APL helps make healthcare more accessible with IBM Cloud for SAP

Indonesia is home to the world’s fourth largest population, with 261 million people spread across more than 18,000 islands. From the bustling streets of Jakarta to the long, sandy beaches of Bali, there’s one thing all Indonesians share: the need for high-quality, affordable healthcare.

APL transports medical supplies throughout the Indonesian archipelago. This presents several challenges. Many drugs and vaccines must be kept at a certain temperature to remain effective. To reach distant communities, we need to transport supplies using ferries or planes. Since we stock more than 5,000 items from the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies, we need to be well organized to ship the correct supplies to the thousands of hospitals, clinics and drug stores we serve.

For years, we have managed core business processes using SAP ERP applications. We were running an old SAP version on an outdated Oracle database, and reliability was deteriorating as the landscape began to show its age. When problems occurred, we sometimes had to restore the full SAP landscape, which includes five terabytes of data, a massive task that interrupts our operations, hindering the flow of medical supplies to people across the country.

We knew that to transport vital medical products even more reliably and cost effectively, we needed to find a better way of working.

Finding answers in the cloud

To boost our operational efficiency, we migrated our SAP landscape and some third-party satellite applications to the IBM Services for Managed SAP Applications, a fully managed platform-as-a-service (PaaS) offering, which includes disaster recovery.

We are moving to cloud to increase flexibility, uptime and innovation. Choosing a managed cloud service unburdens our IT team from routine tasks, letting them focus on partnering with the business to pioneer digital transformation initiatives. Switching to Managed SAP Applications reduced the time our internal IT department spent on hardware and software maintenance.

As we migrated to cloud, IBM supported us every step of the way. The IBM team worked tirelessly to ensure that the project ran smoothly and remained on schedule. Even when we wanted to add SAP Process Orchestration to the scope of work after signing the contract, the team was very willing to meet our requirements.

Launching mobile capabilities

In parallel, we are upgrading to SAP ERP 6.0 and have replaced the mature Oracle database with SAP HANA 2.0. This migration is a key milestone on our roadmap to SAP S/4HANA, to which we will eventually move with the rest of the Zuellig Pharma.

Promising results

We are currently delivering 97 percent of customer orders on time, and with our new SAP environment on IBM Cloud, we hope to improve and deliver better results. The move to cloud boosts uptime and eliminates the reliability issues of the previous system.

A major advantage of cloud is escaping the long lead times associated with purchasing hardware in Indonesia. For example, ordering a server powerful enough to run SAP HANA usually takes eight weeks, but with Managed SAP Applications, we are able to have the resources ready in four. Faster allocation of compute resources cut our SAP HANA deployment time by two months compared to an on-premises installation.

What’s more, moving to the cloud enables us to shift 59 percent of cost from capital expenditures to operating expenditures. We are saving even more than we expected because we now spend less on managing SAP and satellite applications in the IBM Cloud than we previously spent managing just our SAP landscape.

Transforming the business

Moving our SAP Business Warehouse application to SAP HANA has dramatically enhanced our reporting capabilities. We are now able to offer rich, near-real-time insight to pharmaceutical companies about how their medicines are used, with breakdowns by product, category and province. These insights can help pharmaceutical companies optimize planning and production strategies to ensure that all Indonesians get the healthcare they need. By delivering these insights, we hope to retain existing customers and transition from a distributor into a value-added healthcare services provider.

In the future, we also aim to build on our strong relationship with IBM to explore new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT) and blockchain. There is so much potential to use blockchain to trace medicines as they pass through the supply chain, which can help ensure patient safety.

It is an exciting time for the Indonesian healthcare ecosystem, and we are proud to be at the forefront of the change.