Texas Instruments improves supply chain management and BPM with SAP

Texas Instruments is turning to SAP to begin building a service-oriented architecture and address customer and supply chain issues by incorporating Web services.

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BOSTON -- When a company known for its calculators began looking for a more secure system of managing customer and supply chain information, it insisted on verifiable proof.

While developers at Texas Instruments could have revamped their business process management system by writing oodles of regular code, the company took a different approach.

Texas Instruments calculated that SAP could handle its business process management (BPM) and supply chain event management (SCEM) problems. Relying on SAP, the company began an upgrade to the latest versions, which included incorporating a service-oriented architecture, as well as using SAP's exchange infrastructure (SAP XI) to help integrate SAP and non-SAP systems.

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"The problem was that some of the information sent from our customers must be used in the manufacturing [process]. We needed a secure way of receiving information, validating what was sent, [and safekeeping the information during manufacturing and beyond]," said Ian Clark, a solutions architect at Texas Instruments, who was speaker at SAP TechEd '05.

Texas Instruments was facing issues that are common in large companies, according to Elvira Wallis, head of SAP's NetWeaver product definition team. Bridging the gap between IT and the business side during the design stage is a common obstacle for many enterprises, Wallis said. Problems can often surface when creating a new system, she said.

"The business owner and the IT expert do not speak the same language," Wallis said.

Common business process problems include process configuration, process integration and process ownership, Wallis said, in her presentation, "Business Process Management and Event Change Management at Texas Instruments." Texas Instruments struggled with each of these problems.

Clark said his company wanted to avoid using code to revamp its business process management system. Instead, the business process management system from SAP allows the company to take a service-oriented approach, as well as use XI technology that the company has had in place since 2002, he said.

According to Clark, Texas Instruments' SAP business process management system provides both business and technical users with event-driven work items, in business context with a guided procedure and alerts. Information sent from the customer is received, validated, verified and loaded in an e-mail to the business owner. Then, the appropriate people are contacted if there is a problem, Clark said.

Clark said the process makes Texas Instruments' system adaptable and agile for future change.

"The business process is more easily extended or updated by using NetWeaver modeling tools without having to resort to writing code," Clark said.

Supply chain complexities

While business process management was a priority, the company was also looking to monitor its supply chain systems.

Unlike the business process management project, which involved orchestrating a new system, Texas Instruments wanted to improve on what it already had in place in the supply chain realm. It was facing common problems as other industries: tracking and tracing to meet current compliance, issues with radio frequency identification and poor visibility across a complex supply chain.

"We have shipments that go from us to customers all over the world," Clark said, "And when we [hand a shipment over] to a carrier, it goes into a black hole. Without having people check each package, we want to know where a package is at any given time."

To track packages automatically, Texas Instruments used SAP by linking its R/3 system to the SAP EM application of mySAP SCM. In this system, EDIFACT messages now alert the company to important problems, such as an unexpected situation where a package is being held in customs and will not be delivered on time.

Arranging these systems -- telling the engine what to do with expected and unexpected events -- was not something that was done by developers, but rather, on the business side.

"When putting in the rules for how to deal with these events, this was not low-level; not coding. [It was] more business analysis," Clark said.

With the event management features of SAP SCM, the company has advanced visibility of its supply chain, he said. It can now track multiple carrier shipments globally and the cycle time from Texas Instruments to the customer's doorstep.

In the future, Texas Instruments will use this analysis to measure the performance of the individual carriers, thereby ensuring that the company makes the most responsible choice for its deliveries.

"Both business process management and supply chain event chain management are important as part of a comprehensive service-oriented architecture," Clark said.

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