From Excel sheet to a web based solution integrated with company ERP

Merck is a leading science and technology company in healthcare, life science and performance materials. Around 40,000 employees work to develop technologies that improve and enhance life – from biopharmaceutical therapies to treatment for cancer or multiple sclerosis, cutting-edge systems for scientific research and production, to liquid crystals for smartphones and LCD televisions. Merck is the oldest pharmaceutical and chemical company in the world.

The Merck MEXG entity manages orders and shipments for the emergent countries where there isn’t any local team. This MEXG team initially used a shared Excel spreadsheet to manage international shipments. As the MEXG team is spread over multiple locations, the Excel solution was not a scalable enough.

To improve this situation SmartWave first developed a web application aimed to replace the shared excel spreadsheet. This facilitated communication between team members with a common and secured master data referential (customer, suppliers, products) and related orders. Despite the fact that this application was bringing value to the business, its lack of integration with the ERP was a real handicap.

Challenges

Avoid manual and double data entry to reduce errors
Improve data quality by sharing ERP master data
Keep business history and request legacy data
Improve user experience through ergonomic and responsive design

Our solution
Enterprise Applications

The business objective of this solution is to provide Business Team with a web application providing advanced search functions and a synchronization of data with SAP. Therefore, we started the project with few workshops with the IT and business teams. We proposed to develop a brand-new application based on SpringBoot and AngularJS frameworks.

We created the project backlog and start the first iteration focused on UX and UI. For a unified experience across platforms and device sizes we propose to follow material design standard developed by Google. Business users were involved since the beginning to validate our propositions. We created navigable mockups to help them to plan the future application.

Since UX and UI were adopted, the iterative development started with AngularJS and SpringBoot. We developed our frontend components or reused existing ones.

SAP integration has been done using SAP PI and web services. It involved a complete redesign of the database model. Application exposes web services, called by SAP, to synchronize master data. Orders are directly created in the application and sent to SAP after a validation by customer services. As soon as an update is done on the SAP side, application web service is synchronously called to update the order.

Order master data are also synchronised with SAP. Even though these data are in read only mode, the application proposes to extend them with private updatable shipping information useful to manage orders.

 

Here the main screen of the application presenting the orders in process.

 

 

Below the query tool to enable business user to efficiently filter orders based on their responsibilities.

Benefits

BETTER BUSINESS REACTIVITY

By integrating SAP master data, users do not need to update or maintain data manually on two systems as they did previously. Additionally they don’t need to access SAP system to get information, all data are in one place.
Involving SAP PI and web services, this integration provides order updates in near real-time. Each time SAP update an order, the application is automatically synchronized and users are notified threw dashboards. Consequently, the integration with SAP is robust and reduces the possibility of errors.

BETTER ORDER QUALITY

Users no longer have to re-create orders in SAP manually which allows the business to focus on other, higher value-added tasks. By adding the integration of master data, all data used for managing orders are always synchronized with SAP. Furthermore, this synchronisation reduces the possibility of errors and users are alerted whenever changes are made to their orders. They can access the complete order history and audit at any time.

IMMEDIATE USER PRODUCTIVITY

Users get a brand-new interface with a redesigned UX. All features have been preserved. The new UX improves user productivity by enabling them to focus on relevant data. A search engine based on angular material chips and autocomplete feature allows users to easily create an optimal search. This search context (including sort applied and columns displayed) can be saved and reloaded. The application is based on web standards components and reduces solution adoption time.

Supply chain error detection

We worked with Merck business users to list business rules to identify orders that need a special focus. These rules were centralized to facilitate future updates. Our UX specialists created a color scheme to classify orders by criticity and focus user attention on the right place.
This allow users to see orders in error or containing differences with initial user values.
User dedicated dashboards present main orders KPI such as: last updated orders, backorder number, processed order, average delivery time.

Rely on market standard technologies

Integration with SAP rely on SAP standards : IDOC and SAP PI. Application exposes an SOAP Web Service called by SAP PI which in turns updates orders using IDOC.
The application has been developed using open source frameworks (SpringBoot, Angular, Angular Material, Hibernate) and following development best practices.

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