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Author's profile photo Christian Halbach

SAP Warehouse Operator – A New iPhone Application for the Warehouse

Let’s have a look at the current challenges in the warehouse as well as the key capabilities and technical details of the new SAP Warehouse Operator app.

The new SAP Warehouse Operator app for the iPhone addresses many of the challenges that we see today in the warehouse. The e-commerce effect leads to changes in order profiles and massive increases in volume. Lead times for fulfilment have drastically decreased, while accuracy has to be guaranteed. The locations of warehouse have moved closer to large urban areas for e-commerce delivery. Thus the warehouse rents are at an all-time high. Also a demographic-change can be observed for warehouse operators. Career warehouse workers retire, while short-term workers take their place.

As a warehouse operator, you want one mobile solution that supports in all of your daily tasks ranging from unloading to picking, packing & shipping. SAP Warehouse Operator optimizes business processes and workflows to minimize unnecessary user interaction steps by leveraging the latest on-device technologies.

 

 

Why move towards iPhones in the warehouse?

At the same time, Smartphones are now a commodity. We want to enable warehouse operators to use the devices they already know and love instead of training them on purpose built devices they would never otherwise want to use.

The iPhone has transformed the mobile phone business and every upgrade to the latest iOS version unleashes new features and gives us greater “speed to innovation”. Deploying a variety of iPhones in the supply chain all running the same OS allows us to quickly adopt new platform features and deploy them across the enterprise. Buying expensive purpose built devices that are meant to run for seven to ten years lock us into seven to ten years of no new innovation.

Key capabilities of SAP Warehouse Operator

Key capabilities of SAP Warehouse Operator Version 1.0 include:

  • Guide user on next warehouse task: Allow user to login and select a resource (e.g. forklift) to work with.  Show next warehouse order for resource. Start next warehouse task within order.
  • Scan barcodes fast, efficiently & accurately. Instantly read barcodes even in low light and from distance. Handle blurry and damaged barcodes as well as small and unusual barcodes.
  • Support Extended Warehouse Management (EWM) picking process: Pick items from a source bin and move them to a destination bin.
  • Support EWM putaway process: Putaway pallets from the goods receipt area to a destination bin.

All SAP EWM customers running SAP S/4HANA On-Premise 2021 can simply use the SAP Warehouse Operator app.

Prerequisite for downloading and installing the SAP Warehouse Operator application from the Apple App Store is an iPhone 11 or newer running iOS 14 and above.

On the server-side SAP Warehouse Operator integrates with SAP Mobile Services, SAP Business Technology Platform and SAP S/4HANA On-Premise 2021.

Typically, the system administrator in your company will configure SAP Mobile Services using the administration user interface and create the API destinations to the relevant warehouse APIs.  The system administrator would then share an onboarding QR-Code with the users of the app in your company.

You can then simply download the app from the Apple App Store, install it on your phone and directly try out the demo mode, which works without connecting to a backend. As an alternative, you may of course onboard to the application by scanning the QR-code and logging into your SAP customer subaccount.

Now, you can use SAP Warehouse Operator for your daily warehouse tasks on your favorite device.

Post your feedback about SAP Warehouse Operator in the comments section. Start by visiting your SAP Mobile Applications community page and click “follow”. We’ll be publishing more informative blog posts. Please post additional questions in the SAP Extended Warehouse Management area. Want to be notified? Check your profile settings to ensure you have your settings activated.

 

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      Author's profile photo Balint Meszaros
      Balint Meszaros

      Thanks for the blog post. I have to be honest, I do not see the rationale behind this at all.

      • iPhones do not have the same range and accuracy for scanning barcodes
      • They are not cheaper than RF scanners, especially if you factor in the additional protective gear they require
      • They will last for a very short time with all this camera use (at least their battery)
      • This architecture seems really complicated with SAP Business Technology Platform with SAP Mobile Services and SAP Cloud Connector. To me it doesn't necessarily seem simple than the current RF framework in EWM with ITS mobile and an industrial browser on the device.

      But let's say we want greater “speed to innovation”. Let's say we assume that smartphones will take the place of industrial RF scanners. Why not Android then? iOS is a platform that can only run on iPhones, and iPhones were not designed for this kind of industrial use at all, whereas Android can run on any kind of device - and it already does on the newest RF scanners. It's also usually cheaper.

      But hey, I've been wrong before. So if you can provide any sort of clarification on this, that would be more than welcome.

      Author's profile photo Pramod Sidlaghatta Jaiprakash
      Pramod Sidlaghatta Jaiprakash

      Dear Balint Meszaros,

      Thanks for your comment.

      With the first version of the SAP Warehouse Operator app, we hope to start the journey of transforming the user experience and streamlining business processes in the warehouse by tapping into the powerful capabilities of iPhones. We believe that such a move towards consumer devices and the choice of technologies (SAP BTP and iOS) are steps in the right direction considering the present and the future.

      Many of the points you have raised are exactly the types of discussions we’ve been having with our customers and partners to understand users' needs and come up with solutions. We admit that we don't have answers to all of them as yet. This is a vast topic, and our intention is to bring the app with a reasonable scope into the hands of our users, learn and continuously improve it (functional enhancements, support for more devices/platforms, etc.).

      Looking at your well-articulated comment, clearly, you seem to have a lot of experience in this area. We request you to please reach out to us at sap_warehouse_operator@sap.com if you have more feedback.

      Author's profile photo Per Åge Themte
      Per Åge Themte

      Hi Balint!

      I suggest you try the app yourself - it has a demo mode that let's you try it out. SAP has implemented the barcode API from Scandit here, which is without doubt on par with more or less any expensive scanner on the market (Lookup the Scandit demo app as well, and try it out - you'll be amazed).

      When it comes to the architecture, using BTPms enables offline data and synchronization. We work with a lot of large warehouses, and wifi communication is expensive to setup, especially if the warehouse holds high density materials. Having an app that doesn't rely on internett at all can be simple and inexpensive solution to the problem.

       

      Author's profile photo Pramod Sidlaghatta Jaiprakash
      Pramod Sidlaghatta Jaiprakash

      Dear Per Åge Themte,

      Thanks for adding to our comments. Just to be clear, the V1.0 of the SAP Warehouse Operator app does not support the offline mode.

      Best regards,

      Pramod

      Author's profile photo Balint Meszaros
      Balint Meszaros

      Hi Per Åge, Pramod,

      thanks very much for your insightful answers. The offline mode seems to be a real added value (understood it's not there yet), and it's true that 2D barcodes require image-based scanning anyways, which can be handled by mobile devices nearly as well. I tried Scandit and it is a great choice indeed.

      I will never understand the focus on iPhones as they are the ultimate consumer device, but that might just be me, and I understand that you might add other platforms in the future. By the way, in the meantime I heard of a current example where they use ITS mobile on iPhones...

      Thanks,

      Bálint

      Author's profile photo Madhavan Chari
      Madhavan Chari

      Good read, quick question - Is this also supported in ECC WM? or only S/4 EWM?.

      Author's profile photo Pramod Sidlaghatta Jaiprakash
      Pramod Sidlaghatta Jaiprakash

      Hello Mr. Chari,

      The works only on EWM on S/4HANA 2021.

      Best regards, Pramod