Today I would like to shine a little light on our vision, how package building could evolve in the future. When this topic was kicked off with SAP Transportation Management 9.3 (MKS53), I was fully aware that packaging is a core warehouse competency and that already packaging solutions within the SAP product portfolio existed (Packing Instruction [PI], Packaging Specification [PS]). Nevertheless, those solutions did not fit well for our SAP TM customers as they did not incooperate transportation relevant aspects well enough. So it was decided to develop the Supply Chain Execution Package Builder (SCE PB). That component was picked up pretty quick by multiple large customers and evolved over the course of the SAP TM releases into a powerful packaging solution. Key strength was always the building of mixed packages. Finally with SAP TM 9.6 (MKS79) this resulted in a detailed mixed package building solution using a new Package Builder Optimizer.
While the roadmap for the SCE PB continued, I never forgot about the other existing packaging solutions. From a design perspective, the SCE PB was created in a way that at multiple spots it was possible to overrule the standard behavior and integrate another logic. Using this, multiple customers went live using the core SCE PB features, but having the target package type assignment within the Packing Instruction.
With the move to S4 and the urging demand for end-to-end process consistency, it became clear that the standard should support the usage of those packaging solutions centrally.
So here is where we are at:
Transportation Management as core part of S4 can consume the SCE Package Builder, but there are alternative packaging solutions including the required master data definitions available.
The aim of the vision is to enable Transportation Management as frontrunner application to consistently consume in standard all of the existing packaging solutions. It shall be possible for customers to configure which component they would like to apply depending on the business process or business document type. For the process, it shall be irrelevant if the packaging item hierarchy was determined using the SCE Package Builder, the Packing Instruction, or the Packaging Specification.
Note that in TM it is already possible to define in the Freight Unit Building rule or in the planning profile, that is either attached to the business document type or defined when entering the Transportation Cockpit used for planning, how package building shall behave by setting a Package Building Profile. So this should be the right place to fulfill the requirement of configurability.
So here is the vision diagram:
Unified Package Builder vision diagram
Using a generic layer (Unified Package Builder [UPB]), all packaging solutions shall be integrated. The configuration happens in the Package Building Profile:
PB Profile with activated SCE PB
PB Profile with activated Packing Instruction
A few further comments for the vision:
- at this stage, the packaging components will behave when being configured as before; there is no combination or merge (part of the continued vision)
- there are differences between the packaging components regarding the required input and the created output; this needs to be analyzed and incooperated in the solution of the UPB (for example, the PI can not return detailed item positions required for the 3-D visualization – so if a customer configures the PI for this process, no 3-D visualization with detailed item positions will be available)
Very important: This is a vision and I did focus on the Transportation Management part of S4. We want to prove that this works well. If so, the number of SAP applications consuming the UPB might grow in the future.
As this is a vision, it is also an opportunity for you to give feedback and drive this into a direction fitting your needs.