SAP ERP for the iPhone

October 20, 2011 by Carsten Lüdtge

You find them everywhere – in private households, airports, hotels and holiday resorts, conference rooms and convention centers: fabrics, carpets, and upholstered furniture from JAB Anstoetz. The renowned company has 1,300 employees and its products can be seen wherever tasteful interior design is called for. Its portfolio contains around 3,000 items in more than 20,000 colors, and the product range changes constantly. This wide variety makes it difficult for interior decorators and designers, the traditional customers of JAB Anstoetz, to manage their assortments.

Until recently, the company would send customers long lists of prices and discontinued items once a year. The customers would then have to cross-check their entire inventory, which can often comprise 300 to 400 samples. JAB Anstoetz first tried simplifying the portfolio management process by digitizing it. For example, it installed scanners that were to record the inventory and price data and then forward this information to customers. But it soon abandoned this project because it would have required too high an effort to regularly update the data.

asdfasdf. (Photo: JAB Anstoetz)

A smartphone camera scans the product-specific barcode. (Photo: JAB Anstoetz)

Mobile devices create new opportunities

The company was on the right track, but the technology lagged behind. With the advent of devices like smart phones and tablets, it became possible to use mobile devices and scanners for the first time. This opened up new alternatives for JAB Anstoetz. Why not simply read the barcodes on the samples via camera and then make the inventory and price data available to customers via online connection to the materials management or SAP ERP system? This would make the information accessible at all times, allowing everyone react to changes faster. The idea of putting certain business scenarios onto mobile devices fascinated the company, and was ultimately the starting point for developing a mobility solution. The most important criteria: The solution would have to support all the prevalent platforms used by the company’s mobile sales force, in particular Android, iOS devices like the iPhone and iPad, and BlackBerry. The mobile sales force would thus also benefit from the new software.

Long-standing relationship with SAP

Moreover, the software had to integrate optimally into JAB Anstoetz’s existing SAP ERP system. The company has worked comprehensively with SAP for more than 15 years in core areas including sales, materials management, and financial accounting, as well as in human resources (payroll/financial accounting) and reporting (SAP Business Warehouse). At the beginning of 2011, it upgraded to SAP ERP 6.0. After considering various competitors, the company chose the it.x-mobile solution from itelligence AG, which is a software framework that enables the safe and simple transfer of SAP data and entire IT processes to smartphones and tablets. “The multi-platform capability and the range of functions convinced us,” says Hermann J. Grauthoff, head of IT at JAB Anstoetz. “One of the deciding factors was that the it.x-mobile solution allows companies to develop scenarios and applications themselves, provided they are familiar with ABAP.”

Thanks to its long-standing tradition with SAP, JAB Anstoetz employs its own specialists who, under their own direction, developed all of the mobile applications used so far. They were supported by consultants from itelligence, who, according to Grauthoff, played a key role in getting the project completed in just a few weeks. “itelligence has a lot of experience with integrating mobile applications in SAP systems. They were open to new scenarios and reacted professionally to sudden requirements that came up during the project,” he notes. So JAB was now faced with the challenge of using this mobile device technology to make critical business data available via the Internet. With itelligence’s help, it installed a Web application firewall.

asfasdf. (Photo: JAB Anstoetz)

JAB Anstoetz is known for its wide range of textiles for interior design. (Photo: JAB Anstoetz)

Product catalog soon available on iPhone

Today, JAB has a “mobile customer center” that contains selected e-shop functions, such as purchasing, reservations, and ordering of returnable samples. One click on your iPhone or iPad is all it takes. If a product is not in stock, a representative from JAB’s sales staff will inform the customer about the expected delivery dates or propose an alternative product that is available for immediate delivery. In addition, customers can reserve fabrics that their end customer has not yet made a final decision on. These goods are then blocked for several days.

Fabric selection is easier

 

The mobile apps also make it easier to manage assortments: The assortment is always up-to-date, and the samples portfolio can be updated quickly. Grauthoff expects that many customers will switch to mobile communication, and JAB plans to provide more mobile services in the future, such as a digital product catalog with photos. Grauthoff is convinced: “By implementing mobile scenarios, we further refine our profile as a driver of innovation, and not just in our range of products.”

At a Glance: The Solution

 

it.x-mobile is a solution developed by itelligence AG that connects mobile devices such as iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry, and Android devices to SAP systems.

The solution consists of

  • A connection framework on the back end with connector, logging, and device management functions
  • A user interface (UI) framework for the front end with player software and support for native programming on different device platforms.

Individual business scenarios, for example from sales, service, and human resources, can thus be implemented on mobile devices.

The benefits:

  • Minimal system requirements, no separate middleware required
  • Developed apps are available via the players on different platforms (iOS, Android, RIM, and so on)
  • High level of user acceptance, since the UI controls of mobile platforms are used (and not the HTML standard)
  • Optimized data transfer via the REST approach and improved HTTP services, for example with BlackBerry
  • Integration with specific device functions, including barcode scanning by camera and the use of the maps application
  • Control and monitoring in the SAP system.

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