For more than 20 years, Uwe Lembgen has worked at the German company bob Systemlösungen, and for precisely half that time, the trained accountant and IT specialist has known and worked with the SAP solution SAP Business One. The first release of the software solution for small businesses and midsize companies appeared on the market in 2003. “It created huge difficulties for the accountants,” remembers Lembgen, who is now the head of consulting and the company’s authorized signatory.
A great deal has changed in the last ten years, however. Since the new release of SAP Business One was launched in May, Lembgen has already moved two companies from version 8.8.1 to version 9.0. So far, no customer has chosen to integrate SAP HANA, even though this is technically possible and desirable.
Big improvements in SAP Business One 9.0
In Lembgen’s view, the six most important innovations in version 9.0 are:
Next page: Warehouse storage, purchasing, and inventory
1. Flexible warehouse structure
The inventory overview now not only allows companies to see how many 3 mm long wooden screws are in stock, but also where they are located. “Previously, fixed storage bins had to be assigned,” says Lembgen. “Now the storage bins can be flexible.” This “chaotic warehouse management” means that companies can now rearrange their products and better utilize their storage areas, which helps avoid “empty volumes.” With this automatic warehouse system, bins are assigned randomly, in order to optimize routes. According to Lembgen: “You can assign an ideal route sequence, from rack 1 via rack 5 to a different rack.” In addition to fixed storage bin assignment, in the past companies only had one option for creating a flexible warehouse structure: they had to use a warehouse management system specifically connected for this purpose.
2. Seamless purchasing process
Purchase requisitions can now – for the first time – be fully processed within the system. Where employees previously had to send the Purchasing department an Excel list detailing their purchase orders, they can now do so in the system itself. “Manual requests are no longer necessary,” Lembgen explains. Purchase requisitions are sent to Purchasing in one step in SAP Business One 9.0, leading to a seamless purchasing process.
3. Optimal inventory management
For those who need optimal management of their inventory items, this is also possible with the new “Integrated Fixed Assets.” Country-specific requests, which previously could only be posted via an add-on, are already listed in the tool.
Next page: Invoicing, SAP in-memory, and data exchange
4. The ability to settle supplier invoices in the system
Depending on the required payment transaction standard, supplier invoices can now be settled in the system – for example, currently via DTAUS (the German electronic funds transfer process), and as of February 1 next year, throughout Europe using SEPA.
5. A faster system through SAP HANA in-memory
Until now, SAP Business One used the SQL database standard. This is no longer a requirement. The SAP HANA in-memory database can now also be used, which stores its data in the main memory, making it up to 300 times faster according to SAP estimates. “SAP HANA reduces the memory volume by around 80 percent,” Lembgen says, outlining the benefits of SAP HANA. “If I have 20 gigabytes of data in the memory, SAP HANA is able to reduce this volume to around 4 gigabytes by reconciling the data.” This makes the system much faster. One possible disadvantage is that computers have to be equipped with greater main memory. As such, switching to SAP HANA is recommended as part of a hardware investment.
6. Improved data exchange
The acquisition of the company Crossgate by SAP almost two years ago gave the company from Walldorf the perfect opportunity to bolster its SAP Business One solution. Since the acquisition, it is now possible to exchange data via EDI or EDIFACT as well as via other interfaces – including INVOICE for invoices or DESADV for delivery notes. “Today, if a company sends its order details to Metro, the systems can communicate and understand each other intuitively because Crossgate technology creates a bridge without customers having to worry about possible data transfer issues,” Lembgen explains. This function was not available in former versions of SAP Business One, meaning that companies had to establish the interfaces manually.
Next page: Switching over to SAP Business One 9.0
Two of Lembgen’s clients have now switched to version 9.0. Despite the clear advantages, a switch should be considered carefully. Even if the upgrade to the new release can be completed in one day, the new features are not immediately active.
“New processes have to be implemented,” Lembgen explains. “A new concept for the switch to chaotic storage bins means that stock putaway and stock removal measures have to be adjusted.” It also means that employees must be involved in the process.
Plan several weeks for complete implementation The SAP Business One expert advises his customers, who generally range from four to a maximum of 100 users, to plan for several weeks. However, that’s still a much shorter time frame than would be required for the “big” ERP customers, who use more advanced customizations, and would have to reckon with additional costs.