What advantages does the SAP Cloud Platform offer when it comes to aircraft maintenance? We talked to Christian Schreier, Associate Director SAP Cloud Platform & Analytics, to find out.
Mr. Schreier, you focus on the SAP Cloud Platform (SCP) and how companies in all sectors can benefit from using SAP Cloud solutions What is the most exciting project you are currently working on?
I’m currently part of a team along with seven of my colleagues, and we’re working on software to optimize replacement part procurement for an MRO company (maintenance, repair and overhaul) from the aviation sector. That includes all aircraft components, from the rudder to the coffee machine. The software aims to help our customers’ employees compile lists of the required components, send queries to suppliers and work out the price of replacement parts.
That sounds complicated. How will it work in the real world?
Mechanics regularly replace components. Making sure this happens quickly and seamlessly requires reliable warehousing and provisioning of replacement parts. An ERP system is used for warehousing. It automatically transmits the relevant stock data and data from the procurement process, which is also mapped in the ERP system, to the SAP Cloud Platform along with other data. The application we are developing will be implemented there as a kind of expansion of the ERP system that supports employees in pricing the components they need to procure.
If software helps out in terms of pricing, who makes the final decision?
An employee always makes the final decision. This person can compile components into packages in order to negotiate discounts with the suppliers. The software also plays a key role in that regard: It uses algorithms to calculate a potential total price for the package and, in doing so, helps the employee to select a supplier. After the purchase is made, the software supports employees in evaluating the suppliers. One key factor is whether they meet their delivery deadlines. The software also incorporates this into its calculations.
“We work with a ‘keep the core clean’ principle. What that means for the customer is that if the ERP system is upgraded after the software is brought into operation, it has little influence on the application we have developed.”Christian Schreier, Associate Director SAP Cloud Platform & Analytics
That sounds like a mammoth task with a lot of dependencies. Why is the SAP Cloud Platform being used?
The SCP offers a range of advantages. One of them is that we do not have to alter the customer’s ERP system. For this project, we are using the SCP as an expansion platform that offers us a range of software development services and does not restrict us to one programming language. We work with a “keep the core clean” principle. What that means for the customer is that if the ERP system is upgraded after the software is brought into operation, it has little influence on the application we have developed. It works just as seamlessly as before. Developers used to have to implement their software directly into the ERP system using the ABAP programming language. Because of the tight dependencies involved, this can lead to problems with the application if the system is upgraded. With the SCP and loose coupling, the ERP system can still be updated.
Another plus point: The enormously large volumes of data that this process requires are stored in the SAP HANA in-memory database, which offers excellent performance when it comes to analyzing data in real time. Furthermore, we are not confined to one programming language or development environment in our process. We decided to use Java with Spring Boot and have also been able to make full use of the CI/CD environment applied in other projects. What’s more, the SAP Cloud Platform provides the relevant exchange rates for currencies, allowing the application to more effectively compare quotes from suppliers. The SCP is incredibly versatile.
You sound very convinced when you talk about SAP software. Was that always the case?
No, quite the opposite. Back when I was a business informatics student, I completed an on-the-job semester at our Wetzlar location. I had heard a lot of prejudices against SAP software and wanted to find out in practice whether they were justified. The result wasn’t what I expected, because the advantages SAP software offers are undeniable. I didn’t think SAP would win me over the way it did.
Over the past few years, there has been a major shift at SAP. They are constantly deploying new technologies and concepts. That fascinated me, and that is why I kept working with it. Now I am Associate Director for the SAP Cloud Platform & Analytics division.
About Christian Schreier
After studying business informatics, Christian Schreier began his career as an SAP consultant at Lufthansa Industry Solutions in Wetzlar in 2008. Since 2018, he has headed the SAP Cloud Platform & Analytics division in Norderstedt as its Associate Director.