Integrating Sap R/3 Applications into a Total Quality Management Course

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Recent trends in business school curricula have focused on incorporating technology and integrating subject matter across functional areas. With the advent of enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems such as SAP R/3, and the willingness of vendors to partner with universities as in SAP R/3's American University Alliance, a means for facilitating the achievement of these curricular objectives has emerged. In this paper we explore how such software can be used in the teaching of Total Quality Management (TQM). We first discuss how enterprise resource planning systems allow an organization to integrate quality with other business processes such as purchasing, production, sales and accounting. We then make some suggestions on how SAP R/3 can be used in a TQM course for MBA students.

INTRODUCTION

One of the primary reasons cited by universities for developing alliances with SAP, the largest ERP vendor, is the "rich environment for teaching" provided by the SAP R/3 system (Gable and Rosemann, 1999). University faculty note how such software provides students with an active learning experience that enables them to understand business processes and how they are interrelated. ERP software can also be used to illustrate the idea of best practice and why businesses must move away from functional silos and towards functional integration (Stewart and Rosemann, 1999). Moreover, faculty note the importance of teaching students about SAP R/3 in its own right. As the adoption of ERP software among companies becomes widespread, this technology will undoubtedly become increasingly more important in the future. ERP systems provide a means to teach business students real-world applications in areas such as accounting and inventory management, which allows them to almost immediately provide a positive impact to their employers upon graduation (Gloede, 1999).

In developing a technology-integrated "real-world" curriculum, most schools concentrate first on linking together the core functional areas of business. While linking may be accomplished in several ways, one approach is to design a course that focuses on the interrelationships within and between business processes using SAP R/3. At our university, an SAP Alliance school, just such a course (Integrated Enterprise Management Systems) using SAP R/3 was designed for the MBA program. This interdisciplinary, team-taught course provided opportunities for cooperation between functional area faculty and the cross-functional integration of subject matter.

Aside from being used as the basis for interdisciplinary team-taught courses, SAP R/3 can be used to teach specialized MBA elective courses. One elective course that lends itself to becoming "SAP-enabled" is Total Quality Management. In this paper, we focus on how incorporating SAP R/3 applications into a TQM course can help students make important linkages between quality management and other business processes. Interestingly, a review of the literature that reports on the use of ERP systems in university teaching indicates that quality is not one of the areas apt to involve SAP R/3 applications. Yet, industry implementation of ERP does include the Quality Management (QM) module (Mabert, Soni & Venkataramanan, 2000). The purpose of this paper, therefore, is to bridge this apparent gap between academia and business by exploring how the Quality Management (QM) module of SAP R/3 can be used in the teaching of quality. Moreover, this paper illustrates how incorporating SAP R/3 applications in a quality management course can help students understand how quality relates to all business functions of the enterprise. The methodology used is a case study approach in which SAP R/3 applications are incorporated into an existing MBA level elective course in Total Quality Management.

REVIEW OF RELEVANT LITERATURE

Universities have approached the incorporation of ERP systems into the curriculum in a variety of ways. …