by CIO Staff

Airbus Flies on Web Services With SAP

Jun 08, 20063 mins
Web Development

European aircraft builder Airbus is implementing a Web services-based travel management application from SAP as a first step in a planned group-wide migration to a service-oriented architecture (SOA).

The manufacturer is installing the travel management component of SAP’s new ERP software, mySAP ERP 2004, which uses SOA technology. The new system replaces a homegrown system at the company’s plant in France, a Lotus-based system in its Spanish operations, and earlier SAP versions at facilities in Germany and the United Kingdom, James Westgarth, manager of travel technology procurement at Airbus, said last week in an interview at the European Sapphire customer event in Paris.

“We like the idea of an open architecture, which SOA enables,” Westgarth said. “We like the idea of being able to manage everything internally and to cherry-pick for the best solution in every class.”

Additional components, such as online booking, could also come from SAP — if the software vendor has a superior product for that application, said Westgarth.

The decision to deploy a new Web services-based travel management system was driven in large part by a need to reduce administration costs and improve business processes.

Airbus has an travel budget of 250 million euros (US$320 million), which is used to help pay for more than 180,000 trips annually. The company aims to reduce costs by eliminating the current paper-based reimbursement process, which consumes time and labor, with a system that enables employees to process their own travel expenses online from their desktops or mobile devices. A key benefit for employees: Reimbursement time will be reduced to three days from about 10.

In addition, the new system allows Airbus to integrate new service providers more easily into its operations, Westgarth said. The manufacturer has outsourced its valued-added tax reclaim activities to a third party specialized in this service.

With the help of application link enablers, Westgarth and his team are able to link their travel management system into the company’s other SAP applications, including finance and human resources. Airbus has a strategy to migrate to mySAP ERP 2004 across multiple systems and countries over a number of years, he said, but it’s not clear when and to what extent.

“The company chose travel management to pilot mySAP ERP,” Westgarth said. “Everybody is looking at our project to see how we do.”

There have been some issues with the rollout of the travel management application, Westgarth concedes. “Because we’re the first big company to implement this technology, we’ve had difficulty finding enough skilled people on the market,” he said. “And some work was required to integrate the Web interface into our portal.”

But Airbus employees, Westgarth said, like the Web-based application’s new user interface, the single sign-on and the step-by-step guidance. And the company likes the flexibility. “No one was talking about low-cost carriers five years ago,” he said. “We need to adapt to the market and to changing needs.”

-John Blau, IDG News Service (Dusseldorf Bureau)

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