Warehouse management in SAP S/4 HANA cloud – The new kid on the block
For the warehousing world, that has been looking at SAP to bring the warehouse management functionality to the cloud, there is good news. After successfully enabling integration with the core SAP EWM solution from S/4 HANA cloud in previous releases, SAP is now ready with the core warehousing functionality in the cloud itself. With release 1811, the warehouse management functionality has been introduced in the SAP S/4 HANA cloud solution.
This indeed comes as good news to customers who want to run their warehouse, with simple and basic functionalities and processes, in the cloud. These warehouses don’t have complex processes, mainly run a lean process and to add to that, don’t want to own the infrastructure costs of a full-fledged warehousing solution.
A simple but powerful warehouse management solution, available in the cloud serves ideally for such warehousing requirements.
This blog is intended to be the first of a series on subsequent blogs on warehouse management in S/4 HANA in the cloud. In this blog, I intend to bring the introductory information w.r.t warehouse management in the S/4 HANA cloud solution, the processes that are available and the relevant scope items. In subsequent blogs, I plan to talk about setup and configurations of these processes in more detail.
So far, the warehouse management functionality in the S/4 HANA cloud has seen many phases. While the older releases had the Logistics inventory management, the 1708 release of the S/4 HANA cloud brought the first possibility of integrating with a third-party warehouse management solution. Post this, the 1805 release brought in the possibility of integrating with SAP’s very own EWM (Extended Warehouse Management) solution. It was only evident that bringing the warehousing operations on the cloud was only a matter of time, and this eventually happened with the 1811 release. The 1811 release now has the option of setting up a basic warehouse within the Cloud system, without the need to integrate with an external warehouse system, whether SAP’s or from a third party.
Start Small … and Grow Big!
From a functionality perspective, in the current release (1902) of the S/4 HANA cloud, Warehouse management can be considered as the newest kid on the block. As can be expected, it is still a kid and is only going to grow. What this means is that though the warehouse management functionality is available, currently it is only suitable to run only some basic processes of the warehouse in this system. Therefore, a small warehouse, which requires just setting up the basic warehousing processes becomes an ideal candidate for using this solution as on today. Those who are used to using SAP’s Extended Warehouse Management (EWM) might not like it today, as the EWM is a full-blown solution, capable of handling the most complex of warehouse processes. But all good things start in small packages and it especially holds true for the S/4 HANA cloud warehouse management component. Even with this advent, it still does make sense to have S/4 HANA cloud in your landscape and integrate with SAP EWM and get the best of both worlds.
What’s in it
Basic as it might be, but the warehouse in the cloud does cover what’s essential. The basic inbound, outbound processes can well be run along with some of the internal processes of the warehouse. The following figure provides a snapshot of the processes that this solution brings to the table.
As is evident, you can easily process incoming material for your warehouse, whether it is from your supplier, a return from a customer or for that matter, from your distribution/manufacturing plants. You will be able to store this in your warehouse in the cloud. And subsequently, you can also ship it from the warehouse to your customers, suppliers(returns) or to other plants through the outbound processes.
Within the warehouse, it does support you to carry out physical inventory (counting of the materials in the warehouse) and allows you to move goods within the warehouse.
So easily, you have a view of your products, and exactly where they are stored in the warehouse. It provides a bin-level detail of the product being stored, which makes life extremely easy to track goods to their actual physical location, something that Inventory management can’t provide as it provides a view only till the storage location level (friends in LE/IM-MM will appreciate instantly).
Who does what
While I will not go into details of the processes and their configurations in this blog (as I intend to do this in a subsequent blog), what might be worth noting is what this new solution is bringing to the table, and for whom.
1) The warehouse clerk – The person working in the office. He is the one who is able to do the “Planning” activities. He can create tasks, schedule deliveries, align with stakeholders like quality managers or the sales and purchase departments. He is also the one who can handle exceptions that his colleagues on the shop floor might get into.
2) The warehouse operator – This person is the shop floor worker. He is the one who actually does the warehouse tasks of picking and moving stuff, loading and unloading trucks, physical counting etc.
Both these roles are available in the cloud warehouse. From a technical perspective, both these are fiori roles which can be assigned to the relevant users who are supposed to perform these tasks.
The Apps, Tiles and the UIs
With about 34 Apps, available as Fiori tiles for both the Clerk and Operative roles, 18 Self-Service Configuration User Interfaces (SSCUIs), 8 Scope items (Best Practice processes), the warehouse management comes to life in the cloud. Of the 34 apps, 16 are set up apps which are generally one-time activities (or at least not a day-to-day activity). The other 18 carry a clear distinction and therefore the Clerk and the operative have a clear differentiation on the tasks that they are supposed to perform.
The Best practices
The following snapshot lists the scope items in warehouse management in S/4 HANA cloud, available as best practices. There are 8 best practices which cover the basic warehouse processes in the S/4 HANA cloud Warehouse management.
Master data forms the core of any solution and warehouse management is no different. Though SAP S/4 HANA cloud provides sample master data that you can use to test your business processes, you can also create your own master data using Master Data Scripts (MDS). S/4 HANA cloud warehouse management offers four master data objects along with master data scripts that help you create your own master data.
Along with the master data, to aid the creation of master data in the S/4 HANA Cloud system, there are also migration objects available which make it easy to have initial master data uploaded into the system. There are five such migration objects available through the Data migration cockpit. These enable the initial data upload, which is imperative to get the warehouse up and running quickly.
Labels and forms are an important part of any warehouse. S/4 HANA cloud offers 7 forms under output management.
Limitation as it may sound, S/4 HANA cloud warehouse management currently supports only paper-based warehouses, with no real option to have Radio Frequency handhelds while operating in the warehouse.
The following forms are available:
- Handling unit label
- Shipping label
- Warehouse task list
- Pick list
- Putaway List
- Loading list
- Physical Inventory Document
The road ahead
Quite evidently, the S/4 HANA cloud warehouse management does bring a much-desired functionality to the cloud. Limited as it may seem, both in terms of capability as well as maturity, it still is a simple but powerful solution. Given the EWM legacy that SAP has in the on-premise space, things can only get better. It might only be a matter of time before it matures into a full-blown solution.
Remember, new features in cloud are always only a quarter away 😊
The new kid on the block, it may indeed be a kid, but it is certainly eager to grow.
Stay tuned … more to follow.