STEMCELL Scales Globally While Running SAP on AWS


The mission of biotechnology company STEMCELL Technologies (STEMCELL) is to advance the pursuit of scientific knowledge by supplying high-quality, innovative reagents, tools, and services that facilitate life science research. When demand for STEMCELL’s products and expertise outpaced its legacy enterprise resource planning (ERP) environment, the company turned to SAP’s next-generation ERP system, SAP S/4HANA. To make sure that its SAP system met its global requirements of stability and scalability, STEMCELL used Amazon Web Services (AWS), deploying the system on Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), a web service that provides secure, resizable compute capacity in the cloud.

STEMCELL further amplified the effectiveness of its new ERP system by using Amazon WorkSpaces, a fully managed, persistent desktop virtualization service. Amazon WorkSpaces has become an integral part of STEMCELL’s ERP environment; the company uses it to facilitate a consistent, secure, and flexible workstation that supports higher-compliance compute for end users. Overall, running SAP S/4HANA on AWS has helped the company to scale up, optimize costs, and increase the speed of innovation to better serve its life science customers.

Scientist Working on Computer In  Modern LaboratoryNOTE TO INSPECTOR: all graps, dna models, charts are made by me

Relying on AWS to handle things on the data center front helps us to focus on more value-delivering activities without worrying about redundancy.” 

Adam Leggett
Senior Manager of Information Technology, STEMCELL Technologies

Running a Next-Generation ERP System on the Cloud

Based in Vancouver, British Columbia, STEMCELL is a Canadian biotechnology company with over 1,600 employees working in offices across four continents. STEMCELL designs, manufactures, and distributes products for life science research—particularly research related to cell culture and cell isolation. As it sought to increase its global footprint, STEMCELL found that its ERP system could no longer meet the needs of its expanding manufacturing and sales environment. Attempts to scale the environment on premises were costly and time consuming, impeding innovation.

STEMCELL began searching for a new ERP system that was agile, secure, and scalable. It selected SAP S4/HANA as the best candidate to satisfy its core business needs, support stronger integration with other business tools like ecommerce, and provide ample flexibility to support higher-compliance manufacturing. “After we purchased SAP, we explored the idea of a more traditional hosted model,” says Adam Leggett, senior manager of information technology at STEMCELL. “We elected to host on AWS to help us focus our efforts on supporting science at a hyperscale level, without the need to run or manage traditional infrastructure in house.”

After an 8-month infrastructure build, STEMCELL went live with SAP S/4HANA on AWS in July 2019. For support during the building process, the company tapped AWS Professional Services, a global team of experts that helps companies realize their desired business outcomes on AWS. “AWS Professional Services brought the best practices for SAP on AWS and the technical leadership that we needed to get the infrastructure up and running quickly,” says Leggett.

STEMCELL quickly made broad use of SAP S/4HANA. “We have a full-blown implementation of SAP using a range of different modules running almost all our supply chain and financials,” says Omid Kafaee, manager of enterprise systems at STEMCELL. “We take advantage of both built-in SAP modules—like SAP Extended Warehouse Management for warehouse management and SAP Finance and SAP Controlling for financials—and newer tools like SAP Analytics Cloud for analytics.” 

STEMCELL also takes advantage of a number of integrations on SAP S/4HANA, including R+ and DBR+ for the manufacturing planning, Workday for human resources data, and Vertex for tax calculation. Responsible for connecting these integrations is the integration solution MuleSoft, which works alongside AWS technologies like Amazon API Gateway, a fully managed service that developers use to create, publish, maintain, monitor, and secure APIs at any scale. “Hosting our MuleSoft solution on AWS alongside SAP lets us extend the security and scale-out technologies of AWS, resulting in a less complex and easier-to-operate architecture,” says Leggett.

Spinning Up Consistent Workstations Virtually Instantly

STEMCELL maximized the effectiveness of its new ERP software as it expanded its use of Amazon WorkSpaces. The company was an early adopter of Amazon WorkSpaces, having used it as part of the original launch. Amazon WorkSpaces is useful for maintaining control of the company’s SAP environment, facilitating consistent compliance, security, and product quality across all workstations. “Amazon WorkSpaces is a big piece of the overall ERP infrastructure for us,” says Leggett. “It’s critical to have that capability to control and very flexibly and quickly scale out an environment that supports higher-compliance compute for our end users.”

STEMCELL’s wide adoption of Amazon WorkSpaces helped the company to pivot to remote work when offices shut down as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. “We told every staff member on a Friday night, ‘Starting Monday, work from home,’” says John Lilleyman, chief information officer of STEMCELL. “And they could because of Amazon WorkSpaces. A traditional infrastructure approach simply would not have helped us to respond in the same way.” Whereas a new workstation might have taken hours or days to launch under the previous infrastructure, STEMCELL could do it almost immediately using Amazon WorkSpaces. “Going from several hours to 0 hours is a big benefit for us,” says Leggett. “And when you want to add 50 new co-op students, for example, that’s a significant cost savings.”

Other benefits of operating on AWS include high availability and resiliency. “Relying on AWS to handle things on the data center front helps us to focus on more value-delivering activities without worrying about redundancy,” says Leggett. This availability, resiliency, and scalability is critical for a company that regularly sees 20 percent year-over-year growth. “Our business cycle is moving faster,” says Lilleyman. “We release hundreds of new products every year. On the information technology side, we need to be an enabler for the business, whether that be through geographic expansion, product expansion, or new processing models. We need to be flexible and agile to bring our products to labs around the world and facilitate life science discoveries.”

Using Cutting-Edge Infrastructure to Achieve Innovation and Growth

STEMCELL is already expanding its use of SAP on AWS by implementing SAP Product Lifecycle Management software and plans to extend its use of AWS by exploring the cloud provider’s manufacturing and machine learning capabilities. “That’s a specific place where we see a lot of growth over the next 5 years as we expand our manufacturing capabilities to support customers with higher-compliance products and help our scientific teams with new digital tools to support product discovery,” says Leggett.

STEMCELL is also expanding its product portfolio to continue support for life sciences discovery around the world, and the team is confident that the new infrastructure will help it reach this goal. “Our focus should be supporting scientific discovery and endeavor, not running laptops or building servers,” says Leggett. “By migrating to AWS and taking advantage of common tools and automation, we can off-load tedious tasks and put smart, motivated people in positions to solve business problems in fun, interesting ways.”

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See how AWS is supporting modernization for life sciences. 

About STEMCELL Technologies

Based in Vancouver, British Columbia, STEMCELL Technologies is a Canadian biotechnology company with more than 1,600 employees working in offices across four continents. It designs, manufactures, and distributes products for cell research and other areas of life science.

Benefits of AWS

● Reduced workstation spin-up time from hours or days to virtually no time
● Maintained consistent, secure, and flexible workstations for hundreds of employees
● Maintained high availability and resiliency
● Improved time to market for new products
● Reallocated time spent on infrastructure maintenance to pursuit of new initiatives

AWS Services Used

Amazon WorkSpaces

Amazon WorkSpaces is a fully managed desktop virtualization service for Windows and Linux that enables you to access resources from any supported device.

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Amazon EC2

Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) offers the broadest and deepest compute platform, with over 475 instances and choice of the latest processor, storage, networking, operating system, and purchase model to help you best match the needs of your workload.

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Amazon API Gateway

Amazon API Gateway is a fully managed service that makes it easy for developers to create, publish, maintain, monitor, and secure APIs at any scale.

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AWS Professional Services

The AWS Professional Services organization is a global team of experts that can help you realize your desired business outcomes when using the AWS Cloud.

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