There is a lot of pressure on companies across all discrete manufacturing industries to become more agile. The willingness and ability to embrace new innovation and technology are becoming must-have traits for those companies that want to stay in front of the pack.

These qualities were on display at this year’s SAPPHIRE NOW conference, where a multitude of leading companies in the industrial, automotive, aerospace, and high-tech industries took the stage to talk about their challenges, processes, visions, and success.

Here are a few highlights:

End-to-End Focus

A common theme of many of the sessions centered on how implementing new technology requires an end-to-end, comprehensive strategy. As Pradeep Amladi of SAP said in his introduction to the session “Enable Responsive Manufacturing Processes,” “It’s not just the manufacturing function that needs to be made more agile, but all the systems around it, from engineering to postproduction.”

Having a comprehensive strategy is Varian Medical Systems’ goal, according to Snehashish Sarkar, a session panelist: “We’re trying to bring the whole engineering and enterprise together.” SAP HANA is helping the company achieve its goal, streamlining process flow and reducing overall cycle time to ultimately increase collaboration and overall productivity”.

GE has a similar vision, added panelist Keith Zobott of GE Measurement and Control, a sector of the company’s oil and gas business. “Everything we do is about simplifying the nature of our business.” With the deployment of SAP Product Lifecycle Management, Zobott said GE business users have “definitely gained not only a better view of changes being considered or in process, but also a better understanding of the impact of changes in the supply chain – thus enabling better decision making on when and how changes should be initiated.”

While all panelists agreed implementation of new technology can be a challenge, Zobott offered two things to always keep in mind during the process: “It is not only about implementing a solution or tool – you have to remember to think very critically about the user experience and data analysis coming from it as well.”

Because at the end of the day, “it’s people, processes, and technology,” added Amladi.

Thrill of the Data Chase

David Schwarzbach, CFO of North America Marketplaces for eBay, agrees with Amladi. “It’s not about the hardware; it’s how you implement the hardware and who you work with to do that – it all has to come together,” he said in his SAPPHIRE NOW session, “Target Business-Critical Processes for Transformation.”

With more than 25 million sellers and more than 145 million buyers in 100-plus countries around the world, eBay’s business generates enormous amounts of data every day. It now has over 50 petabytes of data in its marketplace business alone. For two years, the company tried to figure out how to control all of that data on its own. Then, it turned to SAP for help.

In eight weeks, SAP HANA was able to organize the company’s complex data sets and deliver valuable insights from them. Now, with sub-second latency, the system can analyze billions of slices of data and provide intuitive user access so all eBay business users can have better insight into the business. “If you can’t think of an idea and then look at the data and know if it is right on track, you risk losing your thread of thinking,” said Schwarzbach. SAP HANA eliminated that risk, providing “that magic moment when you suddenly can do something that you couldn’t before. It was a thrill.”

Rip and Replace

Nothing is as thrilling as replacing an entire global HR system in one giant swoop. Just ask Robert Arbogast of The Timken Company, who helped oversee the company’s full HR system transition to the cloud. “We said we can either take five years to do this, or we can just get it done,” said Arbogast in his session “Achieve Better Business Outcomes by Transitioning to the HR Cloud.”

With 63 manufacturing facilities and 10 technology centers across 33 countries, The Timken Company’s 30-year-old HR system was in need of updating. Partnering with SAP to implement SuccessFactors HR cloud solutions, the company was able to transition to an integrated platform that provided a global set of standard, integrated talent processes that are supported by dashboards, analytics, and reporting capabilities the entire company can use.

“It has changed our whole dialogue around where we are and what we’re doing,” said Arbogast.

Drive Your Business Forward

Generating extreme amounts of data is easy. Knowing what to do with the data is what makes the difference. Those companies that embrace new technology will continue to accelerate forward and drive better business outcomes. Just ask the head of IT consulting at Mercedes-AMG, a company that knows a thing or two about high performance: “If you want to be an innovator in the high-performance segment, you’ve always got be on the cutting-edge [when it comes to] technology.”

Hear more of the keynotes, sessions, and interviews from the SAPPHIRE NOW conference that cover today’s hottest technology topics. Browse the replays now.

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