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I guess the idea behind Transportation Zones is prettys obvious: Structure a scenario on a geographical level without having the need to take care too much on location level.

When starting in Transportation Management a few years back and first learning about the 'old' SCM / APO location - zone assignment, I always wondered if this requirement was really fulfilled. Only direct location - zone assignment, no geographical definition, zones being a special location type (?!?!?!?), and so on.

Already back in 2006 we saw the need to get a bit more flexible, especially because TM should be able to handle tons of orders with just address information (becoming then so called one-time locations). So here are the key elements:

1. New Object Transportation Zone with seperate maintenance transaction (/SCMTMS/ZONE)
- allows definition of direct location assignments, regional zones, and postal code intervals
- Location assignment to Transportation Zone is determined dynamically during runtime of a process using the corresponding location address fields (region, postal code)

2. Transportation Zone hierarchy
- includes only Transportation Zones and allows even deeper structuring of a scenario
- e.g. Country level and below states and below postal codes

3. Transportation Lane definition on Transportation Zone level
- finally integrates Locations via the dynamic Transportation Zone assignment into the Transportation Network and makes them reachable

At first sight it might look a bit more complicated then before, but it is simply not and actually can do so much more. A few questions:

Does the ERP - TM integration for Locations still work with the new Transportation Zone concept?
- Yes, it of course does still work. An existing Zone assignment will be mapped to the new structure, also updating is possible.

Do I need to take care of the Transportation Zone type?
- No, you don't if you have no requirement into this direction. The zone type was mandatory in the past and expresses which type of assignments exist for the zone. I think this was way too technical and kind of duplicate, so I made it optional. You can still use it as information (maybe BI relevant), but by default it is 'M' (MIXED - enabling all types of definitions).

Do I need to have a Transportation Zone hierarchy? 
- No, you don't. Unfortunately, this is often missunderstood and does not come out of the documentation clear enough. I have seen customer scenarios with a really complex structure, but no real value. To state it very clear: A Zone hierarchy only makes sense in standard SAP TM in case there are really different Transportation Lane definitions on each existing level. I might spend a seperate MKS on this in the upcoming weeks.

Can a Location be included in multiple Zones?
- Yes. Just imagine you have destination zones for different carriers. You would want to see the different options, so the customer location must fall into all carrier zones to find the Transportation Lanes. In case the most specific Lane must be found, the handling of multiple results is covered by a standard logic (pick best by distance, duration, cost) or can be manipulated via a BAdI.

Can Transportation Zone definitions overlap?
- Yes. As this complicates the understanding of the master data setup a bit, you get a information message that a similar defintion already exists.

Which role do the Zone coordinates play and where do they come from?
- Zone coordinates are calculated out of the coordinates of all included locations. They are used to display the Zone on the Geo-Map. The second usage is the calculation of distances from and to the Zone, but this is actually just for information. In each TM scenario, the real distance is always determined for the involved locations using their coordinates.

How are Transportation Zones displayed on the Geo-Map in the Transportation Network Cockpit?
- Well, you might expect to see an area, don't you? But you don't. Zones are displayed as spot information right at their coordinate. Via the context menu you can then determine all included locations. The simple reason behind this is that SAP does not have the required geographical information for all regions and postal code areas world wide. Nor does SAP want to become a GIS vendor taking care of such data. In addition, when combining several zone definitions (2 regions plus a specific postal code interval + 5 own locations directyl assigned), this will start to really get complicated to display. So we decided the relevant information is the Zone and the assigned Locations. Nevertheless, with SAP TM 9.0 some area functions to be used in customer specific project might become available.

Find Zones for a Location

Find Locations for a Zone

Result Display

Doesn't all of this flexibility cost performance?
- Yes, a bit. But it is always a question of balance between performance, master data maintainability, and features. We have invested a lot into performance regarding the Network. As the usual starting base is always a location and the answer 'In which Zones do I fall?' can be answered pretty quickly, it should be okay even in mass scenarios. The question vice versa 'Which Locations are included by a Transportation Zone?' can get ugly as EACH location must be checked against the Zone definitions (There is a function in the Zone maintenance that can do this.).

A load of information, but for sure not everything covered. Check out the documentation before setting up a scenario.