MUFI Rating & Risk – SAP APO PP/DS
MUFI: Maintainability, Usability, Functionality, Implement ability
Vendor: SAP (Select For Vendor Profile)
SAP Production Planning and Detailed Scheduling (PP/DS) is the production planning and scheduling application within the SAP APO or SAP SCM (SAP’s new nomenclature for the suite is SCM, but most people still refer to it as APO) suite.
SAP APO is a broad advanced planning suite that includes, depending on how you count, around ten modules (although the bulk of its implementations are in just four modules. PP/DS is often implemented along with SNP (profiled in our Software Selection Package for Supply Planning). While there is some overlap (which will be explained), these are traditional sequential and supply planning first applications. Both of their designs go back to the mid-1990s, and both products are patterned off of products made by i2 Technologies, which SAP had a partnership within the mid-1990’s.
PP/DS is sold as a heavy duty and sophisticated production planning and scheduling system that can be used in almost any production environment. In truth, due to design flaws, most of PP/DS’s more sophisticated functionality goes unused on projects. Something, which goes virtually unmentioned by the major and even minor consulting companies that recommend PP/DS, is that the application has a narrow scope of practical usage. For this reason, PP/DS is one of the most over recommended applications that we cover. It is repeatedly selected for manufacturing environments that it has zero chance of ever being successfully implemented. One reason for this is PP/DS is chosen for buyers that have no idea how much maintenance is involved with PP/DS. Secondly, PP/DS can only manage discrete and repetitive manufacturing environments and is entirely inappropriate for process-batch and process continuously. Furthermore, even among discrete and repetitive manufacturing, PP/DS can only handle the simplest of manufacturing requirements. Because of PP/DS’s heavy maintenance overhead, it has the highest TCO of any application in its software category. Lesser known applications can produce superior planning output at less than half of PP/DS’s total cost.
Another area of confusion is how PP/DS is implemented. SAP markets PP/DS’s cost optimizer very slowly during the sales process, however, the optimizer is an old design which is extremely difficult to configure correctly, and which can only minimize costs. This is a first generation optimizer based upon when all optimization was cost driven, which has been demonstrated to be a poor approach to optimizing a production facility. Duration optimizers are more relevant for the problem and have proven to be much easier to implement in practice. However, only two software vendors that we cover – PlanetTogether and Delfoi have them. In fact, in the vast majority of PP/DS implementation, while they begin with the optimizer, they eventually move to heuristics. Therefore a significant reason for choosing PP/DS – its optimizer – is almost always nullified during implementation. This is extremely well known by large PP/DS implementers like IBM and Accenture, but they do not share this information with their clients as they want their clients to implement PP/DS. We do not rate applications based on their hypothetical functionality. That is why, even though PP/DS has a dated cost optimizer, as it is not usable, we consider PP/DS to be a heuristic based system. This is why we rate its functionality score as lower than average.
To purchase the most expensive application in the category, and then to accept all of its implementation and maintenance costs merely to run heuristics is a very poor expenditure of a company’s budget.
PP/DS has a difficult to use user interface. This, along with its overall difficulty level makes PP/DS have fixed user uptake issues to clients. This is exacerbated by the fact that PP/DS is also complicated to maintain – meaning PP/DS implementations that we analyze are often in a state of disrepair.
As with all of the APO products, while the ability to simulate is touted in the sales process, in reality, it is so onerous to set up, and on most APO projects simulation is only rarely performed. Therefore companies that use PP/DS
PP/DS has had ample opportunity to be successful, but it has not proven to be so. PP/DS has been negative for production planning and scheduling software in general. It is the best-known high-end production planning and scheduling application, and its failures have given a black eye to the overall software category.
For years consultants have been telling companies to buy a “real” production planning and scheduling application rather than relying upon MRP and Excel. However, when they do – they find that this solution also does not work and does not improve their production and scheduling plans. Many companies think that as SAP is such a large and distinguished company if they can’t get it to work who can? Most do not understand that PP/DS is merely a weak application. If there were a functioning market of information on enterprise software, PP/DS would no longer be recommended, but PP/DS implementations are lengthy and expensive endeavors, two things, which are highly desirable to the major consulting companies.
The PP/DS optimizer has the option of paying no attention to the bottleneck setting on the resource or of constraining all bottleneck resources.
In environments where there are dependencies between production activities. One example of this is when a finished good in one factory is fed by semi-finished goods or components (or the components are in a third plant supplying the semi-finished goods plant, which I have in fact seen at several companies) — then the production across the various plants ends up being poorly integrated. For example, the widely used SAP PP/DS application has no way to resolve conflicts between factories that feed each other. Like almost all production planning and scheduling applications, the application cannot even “see” this relationship because its design is such that each plant is seen as independent during the planning run. While the supply planning system can see the overall supply network, the vast majority of supply planning software can do nothing concerning multi-plant planning because it cannot create routings that span multiple factories.
PP/DS is an application buyer should steer clear of. It does not do what it promises there are far better alternatives in the market.
All scores out of a possible 10.
Vendor and Application Risk
SAP along with the major consulting companies have done a very effective job of convincing clients that SAP PP/DS is one of the best production planning and scheduling applications in the market. The fact that it is not only not even technologically impressive, but is extremely difficult to implement – and must be implemented only with its heuristics means that buyers are in for a rough ride with any PP/DS implementation. The trick with PP/DS is only to implement it in elementary environments. PP/DS will fail in complex environments like process industry manufacturing, and there is no advice that we can offer that will change that. We have been kept up to date on a process industry buyer that has been trying to get PP/DS to work for ten years. We told them about the limitations of PP/DS before their implementation, but they decided to put their trust in SAP, and now their operations are seriously compromised because of this application (as well as SAP SNP and DP). Because a PP/DS implementation will have problems in every possible dimension (functionality, user adoption, troubleshooting, output, etc..) PP/DS implementations must be kept simple to avoid a complete disaster.
Likelihood of Implementation Success
This accounts for both the application and vendor-specific risk. In our formula, the total implementation risk is application + vendor + buyer risk. The buyer specific risk could increase or decrease this overall likelihood and adjust the values that you see below.
Risk Management Approach
PP/DS should not be implemented with its optimizer – it will not work but will burn a tremendous amount of time during the implementation. Instead, PP/DS should be implemented with heuristics right from the beginning. Because the user interface is so weak, the users will require prodigious amounts of training. There are only two possible outcomes to a PP/DS project, very moderate success in the most uncomplicated environments, or failure, which requires successive, visits by high priced “SAP Platinum Consultants,” which don’t end up solving the problem. Following the advice in this section can put a buyer on the pathway to the former. All buyers should be prepared for an extremely challenging implementation.
*We often recommend independent consultants on projects to gain an objective opinion, but this advice will not work for PP/DS. PP/DS consultants that are independent hold the SAP line and distribute information that is as bad as that which is provided by consultants that work for SAP.