Wednesday, July 21, 2010

SAP Document Printing Optimization

One of our customers in the nuclear power industry faced daily headaches from printing critical documents with the stock SAP forms (SAPScript). The inherent limitations of that tool for formatting, processing, and development finally became too much to bear, and the customer asked us to develop a better solution.

We solved the problem with coded custom print layouts using Smartforms for key Plant Maintenance (PM) documents, including orders, maintenance plans, and notifications. These layouts allow advanced formatting enhancements that we take for granted in everyday word processing applications—such as indenting, bulleting, and macros to insert predefined text—but that are simply not possible with out-of-the-box SAPScript forms.

As a result of this work, our customer was able to achieve a number of important benefits, including more efficient document creation, formatting, and management; increased readability with fewer errors; and more consistent presentation within and across departments. In addition, the customer is now better able to comply with its regulator's documentation requirements, such as no orphaned signature lines. The Smartforms that we created prevent unwanted line breaks, and enable the utility to print important documents correctly the first time around.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Utilities and SAP Grant Management

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) has directed hundreds of millions in stimulus funds to utilities, enabling new projects to get off the ground that otherwise would have never been considered.

What, then, does a utility do to track the grants it applies for and the funds it receives from federal or state agencies? Some utilities are tempted to use an Excel spreadsheet; it's easy to download SAP orders manually, and there's comfort in the application's familiarity. But what are the costs? Let's count them...

    1. Your data is static once you've downloaded it
    2. There's no drilldown functionality for detail support
    3. You can't exclude non-funded costs
    4. You can't summarize accounts into grantor categories automatically
    5. There's a serious risk of manual errors
    6. There's little or no audit capability
    7. There's no document repository

We could come up with additional reasons, but the bottom line is that Excel just won't fly with your external auditor—let alone your grantor, should they want to see how their funds were utilized.

There is a better way. SAP's own Grant Management (GM) module is ideal for tracking every grant dollar received, and it integrates seamlessly with your existing SAP infrastructure (including FM, FI, and CO in particular). GM displays each grant's lifecycle and status, and allows you to establish financial conditions, legal rules, and allowable project expenses.

After Grant Management is implemented, you'll be able to see a running total of the money remaining in each grant, plus have easy access to all of the details for each expense. This degree of transparency makes grant management a no-brainer, and we're recommending that many of our clients consider it seriously. In a future post, we'll get into some of the technical details you should know when implementing the GM module.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Case Study: SAP ECC 6.0 and Smaller Utilities

Trans Bay Cable (TBC) is a $500 million energy transmission infrastructure project chosen by the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) to provide reliable energy to the City of San Francisco. Selected over a number of alternate solutions, and running a lean operation with a very small staff, TBC LLC required an ERP system that would meet the same FERC reporting standards of traditional utilities.

The outcome? HPC America architected an SAP ECC 6.0 solution that delivered best-in-class functionality with the highest cost efficiency—illustrating a replicable model for other growing utilities that cannot rationalize conventional, big company SAP installations. Read the complete case study.