Baerlocher Takes Two Leaps Forward

Feature Article | June 9, 2009 by Stephan Kienle, head of SAP Unicode team at TDS AG

Many things are made of plastic (photo: Baerlocher)

Baerlocher has production facilities in the European Union, the United States, South America, and Asia, as well as sales and distribution subsidiaries in over 50 countries. Therefore, the demands the company places on its SAP system with regard to language diversity are accordingly high, especially for its safety data sheets.

In its SAP system, Baerlocher maintains these data sheets in 25 languages, including Greek, Russian, and others that Western European character sets are unable to display.

This is why the group used to work with a multidisplay multiprocessing (MDMP) system that is able to display different character sets (code pages) in the same SAP system. “Since SAP ERP 6.0 no longer supports MDMP environments, we had only one option: Carrying out a Unicode migration in parallel to our release upgrade,” says Maria Mayer-Schefe, project head and SAP coordinator at Baerlocher.

By combining its upgrade to SAP ERP 6.0 with a migration to Unicode, Baerlocher

  • further ensured its system’s language diversity based on Unicode;
  • minimized downtime;
  • augmented existing SAP ERP systems with new functions included in SAP Enhancement Packages.

There were other sound reasons for combining both steps in a project. Along with reducing production downtime associated with the migration, both projects present similar challenges:

  • Are all of the group’s in-house developments Unicode-conform?
  • Which interfaces and SAP modifications require adjustment?

Answers to these questions were needed before both the release upgrade and the Unicode migration could proceed. Outside help was needed: Baerlocher chose TDS AG as its service partner for the project.

Proper preparation crucial

In the first project phase, Baerlocher’s migration system constituted a separate SAP environment. This controlled environment enabled the consultants from TDS to test the full release upgrade and Unicode migration. Initially, Baerlocher’s three existing system landscapes – covering development, testing, and production – remained unaffected by the transition.

During this phase, the consultants from TDS also worked with Baerlocher’s IT experts on adjusting a large number of interfaces.

The Unicode migration in particular required Baerlocher to carry out extensive preparations. For example, the group had to assign all of the foreign-language texts and text components – and sometimes even individual words – in its SAP R/3 system to the respective correct language.

From migration environment to production system

In the next phase of the project, Baerlocher completed the SAP upgrade and Unicode migration in the migration environment.

Finally, following the adjustment of the development and then the testing system, it was time for the production system. Baerlocher had just one weekend for the switch – an ambitious schedule, considering how Unicode migrations in particular involve extended downtime. “We did end up sweating a bit, but the transition went well,” says Mayer-Schefe in summary.

The future: SAP Enhancement Packages

For companies like Baerlocher, which have already implemented SAP ERP 6.0, complex and costly release upgrades are a thing of the past. Thanks to SAP Enhancement Packages, users can systematically integrate new functions into existing SAP ERP applications.

It is advisable, however, to collaborate with a ramp-up partner that already has experience working with the first users of these packages.

The Baerlocher group

… is a global provider of plastic additives. Headquartered in Munich-Unterschleissheim, Germany, the group employs around 1,200 people, including 225 SAP users

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