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Holger Schmidt

GBU SCM / RIG

mySAP APO
Generation of
Characteristic Combinations

Version 1.0

08. July 2002

Distribution: No restrictions
Valid for APO3.0/3.1
mySAP APO Demand Planning

Characteristic combinations

0. Preface
This document deals with the different scenarios and possibilities of creating/generating
characteristic combinations for the demand planning process within APO. It should be
seen as an enhancement to the current mySAP APO-documentation (help.sap.com). It
does not provide a step-by-step guide for the implementation. It rather explains the con-
cept of the characteristic combinations and the different ways how the creation can be im-
plemented.

1. General remarks

Characteristic combinations are the “master data” for Demand Planning. They are com-
posed of single characteristic values of the individual characteristics that represent the
planning levels.

Example: The following planning levels have been defined: Product, Customer and
SalesOrg. Characteristics have been created in the Administrator Workbench and were
added to a planning object structure. For the example it is assumed that there are five
materials (P1, P2, …; P5), three customers (CUST1, CUST2, CUST3) and two sale-
sorgs (SO1, SO2).

Creating characteristic combinations does not necessarily mean that all possible combina-
tions of the characteristic values are created through the system or have to be created
manually. Only characteristic combinations that are valid for planning within the business
scenario have to be created.

Example: Material P1 is only sold to the two customers CUST1 and CUST2 through the
salesorg SO2. This determines the following combinations: P1| CUST1|SO2 and P1|
CUST2|SO2. There will not be a combination with customer three and product one!

From the above example it is clear that less than all possible combinations (in the above
example 5*3*2 = 30) are actually valid and needed for the planning process. These valid
combinations are most often derived from the customers’ ERP-System(s) (R/3 or other

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legacy-systems) or in the case of new products that not yet in an ERP-system these com-
binations have to be created.

In the following the different ways to create valid characteristic combinations should be
described more in detail.

2. Manual creation of characteristic combinations

TA: /SAPAPO/MC62 -> Button ‘Create Characteristic Combination…’


Usage: For small number of new characteristic combinations

Due to the fact that this is a manual process the effort and therefore the risk of errors dur-
ing input is comparable high. It is recommended to use the manual input for adding only a
small number of new combinations.

3. Automatic generation with InfoCube

TA: /SAPAPO/MC62 -> Button ‘Generate Characteristic Combination…’

This option uses an InfoCube as the basis for generating the characteristic combinations.
In this regard the interesting question is where the data that is loaded into the cube comes
from. The graphics below shows an overview of possible sources and where the data can
be enhanced and modified.

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Characteristic
Combinations

Enhance/modify
data through Bapi

Enhance/modify data in BW

R/3 Flat File


InfoStructure

Legacy System MS Excel

3.1 Upload from R/3 system

In many cases the demand planning process includes statistical forecasting or macro cal-
culations that are based on historical data. In this case the relevant combinations are de-
termined by the historical data, which is uploaded from R/3 infostructures, e.g., S260,
S263.

By using the historical data or parts of the historical data it is ensure that each combination
that was valid in the past will be used for planning. This might also involve some disadvan-
tages as might be the case that also obsolete combinations are created or that new prod-
uct introductions are not taken into account. In these cases it is necessary to use a combi-
nation of R/3 data and for new products flat files (see below).

If it is planned to use actuals (like sales or delivery data) as the basis to create characteris-
tic combinations it is recommended to separate the cubes for the initial load from the cube
for the incremental or delta loads in order to optimize the runtime for generating new com-
binations. This process is usually planned as a batch job after the upload of the actuals to
ensure an up-to-date set of characteristic combinations.

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3.2 Upload from Flat file

Alternatively, data can be uploaded from a flat file (e.g. cvs-file) into a cube. In this case
the flat file is either used, as shown in the above graphic, as an interface to other systems
or the content is created with MS Excel itself. To load data from a flat file into BW, manu-
ally maintain the relevant transfer structure and transfer rules in BW. There is no function
for automatically uploading Metadata. For a detailed process please refer to the online
help.

In the case the flat file is used as an interface, an process has to be set up and scheduled
where the legacy system frequently writes the relevant data to a file on a shared drive from
which the business warehouse can load the file.

3.3 Enhance and enrich data for creating characteristic combinations

3.3.1 Using the possibilities of the Business Warehouse

In many cases data that is loaded into APO for generating the characteristic combinations
does not contain all information/details that are needed to fill all the characteristic levels in
the planning process.

For example you want to plan in on the following characteristics: Product, Product
group, Customer and SalesOrg. The data is derived from the ERP-System but does not
provide the Product group information. In this case the InfoCube, as the basis for the
creation of the characteristic combinations, would consist of all four characteristics. By
using an ABAP program in the update-rules the product group characteristic is filled
with the product group that fits to the product in the uploaded data set. Within the pro-
gram other data base or customer defined tables can be referenced.

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To enrich or change data which is used to create the char. combinations the transfer rules
and/or the update rules in the administrator workbench can be used. In this way it is possi-
ble to add own business logic, for example as above provide missing product group infor-
mation for every product in the data set. In this way the data is already adapted to the
planning requirements when it is stored in the cube. This process is the same for loading
data from flat files as well from R/3 InfoStructures.

Enriching the uploaded data becomes especially important in regard to the version charac-
teristic (9AVERSION) that has to be part in every cube that is used as a basis for creating
characteristic combinations and which has to be filled with an version value in order to be
able to run the generation job.

3.3.2 Using the User-Exit

The other option would be to used the BADI /SAPAPO/SDP_MASTER with the according
method COMBI_ENRICH to enrich the characteristic combinations during the generation
run (OSS note 380352). In this case the additional data is added during the generation
process of the characteristic combinations and is not stored in the cube! The user-exit is
called every time a new combination should be created.

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4. Using realignment to create characteristic combinations

TA: SE38 ; Program: /SAPAPO/TS_REALIGNMENT

Usage: Mass creation of new combination

This method can be used when already characteristic combination exists which can be
used as a template for the new combinations.

For example it is planned to introduce a new product from which it is already known that it
will be sold to exactly the same customers through the same sales orgs as an already ex-
isting one. In this case the realignment functionality can be used to create the needed
combinations. When running the realignment job it is important to check the box ’No dele-
tion of source data’ on the realignment execution screen:

Otherwise the original planning data is deleted. In general it is recommended that an ex-
perienced user handle the realignment process in order to avoid unintentional changes or
deletion of the DP master data.

It has to be taken into account that the realignment job is also copying the key figure val-
ues for the characteristic combinations. It is therefore recommended to create a dummy
set of characteristic combinations to which the realignment job can refer and which con-
tains no data in the key figures.

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5.Summary
When starting with a demand-planning project one of the first tasks is to decide on the
planning and aggregation levels that are used in the process. For these levels the relevant
master data has to be provided. Most of the times this data can be provided by the ERP-
System and used right away to generate characteristic combinations. In cases where the
data cannot be provided in the needed granularity it is possible to enrich the data sets ei-
ther on their way to the InfoCube, using transfer- or update-rules or to enrich the data dur-
ing the creation process of the combinations. In most cases project specific reports have to
be developed that provide the logic to enrich the data sets. In the case of reproducing ex-
isting data for new characteristic value combinations the realignment functionality might be
an option to easily create new characteristic combinations.

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