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What is SAP's contribution to connected manufacturing?

SAP's connected manufacturing framework sets its sights on delivering true visibility, unifying business processes through data, delivering predictive maintenance and more.

SAP HANA Cloud Platform or on-premises is intended to make integrated and connected production a business reality.

Closely related to the Industrial Internet of Things is the concept of connected manufacturing. It's a term that a number of vendors are using to denote a comprehensive approach to enabling interoperability, systems visibility, data sharing (with predictive capabilities), and systems-based responsive processes.

SAP's version of connected manufacturing uses the enormous data processing prowess of HANA to ensure that processes are uninterrupted and optimized by using data sources from manufacturing devices and SAP systems. Connected manufacturing includes the concept of connected logistics, which uses data about incoming raw materials or outgoing finished goods to enable associated business processes, such as warehouse management, to work in complete tandem with each other. Another area of this connected manufacturing is predictive maintenance and services, wherein systems evaluate the current status of a machine to predict when maintenance is due and trigger procurement of in-house or external specialized maintenance services.

The growing number of connected devices, cheaper sensor technology, expansion of Internet of Things (IoT) technology and products such as SAP Business Network enable companies to create far greater visibility to keep operations running more smoothly and prevent problems from arising. Previously, management, i.e., the top floor, would decide what to produce and when, then require that production of goods from the shop floor. 

However, the division between the top floor and shop floor was vast. The result? Product shortages and production line disruptions due to maintenance or service bottlenecks were a constant source of headaches, and executives too often found themselves in firefighting mode. Now, companies can create far greater process efficiency and unity between the shop floor and the top floor -- the dream of virtually every manufacturing leader and worker -- through new technology, existing technology and a more responsive approach to employee engagement.

On the technology side of the equation, SAP is capitalizing on these four systems powered by either HANA on-prem or cloud: Integrated Business Planning (IBP), Manufacturing Execution System (MES), Manufacturing Integration and Intelligence (MII), and an SAP ERP system. Consider a situation in which a connected device evaluates that the production line will face components shortage and will lead to a production stoppage. The connected manufacturing systems can assess alternative supply situations and reconfigure production accordingly to prevent any delays.

On the employee management side of the equation, an iterative approach to problem-solving is a key component of connected manufacturing. This speaks to the need for an inclusive work culture to ensure that the input and feedback from the person directly managing a business process and other relevant stakeholders have significant say in improving and solving business problems. Despite the greater automation enabled by connected manufacturing systems, the "human factor" is still critical.

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