In a history that stretches over more than 70 years, the Sappi Group has grown continuously with a series of acquisitions. Today the corporate group unifies a variety of previously independent production facilities. Its IT landscape is just as complex and unique as its business. To balance the load on its operations as efficiently as possible and to optimize the value chain in South Africa, Europe, North America, and the Asia-Pacific region, the paper manufacturer uses SAP software. Along with SAP R/3 and business intelligence functionality from SAP, the company uses mySAP Supply Chain Management (mySAP SCM) and mySAP Customer Relationship Management (mySAP CRM) to support its logistics, sales, and distribution processes. SAP Advanced Planning & Optimization (SAP APO) supports the simulation of requirements and SAP Enterprise Buyer (SAP EB) serves as the basis for the group’s comprehensive purchasing portal. Electronic data interchange (EDI) and archive solutions enhance the IT environment. Overall, the SAP landscape at Sappi consists of 30 systems spread over 100 CPUs.
Two separate landscapes move toward each other
Currently, the paper manufacturer’s SAP environment is split in two. One environment serves users in South Africa; another environment serves employees in Europe, North America, and the Asia-Pacific region. Until the fall of 2005, two different service providers in South Africa and Europe operated the SAP installations. But the medium-term goal at Sappi is to consolidate its SAP landscapes into one worldwide system to enable uniform business processes for its numerous locations around the world. That’s why the group looked for a service provider that could operate both landscapes from one source and ultimately merge them into a global installation.
The choice was T-Systems Austria. The company made a convincing case for itself because of its flexible pricing, which enabled Sappi to forecast its costs exactly. Its service offering was also impressive. “The decisive factors included a cost-effective solution, very flexible and customer-focused service, and on-site assistance,” says Guido Lauwers, the CIO of the Sappi Group. He believes the group’s SAP installation is in good hands at T-Systems Austria. “T-Systems bends over backwards for Sappi,” says Lauwers.
Even before the contract was signed in the summer of 2005, the service provider proved itself when Sappi needed to implement new software. Without any bureaucratic haggling, the T-Systems team set up the new infrastructure and installed the software – even before it had taken over operations of the SAP installation in South Africa. The SAP team at Sappi simply had to perform quality assurance, which it could accomplish over remote access.
No risk for day-to-day business
One of the conditions for the transfer of the SAP landscape was keeping the existing IBM AIX system platform. Sappi did not want to accept any risk to the day-to-day operations of core SAP functionalities, such as materials management, financial accounting, and human resources or to SAP APO by migrating the operating system. Given the complex system layout, which includes a large number of interfaces and scripts, the effort needed to install a new operating system and the danger of errors were unacceptable risks.
In the T-Center computer center, IBM p5 servers serve as the basis for the cluster computers and database servers of the Sappi installation. Because of its modular system nodes and dynamic portioning abilities, the architecture serves as a platform for the adaptive computing concepts of T-System customers. Sappi uses adaptive computing in a targeted manner with database services and SAP APO. For the most part, the applications run on HP Blade servers with Intel processors on Linux, which also provides resources for flexible, customer-independent adaptive computing.
Because the paper manufacturer uses SAP software as a strategic platform for all its business processes – from procurement to payroll accounting – its SAP installation is one of the most functionally comprehensive in the computer center of T-Systems. The complex computer infrastructure demands good documentation and effective monitoring to avoid disruptions to operations and to correct errors quickly.
Transferring data halfway around the world
The greatest challenge of the project was transferring data from group headquarters in Johannesburg, South Africa to Vienna, Austria. The transfer involved moving a terabyte of data just for the production systems; the development and test systems required were two-and-a-half times that volume. Because Sappi planned to covert the South African applications in September 2005, the migration had to be complete only eight weeks after the contract was signed. By the end of 2005, the data had to be moved to Vienna for the SAP users in Europe, North America, and the Asia-Pacific region who previously used systems operating in Schweinfurt, Germany.
The project began in July 2005 with the design of the system, hardware installation, and testing. The data was placed on storage media and flown from South Africa to Vienna. It was then migrated to the new systems over one weekend. “The different approaches to work caused by cultural differences were a special challenge to our team. They were taken into account as part of the transition phase in the various regions of Europe and South Africa and played an important role in the project. Despite the perfect mastery of all technical and highly complex requirements, we ultimately focused on the human beings involved, which is true of all global projects undertaken by T-Systems,” says Larissa Gaugl, transition manager of the project.
Ahead of schedule
Although the project involved 30 SAP systems halfway around the world, T-Systems Austria completed the conversion phase as planned. This successful conversion project earned the service provider third place in the International Project Management Award (IPMA) in Shanghai, China.
The system landscapes for South Africa and those for Europe, North America, and the Asia-Pacific region now run in parallel on separate infrastructures in the T-Center computer center. Integration of the applications on a foundation of mySAP ERP 2005 is planned for September 2007. Sappi is also considering an upgrade to SAP NetWeaver 2004s.
Today, 5,500 Sappi employees on four continents access the SAP infrastructure in the computer center in Vienna in parallel. The group has only one contact person for all questions about the operation of its corporate solutions. And Sappi has moved one step closer to meeting its goal of consolidating its SAP landscape around the world and setting up uniform business processes. As CIO Lauwers says, “After one year of operations, I can clearly say that this outsourcing project has reached its planned objectives. Sappi was able to reduce its outsourcing costs substantially and took an important step toward the realization of a single SAP system. T-Systems has proved itself to be a real partner by creatively working together with Sappi to develop solutions. Sappi has a very complex environment and tends to implement the newest tools from SAP. Although the right knowledge is not always available for the tools, T-Systems puts the necessary resources in place to implement the tools successfully.”