Identify and Track Slow-Moving Items in BW

  • by Gary Nolan, SAP BI Strategic Architect, Sapiex Associates LLC
  • January 1, 2005
Many companies use SAP Business Information Warehouse (BW) as the reporting tool for their SAP landscape. It does a great job reporting on transactional data like that associated with products that have posted transactional data, such as sales orders. Using MultiProviders, there are also ways to track records without transactional data.
Key Concept
Introduced in BW 3.0, MultiProviders give you a vehicle for joining master data InfoObjects with InfoCubes. Master data tables can then be used in combination to report on data with few or no transactions.

If your company is like most, it focuses on items with fast-moving sales and higher margins. This does not always present a complete picture of customers' buying patterns, however. Slow-moving items are a fact of life in any organization. It makes sense then to analyze sales by looking at products that are not selling, or are moving very slowly with volumes under a certain threshold. With this information, you can decide if you want to promote unsold goods or discontinue them altogether and concentrate on the faster-moving products.

If your system uses BW as its reporting tool, monitoring slower-moving material can be a problem. BW is designed to aggregate and report on transactional data, not data without posted transactions. Simply creating a query that reports on the BW InfoCube containing order transactional data would only show transactional records for those items with sales. If an SKU in the material master data has no posted sales, it does not exist in the orders InfoCube because there is no transactional data to post. Simply put, BW is designed to show the business you do, not what you don't do.

In Release 2.0B of BW, there was no easy way to get a report on slow-moving material. To provide this type of reporting, you had to load all materials data into the orders InfoCube, even if no sales were booked. Bogus key figures then had to be created and filled with a value for all materials, regardless of their transactional relevance. With an entry for all materials in the orders InfoCube, a slow-moving items report was possible. Using a another key figure value such as the sales quantity or net sales key figure and extrapolating those materials with few or no sales from the total amount allowed the analysis to be performed. This process is inefficient and demands a lot of needless data to be stored in the InfoCube. Performance is also an issue because of the increased data volume.

MultiProviders were introduced with the launch of BW 3.0 and they allow for a more elegant union of a master data InfoObject and an InfoCube. With this union, the material master data table can be used in combination with transactional data for sales. This supports a query designed to look first at the material master and ask, "What materials do I have?" Then, the system turns to the transactional data in the InfoCube and asks, "For each of these materials, what has occurred?" The MultiProvider answers the questions, "For every material in my material master list, which ones have not had any sales, or which have had no sales above a certain threshold?" In addition to reporting on material groups that are slow-moving or obsolete, you can use this technique to track customers who have not made a purchase in a while. It can also be used to track slower-moving product groups or other inactive master data for cleanup.

I will show you how to set up the various components to support these queries in BW 3.0 and later versions of the technology. I'll explain how to establish and maintain an InfoObject as an InfoProvider that can be used to create a MultiProvider. I will also explain how the MultiProvider can be used to create a query and how to set conditions for filtering.

Gary Nolan

Gary Nolan is an SAP NetWeaver BW-certified consultant and author of Efficient SAP NetWeaver BW Implementation and Upgrade Guide and Efficient SAP NetWeaver BI Implementation and Project Management. Gary specializes in gathering and evaluating requirements, configuring SAP NetWeaver BW, and providing project management, performance management, and data architecture and data modeling expertise. A former platinum consultant with SAP America, Inc., Gary has more than 20 years of SAP experience, working with SAP NetWeaver BW since version 1.2B.

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