Real-World Awareness with RFID (Part 2)

Part 1
To link SAP software with SAP NetWeaver XI, SAP delivers the appropriate settings as content for SAP NetWeaver XI. To link SAP Auto-ID Infrastructure 2.1 with back ends from SAP, the content can connect the following:

  • SAP R/3 4.6C, SAP R/3 Enterprise Extension Set 2.0, or mySAP ERP
  • SAP Supply Chain Management 4.1
  • SAP Auto-ID Infrastructure 2.1

The RFID-related content that SAP provides for SAP NetWeaver XI is based upon functions. For example, the standard function, RFID-enabled outbound processing, contains the most important process steps that the vendors of large customers must equip with RFID functionality. In particular, the list contains the following actions:

  • Placing RFID stickers on pallets and packaging units: at the very least, the stickers enable unambiguous identification of each item
  • Tracking the pallet that stores a specific packaging unit
  • Posting a goods receipt for each pallet (including its content) as soon as the sensors confirm loading

In addition, SAP Auto-ID Infrastructure 2.1 (service pack 2) includes goods issue with RFID at the customer site. In the ideal case, the customer receives a dispatch notification that covers all the Electronic Product Codes™ (ECP) of the pallets and cartons in a delivery. The availability of such information makes it much easier to inspect incoming goods. The kinds of processes are tailored to the needs of RFID, which is also seen in the design of the messages.

Product and number ranges

The identification of pallets or cartons often refers to products. If RFID chips create such units, they also contain the identification number that indicates the product. Accordingly, SAP Auto-ID Infrastructure must not only have a supply of the most important product data, it must also have a selection from the number range for identification. The ERP back end continues to manage the complete number range. This approach guarantees that several SAP Auto-ID Infrastructure systems are supplied with selections from the number rangers and that the selections do not overlap. Once one of the SAP Auto-ID Infrastructure systems exhausts the selection of the number range that has been assigned to it, it must request a new selection from the ERP back end.

Delivery data and expected action

SAP Auto-ID Infrastructure synchronizes delivery data from SAP R/3 with actual, physical events. In the case of a planned event, such as loading cartons onto pallets, SAP R/3 transfers the information on the planned transaction, including the delivery reference, to SAP Auto-ID Infrastructure. SAP Auto-ID Infrastructure then follows the packing procedure and returns a success or failure message and the ID number of the packaging unit involved.
Communication is asynchronous for goods issue. The planned goods issue is sent from SAP R/3 to SAP Auto-ID Infrastructure, which then confirms the result for the ERP back end.

Generating events for SAP Event Management

SAP Auto-ID Infrastructure can also confirm events for supply chain event management (SCEM) in SAP SCM 4.1. In the structures of RFID scenarios, the application handles operating and cross-company event management oriented to business processes.

Dispatch notification

A customer should receive information not only on the expected delivery, but also on the ID numbers of the packaging units. The IDocs provided by SAP for some time include a dispatch notification; a new variation of the dispatch notification also contains a list of EPCs for the delivery.
Based upon this foundation, customers with SAP software can use the dispatch notification to create a delivery in their ERP systems and to inspect the incoming pallets in SAP Auto-ID Infrastructure 2.1.

Routing und mapping

Data Flow
Data Flow

All information that flows between SAP Auto-ID Infrastructure and ERP back ends is exchanged with SAP NetWeaver XI. This approach enables the exchange of data from non-SAP systems that corresponds to a delivery from SAP R/3 with Auto-ID Infrastructure. To do so, SAP NetWeaver XI must already store the appropriate interface descriptions along with mapping and routing instructions.
Messages that SAP R/3, mySAP ERP, or mySAP Supply Chain Management send or receive according to the RFID-enabled outbound processing function are in IDoc format. SAP Auto-ID Infrastructure, however, transmits and receives messages in XML, but the content corresponds to the content of IDocs. SAP NetWeaver XI performs the conversion.
Depending upon the number of packaging units to be processed, SAP Auto-ID Infrastructure might have to handle gigantic quantities of data in a short time. That’s why SAP Auto-ID Infrastructure should be installed in all the operating facilities of a company. Even in companies with central IT department, several SAP Auto-ID Infrastructure installations are responsible for one or more operating facilities. In this case, it’s also necessary to link several SAP Auto-ID Infrastructure installations to the back-end solution. Messages from the back end must then reach the correct SAP Auto-ID Infrastructure recipient. SAP NetWeaver XI handles the routing needed for this purpose.
Recipients can also receive messages based upon the content of the message as determined by SAP NetWeaver XI instead of upon an address in the message header.

Linking a non-SAP Solution

SAP NetWeaver XI 3.0 offers process management that handles messages according to a process defined by the customer. Depending upon the result of individual processing step, other actions might be performed. Using SAP NetWeaver XI for communication between SAP Auto-ID Infrastructure and ERP solutions creates all sorts of possibilities to equip even non-SAP systems with RFID functions and integrate new process variants.
If the process steps for outbound delivery, packing and loading are integrated with a non-SAP back end in a manner similar to that described for the outbound scenario, SAP NetWeaver XI generally must then perform the following steps:

  • <sum> Entry of the back-end system in the system landscape directory. The system landscape directory contains information on the available software products and a description of the installed system landscape. SAP NetWeaver XI and other components use this information.
  • Define a new message format in the integration repository. Adapters are available to integrate the most varied of formats.
  • Define mapping for messages of SAP Auto-ID Infrastructure in the integration repository. Graphical mapping tools and other tools are available to support users with the definition.
  • Set the routing in the integration directory.

Uwe Schäfer