In recent years, the concept of a smart factory has become an increasingly popular term within the producing sector. It represents a promise to meet the well-known challenges that come with globalization, ever shorter technology lifecycles and increasing global uncertainties, by establishing agile, efficient and sustainable processes. With the ultimate goal of designing an automized production environment that is fully self-organized, the imponderables of continuously alternating challenges with growing complexities can be met. The dual-tracked development of increasingly sophisticated operation technology (OT) and high-performance information technology (IT) systems are moving this vision into a foreseeable future. The combination of intelligent assets with networks and backend software solutions capable of transferring and processing large amounts of information at high-speed, allow for the creation of a coherent system enabling companies to make the right decisions at the right time.
Within the series of this blog, we will elaborate on how the traditional ways of manufacturing can be broken up, providing ideas, principles and guidelines on how to tackle the challenges of today’s manufacturing, utilizing leading-edge technologies such as Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), cloud and edge computing, machine learning, … all by using SAP technology.
By looking at the more detailed aspects of a smart factory, one is forced to think about manufacturing and asset maintenance as one embedded solution, for the fact alone that the predominant part of maintenance calls comes from incidents happening on the production floor. The traditional approach of keeping these areas of expertise separate is not practical, as the solutions are inheriting increasingly specified functionalities, which are interdependent across different systems and are going beyond the capabilities of classic ERP systems.
As the necessity of reactive, predominantly human-driven and slow production processes shift to the introduction of automated manufacturing including real-time communication, a seamless integration between manufacturing and asset management systems becomes imperative. Thus, top management is required to create conditions under which processes can be changed throughout the company to lay the foundations for a broad-based, sustainable value creation. When thinking of increasing the availability, performance and quality whilst optimizing production planning and reducing costs, automatic and rapid system communication is becoming ever more mandatory. Naturally, this integration may not just be limited to the aforementioned systems, but must be extended to include ERP, intralogistics, and top-level analysis systems (among others).
In the context of integration, interoperability is playing a leading role not only when it comes to interconnecting IT systems but also in terms of a vertical integration – introducing a communication network from and to the production floor. This begins by establishing machine-to-machine connection expanded by bidirectional information transfer between IoT-gateways, higher level controlling systems and end-of-chain business systems. The innovation thereby does not result from the mere establishment of new technologies, but in the coordinated introduction of these, in regard to the corresponding company vision. The past has shown that various companies implemented technologies which promised the shift to a new innovative way of production without integrating the solutions into a comprehensive concept. However, the heterogenous field of solutions and technologies such as machines with proprietor sensor systems, legacy networks running old protocols or PLCs that are on the verge of dying, all must be brought together to become something of a collective intelligence.
The idea of integrating new technologies is always easy to articulate, but for digital transformations to be successful, companies need to identify where opportunities happen in their associated industries, spot the points of attack, and take targeted action to exploit them. A company’s specific prospects for success are thereby largely explained by their industry trend (growing or declining), the ability to establish performance- and differentiation-based transformations and by its endowment. However, every company can start thinking today about the measures it must take to change its business processes and opt for the corresponding technologies it needs to optimize production and establish a smart factory.
With their Intelligent Asset Management (IAM) solution portfolio, tackling today’s and future challenges around asset management, and the development of the Digital Manufacturing Cloud (DMC), focusing on intelligent production execution and analytics, SAP is challenging the complexities coming along with the introduction of a smart factory. With many companies still wondering which applications and functionalities to implement to optimize their production, SAP is introducing lightweight and cloud-based solutions that offer the possibilities of extensive configuration and customization to meet the needs of each company. Through these solutions, SAP combines several cutting-edge technologies (IoT, EDGE & Cloud, machine learning, etc.) to address the challenges of integrating heterogeneous systems on the production floor, improving the interaction between asset management and manufacturing and corresponding systems, as well as delivering a wide range of functionalities as a standalone solution to perform the tasks for which it was developed. The financing model is thereby designed so that you only pay for what you use. We at Westernacher will uncover the possibilities of implementing these technologies and display how to integrate them into existing system landscapes, showing you how these solutions and scenarios can generate value for your company.
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