Printing in SAP Environments
Wednesday, April 15, 2015
by Al Nichols
I am often faced with difficult questions about current printing environments, and one that’s come up more than a few times is “Why does my SAP output disappear sometimes when using SAPSprint?”
Firstly, it’s my opinion that SAPSprint is NOT the cause of the problem. However, as SAPSprint uses the Windows spooler to create and deliver the output, this solution may not be reliable enough under certain circumstances for SAP output that involves unattended, automatic, or workstation print.
SAPSprint is a great solution for SAP, as you get all the font and device freedom of Windows printing (one device type, true Unicode printing). It’s also just a simple service to install.
From a system point of view, one will be printing from SAP using Access Type ‘S’ to a Windows Print Server running SAPSprint. With that setup, some people notice that when they do automatic printing, vital output occasionally goes missing.
When printing from a Windows system, it is normally not a big problem if a job disappears. If the user goes to the printer and doesn’t find their job, they return to their desk and reprint it: problem solved. However, with SAP automatic printing, the output generated (for example, a packing list, an order label or a goods label) is critical for the business or logistic process.
If one of these documents doesn’t print, there is at best some delay to an urgent logistic process (like the departure of a lorry), and at worst the order/shipment may be completely lost. Because the order/logistic process is initiated somewhere else, the warehouse worker isn’t ‘expecting’ that piece of output… the trigger for the next phase of the business process *is* the printed output itself. So, in this case, missing output = broken business process.
A few years back, the SAP development team and I worked together on a comprehensive solution for the reliable printing of SAPSprint-produced output, which I am pleased to say works very well and certainly does solve the problem.
Let’s look at the SAP SAPSprint ‘omsprint’ option and see how this addresses the issue. SAP note 1545557 http://service.sap.com/sap/support/notes/1545557 states the following:
You want to use SAPSPrint together with an external output management system (OMS). This is particularly interesting for applications that are dependent on generic SAPWIN device types. The new interface OMSPRINT combines the advantages of SAPWIN (such as device type-independent printing via the Windows printer drivers and using any fonts) with the advantages of an OMS (such as print job monitoring and status confirmation via a Remote Function Call (RFC)).
To activate this interface, simply link your OMS (for example, our LRS Enterprise Output Server) with the OMSPRINT command line interface to SAPSprint and stop (and put into manual) the SAPSprint Windows service. Next, redefine the printers using that SAPSprint instance to use access type ‘E’ over in the OMS.
The link between the OMS system and the OMSPRINT executable is usually done in a FILTER process. External output management systems allow a process to be started when a print job is ready for output on a queue (it can be *any* process, by the way). The clear advantage is that any problems in creating, delivering, or printing the output will be noticed by the OMS and directly reported back to the calling application (in this case SAP).
Windows spool delivery is completely bypassed, and the OMS uses PJL controlled delivery or ZPL controlled delivery to ensure that the job successfully prints. Any errors are reported back to the SAP application system via the BC-XOM RFC, (or to other infrastructure monitors & ticketing systems if desired).
Of course, implementing an OMS requires a certain investment of time and capital. But after losing yet another order this month and dealing with another ‘unsatisfied customer’ or having your lorries delayed for delivery yet again, you may well feel it’s an option worth exploring.
EOM systems provide many other benefits, beyond just ERP printing. They can significantly reduce your infrastructure printing costs and pay for themselves in a few months.
Lastly, I declare an interest, as I work for Levi Ray and Shoup, Inc., and have seen firsthand how our Enterprise Output Management software can solve problems like these. For more information about these solutions, click here or contact LRS to discuss the expected ROI and overall improvements in your SAP own environment.