GIS Blog Series – Part 7: Enabling Material Traceability with GIS & SAP

This is number seven in a series of blogs designed to address Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in conjunction with SAP. We will do this by addressing the most important customer challenges.

Material Traceability is defined here as having traceable, verifiable, and complete data.  For assets, such as gas transmission pipelines this set of data could include:

  • Material attributes and manufacturer’s batch attributes
  • Test / inspection results
  • A history of inventory movements from Manufacturer, to Supplier, to Storage, to Job site, to its precise location in a pipeline network
  • Please see PHMSA excerpt at the end of this post for exact requirements

Having the ability able to quickly access this information digitally as opposed to dedicating a small team to manually search hard-copy documents is often seen as a wish list than a reality for many well-intentioned organizations.

Successful implementation of a material traceability solution involves documented business processes and cross-functional coordination.  Primary applications critical to a robust material traceability program include an ERP system such as SAP, and GIS for exact location information.  Additionally, key digital documents should be kept in Document Management System for easy access

An end to end process would include the following high level steps:

  • Establish Materials to be tracked in Batches and those to be Serialized
  • Procurement of Materials
  • Receipt and Storage of Material and Quality Inspection results
  • Consumption of batches and serialized materials via Work Order
  • Pass material and batch quantities as well as material and batch characteristics to GIS via Interface
  • As-built process in GIS mapping features and attribute values without re-keying data supplied by Interface
  • Passing of features and attribute location back to SAP from GIS via two-way interface
  • Creation / change of Functional Locations and Equipment with LAM values including batches as linear characteristics via SAP – GIS interface
  • Ability to report serial number history
  • Ability to track batch movement including return to SAP with precise location of batches throughout network
  • Use of both SAP and GIS for critical reporting
    • Serial Number history
    • Batch inventory movements and location information
    • Spatial Analytics enabling batch performance vs. location / environmental / climate factors

Role of each system in Material Traceability 

Primary Benefits:

  • Meet compliance / regulatory requirements
  • Standardize business processes across functions
  • Support where used and where in network reporting
  • Avoid usage of unapproved materials
  • Create traceable, verifiable, complete records
  • Spatial Analytics of Material performance vs. climate, environmental factors
  • Scalable solution for future initiatives


If Material Traceability was easy, many more companies would already have well-established processes.  If your company is embarking on a such a program and you own SAP and a GIS application, a robust solution may not be as far off as first thought. 

Companies must still work with Suppliers for proper labeling / barcoding of material.  Discipline must be established to track batches and serial numbers for all physical movement from receipt to storage, to job site, to precise installation location.  Even scrapped or leftover remnants must be accounted for.  Mobile devices and label scanning is virtually a must. 

The key message here is these two systems (GIS and SAP) are entirely capable of enabling and supporting Material Traceability.

Note: [Docket No. PHMSA-2012-0068], Pipeline Safety: Verification of Records

An owner or operator of a pipeline must meet the recordkeeping requirements of Part 192 and Part 195 in support of MAOP and MOP determination. Traceable records are those which can be clearly linked to original information about a pipeline segment or facility. Traceable records might include pipe mill records, purchase requisition, or as-built documentation indicating minimum pipe yield strength, seam type, wall thickness and diameter. Careful attention should be given to records transcribed from original documents as they may contain errors. Information from a transcribed document, in many cases, should be verified with complementary or supporting documents.


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