Synchronized Project Data, Accelerated Processes

November 15, 2006 by admin

Founded in 1938, Larsen & Toubro Limited (L&T) is one of Asia’s largest vertically integrated engineering and construction conglomerate and one of the largest companies in India’s private sector with additional interests in information technology and electrical business. Over the years, the company has created the necessary infrastructure for its global initiative with office locations in United States, Europe, the Middle East and Japan. Its engineering and construction (E&C) division provides turnkey project management solutions and related services to customers in oil and gas, refining, hydrocarbons and petrochemicals, power, and the chemical and mineral industries. With over 1,400 qualified professionals, L&T’s E&C division accounts for almost 45 percent of the company’s total revenue.

Inspire

Inspire

When L&T Infotech (LTIL), a wholly owned IT subsidiary of L&T, developed an application named “Inspire” in 2002 for a government undertaking, no one could have foreseen that the same application would prove to be a bonanza for the company itself – in particular for its E&C division. Inspire works as an interface between SAP applications and Primavera, a project management software for formal data exchange between customers, customers’ consultants, the prime contractor, and several subcontractors. “And that’s exactly what we needed in 2005: an interface between SAP and Primavera”, says Avinash Sankholkar, Head, Information Technology and R&D, Larsen & Toubro Limited, E&C Division.

Higher, faster, stronger

E&C, one of the largest E&C organizations in India, has been associated with the country’s landmarks – buildings, ports, highways, bridges, or civil structures. Internally, however, processes did not run so seamlessly. E&C uses Primavera for project planning, monitoring, and progress reporting and employs SAP R/3 4.7 to fulfill transaction processing functions. But until recently, the two systems were not integrated with each other. The effect: on one hand, planners created and developed a project structure and schedule in Primavera. Periodic progress updates were performed there and exchanged with external agencies. On the other hand, project execution transactions, as processing bills of material, purchases and material movements, invoicing, and all corresponding financial and controlling updates took place in SAP. “Valuable labor-hours were lost by feeding each application with data from the other manually,” explains Shrikant Jawalkar, Head ERP & System Integration, Larsen & Toubro Limited. “The project structures also could become disparate if tasks were performed in respective applications without synchronization.”

Larsen & Toubro Infotech Limited

Larsen & Toubro Infotech Limited

E&C therefore decided to integrate SAP and Primavera to improve project management processes. So users could leverage on complimentary features like enterprise transactions related to materials, resources, documents and costs from SAP, and analytical project management processes related to planning, scheduling and progress tracking from Primavera. “Nothing made more sense than to use the service from LTIL and access Inspire,” says Jawalkar.

Preparations for practice

Therefore, the old version of Inspire had to be adapted to the new requirements. The project was kicked off in June 2005. The team consisted of senior SAP project system consultants, project management experts, and consultants familiar with Web Dynpro, SAP NetWeaver Exchange Infrastructure (SAP NetWeaver XI), and J2EE technologies.
Developing the new Inspire version, the solution’s architecture was revamped using SAP NetWeaver XI which is based on SAP NetWeaver Application Server (SAP NetWeaver AS) and part of SAP NetWeaver 2004. Inspire underwent radical transformation: Tomcat, the integration server, JSP, the front-end and SAP Business Connector as integration medium were replaced by SAP NetWeaver AS 6.4, Web Dynpro and SAP NetWeaver XI 3.0. The application became a “single sign-on” package doing away with multiple logging IDs.

Flexible process framework

The integration process framework – the business process model for integration – was kept generic to accommodate multiple business scenarios such as data transfer through interactive mode or a scheduled job. Either system could be a source system of project structures to set up multiple rules for data transfer, allowing users to work with a desired feature from a desired application. Now, Inspire can serve as an independent solution or a building block for large-scale project management solutions. It can be used to fulfill core integration requirements or as a catalyst to extend features of SAP or Primavera applications. Additional validations and substitutions for integrity and consistency of data as well as enhancements to fulfill scheduling logic and improve processing speed in SAP and utility to release objects, were carried out in SAP and Primavera.
While Inspire was developed and implemented, some areas required special consideration: The process framework was built as flexible as possible to allow multiple possibilities for data synchronization without compromising data integrity. Explicit and implicit requirements were blended: One stated requirement was to synchronize project structures between SAP and Primavera at any point of time. An anticipated need – although not requested by users – was to provide separate views to users with likely results of data transfer: ‘objects likely to be created’ and ‘objects likely to be updated’. The feature was appreciated during testing. The function gave users the option to have a look at prospective synchronization results before it actually took place – thus saving significant efforts subsequent to data transfer, reducing errors and giving more insights into the integration process. Users hadn’t demanded such a pro-active approach but appreciated the feature as an improvement in their process.

Enhanced collaboration

Inspire 2.0 has been implemented as a packaged business solution and went live on December 31, 2005. ”Since then, users work across the landscapes,” says Shrikant Jawalkar. “They tap additional features in both applications, for example claim management in SAP or progress reports in Primavera.” Collaboration and flexibility have been enhanced to accelerate project execution. Construction site personnel update enterprise data more frequently. Less coordination is required to consolidate status data and to generate reports.
“The user-friendliness ensures that users have the expected flexibility and perform integration. These factors serve as catalysts in speedy execution of project tasks and improved schedule performance,” Jawalkar summarizes. A search utility helps with elaborate tracking of data transferred in the past. Users can specify combinations of several useful business parameters as search criteria to focus on specific data transferred using the application.
Today, at E&C, planners are free to use Primavera for building optimal project structure and schedule after executing simulations in SAP for a typical project such as the construction of a wellhead platform in Oil & Gas industry. Cost planning is done in SAP for the synchronized structure. The synchronization is an ongoing process, which ensures that “Planning” and “Controlling” and other enterprise functions have common references unlike in the past. When a procurement engineer views due dates of purchase requisitions in SAP, he is sure that they reflect latest changes in Primavera.
“By synchronizing our project data, we improved the management of cost, quality, and schedules of large-scale projects,” explains Dinesh Gupta, General Manager, Oil & Gas projects. “We’re now able to transfer an entire project structure at one go – as well as specific data such as a work breakdown structure (WBS) element for static equipment or a group of activities.” A project structure for a refinery package for example comprises more than 450 WBS elements, 325 networks, 2,350 activities, and more than 40 milestones. It can now be transferred from SAP to Primavera and vice versa in 365 seconds. “The same task would have consumed at least a full working day of an otherwise-very-busy project planning engineer,” Gupta explains. “Most importantly, project managers are able to correlate physical progress – the percentage of completion – entered in Primavera with financial plans maintained in SAP to gain visibility into earned value performance of projects – something which was missing before. This helps in handling large scale projects in which project structures evolve progressively and need to be updated periodically to reflect the latest changes.”

Milind Bhagat

Rajesh Inamdar

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