ManufacturingIntegrationDigitizationSAPHannover MesseSupply ChainDesign to OperateManufacturing Systems IntegrationCompany News

The Fully Integrated Supply Chain – A Fast-Approaching Reality

by Krishnan Ramaswamy, on July 02, 2019

The world-leading trade fair for industry – Hannover Messe – is one of the most important global opportunities to not only learn about industry trends in manufacturing and digitalization, but also to put those visions to the test and see what’s really going on. As an SAP partner, we are proud to have participated in this year’s Hannover Messe at the joint SAP booth at Hannover Messe.

Exciting News from Hannover Messe 2019

One of the most exciting takeaways from this year’s Hannover Messe was the industrial-scale demonstration of the fully integrated, manufacturing supply chain by SAP called “Design to Operate”. With customer preferences moving towards highly personalized products, manufacturers are forced to produce smaller batches of finished products (even to the extent of producing a batch size of one with maximum efficiency). Currently, the smaller batch sizes lead to multiple complexities both on the shop floor (e.g. frequent change overs, unplanned asset downtime, skilled operator availability) and with the product lifecycle (e.g. quality and data related issues).

SAP, in its fully integrated supply-chain “Design to Operate” demo, addressed these problems by providing a significantly increased level of synchronization among the different functional areas – design, plan, manufacture, monitor and deliver – thus overcoming the information silos currently prevalent across the shop floor and broader supply chain.

SAP’s Design to Operate Demo – A Review

In the Design to Operate demo, SAP showcased the integrated supply chain on an industrial scale by developing a solution for the end-to-end lifecycle management of a smart valve. This demo enabled visitors to visualize how full integration helps overcome synchronization delays among the different functions on the manufacturing shop floor. Efficient operations will enable manufacturing operations teams to develop optimized dispatch and execution plans and lay the foundation for “model-based manufacturing”, where every manufacturing-related piece of information and data is defined.

In the future, fully defined, model-based manufacturing can be extended beyond the shop floor to customers and vendors. The efficiency created by this next level of collaboration will create a true “digital thread” whereby the “right information is delivered to the right person at the right time”. Pioneered by the military and defense industries, the “digital thread” concept is now converging with digital-manufacturing goals in other industries. 

The challenges highlighted by the demo included the need for industry-wide standardized protocols for industrial automation integration. Site- and enterprise-wide manufacturing-process standardization was also recognized as a necessary precondition to realizing the potential that model-based manufacturing presents. Yet by watching the demo, I could envision a potential future where digital-manufacturing solutions use machine learning and artificial intelligence to identify and self-correct manufacturing processes to ensure better compliance to the “manufacturing models”. This future state will be achieved via a standardized interface with the automation layer.

Introducing the Open Industry 4.0 Alliance

Industrial automation integration is a fundamental foundation necessary for achieving digital-manufacturing goals and realizing the vision SAP’s “Design to Operate” demo presents. To address the current shortcomings in industrial automation integration, SAP, along with many of its partners, announced the creation of an “Open Industry 4.0 Alliance” during the Hannover Fair as well. This is an exciting development with significant potential to accelerate the pace of digital manufacturing in multiple industries.

The alliance intends to build capabilities and solutions to enable partners with Mechanical, Industrial Automation and Software expertise to provide open protocols to manufacturers and help them automate and integrate using these standardized protocols. These efforts will reduce the complexity related to integration and allow solutions providers to accelerate the realization of the fully integrated supply chain.

At SYSTEMA, we are working closely with both partners and SAP to provide a System Integrator’s point of view on automation and standardization. We fully support the goals of the Open Industry 4.0 Alliance and hope that this alliance will be a win-win for both manufacturers and solutions providers that accelerates the adoption of digital-manufacturing solutions.

What’s Next?

To move forward, we must find ways to turn the fully integrated supply chain from demo into a reality. 

It is my hope that manufacturers from different industry segments take steps to collaborate both with mechanical, industrial automation and software product vendors and system integrators to:

  • Standardize Industrial Automation communication protocols
  • Integrate data flows in order to eliminate the information silos currently existent across various functions
  • Plan for the digital transformation by identifying solutions (with a special focus on manufacturing operations) that have native capability to address most of the challenges faced in the supply chain.

I hope to see you at Hannover Messe next year. Until then, here at SYSTEMA we will continue to help manufacturers to integrate, automate and standardize their industrial-automation communication and manufacturing processes, building the foundation for the fully integrated supply chain.