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Today I would like to give an insight into an innovation topic driven by the SAP Transportation Management load planning feature (Overview MKS37). Starting with TM 9.1, SAP TM comes with the capability to plan loads using an optimizer engine supporting a growing number of rules. From the very beginning it was possible to display the result of this optimization as an interactive 3-D model using SAP Visual Business.

We are in close contact with our customers and with every release we added more and more features. What always remained open was the question if SAP TM in standard really requires a manual planning of the load in the 3-D model. Remember that the load planning feature with it's core tackles the issue of loading homogeneous packages / pallets onto a truck / trailer or into a container. This can be solved almost completely by the optimizer. But with the growing number of features, this scenario also spread a lot. Today we see more and more heterogeneous loads. From our last customer discussions and the SAP TM customer network meeting, we took away that for some customers the requirement of manually planning the loads exists. For a standard solution there is still a way to go, but I wanted to approach this topic from a different angle. So we started to research how load could be planned using virtual reality. First of all to understand the requirements better, but secondly also to find out if this could be done better in VR compared to a screen solution.

So here was the setup: Technical ground work was done by two SAP colleagues and the real VR – Load Planning use case was implemented by students.

What if manual Load Planning could be done using Virtual Reality?

Bob loads the first order he wants to plan load on.

Here is a list of some additional features available in VR:

  • Load Details attached to Items

  • Intuitive turning of items

  • Live load distribution and axle utilization calculation

  • Attribute dependent Item coloring

  • Item multi-selection and handling

  • Workbench mode for better load handling

  • Dynamic item collision mode

The great achievement of the showcase was that it is using real application data. It retrieves the required items and resources from the SAP TM backend using an oData service and really saves the planning result back to the application. And on application side also all statistics and load distributions are consistent.

A few basic assumptions:

  • VR can only be applied productively with better hardware (device comfort): We expect that this will improve with a rapid speed in the next years

  • VR use case must bring additional value compared to the standard application feature

While there are obstacles for making this an SAP standard solution, I could imagine a quick go live of a partner solution aligned for a specific customer scenario (if you are a partner and interested -> just drop me a mail). Our next steps for standard are:

  • Start Co-Innovation with Customers

  • Enhance SAP Transportation Management Use Case

  • Continue to consume newest hardware to further improve scenario usability

As it is hard to transport the VR feeling using slides / text / images, soon a video will follow.

In addition, this showcase will be presented at some SAP VR events and anybody is very welcome to join us to really touch it in reality when coming to Walldorf. Just contact me if you are interested!

We are also very keen to get feedback for this idea. Would you use it? What would you expect to make it productive?

Great cheers go to

- Ulf Reinecke and Felipe Hernandez Plazas for laying the VR foundation @ SAP TM, driving the topic enthusiastically, and supporting in every way

- Our students Benjamin Hilprecht, Philipp Drayß, Felix Starke, and Lars Hübner for making this happen. Fantastic work!
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