There are several branches of industry where a customer can order a product in several different variants. This may be something simple such as the color of a coffee machine or more complicated, as for a car where the customer must decide between different colors, engines, and upholstery, but can also choose optional extras, for instance a special sport suspension. You require a forecast for the product (the car), but also for the individual characteristic values. You need to know how many engines of a particular size or doors in a particular color are required in future.
In an ERP system or in SAP APO, these features (color, engine, upholstery in the above example) are referred to as characteristics. The characteristic values are for instance the colors red, green, and blue or the individual engine sizes.
In SAP APO and in NetWeaver usage type Business Intelligence (BI), the term characteristic is also used to describe a type of InfoObject. Although the two are similar in a business sense they are technically completely different types of objects. Therefore, wherever confusion could arise, we refer to characteristics in the current sense as CBF characteristics.
Characteristics-based forecasting (CBF) is a powerful tool that enables you to forecast demand on both the product and the characteristics level.
In general, the product that is referred to in the business process is the generic model, the car in the example. Depending on which options the customer chooses, some of the components that are used differ while others remain the same. This means that there can be several individual bills of material. In the car and high-tech industries, 1010 to 1020 different combinations are possible.
Obviously, it is not practicable to forecast and track all of these combinations. Although there may be many possible combinations, not all of these combinations are possible or you do not want to produce several combinations. In characteristics-based forecasting, you can produce demand plans for combinations of characteristic values or for individual values. You generally restrict the characteristics used in CBF to those that are important for planning purposes.
CBF is integrated with the SAP APO Production Planning/Detailed Scheduling component, so that you can procure or produce individual components based on the characteristics-based forecast.
Sales orders for configurable materials in an ERP system can consume the planned independent requirements (demand released to SNP –PP/DS).
Characteristics-based forecasting is a process that is fully integrated in SAP APO and in the ERP system. You can decide whether to create and edit the characteristics in the ERP system and then transfer the data to SAP APO, or whether to create the characteristics in SAP APO. The same is true for the bill of material, which can be created in the ERP system or in SAP APO.
In the CBF scenario, you can only use bills of material that are included in a production data structure (PDS). You can generate the PDS from iPPE models or from production versions in the ERP system. For more information, see Bill of Material Information in a Characteristics-Based Forecasting Scenario. You cannot use production process models (PPMs) together with configuration information.
1. You create master data in SAP APO or in the ERP system. Characteristics-based forecasting is based on products for which master data exists in the system and on characteristics. In contrast to Demand Planning, the products must be defined in SAP APO.
The product must have requirements strategy 30 Planning Without Final Assembly (Demand tab page for the location product). This prevents production orders for the final product from being created, but generates dependent requirements for the components.
2. If necessary, you transfer the master data and historical data from the ERP system.
3. You create a planning object structure and planning area. See Creation of Planning Areas and Planning Books for Use in CBF.
4. You create CBF tables and profiles. See Settings for CBF in APO.
5. You then create characteristic value combinations as in Demand Planning. See Characteristic Value Combination.
6. If you want sales orders to consume the forecast (planned independent requirements), you create a consumption group at this stage and assign it to the products. See Forecast Consumption by Sales Orders for Configurable Products.
7. You create a demand plan for the characteristics or characteristic combinations. Do this either in interactive demand planning or by running a background job. Use the drill-down functions in the header to see all the characteristic values.
8. You release the demand plan from Demand Planning to PP/DS.
PP/DS creates planned independent requirements at configured product level. The demand for individual characteristic values/combinations is not transferred initially. When the PDS is exploded, the system determines the dependent demand for the components by referring to the demand plan for the characteristic values/combinations. It creates dependent requirements for the components in PP/DS, which can be converted to production orders or purchase requisitions.
9. If you have set up consumption (step 6), when sales orders for a particular configuration are created in the ERP system they consume the planned independent requirements for the same configuration.
10. After dependent requirements have been created in PP/DS, you can release them back to Demand Planning. You can then continue planning the components in Demand Planning. In general, you do not need CBF functionality for the further planning of the components in Demand Planning. This means that you should use another planning book for the components.
You can aggregate orders for components and copy them to another version. To do so, on the SAP Easy Access screen, choose Advanced Planning and Optimization ®Production Planning ®Environment ®Current Settings ® Generation of Forecast. To use this program, you must have set the Assembly Planning indicator on the Demand tab page of the location product master. See also Useful Tools for Working with Consumption.
You can extract data to InfoCubes using the normal Demand Planning functions (see Extracting Data from a Planning Area). However, if you want to write data to InfoCubes for reporting purposes, there are certain features that you need to observe.
In particular, if you want to display the configuration data as characteristic + characteristic value and not in the CBF manner (profile, table, and line), you must create update routines that re-form the data while uploading to the InfoCube. This is, so to speak, the reverse of the process described in Transfer of Historical Data for CBF.
For more information including example coding, see SAP Note 501041.