SAP offers a comprehensive ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software solution. The ERP system offers a wide range of functions and modules covering various business areas (e.g. finance, purchasing, sales, production).
The latest version of SAP ERP is S/4HANA. The name stands for “Suite for SAP High Performance Analytic Appliance”. The name indicates the close integration with the SAP HANA database, a powerful in-memory database platform.
Advantages of S/4HANA compared to previous versions
S/4HANA offers a number of advantages over previous versions such as R/3 and ECC:
- In-memory technology: With in-memory technology, data is stored and processed in the main memory (RAM) instead of on hard disks. This enables extremely fast data access and processing in real time.
- Fast data processing: Thanks to in-memory technology, complex queries and analyses can be carried out in a matter of seconds, which speeds up decision-making and business processes.
- Massive parallel processing: SAP HANA uses the capabilities of multi-core processors and enables the parallel processing of large volumes of data.
- Cloud-based: SAP S/4HANA can be implemented both in the cloud and on-premises to meet the different needs of companies.
Integration of external OT/IT systems with SAP
SAP offers interfaces for the integration of external OT/IT systems. These interfaces have been continuously developed and expanded over the SAP versions.
While S/4HANA still supports many of the outdated interfaces from R/3 and ECC, S/4HANA encourages the use of newer technologies to meet the demands of the digital age.
- SAP R/3:
- BAPI (Business Application Programming Interface): BAPIs are used to integrate external applications into SAP R/3. They offer a standardized way of accessing and editing SAP data.
- IDoc (Intermediate Document): IDocs are used to exchange structured data between SAP systems and external systems. They are often used for asynchronous communication.
- RFC (Remote Function Call): RFC enables external applications to call SAP functions remotely. It is often used for real-time integration with SAP.
- EDI (Electronic Data Interchange): R/3 supports EDI standards for the electronic exchange of data with trading partners.
- File-based integration: Flat files (e.g. CSV, XML) are often used for batch data exchange between R/3 and external systems.
- User-defined APIs: R/3 systems can be extended with user-defined APIs using technologies such as ABAP (Advanced Business Application Programming).
- SAP ECC: SAP R/3 interfaces incl.
- SAP NetWeaver: ECC is often integrated using SAP NetWeaver, which provides a comprehensive integration platform.
- Web services: ECC supports web services, including SOAP and REST, for providing and consuming services.
- SAP PI/PO (Process Integration/Process Orchestration): SAP PI and PO are middleware solutions that are used for complex integration scenarios with multiple systems.
- OData services: ECC supports OData services to provide and integrate data and functions for external software applications. These RESTful web services are user-friendly and facilitate integration.
- SAP S/4HANA: SAP ECC interfaces incl.
- SAP Cloud Platform: SAP Cloud Platform Integration (formerly known as SAP HCI – SAP HANA Cloud Integration) enables the seamless integration of S/4HANA with other cloud-based applications, services and platforms. It offers a range of preconfigured integration services and adapters.
- SAP HANA database connection: S/4HANA supports the connection of external systems to the HANA database via various integration mechanisms and standards. These include RESTful Web Services, OData (Open Data Protocol), JDBC (Java Database Connectivity), ODBC (Open Database Connectivity) and more. The integration is comparable to other relational databases.
Advantages of combining SAP and i-flow
The combination of i-flow and SAP enables the seamless integration of various OT and IT systems into the SAP system landscape, including machine controls and sensor data. i-flow serves as a data processor as well as a read and write link.
For example, heterogeneous data from production systems can be harmonized, aggregated and made available to SAP in i-flow. In addition, OT data (e.g. process data) can be enriched with data from SAP (e.g. serialized parts list), for example to implement requirements for tracing product and process data. Other examples are:
- Automate business transactions: Transactions can be triggered in SAP on the basis of machine and process data. Examples include the automatic confirmation of production orders and material postings.
- Traceability: The traceability of product data (e.g. quality data) and process data (e.g. machine configuration) is often mandatory.
- Inventory management: SAP provides inventory management capabilities, while i-flow supports accurate inventory tracking and updating using data from the factory.