Select the Right SAP Mobile Data Capture Method

  • by Chris Moose, Partner, IBM Global Business Services
  • June 1, 2006
How nimble is your supply chain? The answer depends more on one factor than any other — data. Learn how to best apprehend the mobile data you need at its sources to make the best use of it in your operations.
Key Concept
Radio frequency (RF) devices allow you to capture or create data quickly and accurately from any location and transmit it directly into your SAP system. Usually small and handheld, they are integrated with SAP’s Warehouse Management (WM) system and Task and Resource Management (TRM). The SAPConsole method of connectivity uses a standard SAPGUI-based screen environment, which is reduced in size and uses buttons and plain text stripped of formatting embellishments. WebSAPConsole and SAP NetWeaver Mobile offer more elaborate, graphical, character-based interfaces that feature touch screens. In warehouse environments, RF devices are typically useful for goods receipt, goods issue, putaway, picking/replenishment, interleaving, packing and unpacking, inventory counting, loading and unloading, serial number capture, inquiries, movement by storage unit, and posting changes.
Competition among companies used to focus on products and marketing — winning one, or hopefully both, of those battles generally equaled market success. Now, however, there are many additional dimensions and one of the most important is supply chain execution. A responsive, dynamic, and accurate supply chain system that can place a product where it is needed at the right time is crucial. A critical enabler for this is data.

However, data that enables a responsive supply chain expires quickly. Analyzing it within a few days is not nearly as useful as acting on it within a few hours. Therefore SAP has provided a variety of mobile technologies to capture data real-time, where it happens, allowing companies to make faster and better decisions.

It is first important to consider the types of processes that may be beneficial for your company. Some common candidates for mobile data capture technologies include:

• Order capture/direct store delivery scenarios
• Warehouse/shipping operations
• Production processes/confirmations
• Quality management/usage decisions
• Mobile asset maintenance

Once you identify the scenarios for which mobile data capture can benefit your enterprise, the next step is to establish what SAP technology is right for the situation. The most pressing question is whether the person capturing the data will have a connection to SAP available or if the data needs to be queued and sent to your SAP system later.

When a real-time connection is available to SAP, you can use SAPConsole, WebSAPConsole, or SAP NetWeaver Mobile (formerly known as SAP Mobile Infrastructure). When you need an offline solution that synchronizes with SAP, the best choice is SAP NetWeaver Mobile. These solutions are summarized in Table 1, and I will discuss each in detail.

Chris Moose

Chris Moose is a partner in IBM's Global Business Services organization where he is the sponsor of SAP warehouse management and transportation management offerings. With worldwide responsibility for these offerings, he has helped expand IBM's delivery capabilities globally and has personally delivered projects on four different continents. His specific interests include the use of technology to address the historical fixed cost nature of supply chains enabling flexibility and then quantifying that business value with a benefits realization focus. In addition to his practice management and delivery focus, Chris is a frequent speaker at industry events as well as an author for industry magazines.

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