Quinaptis is a specialist in the field of SAP Extended Warehouse Management (SAP EWM). We develop solutions to improve warehouses’ efficiency and innovative concepts to enhance the logistics flows of our customers. One of these innovations is the use of the SAP Cloud platform to exchange data with apps.
Many SAP users switch to SAP S/4HANA because it is powerful, smart, user-friendly and above all future-proof, thanks to its extensibility characteristics. This means that you can add new functionalities or modify existing ones without compromising the existing system functions. You can do this in the back-end itself (in-app extension) or via external apps in the SAP Cloud Platform (side-by-side extensions).
Thanks to the extensibility concept, it is possible to develop toolsets in the cloud to send or receive data in a secure way. The SAP Cloud Platform then works as a middleware.
Today, Radio Frequency (RF) is the main technology to transmit data from SAP to devices such as handheld barcode scanners. However, this technology is beginning to show limitations in evolving towards ‘next generation’ processes. Also, these devices require a browser to process the data and to be able to operate. This limits the types of equipment, whilst more and more app-based devices appear in the warehouse, such as tablets, smart glasses, and other portable devices. Furthermore, ‘digital native’ forklifts using apps start to appear on the market.
The idea behind wearables is that more and more logistics service providers want to work hands-free. According to MHI, the American association of material handling and supply chain companies, 70% of its members want to implement wearables within five years. They think of smart glasses, smart gloves, wearable scanners or even VR headsets. Especially in warehouses where the picking rate is high, wearables can lead to big efficiency gains. An example: every time an operator puts down his handheld scanner to take an item, he loses a few seconds. At the end of the day, that means a lot of wasted time.
If an SAP S/4HANA back-end is able to communicate with a wearable or other app-based devices to exchange data, you create a new array of possibilities. To realize this combination, Quinaptis elaborated a proof of concept aiming to connect a wireless and app-based device to SAP S/4HANA via the SAP Cloud Platform. With this pilot, we also wanted to explore the extensibility concept.
For this proof of concept, we used a smartwatch to receive, accept and confirm simple commands. Why a smartwatch? The reason is that we wanted to set the bar high. After all, a smartwatch intrinsically has a number of limitations, such as a small screen and a limited battery life when permanently connected. Wouldn’t the energy consumption when exchanging the data be too high? Wouldn’t a small screen limit the length of the assignment messages?
If we succeeded with a smartwatch, our solution would be deployable on more app-based devices, such as tablets, smartphones, smart glasses, smart gloves, and other wearables.
First, we identified the data we needed in the back-end and for which actions (location, number of pieces, etc.). Then we set up an OData service to make these data available in the cloud. We then established a secure connection between the SAP S/4 HANA back-end and the SAP Cloud Platform. We made the service available by developing a middleware application with SAP Cloud SDK (Software Development Kit). This app can thus use OData.
Then we wrote an Android app for the smartwatch, enabling the user to receive and send information. This app communicates with the middleware on the SAP Cloud Platform. And in turn that middleware communicates with the back-end. This way we created a smooth data flow between SAP S/4 HANA and the smartwatch and vice-versa. The middleware, therefore, plays a leading role in that process.
See the app in action here
With this pilot, Quinaptis tested the feasibility of exchanging data via the SAP Cloud Platform between the SAP S/4HANA back-end system and a wearable. Or any device that runs on an app, whether it is Android or iOS. We demonstrated that this is indeed possible, even using a smartwatch with all its limitations.
This proof of concept can lead to very diverse applications. Some of the devices have yet to be invented, but thanks to the extensibility of S/4HANA this is no obstacle. The road is open to all kinds of future applications with wearables in the warehouse. Quinaptis is ready to walk this road together with its customers.
Published with StoryChief