Maximizing SAP Business Network for Logistics (BN4L)
Meet the Experts
⇨ SAP BN4L helps with seamless integration between the Shipper and the carrier.
⇨ Both shippers and carriers can communicate in real time thus improving internal efficiency.
⇨ It also offers full transparency on peer-to-peer tendering.
SAP, being the market leader for ERP software, provides solutions across all business processes that are suitable for companies of all sizes. It contains hundreds of fully-integrated modules that cover nearly all the aspects of business management across industries.
In an industry which relies heavily on supply chain, logistics is the key to interconnect entire process. SAP SCM (supply chain management) offers various advanced functions compared to the SAP ERP and is suitable for the entire supply chain: from the supplier to the customer, from the carrier to the shipper etc.
Below is a list of SAP Supply Chain Logistics solutions which help companies with risk-resilient, reliable, and sustainable logistics operations:
- SAP Extended Warehouse Management (SAP EWM)
- SAP Transportation Management (SAP TMS)
- SAP Yard Logistics
- SAP Business Network Freight Collaboration (SAP BN4L)
- SAP Business Network Global Track and Trace (SAP GTT)
In this article we’ll focus on the overview and key aspects of SAP BN4L (Business network for Logistics) solution along with the APIs provided by SAP.
If you’re a shipper, you’d like to have full visibility into orders and shipments. If you’re a carrier (TSP, LSP), you would want to provide full transparency to the shipper by reporting Planned and unplanned events. SAP Business network for logistics (BN4L, previously known as LBN) is one such cloud-based unified network where both parties can collaborate transparently in an open and secure network and realize the full potential of the supply chain network thus saving costs and increasing efficiency.
Figure 1- SAP BN4L (Image Source – SAP)
Look and Feel
The BN4L solution is pretty much in line with SAP’s cloud-based SaaS offering while fully utilizing the native capabilities of tile-based SAP FIORI framework.
To start connecting with SAP BN4L, a shipper needs to request certain items before the carriers can be onboarded for collaboration via APIs or EDI. Please note that the APIs are the preferred method of integration over EDI due to simplicity of field mappings and advanced error handling capabilities. The EDI option is available only for ROAD TENDERS (LTL/FTL). Below are the steps to be followed:
Order Test Tenant
Use the SAP Store link and click on Buy Now as per screenshot below:
This is a completely free Test tenant (License Number 8007828) for end-to-end testing with network partners (carriers) and offers an unlimited number of connections. It utilizes the SAP Cloud identity service for security and access and is fully backed by SAP standard cloud support for any issues with connectivity.
Configure Test Tenant
Click on the tile “Invite Business Partners:”
The subsequent screen presents us with two options:
- Use the option “Download Excel Template“ and fill in the details extracted from the SAP TMS system.
- The details from SAP TMS system can be extracted using report /SCMTMS/R_LBN_CARR_LIST_DWNLD.
- Click on “Upload Business Partners“ to mass upload all the business partners to BN4L tenant.
- Click on Add Invitee -> Business Partner to manually create a business partner:
Once SAVED, select the carrier, and click on SUBMIT.
This sends the request to the SAP Onboarding team working with the shipper. The team validates the request and sends an invitation email to the carrier to create a BN4L test and PROD tenant if the carrier is not already in the BN4L network.
If the carrier is already in the network, then shipper just need to send an invitation by “Discover Business Partner“ app and the carrier should accept the invitation using “Manage Invitations“ app.
Every BN4L tenant has a unique tenant ID assigned to it. Once the Shipper and carrier’s tenants are connected, the shipper should update the carrier’s tenant ID in the SAP S/4 TMS system using the report /SCMTMS/R_LBN_ID_BP_UPD.
Please note that the carrier is treated as a Business Partner for SAP S/4HANA master data purposes and details can be accessed by the T-Code “BP.”
The carrier should also make sure to procure an OAuth 2.0 client ID secret which can be done by creating an OSS message to SBN-LBN-INT component.
Before going any further, let’s understand how the architecture of the BN4L network fits in a buyer-shipper scenario:
The shipper’s SAP S/4 TMS are connected to BN4L via standard webservices provided by SAP. The Configuration is controlled by the T-Code SOAMANAGER.
A typical tendering process for Freight Order is as below:
- Shipper sends the Freight Order to the carrier using the option below (example for Freight Order screen –Subcontracting -> Send to Carrier):
This calls the standard webservice for sending the XML payload to BN4L network. A log for successful or failed call can be seen in the T-Code SRT_MONI.
The XML payload for each successful message is also available in this transaction which can be used to verify the carrier’s LBN network ID and other important parameters.
- The BN4L network acts as a middleware in the cloud and executes below operations (for API option):
- Receive the payload from shipper in XML format.
- Determine the carrier’s LBN ID.
- Convert the payload to JSON format.
- Deliver the payload to the Carrier’s endpoint.
- Carrier receives the payload via a webhook connection (or any other middleware) and parses the payload, extracts the key details, and responds back to the shipper by delivering the response payload to SAP’s BN4L endpoint where the Shipper’s LBN ID is determined. The payload is transferred back via web-service calls.
SAP’s BN4L endpoint: https://l20398-iflmap.hcisbp.eu1.hana.ondemand.com/http/v1
The carrier must have the access to make a call to SAP’s BN4L endpoint for the provider APIs below:
- Provider API for Freight Booking
- Provider API for Freight Subcontracting
- Provider API for Freight Tendering
- Provider API for Invoicing
- Provider API for Order Events
The access can also be requested through the OSS message while requesting for the OAuth 2.0 Client ID and secret as mentioned in earlier section.
- The response is then updated and displayed in the Tendering transactions like Freight Order (or Freight Booking).
Please refer to the SAP note 2620322 – Business Network for Logistics: Integration to SAP TM and TM in S/4HANA for details on SAP BN4L and SAP S/4 TMS integration via webservices.
API Integration between Shipper and Carrier
There is a dedicated GitHub page explaining the entire integration process in detail. All the APIs related to the tendering process are mentioned in the SAP API hub. There is an out of box integration provided by SAP.
Let’s look at the process flow just for tendering:
The integration between shipper and carrier can be executed as a typical integration project following steps below:
- Finalize the list of suitable APIs to be used.
- Go-through API documentation in SAP API Hub.
- Map the fields between source and target.
- Carrier – Identify mandatory fields for APIs by going to Model View for each provider API.
- Carrier – Setup Webhook or other means to receive the payloads from Shipper.
- Build -> Test -> Go-Live.
SAP Provides a Tile to both shipper and the carrier within the BN4L tenant, specifically to monitor the Integration logs:
This can be used to:
- Trace the messages sent / received using time stamp/correlation ID/Document ID.
- Re-process the message(s).
- Check the log.
- Download the payload (JSON format) etc.
Another important tile within BN4L tenant is “Assign Codes”:
This tile can be used to translate important parameters during API call:
Example of UoM translation:
This can be very helpful if both shipper and carrier do not use same terminology for these important parameters specially if the carrier is not using SAP for their transportation management.
In the next article, we’ll discuss the SAP GTT (Global Track and Trace) solution, the business needs and how it complements the BN4L in overall Transportation Management.