Bombardier teaches legacy apps to speak SAP

Before Bombardier Aerospace even decided to implement SAP AG software last August, the Montreal-based aircraft manufacturing company knew it would need an integration platform to make the deployment seamless across its mission-critical applications.

The company was already using a homegrown legacy warehouse management system, and didn't want to replace it until SAP was deployed across its many locations worldwide. Bombardier Aerospace is implementing SAP to manage its supply chain, covering everything from operations, to finance, to spare parts and maintenance.

"We didn't want to change the WMS system as we are deploying SAP because it would take some time, several years, before we deploy to all sides of the aircraft program," said Khalil Nasrallah, manager of emerging technologies business, transformation and systems at Bombardier Aerospace in Montreal. "We needed a solution that would interface SAP to the legacy system."

Bombardier's WMS needed an integration tool in order for the company to keep track of the toilets, windows, wires and other endless airplane parts that are processed through the warehouse floor.

Bombardier had already been using IBM Corp.'s WebSphere Business Integrator (WBI), and as such it had licences for the product. After an assessment, Nasrallah said Bombardier opted to extend it to handle the WMS issue. Right now the Montreal location is home to Bombardier's CRJ family of regional jets, including 70- and 90-seat versions of the CRJ-700 and 900. While there are four major locations in Toronto, the United States and Ireland, the company is focusing the deployment on the Montreal location first, and then will expand the footprint within the next few years, Nasrallah said.

Trying to avoid downtime was a driving force during the project, Nasrallah says. "When we convert plan orders into production orders, we want to make sure that the warehouse people on the floor can pick up the parts in relationship with the production order itself," he explained.

For example, if the SAP system didn't send correct information in a timely manner to the WMS system, the employees would be trying to pick up parts, but they wouldn't see it in the bar code system, thereby delaying production.

John Donaldson, WebSphere software executive with IBM Canada Inc. in Toronto, says WBI provides a brokering capability. "It provides an integration layer so organizations can utilize the investments they've made in software and not be forced to change them."

Nasrallah says it wasn't an option for the company to customize a solution specific to its needs because Bombar­dier needed the application to work immediately.

"We needed it to be standardized," he said, "otherwise every time we had a problem we'd have to find a specific person to work on the program and debug it."

This is one of the main reasons Bombardier decided to deploy the WBI. "It helped us to identify standards. We already have people that know WBI and who can monitor the system ... it's really much easier," he said.

Anytime a change would've been made at any of the mission-critical applications at Bombardier, the code would need to be changed at each end point.

Now Bombardier only needs one person supporting all of the interfaces, instead of hiring specialized developers who understood the custom developed application.

It's also easier for Bombardier to audit the systems' transactions in order to company with various legal requirements, such as the U.S. Sarbanes Oxley financial reporting regulations.

Down the road, if Bombardier wants to connect its system with its partners, vendors or customers, a purchase order could be created in Bombardier's system and its vendor can receive it into their system as a sales order.

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