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Ultra Reliable SAP Integration for Pharmaceutical Company

Automate - Simplify - Mobilize

Introduction

This company is one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical manufacturers. Their 688,000 sq ft facility in the US where NLINK® is deployed, specializes in Biologics and Cell & Gene Technologies, employing 1,500 people and operating 24x7x365.

A few years ago, the company replaced their existing Manufacturing Execution System (MES) and required a robust SAP integration solution to reliably connect their new MES to their SAP ECC system. Operating 24×7 in a highly regulated industry they wanted a zero-code SAP integration tool that was ultra-reliable.

Project Scope

The project required the following master data and transactional data downloads from SAP to the MES:

  • Material Master
  • Production Schedule
  • Transfer Order

and the following transaction uploads from MES back to SAP:

  • Order Confirmation
  • Material Consumption
  • Material Production

While the downloads could typically be handled with PI-PCS IDocs from SAP, this customer did not want to use IDocs.

In addition, the customer wanted to retrieve SAP data on an “as-needed” basis to use as lookups in the MES front-end:

 

  • Batch Status Material Availability

The Solution

For the downloads, the configuration uses the NLINK® SAP BAPI and Query Connectors to poll for new and updated master data and orders in SAP. These interfaces download and transform the SAP data into B2MML and other customized XML file formats for the MES to consume.

The NLINK Web Service Connector operates as a server, hosting several customized web services. The MES periodically calls these web services to request any waiting data files, which NLINK returns in the response payload.

Zero code SAP integration

Similarly, the NLINK Web Service Connector hosts web services for the uploads. In these cases, the MES initiates confirmation postings by calling the NLINK Server with a B2MML file payload. NLINK accepts and translates, transforms and maps this data appropriately. Then the NLINK SAP Connector sends the appropriate Process Messages to SAP, via the PI-PCS RFC interface defined by SAP.

In addition to these scheduled interfaces, the customer has extended the user interface of the MES to incorporate calls to NLINK, and thus to SAP, to provide lookup data from SAP, such as batch status and material availability. These interfaces use the NLINK Query Connector to easily retrieve more customized results than would be possible with SAP’s published PI-PCS RFC interfaces.

Conclusion

NLINK’s SAP Connectors are flexible enough to provide multiple approaches to any particular SAP integration problem. In many cases, a published SAP interface, such as the PI-PCS IDoc and RFC interfaces, don’t quite fit the bill. NLINK gives you many other useful options, and makes it quick and simple to combine standard and customized interactions to build a complete Manufacturing plant floor to SAP integration solution that exactly fits your project needs. All without requiring any custom code or installing anything into the SAP landscape.

Postscript

After operating for many years, the customer upgraded their SAP system and modified their business process which broke one of the MES to SAP interfaces. They contacted us and the problem was quickly remedied. Remarkably, this was the first time they had logged a Support case in approximately 10 years. In other words, NLINK had run continuously in production for more than 87,000 hours without any kind of incident or problem.