An integrated maintenance planning system for a large transportation companyTransport & Automotive
Planning of maintenance activities is a huge task at this customer, a large German transportation company. Bridges, tunnels, railroads and other assets have to be regularly inspected and maintained.
Responsible for conceptual design, implementation and support, EPM Data implemented an integrated information and planning system based on SAP Business Intelligence. The customer is now able to centrally plan, schedule and coordinate maintenance activities all across Germany with this new planning application.
The business requirements and the specification for the new maintenance planning application have been created by the customer before the start of the technical design phase without explicit consideration of SAP BI-IP functionalities. The goal was to integrate requirements from planners in the various regions of the customer and to replace existing local MS Excel-based planning solutions. The main challenge therefore was to develop and implement a technical solution that matched the given business requirements as closely as possible. Key project challenges were:
- Support a flexible planning process while maintaining an integrated set of plan data:
During the planning process, it shall be possible to flexibly go back and forth by switching the status of selected plan data records. The solution needed to support this flexible process while avoiding to create multiple versions and copies of data records and to ensure data consistency.
- Enable flexible input of textual information during the planning process:
The planners should be enabled to enter free textual information in the planning grid. Usually SAP BI-IP technically requires, that master data values for planning characteristics are created and saved to the database before the planning process starts.
- Deliver a solution under time and resource constraints:
Compared to ‘ordinary’ SAP BI reporting projects, requirements in the area of SAP BI-integrated Planning are usually more complex from a technical and processual perspective. After reviewing the requirements and creating a first effort estimation for the technical implementation phase it became clear, that the project started 2-3 months late. Nonetheless – as in many project situations – the solution needed to be ready to go-live at a fixed date.
The implemented solution is based on SAP-BI-integrated Planning and uses SAP BO Analysis for Office as a flexible MS Excel-based frontend tool. The Excel-based SAP BO Analysis frontend offers customization possibilities with VBA as the macro programming language. An additional advantage of this approach is high user acceptance. The users were able to use their Excel-skills and to learn the additional functions of the planning application very quickly. Key aspects of the solution were:
- Data consistency is ensured with custom-designed status functions and locking algorithms:
Status changes for plan data records are possible by using specifically designed reposting functions. The reposting functions take business rules into account to ensure data integrity.
- A custom-solution has been built to allow input of free texts and comments in the planning grid:
The know-how from two SAP How-to-Papers was combined to implement a customer-specific solution. InfoObjects with special master-data read classes and flexible reposting functions were used to allow input of free texts and comments in the planning grid without having to create master data upfront.
- The solution was delivered using an agile project management approach:
As mentioned, the project started 2-3 months late and the end-product was required at a fixed go-live date. By using agile management techniques, the project scope was broken into small, manageable work packages. The work packages with the highest priority were tackled in the first ‘iterations’ to ensure customer value was created quickly. Scrum meetings, Kanban-style task-boards and burn-down-charts were used to identify and solve issues and track project progress. By using this agile approach, the first release of the solution could be delivered on time.