As intermediateware, which connects SAP© to MES systems and is closely linked to the customer's SAP© system in particular, the functional scope of Work Line Connect® can often not easily be kept apart from the SAP© functionalities, that are used to depict the customers business processes.
With the implementation of an MES system, the business processess, attached to the affected work places, must be redesigned as the functionality of one IT-System (SAP©) is splitt into two separate systems. At that, many media, that are used around the work places, are replaced by MES-Terminals. In this new scenario it must be decided for every process step, which data and operations are determined by SAP© and which ones by the MES system and when and what transmission of data and initiation of dependend system operations must be initiated. This design of distributed process operations between the adjoining systems and the functional scope of the interface determins the detailed specification of the Work Line Connect®.
Hence the roles and responsibilities in an implementation project are distributed between at least three different project partners:
- the customer for his SAP© system,
- the MES supplier for their system and
- Work Line Connect GmbH for the interface
In order to avoid misunderstandings and to ensure the success of an implementation project, it is therefore advisable to clarify and assign the neccessary tasks, that come with these roles and responsibilities, before the project starts.
Delimitation of scope of services and functions of Work Line Connect® as a licensed product
Work Line Connect® is offered as an interface between SAP©and MES systems. As an interface between these systems, Work Line Connect® takes on the task of a "qualified data transport".
SAP©- as well as usually the MES system - are standard software systems. Via customizing both systems allow the selection and configuration from a huge set of functions, which can be individually adjusted to every operational situation according to specific requirements. This high degree of individual customization of these systems in a given constellation is in fact equivalent to the connection of two "individually unique" systems with always similar but in some cases very different properties.
Work Line Connect® is also a standard software system. It is built especially to meet the requirements of adjusting to specific characteristics of the adjoining systems, that are defined in the process design. This is be done with customizing and, if necessary, programming customer-specific enhancements. Work Line Connect® thus adapts to the given specifications of SAP©and MES systems without changing these in the process.
Customizing in Work Line Connect® allows in particular a very flexible, mostly programming-free adaptation to the adjoining systems and their future changes and supports the communication by translation of data (eg transcoding, conversion, as listed in The Application Layer) and sometimes by triggering follow-up transactions (RFC calls, function block calls, etc.).
This support may also include intelligent, advanced functions or function triggering in SAP©, if this can be useful for saving manual labor, for example, the automatically resetting, modifying, and re-releasing SAP© shop orders, if the execution of the order had to be changed, due to incidents at the machines in "real life".
Visually spoken, Work Line Connect® fulfills the role of a "qualified messenger" between the systems. It transports information between communication partners according to the established rules of the agreed business processes. It provides important translation services and the collection and notification of all transmissions, the initiation of follow-up data processing and logging of all transports. It is highly flexible and can largely be adapted by customizing to existing configurations and future changes.
However, in the role of a "qualified messenger", Work Line Connect® has no influence on the structure of the processes outside the data transmission, unless this role is explicitly transferred to it (specification, additional fields, additional functions, extension, etc.). This will require an additional commission for the project.
Roles of Work Line employees in the project to implement the software as a licensed product
The tasks of the Work Line consultants in the project essentially follow the tasks of the Work Line Connect® product in interaction with the systems involved.
In detail this means ensuring, that the data transfers are feasible for the agreed processes. For this, the necessary settings are made (in particular RFC, data mapping, etc.) and, if necessary and required, additional, customer-specific extensions are implemented.
In addition, our colleagues will point out alternatives to business processes with SAP© to avoid excessive deviations from common best practices where possible. In this role, they see themselves as mediators between the requirements of the business processes affecting SAP© and the MES system.
In the case of introductory projects or as part of changes to the customer's processes, it often happens, that our colleagues assist customers with process modeling and the specification of requirements as well as assist in the testing of business cases ,if additionally commissioned.
Basically, however, the role of the "Process Owner" lies with the customer. If Work Line consultants are asked as SAP© consultants to support the determination of the right processes with SAP©and MES, this is subject of an additional commission and not included in the Work Line Connect® implementation process. It is provided on request and billed for a sparse order.
Tests and safety
The approach of our consultants essentially follows the concepts of the widespread ITIL standard, although in individual cases the customer always decides, how to proceed.
From work line point of view, this means that
- the realization takes place against a present specification,
- on the basis of a risk analysis, test scenarios are defined and documented (also regression tests),
- after the completion of all involved system components (SAP©, Work Line Connect, MES) the tests are carried out and are documented in the customer's Q system,
- the correctness of all tested cases is agreed together,
- only then the software is tranported to the production system
As a rule, all our projects are carried out in this way.
Also for the delivery of service, enhancement or release packages (see The Version Management), which our customers usually implement by themselves, we recommend performing regression tests, since in the meantime, without our knowledge, the system landscape on the SAP© or MES side may have changed in such a way, that incompatibilities with the newly installed objects may have arisen. It is recommended to repeat the documented tests, or part of it, from the introductory project. An installation document for the new version shall contain information about the included changes, which makes it easier to select required tests.
If unwanted system events also occur after transports or tests in the environment of the test system, even in seemingly unrelated SAP© business processes, it must be fundamentally clarified, whether and in which way these events are related to the Work Line Connect® software. Some of the Work Line Connect® functions require work with very central, basic SAP© function blocks (ALE, RFC, IDOCS, etc.). Although "remote effects" are very unlikely, they can never be completely ruled out due to the manifold possibilities of customized system configurations.
Work Line employees will therefore advise against early takeovers in the production system at any time, before careful execution and successful completion of all neccessary tests.
If a customer still decides to do so, he is of course free. However, Work Line Connect GmbH will in these cases refuse to accept responsibility for any errors that occur. Any expenses incurred for troubleshooting, for which we naturally provide support, will be charged as an additional expense.
The standard functions of Work line Connect® are described in a technical documentation. All additional functions will be either included in the license scope of the customer solution and considered a part of the service contract (/ SWCONN /) or they will be implemented as additional programming (Z-objects), which is free for the customer to be modified as needed.
Within the framework of an implementation project, all services related to the standard functional scope are covered by an individually defined lump-sum introduction contract according to the described roles and tasks. All other services (process modeling, specifications, additional fields, additional functions, etc.) are provided against separate commision.