Software Links Supply Chain with SAP ERP at Scientific-Atlanta

Scientific-Atlanta is an industry leader in state of the art advanced terrestrial andsatellite network products and systems. They provide cable operators, broadcasters,programmers telephone and utility companies, governments and worldwide corporations withthe products needed to deliver voice, data and video communications.

Having spent almost five years of research and development to deliver true two-wayinteractive digital cable networks and with the introduction of the Explorer 2000 digitalcable set-top, Scientific-Atlanta knew that the expected demand for the Explorer 2000digital set-top would mean an increasing need for better inventory tracking. To manage thegrowth of digital set-tops, IT professionals and business leaders at Scientific-Atlantaagreed an enterprisewide inventory tracking system was needed. The project stemmed fromScientific-Atlanta's business vision of a worldwide organization operating within a commonset of best-practice business processes, and was initiated 4 years ago. In addition,set-top box shipping volume had outgrown the batch downloading of product serial numbersprovided by the legacy system.

According to Steve Winterbottom, Scientific-Atlanta CIO, "Batch downloading of ourproduct serial numbers was time consuming, and completely disconnected order entry fromthe tracking process, making real-time access to warehouse information impossible. Thissometimes caused errors in the shipping process."

Scientific-Atlanta realized they needed a portable method of collecting product serialnumber information, coupled with an ERP system that records all product transactions inevery warehouse. "After evaluating numerous enterprise management business systemoptions, we selected an HP/UNIX-based SAP R/3 system with an Oracle Database,"explained Winterbottom. "This solved our requirement for enterprisewide access towarehouse information, but it was only part of the total solution. After consulting withInnoVision (Alpharetta, Ga.), a solutions integrator and software solutions provider, werealized the importance of real-time processing for receiving, shipping, inventory andwarehouse transactions. The data collection component of the system had to be a wirelessLAN with portable handheld terminals to scan assets and print barcode labels. Alltransactions had to be logged in real-time onto our SAP server for maintaining a completeproduct lifecycle for over 26 million set-top cable boxes currently in circulation and theexpected growth for digital set-tops."

InnoVision integrated the automated data collection system (ADC) with the new SAP R/3wide area network consisting of manufacturing plants in Norcross, Ga., El Paso, Texas andJuarez, Mexico. "The logical choice for integrating real-time radio frequency (RF)data communications with the Scientific-Atlanta ERP was a middleware software productrunning on its own server," said Todd Matthews, InnoVision President."Scientific-Atlanta's SAP system would not be able to operate with more than 20million serial numbers to track, so it was important that the middleware solution providehigh speed, high volume scanning and that it link directly with the Oracle databasewithout impacting system performance. We selected Janus 2020 handheld terminals, andcustomized the collection and validation screens to meet Scientific-Atlanta's requirementsfor high speed scanning. To bridge the gap between the terminals and the SAP R/3 system,we applied our standard middleware software product WinTrak for R/3. WinTrak is a WindowsNT-based software program that was installed on a Compaq platform, connected to the hostcomputer by SAP standard RFC and BAPI interfaces, and connected to the terminals by a 2.4GHz radio backbone. WinTrak provides a framework for managing the data collection andvalidation process. WinTrak enables a real-time interface, regardless of the host ERPhardware and software environments on one end, and wireless radio frequency terminals onthe other end."

The WinTrak for R/3 system was installed alongside the SAP R/3 system in the Atlantaplant; Juarez and El Paso were connected through a WAN. InnoVision trained theScientific-Atlanta personnel on the use of the handheld terminals and administration ofWinTrak for R/3, including the Authoring program, which allows Scientific-Atlanta to addtransactions to the system. Scientific-Atlanta phased in the new system over a six-monthperiod and went live in June of 1998. The new system provides a closed loop validation ofall information related to product shipments. Serial number tracking of set-top cableboxes was necessary so the boxes could be activated when loaned to cable customers.Products are tracked by serial number from receipt through to inventory, shipment andrepair records. Warehouse personnel get feedback on products in less than 2 seconds, andthe master database is also updated in real-time.

Warehouse personnel adapted quickly to the portable scanners, and benefits wererealized immediately. Inventory accuracy increased and bad data in the historical recordswas eliminated. "High volume orders are now much easier to ship and track withouterror," reported Winterbottom. "We scan the units for shipment, and the unitsare validated on the WinTrak controlled Order Entry System. Any problems with an order arecorrected on the spot because the handheld terminals force corrections to be made beforethe scanning process can continue. Errors are resolved at the beginning of the processbefore the information enters the host computer, unlike the legacy system where clericaltime was needed to track down errors after the fact." InnoVision configured WinTrakfor R/3 to allow for high speed scanning. Rather than scanning each individual cableset-top box, warehouse personnel simply scan a card with the printed bar code serialnumbers of every cable box on a pallet.

Winterbottom stated, "The WinTrak system worked extremely well the last week inDecember when we set a record with 200,000 units shipped. Since the implementation of theWinTrak for R/3 system we have shipped 2.5 million cable set-top boxes."

The accuracy of shipments for Scientific-Atlanta has improved and the quality ofcustomer support has increased. With the new system, management has immediate access towarehouse information, allowing specific inquires on inventory, order or allocationstatus. The data warehousing and SAP R/3 system has more timely and accurate informationabout the status and location of products within the enterprise and across the supplychain. InnoVision's high speed, high volume radio frequency barcode scanning softwareincreased efficiency, reduced errors and provided an open system to personnel within theAtlanta warehouse, and throughout the broadband cable business enterprise.Scientific-Atlanta is in the process of changing the function of the WinTrak system toinclude disaster recovery. "If the SAP goes down, we need to be able to shipproduct," explained Winterbottom. "We are going to start using the function inWinTrak which allows for shipping to continue and information to be stored until the SAPis brought back online."

Scientific-Atlanta decided to implement the new system with WinTrak in their highestvolume division to test its functionality. According to Winterbottom. "It's worked sowell for our broadband cable business that we are planning to add additional WinTrak unitsin Juarez and El Paso, and we will be expanding it to other business units. The InnoVisiontraining, customer support and product service will allow the system to be easilyleveraged into other divisions with serial number tracking requirements."