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Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Industry: SAP Ariba Integration Problem

Overview

In this digital age, large enterprises need digital systems that work together seamlessly, whether they’re the latest products from the same vendor, or a mixture of applications and services from a range of different sources and eras. If you’re an SAP client, you probably will have already heard of some of the solutions they offer to help customers integrate their software painlessly.

Products like the SAP Ariba Cloud Integration Gateway (CIG), or its predecessor, SAP Ariba Cloud Integration 9 (CI-9). Combined with a skilled technical team, there’s almost no limit to the different systems this type of platform can get to work together.

Like many SAP clients, the pharmaceutical and healthcare conglomerate that is the focus of our story has more than one major SAP platform deployed at their business. Using a combination of SAP ERP Central Component (SAP ECC), and SAP Ariba Cloud to manage the inventory, procurement and supply chain systems for their large manufacturing concern should have meant they were able to rely on the system’s abilities to manage transactions and sourcing for their many high-tech medical and surgical products.

The Problem

Unfortunately, their invoicing system had become unstable, and an SAP-deployed hot-fix designed to resolve invoice integration problems was unable to resolve the issue. Presenting itself as a series of repeat errors in how multi-line invoices were handled by the system, the faults and errors that staff were seeing included:

  • Problems with tax line mapping on multi-line invoices
  • Balance left over when processing multi-line invoices
  • The ECC ERP system was unable to identify duplicate invoices coming from the Ariba system
  • The status of the remittance to suppliers always failed to update
  • Discounts regularly failed
  • Automation and data reporting were unreliable

These symptoms of an underlying integration problem left the client company with an unstable, unreliable invoicing system that needed regular manual input to keep the public-facing elements working. The potential fallout from these types of invoicing problems is potentially huge for any organisation.

In this case, the company in question is heavily involved with the manufacture and supply of a range of high-tech medical and surgical products, requiring lots of physical resource ordering and management in both directions. Some real and potential effects of the problem include:

  • Increased working hours as staff try to monitor and manually rectify errors
  • Unhappy, unimpressed client companies and suppliers due to late or missing payments, potentially leading to loss of clients
  • Stressed-out employees that are more likely to be sick or make mistakes
  • Loss of earnings due to un-noticed errors
  • Lost value from having skilled employees lose time to tasks that should be automated
  • Reduced benefits from SAP ECC ERP and SAP Ariba due to errors in data collection and monitoring, reducing the effectiveness of machine learning
  • Other issues with the systems involved might go unnoticed, depending on how IT Ops are monitoring the organisation’s cloud and on-prem software.

The Solution

When the SAP hot-fix didn’t work, the SapienceS2P technical team was asked to come up with a custom solution as soon as possible. Knowing that the invoicing problems were due to an integration issue, we worked with the client to customise the integration layer and resolve the issue. By building a stable solution for transporting invoices between SAP ECC and SAP Ariba, we were able to fix things so that the client could once again benefit fully from their SAP software.

The client is now planning to upgrade the integration layer to SAP Ariba CIG. In the long run, adopting the SAP Ariba Cloud Integration Gateway will make it easier to configure and maintain the integration of these two solutions. However, in this case time was of the essence so a fix needed to work with the existing set-up.

Summary

Integration is key when it comes to running the range of different software solutions needed to run a modern enterprise. While companies like SAP go a long way towards resolving integration problems by offering dedicated integration platforms that work well with software from any vendor, skilled technical consultants with experience working with different supply chain situations are an essential part of the mix.

Because SapienceS2P has the skills and experience needed, we were able to create a drop-in solution to this invoicing problem that could be deployed immediately on the existing system. Get in touch to find out more about how we can help you with your SAP Ariba integration issues.