Leading UK seafood supplier navigates a seamless S/4HANA migration with Absoft

09 March 2023

The UK’s leading seafood processor has worked with Absoft, an independent SAP consultancy, to support its SAP solutions since 2015. In 2021, the company turned to Absoft to upgrade its ageing, on-premises SAP ERP 6.0 EHP6 software - and migrate the systems to the Microsoft Azure cloud platform.

As part of the company’s transition to the latest version of SAP S/4HANA, Absoft was responsible for implementing the upgrade for its primary business: specifically, food processing, ordering, production, and distribution. Additionally, the company’s HR and payroll teams use a separate version of SAP ECC, which has been purposely kept separate for security reasons.

It was important for the seafood supplier to mitigate the risk of any system-based errors that may occur during its busiest period (July to December) in the run up to Christmas, meaning that Absoft had a five-month window within which to complete the upgrade. Therefore, it was crucial for Absoft to seamlessly navigate the business through both the software migration and the transition into the Azure cloud without affecting its seasonal deadlines and locking down its IT infrastructure so that no further changes could be made.

We’re going to need a bigger boat

With increasing input costs, volatility and unpredictability in both the supply chain and consumer demand, as well as a growing desire for online accessibility and demonstrably sustainable practices, businesses must maintain efficient manufacturing processes and operations. Therefore, aside from supporting the company’s technical landscape, Absoft had road mapped moving to SAP’s latest software suite, S/4HANA, to maximise the customer’s output. As part of this upgrade and to ensure a seamless user experience, it was essential that the in-house team understood and was comfortable with the nuances between the two software applications before the official migration to Azure was made.

Firstly, Absoft created a sandbox environment within the seafood supplier’s existing system, in which a version of the S/4HANA system was installed, using the processes and solutions functionality to get the team used to it. Additionally, Absoft held in-house workshops with the team to familiarise users with the software, as well as using it as an opportunity to iron out any issues that may have occurred before the system was officially upgraded to S/4HANA.

As a result of the workshops, the business determined that they wanted to embark on a ‘Greenfield’ implementation of S/4HANA, while leveraging the ‘best of’ their current EHP6 configuration and losing the ‘worst of’ the processes in the older version. By sandboxing the system, it gave the team a solid grounding of the scope of the implementation, as well as upskilling and educating them on the new technologies.

Additionally, an RPO (recovery point objective) of fifteen minutes was instituted as part of the implementation, as well as an Azure Site Recovery configuration that allowed the entire set of virtual machines to be replicated to another Azure region in case a full failover was required.

Hooked on S/4HANA

After the peak season ended and the company became familiar with S/4HANA within Azure, it was able to explore S/4HANA’s additional functionality and unlock its more ‘user-friendly’ interface: Fiori.

Fiori allows new applications to easily be built in the SAP S/4HANA Cloud Platform, allowing organisations to expand functionality with new applications, while leveraging existing investments. Users are able to access the information they need to do their jobs more quickly and easily with the new front-end interface. Furthermore, users can access key business information using touch-enabled devices.

With this, they chose not to deploy wall-to-wall Fiori immediately, but in stages. And, in 2021, Absoft worked closely with the company to identify which new Fiori apps would add most value to their day-to-day business processes and those were introduced first. Once again, Absoft used the sandbox method and switched on the Fiori apps that the business would most benefit from. This way, the team could get used to the app, upskill, and decide what they would use to continue their seamless production process.

Carp-e diem!

Absoft strives to continuously look ahead and create a roadmap for its customers, and so the next step in the journey will be to upgrade the company’s HR and payroll system, which is currently still running on ECC. At present, there has not been a viable S/4HANA alternative to upgrade these systems to and so, unlocking benefits of a new HR and payroll system before their current solution expires in 2025, will be key.

“Once again, Absoft has adapted quickly to cater to our customer’s needs. With any leading food manufacturer, we had to adhere to a tight timeframe of five months to complete the initial migration and we were able to fulfil this using our expertise and bespoke customer service,” said Don Valentine, commercial director, Absoft. “Looking ahead, we consider it our responsibility to ensure that the company will be able to optimise their SAP environment to maximise their business output, embrace the best working processes and minimise waste - in line with their strategic goals.”