Soft Landing for Panavia

Feature Article | February 23, 2004 by admin

More straightforward release upgrades and the ability to maintain technical improvements with the minimum of effort were the arguments that convinced Panavia Aircraft GmbH to upgrade to SAP R/3 Enterprise. The German/British/Italian consortium is the main contractor for the development, production and support of the Tornado fighter plane. Shareholders are the aerospace company EADS (European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company), BAE Systems, and Alenia.
The consortium, based in Hallbergmoos, near Munich, Germany, has been working with the SAP R/3 business software since 2001. The implementation based on SAP R/3 4.0B was stable and its range of functions, combined with various ABAP customer developments, covered Panavia’s technical requirements. Around 80 employees at Panavia and 40 users in partner companies work with the system. The three consortium companies EADS, BAE Systems and Alenia, known internally as Panavia partner companies, use the system to fulfill sales orders, place orders with vendors, and are also involved in invoice verification.

Release upgrade without side effects

As maintenance for SAP R/3 4.0B was to expire at the end of 2003, Panavia had to carry out a release upgrade. Those responsible had recognized that the architecture of SAP R/3 Enterprise offered concrete advantages to both the user and the development department: the core functionality is encapsulated in SAP R/3 Enterprise Core, and is thus separated from the industry-specific enhancements and functional developments – the SAP R/3 Enterprise Extensions. As a result, enhancements can be maintained in the application without the side effects of a “real” release upgrade. In an upgrade of the SAP Web Application Server, the Basis system, Panavia does not need to modify the business processes in SAP R/3 itself, as this area is not affected.
At the start of 2003, the company decided to complete the upgrade to SAP R/3 Enterprise by the end of 2003 at the latest. Panavia hired IT service provider and SAP partner DMC GmbH as project partner, a team that had provided support in the migration to SAP R/3 and subsequently supported the system landscape.
The installation of a test system started in March 2003. From April to September 2003, the project team tested all business processes in a number of cycles, and modified the new SAP release. After a final go live test, the release upgrade for the production system was carried out on the weekend when the clocks changed to winter time, on October 25 and 26, 2003.

260 ABAP customer developments

The upgrade posed a challenge in two respects. First, the difference between the SAP R/3 release used by Panavia and SAP R/3 Enterprise was considerable, because in SAP R/3 4.5, SAP made major changes to the user interface of the ERP software: since then, users have many new ways of individually adapting the interface, which were not available in SAP R/3 4.0, for example the selection of individual screen variants in the Enjoy transactions, or the use of ABAP list views for tables. As a result, users can sort and filter data, hide and show columns, and display amount totals taking account of currency.
Second, Panavia’s 260 ABAP customer developments – mainly reports and interfaces to external systems – had to be taken into account during the upgrade. As the tri-national consortium controls the flow of invoices and payments between customers in Germany, the United Kingdom and Italy and the three industry partners, the SAP R/3 standard system needed to be adapted in a number of ways. For example, special ledger documents (down payment requests), could only be posted in the SAP R/3 Financial Accounting module (FI). Functional enhancements are needed in Materials Management (MM), Controlling (CO), and Sales and Distribution (SD) before the documents can be parked and billed on the basis of resources. For cases such as this, Panavia enhanced the SAP solution as part of the implementation project by using customer-specific developments. In the upgrade to SAP R/3 Enterprise, it was therefore necessary to pay particular attention to those business processes in which the customer developments were used.
The considerable differences between SAP R/3 releases 4.0B and SAP R/3 Enterprise meant that system adjustments were necessary, particularly in programs and interfaces that post SAP transactions using batch technology, because some of the input screens had changed. In addition, the program team had to check internal procedures, such as overhead cost accounting, and external interfaces, in order to ensure that business processes ran smoothly.

Tested to the maximum

The team therefore created extensive test scenarios with the SAP CATT tool (computer aided test tool) and used them to simulate a wide variety of business processes. These ranged from the creation of project structure data, sales orders and the resulting vendor orders right through to order fulfillment, the posting of invoice documents, and the data flow between SAP and external systems.
Systematic testing of the SAP standard procedures in the MM, SD, FI, CO and PS (Project System) modules was also essential to locate and analyze differences from the intended situation that may have arisen as a result of release upgrade. For example, the manual control of price conditions for sales orders, which had changed since SAP R/3 4.0, initially returned incorrect prices.
The project team documented all deviations in error reports and modified the solution accordingly. Further test runs were carried out, until everything ran smoothly. Overall, the team executed 19 different test scenarios. This thorough approach took a good six months, and was worth it, because production start-up was problem-free.
The migration of resource-related billing in the SD module proved particularly complex. In SAP R/3 Enterprise, the “dynamic billing document” replaced the familiar SAP R/3 4.0B functionality of the static, resource-related billing document. The new functionality is based on a completely different document flow between resource posting and billing document. As some customer developments use the function modules and user exits of the static, resource-related billing document, the project team had to completely redevelop these programs.

Benefits at every level

The main benefit of SAP R/3 for Panavia is the fact that it offers many new functions in the area of the user interface. But the release upgrade has also paid off in terms of stability and performance.
Of the many functions that are offered as SAP R/3 Enterprise Extension Sets, Panavia Aircraft is particularly interested in the real estate management. In the future, the consortium plans to use this to manage its office real estate, the Airport Business Center in Hallbergmoos.

Dr. Matthias Kulessa

Dr. Matthias Kulessa

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