Utilization of SAP applications can be both a blessing and sometimes a curse. The blessing comes from the structural design rigor that often underpins SAP applications and underlying master data management, along with the rather tight transactional linkages among the various SAP Business Suite applications. Many manufacturers and services providers elected SAP as their ERP backbone because of its rigor and designed enterprise data integration. They have subsequently learned how to gain the benefits of SAP technology by centralizing expertise, master data management, IT and other support. They have also come to rely on a select cadre of consultants and system integration firms that truly understand what it takes to harvest business value.

For the specific area of supply chain planning, the SAP community can often have a love-hate relationship with SAP APO (Advanced Planning Optimization). This application can be a versatile planning and supply chain optimization tool when all of it’s various SAP elements are deployed and the supply chain business model is somewhat static. SAP APO itself has come a long way since this author served as its global product marketing manager from 2002 through 2005 when Release 4.0 was made generally available.   In those days, not many supply chain planning organizations had deployed supply chain wide optimization because of the complexity and understanding required by supply chain planners as to what occurred in the planning run or what exceptions were flagged across various parts. Planners were literally overwhelmed by the complexity and consequently resorted to heuristic planning options supplemented by other offline tools.  Since that time, far more attention has been directed by SAP at usability and exception management needs along with availability of more-user friendly screens and offline tools.

More and more organizations are discovering that supply chain management among many industries have become incredibly dynamic, reflecting a continuous state of business changes. There are new or changing customer demand streams, multiple changes in production sourcing and far more diverse distribution points brought about by the effects of more online fulfillment. For an SAP APO planning environment, such changes fuel large amounts of required data and modeling tasks, causing the need for re-configuration of planning models.  As consultants, we often advise supply chain management teams to explore what-if and planning simulation processes as a means to assist the business in anticipating various supply chain outcomes to more proactively anticipate the implications of business change. Performing what-if scenario based planning for SAP APO teams often requires replicating the entire planning data set which can take precious hours to complete, let alone analyze.

Planners often cannot keep up, and again revert to offline means such as spreadsheets to meet planning milestones. Problems and subsequent frustrations begin to compound themselves, and like any biologic organization, planners find various workarounds to get their jobs completed, meanwhile losing confidence in their backbone planning tool.

Supply Chain Matters was recently briefed by Intrigo Systems regarding the above challenges. For those unfamiliar with Intrigo’s capabilities, they provide highly experienced knowledge of both SAP APO and other system backbone capabilities for SAP installed base customers. SAP sometimes turns to partners such as Intrigo to provide opportunities and means to increase SAP APO adoption and provide planning focused users more sense of control, making the planner more of the orchestrator and decision-maker in planning while leveraging automated planning tools available. Intrigo was awarded SAP’s supply chain partner of the year award in 2012, because of its team focused capabilities in accelerating value among SAP’s supply chain management applications suite.

In the specific area of broader SAP APO adoption and business value, Intrigo has been internally developing and deploying its Optek tool suite for SAP APO planning needs since 2009.  The suite consists of modules that have been designed to place the planner more in control of the process while making SAP APO functionally more effective. Optek USE is an accelerator to manage and manipulate large volumes of transaction data and maintain the planning parameters of large revisions of in the APO tool. Additionally Optek provides an opportunity to enforce business rules to that data, as well as the results stemming from a planning run. Other key modules related to Optek help the planner understand impacts to their planning run and provide baseline structures to create multiple what-if scenarios for minimal intervention. Additionally, the Statistical Forecast & Demand Management (SFDM) module supplements SAP APO with additional forecast models from the “R” Library, allowing more flexible forecasting options for planners. The Supply Chain Results Analyzer (SCRA) module was designed to provide planners more user-friendly explanation of planning optimization results while supporting alternative options. Supply Chain Scenario Planner (SCSP) is a slick background utility that copies the SAP APO planning data set while maintaining incremental changes in Optek as the overlay tool to allow planners to review various planning scenarios in Optek before triggering an actual planning run.

Intrigo’s Optek accelerator suite has been deployed in a number of manufacturers and services providers including Broadcom, Nvidia, and others.  Intrigo’s delivery methodology includes a fixed scope implementation with time-to-benefit pegged to 2-4 months for most customers.

If your SAP focused supply chain planning organization is currently looking to accelerate value for planners and for the business, you might want to explore Intrigo’s Optek solution accelerator.

Bob Ferrari

Disclosure: Intrigo Systems is a current client of the Ferrari Consulting and Research Group