Manufacturers implementing SAP ERP must at some point face their fears and decide whether to integrate the Process
Control System (PCS) and expose it to SAP.
Their caution is entirely understandable because integration errors can lead to plant shutdowns that result in massive production and sales losses.
But it's a shame if this reluctance extends to using SAP Process Management, a submodule of SAP Production Planning for Process Industries (PP-PI) that can bring immediate improvements in business processes and lay the groundwork for full PCS integration.
SAP Process Management was originally limited to process manufacturing, but SAP added support for discrete manufacturing when it released a newer, more user-friendly version called Execution Steps (XSteps).
How it works
SAP Process Management has numerous features that can boost efficiency and reliability in the production department.
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For example, it can provide process operators with clear, step-by-step instructions on how to set up and start the production process. Operators who handle hazardous or corrosive materials are given warnings, along with instructions for wearing goggles, heavy-duty gloves, helmets, safety harnesses and other items required for safety compliance. If a problem occurs during production, the software makes it easy for process operators to refer to relevant process flows and diagrams. It also allows the operator to record information on process parameters, including the duration of processes or the temperature, pressure or viscosity of materials. Operators can also record materials consumption and production waste. Quality inspectors can enter quality parameters, as well as information about defects and deviations. SAP Process Management can also perform calculations on process parameters, including production yield, which helps operators make important decisions.
At the end of a shift, process operators can input shift details and any incidents worth reporting. To guarantee its authenticity, operators can sign the information digitally with their SAP usernames and passwords. Multiple digital signatures are possible. The authenticated information then gets transferred to relevant people or departments.
When a user creates a process order, SAP Process Management builds a Process Instruction (PI) sheet containing choices such as those described above. The PI sheet is sent (either automatically or manually) to various stages in the production workflow, where the operator of the particular process fills out the sheet.
Not implementing SAP Process Management means having to use Advanced Business Application Programming (ABAP) to develop similar functions during the ERP implementation. At the same time, it compromises availability of standard process functions such as step-by-step production and hazardous materials instructions, process flow diagrams and entry of quality parameters during production. And in the end, managers can easily obtain comprehensive reports like the Daily Production Report (DPR).
In comparison, engaging the Production Planning (PP) consultant to implement SAP Process Management during the ERP project provides these benefits without integrating or interfacing with the PCS. It can also improve the return on investment (ROI) of the entire SAP suite.
Requiring process operators to enter information in the PI sheets is a first step toward transitioning them to take full advantage of SAP Process Management. Later, when the SAP-driven processes have matured and the company works on optimizing its existing business processes, it can consider integrating SAP with the PCS.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jawad Akhtar is an assistant vice president and SAP project manager for Abacus Consulting, where he focuses on supply chain management issues. Abacus Consulting is based in Pakistan.