Inside Extreme Scale Tech|Thursday, December 25, 2014
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SAP Syncs Up with Industry 4.0 

What do machine-to-machine (M2M) communication, the Internet of Things and automation have in common? According to SAP, they are all taking us into what the company is calling “Industry 4.0,” the merger between interconnected industrial equipment and next-generation IT, which it believes will become the fourth industrial revolution (hence the moniker).

The commitment to Industry 4.0 was made this week at Hannover Messe 2013 in Hannover, Germany. It follows the growing integration of mobile, cloud and social data into the wealth of big data that manufacturers are already accruing through their operations, alongside greater networking among production systems across supply and value chains.

To adapt to this changing environment SAP is adjusting its offerings to accommodate the holistic business model that it believes will soon dominate the industry. SAP’s new approach, called “Idea to Performance,” is essentially a series of offerings from the HANA-powered SAP Business Suite.

These all come as parts of a three-pronged approach to acclimate to the industry of tomorrow. The first, as you might have guessed, is integration of big data analytics into the heart of manufacturing processes to drive a more efficient business. The second is to orchestrate vertical and horizontal integration of manufacturing across suppliers, manufacturers and end-consumers, and the third is to work around the growing trend of user-centric products.

Dr. Kerstin Geiger, global head of industry business solutions at SAP AG explained at Hannover Messe that next-generation users will not be interested in a five-day training session to learn the ins and outs of new devices or software offerings. Instead, they will start to work with it and if they cannot figure it out in five minutes, they will move on to a different product. In order to circumvent this, Geiger says that complex products must be simplified and features such as context-awareness that augment a user’s reality must become integral to a product’s design.

SAP will be taking on these challenges first through HANA, which collects, handles and analyzes big data for manufacturers. Integration of analytics and other SAP applications with smart devices was another selling point, designed to add an element of context-awareness depending on where a user might be within a factory. Finally it plans to bring 3D visualization to all stages of the product lifecycle, from engineering to manufacturing and even to a product’s service stage.

The company was quick to point out that this isn’t run-of-the-mill product lifecycle management. Here, products across its Business Suite have been linked such that no part of the process goes untouched by SAP software. To begin, SAP’s Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) Management will use M2M communication to collect and analyze machine data; SAP ERP will aid in material requirement planning; and SAP Product Portfolio Management will improve run time of project management transactions.

The OEE management software comes as a part of other user experience offerings, which also include synchronized releases of SAP Manufacturing Execution System (MES) and Manufacturing Integration and Intelligence (MII) and Plant Connectivity software, which should offer additional visibility into shop floor operations.

Addressing product quality are SAP Quality Issue Management (QIM), as well as mobile app versions of the company’s ERP and Complex Manufacturing Accelerator products.

Demonstrating these updates in action was Roland Essmann, project leader on SAP MES implementation at Elster, a German smart metering company. Elster is using SAP-powered simulation to provide real-time smart metering information that can not only give customers a transparent view of their consumption habits, but can also provide a cost-effective avenue through which the company can keep an eye on its assets remotely.

Essmann doted upon MII’s ability to simulate the manufacturing execution long before production hardware is installed to ensure that the MES system will work with future hardware. “With SAP Manufacturinig Execution and SAP Manufacturing Integration and Intelligence, data are well prepared to be transferred to a product and vice versa, and the solutions are web-based, which is important to realize Industry 4.0 as well.”

To demonstrate how SAP offerings can be applied to the service space was a wind energy company that is monitoring an offshore wind park in the ocean. Rather than having constant in-person oversight to ensure that the turbines are operating correctly, the company has implemented remote, real-time, sensor-based monitoring that can predict not only the current power output, RPMs and temperature, but also which turbines contain parts that may soon fail.

Because the turbine models, sensor information and maintenance information have been integrated into one system, the company can monitor each turbine in the park in real time, view alerts and current work orders for each unit, and determine which parts of the turbine will need to be turned off to perform those repairs, ultimately reducing the time spent at and number of visits to each park. This harkens back to SAP’s Industry 4.0 ideal, as this monitoring solution would not be possible without the M2M technology that the company is crediting for the transformation of the manufacturing landscape.

Whether sensor data and networked systems such as these will truly bring about a fourth industrial revolution is up for debate, but at the very least SAP’s bold proclamation will help to make a name for itself among companies such as GE, who have already begun to pave the way for a more smarter manufacturing industry.

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