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Interface between IFS Applications and TPM systems

Ahead ERP Consulting takes great pride in its ability to provide its customers with creative and innovative approaches to solving problems and improving business processes. In 2017, Ahead designed and delivered interface solutions with external trade and promotion management (TPM) systems for two separate customers utilizing a similar design approach. The interface solutions went live in 2017 and continue to add value and automate processes vital to management of complex promotion activities.

Land o’Frost, a manufacturer of high quality lunchmeat, implemented WiPro Promax TPM system in 2016 and went live with IFS Applications 8 in March 2017. The interface was implemented with the main IFS solution and also went live in March 2017.

Nature’s Path Foods is producer of certified organic foods, known for its breakfast cereals. They are an established IFS customer, upgraded recently to IFS Applications 8. They implemented Kantar XTEL SM1 in 2017. The implementation included the solution for the interface. Both went live in June 2017.

The TPM software allows its customers to manage promotion planning and budgeting, execute promotions, process settlements, perform analysis, provide reporting based on promotional details, and apply predictive analytics to create improving promotion strategies. IFS Applications is the main source of static and transactional data consumed by the TPM system and serves as the recipient of matched claim, accrual, and forecast information from the TPM systems.


The challenge given to Ahead was to design and develop an interface solution allowing critical information exchange and processing between the two software systems. Each solution shares the following common characteristics.

  • No modifications to core IFS code
  • Based on standard IFS functionality of Customer Orders, Accounts Payable and Accounts Receivable 
  • Based on IFS external files platform using existing and Ahead custom external file types and templates
  • Leverage IFS customization capabilities (i.e. custom fields, logical units, events and event messaging, quick reports)
  • Provide a solid framework for troubleshooting issues and monitoring interface activities


Outbound interfaces (IFS to TPM system) are responsible for filtering and formatting of data and included the following.

  • Customers and customer hierarchy
  • Sales parts, sales part hierarchy (assortments), price lists, and customer agreements
  • Exchange rates
  • Historical sales data
  • Suppliers and brokers
  • Off-invoice (discounts given) and deductions (taken by customers)


Inbound interfaces (TPM system to IFS) are responsible for processing matched claim, accrual, and forecast information.

  • Matched claims – customer invoices
  • Matched claims – supplier invoices
  • Monthly accrual data
  • Forecast data (to be consumed by IFS demand planner)


A total of 27 outbound (IFS to TPM system) and 8 inbound (TPM system to IFS) interfaces were created using the external files framework. Each was comprised of a custom external file type, template, appropriate parameters, and associated custom business API. In many cases, the use of custom fields and custom LU’s provided additional information required for either the filtering of data or additional data required by the TPM system. 

Data exchange between systems is required monthly, weekly, daily, or hourly depending on the interface. Execution timing of each external interface is controlled by a custom scheduled database task. Each schedule takes as parameters the external file type, template, and other required parameters. The custom API code associated with each external file provides feedback to the background job associated with the scheduled database task. Based on the feedback to the background job, event actions are triggered sending information to users in the form of email messaging. If required, any of the inbound and outbound external file interfaces can also be executed manually using the external file assistant.

Most outbound interfaces send a full set of data each time the interface file is created. For some data, such as sales history, it is not realistic to send the entire data set each time the interface is executed. In those cases, tracking tables have been established to ensure only new records are sent to the TPM systems.

 

Some highlights of inbound interface challenges

  • TPM system sends header and details in separate interface files. Created solution to track and merge separate files and process as a single unit.
  • Inbound matched claims required additional information with regards to properly creating external customer invoices, external vouchers, and supplier invoice postings. Created new posting controls and implemented logic in custom API’s to create proper postings for the financial transactions.
  • TPM systems do not have concept of sites. Devised novel approaches to properly sending and receiving information between a non-site-specific systems and IFS.
  • Created a solution for costing by creating a new cost set and a custom database task to process the costing information.
  • Created custom business logic to process non-site-specific forecast data and transform it for use in IFS demand planner. Involved creating custom logical unit for users to review site split processed data prior to sending to demand planner.
  • Address numerous system translation challenges such as differences between the TPM system and IFS in how customer hierarchies, companies, parts hierarchies, and units of measure are handled
  • Ensured that the interface is fully configurable by IFS administrators with ability to use the standard permission roles, events, scheduled tasks, etc.


If an issue arises with the execution of an interface, a variety of tools are available for investigation.

  • Email notification to users via event messaging
  • Quick reports exist for each of the interfaces to query inbound and outbound data in an easy to read format
  • Users can also review the external file loads directly in IFS system if required
  • For inbound matched claims and accruals, users can also easily access the standard IFS screens for external customer invoices and external vouchers to correct data if needed


The interface solutions developed by Ahead have proven very successful. The outbound interfaces send approximately 285,000 records per week. The inbound interfaces process approximately 200,000 records per week. The initial success of the first interface project led to capturing an addition opportunity resulting in two successful interface implementations in 2017 with TPM systems. By harnessing the creativity of the Ahead team, IFS customers are enjoying a robust interface solution providing required functionality delivered on time and budget.