SAP for Universities


The SAP HERUG (Higher Education & Research User Group) members have been active for almost two decades on improving operational and governance processes within their respective institutions. The community of members gathers a rich and extensive collection of experience and know-how around SAP implementation projects and use in productive environments.

"Computer Aided Facility Management (CAFM) with SAP and AutoCAD integration"
By Juliane Hartig, Team Manager floor space management, controlling and IT for the Property Management Unit, Freie Universität, Berlin, Germany


In 2009, the management of the Freie Universität Berlin decided to imple- ment the SAP solution for Computer Aided Facility Management. The implementation was a joint project between the Department of Engineering and Utilities; which administrates all buildings premises and facilities, and the Department of Administrative IT Services; which hosts and administrates all SAP systems. The specific requirements of all units involved were collected, analysed and consolidated into a user requirements specification during 2010. This was then put out for tender in 2011.

The implementation started at the end of 2011 in a step-by-step approach, with a first go-live of core functionalities (floor space management and AutoCAD integration) in March 2012. The project continued in 2013.


The Freie Universität Berlin, founded in 1948, has more than 28,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students and an additional 4,300 doctoral candidates. The university employs more than 6,000 people in 15 scientific departments, in the central institutions and in the administrative departments.

Being one of the few German universities successful in all three funding lines in the German government’s Excellence Initiative, the Freie Universität Berlin, in addition to the regular budget provided by the state of Ber- lin, receives federal funding for research cluster development, postgraduate studies and international cooperation initiatives. Since 2007, this has led to significantly more personnel, especially in the liberal arts and humanities, and therefore a significantly higher need for office space.

The university currently operates about 220 buildings (state-owned, leased and rented) on 4 campus sites with approximately 18,000 rooms, most of which are located in a large residential area (Berlin-Dahlem). Moreover, a significant number of buildings were not constructed for university or scientific purposes but as residential buildings or villas, giving the university a very diverse property portfolio. All buildings and premises are centrally administrated by the Department of Engineering and Utilities.

The Freie Universität Berlin also operates floor space management, calculating how much space is needed depending on a person’s specific scientific direction or function within the university, and allocating the respective office and lab space accordingly.


Before the CAFM project was initiated, facility management processes at the Freie Universität Berlin were not supported by integrated systems. A custom-made, isolated database solution in Access was used for storing all information concerning rooms and buildings. Parallel to that, information (often redundant) was stored in ground floor plans (AutoCAD files) with no connection to the Access database. Data input into both systems was manual.

Other data (assessments, equipment of rooms, information on technical equipment, etc.) was stored in a significant amount of Excel spread sheets (ca. 20,000) and text documents or PDF-files (contracts, rental agreements etc.) and was mostly unstructured. The already existing SAP systems for the university’s booking and accounting processes, controlling and HR were operating completely isolated from the facility management processes. Therefore, whenever data from one of the systems was needed in another, the necessary data transfer had to be executed manually with the help of spread sheets.

Accordingly, two main objectives were defined in the course of the project. Firstly, integrated processes had to be created to avoid manual data transfer and achieve end-to-end data flows including serving subsequent systems with the necessary data to avoid redundancies, and making centrally administrated data available for all other departments. Secondly, a more efficient and transparent data management had to be established by ensuring that as little data as possible had to be entered manually, and allowing data to be collected and maintained on the organizational level where it was needed.

The goal was to create a unified system with a single point of truth for all data concerning buildings and facilities to minimize conflicts regarding data integrity and data quality. Moreover, to be able to make the data as accessible as possible not only did the existing alphanumeric data need to be integrated into the new system but the data available in the ground floor plans were to be matched and used as a basis for all floor space data, as well as for a visual reporting tool.

The integrated floor space data was also needed to serve as a basis for an internal incentive scheme, that all Berlin universities were required to establish to ensure a more efficient use of office and lab space. Within the system, the office and lab space needed by a certain professor, institute or scientific department is calculated using parameters defined by the German Higher Education Information System (HIS). If too much space is occupied, a fee has to be paid for the excess. If too little space has been provided, the department will receive additional rooms. In order to not only present the departments with a balance sheet but also make the underlying calculation as transparent and efficient as possible, high-quality floor space data was needed to be the core of the CAFM system, and to be made available for joint administration.

autocad,cafm,epfl,etienne marclay,herac,information system,it,logistics,nils panchaud,sap,sap projects,software,universitiesApart from the implementation of the floor space management, the overall CAFM project spans a variety of processes. When completed, the system will support maintenance processes, acquisition of services, waste management and environmental management processes (amongst others), for all of which the data concerning buildings and premises will form the underlying structure. Some of the SAP components needed to achieve this had already been implemented before the start of the project (PSM, FI, CO). The main focus within the project is on customizing RE-FX and PM/MM components. In addition, two SAP-certified and fully integrated add-ons have been implemented for AutoCAD integration and key management respectively.


In a first milestone the master data structures for all architectural and technical objects have been implemented to support all real estate processes, the migration of architectural data from legacy systems and the matching with AutoCAD data has been completed and the integration of SAP-REFX and AutoCAD has been achieved by establishing a bi-directional flow of data between AutoCAD and SAP RE-FX. Centrally administrated data and basic reporting tools (visual and alphanumerical) have been made available for other departments. Currently, phase 2 of the project is in progress. This involves the development of concepts for several new components as well as enhancements to the floor space management functionalities to incorporate the requirements of the scientific departments and data center.

The main challenge so far has been the implementation of procurement processes (cleaning, security, winter services etc.) when it became clear during concept workshops that an integration of PM/MM with booking and accounting processes would be impossible within the current ERP architecture. More specifically the design of PSM and FI was the root cause of this problem. The project was stalled until an agreement could be made with the Department of Finances to launch a second project to redesign the financial processes in order to establish the SAP standard workflows required for a successful integration of MM and FI. The project, which will have a wide impact within the university due to revising or updating nearly all booking and accounting processes is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2013. Assuming the redesign of the procurement and bookkeeping processes will be completed on schedule, all remaining CAFM processes will be implemented before the end of 2013 as well.

With the implementation still on-going, the new system, nevertheless, has already revealed significant benefits and added value. It allows a quick and effective illustration and visualization of space-related information such as occupancy or room functions. It has, therefore, become much simpler to manage space allocations and support planning processes for future allocations.

Since at the Freie Universität Berlin allocation of space has always been regarded as a strategic instrument, the final decision on all allocations is made by the Director of Administration and Finances. It is therefore important to be able to provide effective reports, alphanumerical and most importantly visual, to support this decision making process. The reports needed for these purposes can now be generated automatically within the system, instead of being produced manually.


The expectations for the next stages of the project are therefore to continue the building of processes within the CAFM system. These will become more effective and transparent than before, in order to support the administration as well as the users in the scientific departments by providing high-quality and easily accessible data and reports.

Extrait du titre SAP for Universities
Sous la direction de Nils Panchaud et Etienne Marclay
Publié aux Presses polytechniques et universitaires romandes

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