance requirement. Prefer mass enabled services! Actually TEST it!!! We see customer messages complaining the system is slow and the result of our analysis is the slow external call. Actually TEST it!!! This save you and us time.
Can the IGS infrastructure be used?
The SAP basis delivers core GIS services using the IGS server since many years. SAP TM of course supports this standard integration as described in the application documentation and GIS white paper. Nevertheless, we do not recommend it any longer due to the following reasons:
- Requires setup of additional IGS server -> higher TCO
- Unflexible interface, very vendor specific
- Slow, especially for distance determination
Basically, this technology is simply outdated. GIS products today can be called directly using WebServices and I see no sense in setting up a server inbetween.
Never heard of any GIS vendor?
As a starting point you can use the following (completely incomplete) list and check the homepages of these companies to get an idea.
- Rand McNally
Does SAP recommend any GIS vendor?
In general our focus is as already mentioned on the delivery of an open integration infrastructure and we do not recommend any GIS vendor.
Nevertheless I can say that we have strong relations over many years now with NOKIA and do our prototyping using their services. In addition, NOKIA is one of the few vendors capable of delivering services worldwide including infrastructure topics. This includes China. NOKIA is also capable to deliver the full GIS package and actually was the first vendor usable with SAP Visual Businsess.