25 years’ experience with medium-sized manufacturing companies
The APplus ERP system provides an XML interface for interaction with third-party systems that is also used to connect EDI subsystems. This (neutral) interface can be configured within APplus so that APplus can communicate externally with XML derivatives such as OpenTrans and BizTalk-XML. With regard to the connection of EDI subsystems, however, native APplus XML formats may be a better choice. This method eliminates an additional intermediate format that has to be implemented and maintained, which would produce an intermediate instance that represents a detour on the path to suitable EDI exchange formats. In the automotive sector in particular, this detour via derivatives such as OpenTrans that are not familiar to the industry makes no sense since the automobile supply industry’s special processes are not antagonistic toward these XML derivatives. In view of the requirements of the automobile industry, it is more important to provide the required functionalities for supply chain management in APplus so that the use of the native APplus XML formats can be supported directly. The APplus interface can also be used to integrate internet marketplaces and platforms and to couple several APplus installations to one another.
Intuitive ERP as central data hub
APplus has recognized, as have many other well-known ERP systems, that a state-of-the-art IT infrastructure should represent a “Network of dedicated software solutions with an ERP system as the central data hub.” The ERP system is the leading system that orchestrates various subsystems. To guarantee this functionality, APplus offers an interface framework that serves as mediator between third-party systems and the actual functional building blocks of the APplus ERP software. The module, called BIF (Business Integration Framework), has been available to users since Version 6.3. Third-party systems can supply the BIF module with data via the APplus-specific transport mechanism ‘ECom’ and take over data from it.
Syntactic and semantic check routines—importable XSD schemata as blueprint for new business processes
The transport module’s only task is to transmit the data to the BIF and from the BIF to the EDI subsystem. Using a parser, the data received is subjected to a syntactic check with the specifications of the APplus XML definitions. For send processes, this check is the responsibility of the connected EDI subsystem.
With a positive check result, the external data is forwarded as database objects for processing to the appropriate functional modules of the APplus ERP (for outgoing data, the EDI system handles this part of the check). The basis of any check are the XSD schemas that underlie the XML formats. These schemas, which are generally defined per business process (order, delivery notice, invoice, etc.) define more than just the structure (i.e., the syntactic and logical structure of an XML file). The XSD rules also include the semantics of the XML interfaces. ONE XSD schemata thus provides the blueprint for each professional XML interface on the basis of which the scope of the included contents and the characteristics of the respective field contents (field lengths, alphanumeric-numeric, maximum number of repetitions, etc.) are defined.
Access to all ERP master data with Softzoll as EDI subsystem
The user has two options: Variant A uses the APplus-”Standard,” that is, the native version of the APplus XML interface; Variant B uses the manufacturer-specific specification of an XML interface. Like Softzoll’s EDI solutions, APplus offers a native interface that enables the user to import the XSD schemata via mouse click and activate them as blueprint for connection of a desired EDI business process. For the implementation of a cross-format EDI interface, the field contents in question only have to be assigned. Since APplus’s BIF module has access to all required master data, the use of the APplus standard is recommended so that there is full access to the ERP system’s data pool from the beginning. Depending on the application scenario, this decision should be made in cooperation with the ERP system provider. Today, all major ERP systems on the market use the XML standard interfaces defined by the provider since this delivers benefits with regard to release stability, for example. Maintenance of the integration work done is therefore a given even in case of an update of the APplus ERP system.