For several years, SAP has worked alongside partners from industry to create the open integrated factory – a functioning model representing tomorrow’s manufacturing, which enables batch-of-one production and new business models. The IT giants have further expanded and improved their exhibit for HANNOVER MESSE 2017.
A New Kind of Automation Pyramid
In traditional production environments, machines, manufacturing execution systems (MES), and ERP systems are separate from each other. Digitization is changing this; connected processes are the central to the new age of industry. The classic, rigid automation pyramid is becoming a network of independent and yet connected components. Data flows seamlessly between machines and the MES or ERP system, uniting the business and manufacturing sides of the operation. Although this may sound abstract, its impact is tangible: it is fundamentally changing business models in many organizations.
Batch of One Becomes a Reality
Connected manufacturing allows companies to automate highly complex production processes. So even for customized products, the whole supply chain – from order to assembly to after-sales support – practically takes care of itself. In this way, manufacturing one-off items becomes as financially viable as mass producing them. For special orders, SAP has integrated a 3D printer into the process. This ensures a high degree of automation even for products that deviate significantly from the standard.
Exciting New Business Models
The connected factory enables insight into everything – right down to the smallest parts. This not only provides companies with a comprehensive overview of current operations; it also allows them to monitor their products in real time after distribution. This results in new business models. For example, providers of compressors no longer only sell their device, but also their service. And thanks to big data and predictive analytics, sensors can instantly inform customers – wherever they are – if a machine looks likely to break down. This dynamic creates new service and revenue opportunities.
New Jobs for Factory Staff
Despite this large-scale automation, the smart factory will still require workers. However, they will have new jobs and receive more support with manual tasks. For instance, data glasses will deliver visual instructions to provide assistance in machine repair.