As I like to do upon occasion, today my post is based off of not just one but two (Yes, count them! TWO!!) search phrases that brought one or more readers to this blog. Today’s phrases are “sap-lims interface” and “sap-lims interface challenges.” In this case, though, I’ve already split this into two posts, so this post will give some background and the next post will list some of the most common issues to deal with.
A Little About SAP
Many of you already know that SAP is an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software. It’s not the only brand out there, and you’ll hear of companies using other brands, but this is one of the most common ones to interface to a LIMS. In fact, when we talk about the largest systems, such as LabWare, Thermo Fisher Scientific’s SampleManager, Abbott’s StarLIMS and LVS’ Labvantage LIMS, SAP is the most common.
In addition, some or all of these LIMS brands have solutions created specifically to interface with SAP’s QM (Quality Management) module. QM is the module that creates an inspection lot, which is where sampling and testing comes into play.
Some Exception Situations
When we talk about the SAP interface to LIMS, we often mean interfacing to QM. However, not everyone using SAP is using QM. I did have a customer who planned to interface their LIMS to their SAP system and they were not using QM. The “standard” interface we talk about would not apply to what they were doing. They would need a unique interface. This is a challenge specific to them or anyone else interfacing to SAP without using QM.
As another example, I worked with a customer interfacing their LIMS with SAP Clinical. This interface was entirely custom-built for them. Not only because it was not going to SAP QM but also because clinical data is much different that the lot data we normally send back-and-forth between LIMS and SAP.
Other Brands and Types of Software
As you read this and the next blog post, you can insert the names of other systems and the challenges will be quite similar. In fact, not just in ERP, but also other types of interfaces from the shop floor, such as MES (Manufacturing Execution System), you’ll find similar issues.
One specific issue to other brands and types of software is this – the less common the software and brand, the less common it is to find someone who has created an interface to it. The less common the brand of LIMS you are interfacing with and the less likely that someone has done an interface with it. With a less common brand of both sides of software and you should plan that it will be a custom interface. You should definitely look around to see what’s out there but plan that you won’t be buying anything even partially built.
In my next post, I will list some of the main challenges to these types of interfaces. While I listed a couple specific challenges, here, the next post will list more generic issues that almost everyone has to deal with.