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Using BarTender to Directly Access SAP® Data

Seagull Scientific is a Certfied mySAP.com Partner

Seagull Scientific is a Certified Software Partner of SAP®, "based on proven interoperability between Seagull's BarTender label software and mySAP.com."  (See press release.)

The Enterprise Edition of BarTender allows users to directly read label data out of the standard IDoc ("Intermediate Document") data format generated by SAP's R/3 and mySAP.com products. (The downloadable Trial Edition of BarTender includes our direct SAP IDoc interface.)

Our Cooperative Relationship with SAP

The addition of a direct SAP IDoc interface to BarTender was first suggested to us by SAP themselves, who insisted that this was the best way to integrate label printing into the SAP environment. The subsequent development work was done under the guidance of SAP, who also tested BarTender extensively as part of their final certification process.

Benefits of Directly Reading SAP Data

BarTender's direct SAP IDoc interface delivers the following advantages over other enterprise label printing solutions:

  • Previously, users wishing to integrate label printing software with SAP had to go through a complicated sequence of data format conversions, possibly including custom SAP programming and expensive consulting.
  • IDocs usually store only the portions of data needed for immediate transaction processing.  Accordingly, printing directly from IDocs avoids the complexity and overhead of accessing the central SAP database directly.
  • BarTender's enterprise printing solution makes the use of pre-generated printer command files completely obsolete. That means that when you make changes to your label design, BarTender is immediately ready to print again without requiring you to perform any "compiles" or file uploads.
  • Allows for optional offloading of the print-processing task from the central server, freeing it up to process standard data transactions more rapidly
  • Allows label printing from any Windows PC without requiring a connection to the central SAP database.

How IDocs Simplify Enterprise Data Processing

Large enterprise environments, such as those designed by SAP, may consist of many different computers running different operating systems, all networked together from different corners of the world. However, there will always be one or more central servers running the main system database. This central database can contain thousands of data tables consuming gigabytes of storage information on customers, vendors, employees, manufacturing status, inventory, shipping, etc. Accordingly, if (for example) a shipping facility only needs to read a limited amount of customer and inventory information in order to print labels for that day's shipments, it might not be desirable to design and perform the complex remote queries necessary to tap directly into and search the central database.

SAP designed IDocs ("Intermediate Documents") for exactly this purpose -- for encapsulating, moving around, and processing just the sections of data needed for specific purposes.

The Generation of IDocs is a Standard, Routine SAP Function

At any point in SAP's standard transaction processes (for shipping, receiving, work flow, etc), an IDoc can easily be generated containing only the data fields and records needed for a specific process (such as printing a shipping manifest or that day's shipping container labels). These self-contained files are obviously much smaller than the central database and more easily handled by peripheral software. IDocs employ a text-based format, so your workstations need not be equipped to access SAP's central data-processing engine. In fact, because IDocs are individual, self-contained files, they can easily be transferred using a variety of relatively "low tech" methods, including e-mail.  Accordingly, a facility printing labels from IDoc data need not necessarily even be connected to the central server.

BarTender makes Reading IDoc Data as Simple as
Reading Text Files

One of the most powerful features of BarTender's direct IDoc interface is that it shelters you from the internal complexities of the IDoc itself.  BarTender does this by reading in the IDoc and creating a copy of it within BarTender that looks like the familiar "row and column" format used to represent single database tables or "flat" text files.  Accordingly, BarTender's Data Setup Wizard lets you select which data fields you want to associate with each object on your label using the same easy "point and click" interface BarTender uses for any other data source.  That means you can access fields in an IDoc as simply as if you were reading a flat text file.

In summary, the Enterprise Edition of BarTender lets you tap into the power and flexibility of SAP without your having to learn a variety of new data processing skills, set up an SAP client PC, or even access the central database.


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