Have you been thinking about integrating your SampleManager LIMS™ with your SAP system? Does it seem like interfacing is too complicated? Unsure if there’s enough benefit to justify the cost? You’re not alone. Some people question if a LIMS is necessary at all, given the release of SAP’s S/4HANA and enhancements to SAP QM. We wrote about some answers to that age-old question in a previous blog.
For those who do maintain both SampleManager LIMS and SAP QM, Thermo Scientific™ developed SM-IDI (Inspection Data Interface) to enable communication between the two systems. From its origins in the late 1990s, SM-IDI has evolved into a robust, feature-packed tool to help you leverage the power of both the LIMS and the ERP system.
If you have committed to both systems, should you interface or not? Although there’s no one size fits all answer, here are a few reasons you might want to consider taking the plunge.
Any interface to SAP can be time consuming and costly, and SampleManager LIMS to SAP QM is no different. But did you know that not interfacing these two systems can prevent you from getting product out the door?
The SAP QM module uses inspection lots to make requests for a manufacturing facility to perform testing on specified materials, pieces of equipment, or functional locations. Information in the inspection lot record is compared against pre-defined specifications, which helps the quality manager decide if a product can be released for use or sale (also referred to as usage decisions).
The tests requested in the inspection lot are managed in your SampleManager LIMS. Without an interface between SampleManager LIMS and SAP, inspection lot information has to be transferred manually between the two systems.
Manual data entry increases the likelihood of transcription errors, which often mean that test results won’t be linked correctly to the lot, batch, or material in the SAP. Ultimately, incorrect or missing data can impact whether a product can be sold. Entering data manually can also interfere with proper audit trails, resulting in regulatory compliance problems. These are situations that can cost your business significant amounts of time and money.
SampleManager LIMS uses SM-IDI to connect to SAP QM and allow data to flow back and forth between the two systems.
This connectivity between the two systems allows for inspection lots generated in SAP to generate the same lot information within SampleManager LIMS automatically, including creating samples and tests with associated specifications. This is a real game changer for large labs, easily saving hours of effort on data entry, not to mention additional time saved from human errors that must be corrected.
There are many ways to configure SM-IDI, but the graphic included here illustrates one of the most common, simplified scenarios.
A great example of efficiency gains realized can be found in one of our recent projects for a large chemical manufacturer. Our client had long been using a manual process involving Excel spreadsheets to update data from SAP to SampleManager, and then back to SAP.
This information was necessary to make usage decisions to release rail cars full of product, and the time consuming manual process was preventing the client from operating at scale. Rail cars were often delayed because the right information wasn’t available to the right people, at the right time.
Implementing the interface between SampleManager and SAP QM allowed the client to automate the transfer of data between the systems, and significantly decrease the time railcars spent waiting to be released.
Using an automated interface also led to a more accurate audit trail, and decreased the amount of time spent collecting data for regulatory review.
SM-IDI can also be configured to transfer data related to inventory, indicate which instruments and methods were used for a test, and ensure that instrument calibration histories are maintained.
Automating data transfer between SampleManager LIMS and SAP can eliminate time-consuming data entry, allowing analysts and operators to focus on testing.
➜ You may also be interested in: Connecting Lab Instruments to SampleManager LIMS™
The level of complexity of interfacing your SAP system with SampleManager LIMS is directly related to how much customization was done during the SAP implementation. The more customization, the trickier this task can be. The good news is that SM-IDI has evolved over the years to better address this complexity.
The SM-IDI interface solution has a number of features to ease the manageability of data. Static data, such as product specifications or analysis components, are now more easily available from SAP through the interface “on the fly.” This means that companies can choose to maintain less data in the LIMS itself, and rely on SAP as the single point of truth. The result is less time spent manually synchronizing data between SampleManager LIMS and SAP and fewer problems with out of sync data.
In addition, SAP supports web services, allowing SampleManager access to a much broader range of data with fewer restrictions. This means less customization in SampleManager is necessary to make the interface work for you.
What benefits could you derive from interfacing SAP with your SampleManager LIMS? Tell us below in the comments.
If you’re still on the fence about interfacing the two, get in touch with one of our expert consultants who can discuss the benefits of interfacing in your specific situation.