Hi folks,this is the start of a several-part series in which I want to give an in-depth explanation of the classification functionality in SAP ERP®. Starting with this post, where I give an overview of the topic and mention important terms, I will go through the data model and demonstrate how to read data from classification and how to set up authorization. I will also explain the user exits that can be used in classification.
In the first part of the series, I’d like to give you a general overview about what the SAP ERP® classification can do. In plant maintenance, we often have a situation where we manage many different objects of the same kind, which have the same specific properties and require to be handled the same way. Let’s say we want to maintain our company fleet as PM equipments, which is not uncommon to do. Cars have very specific properties, such as color, number of doors, fuel type, et cetera. With classification, there is an easy way to maintain this in the equipment master data transactions (and much more, as we’ll see) without doing any development or customizing. Instead, we follow these steps to set up classification for our object.
Maintaining characteristics – transaction CT04
To add custom data to objects, the first thing we need to do is create Characteristics for it. A characteristic describes a specific property of an object. For a car, you might want to create a characteristic called „COLOR“ to maintain the color of your cars.
When creating a characteristic, you can choose between different data types. The system offers you data types for character fields, currency, dates, numbers, or time. Depending on what data type you pick, you can further refine options for the characteristic field. In this case, the character field we choose lets us enter the maximum number of characters as well as an indicator for case sensivity.
It’s also possible to mark the characteristic as multi-value. In this case, it can be entered more than once for any object (which doesn’t really make sense for color). The „entry required“ indicator will make this characteristic mandatory during classification.
In the Values tab, we have very detailed control over the values that the characteristic will allow. By clicking the Other Value Check button, we can pick four ways to suggest or restrict the values.
This way of value control allows to create suggestion values for characteristics that the user can pick from during object classification. By unchecking the Additional Values box it’s also possible to restrict the possible values to only the ones listed in this tab.
A table which contains the allowed values can be named here. It must have exactly one field and its data type must correspond exactly to the characteristic’s data type.
A function module can be entered here that allows the implementation of custom logic to check the characteristic value. This is by far the most sophisticated (and work-intensive) way to check the values for a characteristic in SAP ERP®. More information on how to do this can be found in the F1 help for the function module name field or here: Function Module Interface.
Via the Catalog Characteristic strategy, the characteristic can be linked to a Selected Set. A Selected Set can be created using transaction QS51. It can contain codes from multiple catalogs, which then restrict the possible values of the characteristic if the set is linked. However, it only works for catalogs 1 (Characteristic Values) and 3 (Usage Decisions, this is needed in the QM calibration process).
In our case, we use the Allowed Values strategy to create suggestions for the colors our cars usually have, but leave the user free to enter more. Also, we set Black as the default by checking the respective box. Note how if we use this method of value assignment, the values are created as key/value pairs. This will have an impact on how the data can be read later on.
In the Additonal Data tab, you get even more control over the way the characteristic behaves during classification. You can link the characteristic to a table field, creating what is called a Reference Characteristic. If you do that, the properties (such as name, data type and possible values) are entirely deducted from the data element of the field you linked to; any previous entries are overwritten. You can also link to multiple table fields, extending the value possibilities to all the tables entered. However, the referenced fields must have exactly the same data type.
In addition to that, links to documents can be added here. This can be displayed by the user during classification for additional information – in our case, we can add a color chart. Furthermore, you have some control over how (or if) data is entered. You can set the characteristic to display-only or hide it entirely. Obviously, this only makes sense if the characteristic value is inferred from another characteristic, something that I will probably cover in a later article.
If you create a characteristic, it can be used in all classes, as we will see in the next chapter. It is, however, possible to restrict the classes that the characteristic can be used in. This is done on the Restrictions tab.