"Nothing is impossible"
AUCOTEC consultant David Hoffmann on ERP/PLM integrations, accelerating standards and SAP know-how

David Hoffmann is the contact person and project officer at AUCOTEC for ERP integrations. He studied Information Technology & Systems Management before gaining experience in various industries as a software and hardware developer, IT engineer and project manager. The graduate engineer has been part of the Austrian AUCOTEC team since 2012, but working internationally. He is primarily responsible for complex integration projects for Engineering Base focusing on SAP. His focus here is: stability and reusability of the solutions.

What are the most requested integrations in the ERP/PLM area?

They are SAP, Teamcenter and Windchill. From my point of view, SAP is clearly at the top of the list, including with regard to the scope of the integrated modules. Also worth mentioning are proALPHA and Microsoft Dynamics NAV.

Are there standard solutions or is each connection developed individually?

Basically, there is always a need for some consulting and support, especially in the SAP spectrum. Having said that, I can think of three standards for the ERP/PLM interfaces alone. On the one hand, the "Standard PLM Connector" provides a general, rather simple interface via which data can be transferred to and from Engineering Base (EB) in predefined processes via file exchange. This solution is of particular interest if data of a manageable quantity and size is to be exchanged, specifically triggered by the user.

There are also more in-depth standard solutions for SAP and Teamcenter.

One example is the SAP Connector for Engineering Base: an online connection to SAP can be established directly from EB. The object model is then read and maintained directly in SAP. Here comprehensive checks and evaluations are carried out. SAP can also directly access EB online without having to know all the internal details of EB. This solution also offers extensive functions that are executed automatically via the server, i.e. without user action.

We are currently developing the third standard: a comprehensive basis for all integration solutions. With the „ERP/PLM-Portal“, a standard is being developed that can be used for all interfaces. The specialized interfaces for SAP and Teamcenter, for example, then build on this.

The IMAP product from our partner it-motive fits directly into this new concept. As a data hub for us, IMAP encapsulates the communication and internal logic of the connected systems such as SAP and Teamcenter. This allows us to concentrate on EB's strengths and expand the interface functions there. it-motive uses IMAP to ensure the transmission of data from EB to the various systems and back.

Why this third variant?

Because the actual communication with SAP differs greatly at times and we want to be open to all other systems besides SAP, such as Teamcenter.

Are you not getting rid of yourself with the standards?

No, of course standards speed up processes but there is still enough to do. An SAP interface must be able to map the many different data views and processes of our customers. Even if the name SAP is the same, the customer's systems are not. Customizing or changing the data model and program modules makes the SAP systems not only look different but also behave differently. SAP offers such a large variety of objects and processes that we have to let our integration solutions grow with our customers' requirements. The constant changes at SAP alone – above all the purchase of solutions, the development of new products and the switch to cloud solutions – mean that our consulting support continues to be quite in demand, despite it-motive cooperation.

Are there impossible connections, something that cannot be integrated?

For me, the clear answer to that is: no! I think we can understand any man-made system and integrate it into our AUCOTEC world if it makes sense. With EB and the technical possibilities it contains, we are equipped for all future requirements and will be able to offer solutions for them.