Venezuelan Brewer Contributes SAP Interface Code

Cervecería Polar’s open standards XSLT-based code to link the plant floor to top-floor SAP applications will be freely distributed by the World Batch Forum.

An open standards XSLT-based interface developed for use by a major Venezuelan brewing company will soon be available at no charge for batch manufacturers who want to improve their businesses through more effective plant-wide integration.

The interface code—used by Venezuelan brewer Cervecería Polar to connect its plant floor production systems to its SAP R/3 business system—has been given to the World Batch Forum (WBF), according to the WBF, a non-profit, professional organization. WBF, in turn, plans to make the code freely available on its Web site. Cervecería Polar and the WBF are currently clarifying the licensing agreement language, and a firm date has not yet been set for WBF Web site availability, says a WBF source.

Cervecería Polar and its systems integrator, MPR de Venezuela, developed the interface for the company’s four breweries using Business-To-Manufacturing Markup Language (B2MML), an eXtensible Markup Language (XML) schema set developed by WBF. B2MML enables manufacturers to implement the ANSI/ISA S95 standard for data exchange between business and manufacturing systems. WBF released Version 2 of B2MML last year, which is currently available on the WBF Web site.

The interface resides in the SAP Business Connector and uses XML Stylesheet Transformation Language (XSLT) as an open method of converting formats among the production systems and the business system, provided by SAP AG, of Walldorf, Germany. The interface enables the brewery to integrate all production areas of the plant, deliver process orders to the plant floor online, report actual production in real time and synchronize material inventory with SAP’s Production Planning (PP/PI) and Materials Management (MM) modules.

Easily adaptable

The XSLT code given to WBF for distribution does not include any Cervecería proprietary knowledge and can easily be adapted by other companies to convert SAP documents to B2MML format, says Francisco Ferrero, Cervecería Polar’s manager of automation.

Development of the interface took just five weeks, from start to finish, and it has been “live” at the breweries since October 2003, says Alejandro Imass, of systems integrator MPR de Venezuela. “In addition to our work on the project, we received a great deal of support and help via e-mail from members of WBF’s XML Working Group mailing list,” he adds.

Prior to undertaking the B2MML-based project, the brewery had tried to implement a smaller, custom “one-off” interface, with unsatisfactory results. “I think our experience points out the importance of developing open, standard interfaces that can be easily adapted and implemented on other projects,” says Ferrero. “Users should resist the temptation to develop custom interfaces, which are difficult and costly to develop, use and support. For us, B2MML and WBF’s support for our project proved to be ideal.”

The ANSI/ISA S95 standard establishes a common definition and format for information exchanged between shop floor systems and business systems.

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