Get the most out of SAP ERP reports and features

Smart manufacturers should consider taking advantage of the native SAP ERP reports in the logistics and supply chain modules, writes Jawad Akhtar.

SAP offers a large number of standard ERP reporting features in all of its logistics and supply chain modules that...

business process owners can use to make important and timely decisions -- but typically they don't.

The reasons for not taking advantage of these native SAP ERP reports range from not knowing they exist, to having insufficient hands-on experience using them, to mistakenly only wanting to rely on custom-developed ABAP reports. Companies are certainly jumping on the business intelligence/BusinessObjects bandwagon, but are they taking advantage of tools already at their fingertips, including the ability to quickly create a query in SAP?

Here are a few examples of where existing ERP reporting functionality comes into play:

  • A vendor informs you that due to technical problem at his end, there will be a delay in raw material supply. You want immediate access to information to help you decide how long you can defer production of products that use the raw material.
  • Because of sudden and unexpected demand for the product that your company produces, you need comprehensive sales and production information to help you decide how to manage procurement of additional raw materials and also shipping data to deliver the goods to customers in time.
  • Several truckers that transport your company's goods to warehouses across the country are complaining about the time it takes to load a truck from your company's warehouse. You need reliable information to help decide if it's feasible to shorten the loading time by adding another shift or building a new loading dock.

Information systems reports

Every SAP logistics and supply chain module offers a large number of ERP reports. The data in the information systems gets updated each time a user performs a business process in SAP. Examples of the data available in SAP systems include the following:

  • Open purchase orders (full or partial) for which the vendors still need to deliver goods
  • Open purchase requisitions that have not been converted into purchase orders
  • Open invoices for which the vendor has delivered the goods, but which have not been submitted or paid
  • Production orders for which there aren't enough materials to produce the goods in question (also known as the Missing Parts Information System)
  • Production orders for which the goods have not yet been delivered to the warehouse after production
  • Quality inspection lots for which the decision to use, known as the usage decision, is still not made
  • Plant maintenance orders that have not been performed yet
  • Sales orders for goods the company has shipped but still not billed the customer for.

The business process owner can instantly set the desired parameters and run the ERP report immediately. SAP's real-time updates let you run updated reports on the most current data.

Users need one to two hours of training to learn all the features and functions of standard ERP reports such as how to use filters, totaling and subtotaling data such as quantities or values, performing time series, converting the data into graphical representations and even how to download it from SAP into an Excel spreadsheet. You cannot, however, add new fields beyond those already available, nor can you perform calculations between fields.

Standard analyses reports

The data used to perform standard analyses on SAP data is static and historical. For example, you might want to know the number of quality inspection lots that you rejected from a specific vendor in the last month to enable you to decide if it is prudent to continue the relationship or find a new supplier.

Similarly, you might want to know the value of stock that is about to expire to help you decide if it makes sense to offer a short-duration discount to help clear out the stock. The characteristics in a standard analysis can be a manufacturing plant, a sales organization or a purchasing group. The key figures are quantities or values and can be, for example, the total number of purchase orders created in a given time period, invoiced amount, invoiced quantities, sales quantities or values, rejected inspection lots or scrap quantity generated for a specific operation during production. The time period, for example, could be the total values of all sales quotations for the last four months.

SAP offers a large number of standard analyses reports in all the important logistics and supply chain modules of SAP, namely:

  • Logistics Information System
  • Inventory Controlling
  • Purchasing Information System
  • Sales Information System
  • Shop Floor (Production) Information System
  • Shipment Information System
  • Plant Maintenance (PM) Information System
  • Quality Management (QM) Information System

In fact, SAP has a separate Logistics Controlling folder on the main menu, so it is easier for business process owners to quickly locate the relevant standard analysis in each SAP module.

You can learn all the features of standard analyses in one or two hours. However, you cannot add any new fields, nor can you do any calculation between two fields.

Flexible analyses reports

Performing flexible analyses on SAP data gives you far greater freedom in the fields you can evaluate from the various information structures.

Information structures are built on the same fundamentals as the information systems and standard analysis reports, including characteristics, key figures and time period fields, but they let the user select from various catalogs. A logistics catalog may have fields from production planning, quality management and materials management modules for the user to choose from. The characteristics may be a material or a plant; the key figures can be quantity procured or quantity produced, while the time period can be a week or a month. Flexible analyses help you come up with a list the materials (characteristics), for example, that were produced and sold (two key figures) within the last one week (time period).

Flexible analyses ERP reports make use of data in applications like production, sales and distribution and plant maintenance. When you select the relevant application, the related catalogs appear for you to select, and each contains a large number of relevant fields. For example, in sales and distribution, catalogs for sales inquiry, sales quotation, sales order, delivery or billings are available. You can also create your own catalogs and fields and define the update rules for each field. An update rule defines when the system should update the field's contents.

You only need three to four hours of training to learn all the functions of flexible analyses.

QuickViewer reports

QuickViewer is a simpler version of SAP Query (see below) and is highly intuitive and user friendly. A query reads the SAP database tables (ABAP tables) and brings up the requisite information to user. With QuickViewer, you can read some or all fields from one ABAP table, join two or more tables, and make use of logical databases and other information structures to arrive at the information you need. Once there, you can use available features like filter, total, subtotal quantities or values, download to Excel, etc. An advantage of using QuickViewer is that you can also assign a custom transaction code to a self-defined query and then assign the same to relevant users, thereby limiting access to the results of a self-defined query to those people who need it.

QuickViewer training takes one to two hours.

SAP Query reports

SAP Query offers all the advantages and benefits offered by QuickViewer, but with added flexibility to add user-defined fields to perform calculations and other mathematical functions on the data. For example, you can add "percentage invoiced" as a local field, which contains a mathematical formula that reflects the difference between sales order value and invoice value.

You need three to four hours of training to learn SAP Query.

About the author:
Jawad Akhtar is an assistant vice president and SAP project manager for AbacusConsulting, where he focuses on SCM issues. AbacusConsulting is based in Pakistan.

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