When you look at a manufacturing plant, you often see a very complex structure of technical systems for production machinery; automation and QA equipment; business and logistics systems; and many people collaborating like subcontractors, service providers, internal plant management executives and staff, as well as operators fabricating and assembling new products.
The closer you get to the actual production machinery and the actual products being manufactured, the more you discover how the production processes and procedures are highly optimized to exactly meet or exceed customer expectations in the most cost-effective and expedient manner possible. In the continual effort to create true competitive differentiation, industrial manufacturers are using finely-tuned technical systems and procedures to provide real value to the end users of the original equipment.
Now just imagine that everyone and all the machines in this unique network could communicate transparently from “the shop floor to top floor” and vice versa without any bureaucratic interference or wasteful manual efforts:
- Plant management could get immediate and unfiltered insight into the topics that matter the most to the shop floor.
- Everybody (customers, suppliers, partners, subcontractors, and employees) could access a fully transparent, easy to manage, and incredibly fast knowledge base.
- Changes in demand and supply could be made visible to all supply chain participants in real or near-real time.
- Previously unavailable information due to operational or technology constraints could now be captured and immediately acted upon at any point on the value chain, including directly on the shop floor.
- The waste created through traditional, and often lengthy, communication channels could be replaced by lean, accurate, and incredibly fast information exchanges.
- Decision-making could include all appropriate stakeholders, whereas everyone’s voice is heard and the rationale behind the final decision would be visible to all and easily accessible for later reference.
- Ideas for continuous improvement could be voted on and agreed upon by all applicable value chain players with minimal effort.
- Unforeseen events affecting multiple stakeholders could be made known immediately, reducing any negative operational impact, supply chain disruptions, or shop floor stoppages.
All this could be achieved if everybody (really everybody) inside a production plant, key subcontractors, and relevant suppliers could communicate openly using an open technology environment with free text, photos, graphics, videos, and other media. No pre-defined, static IT systems with awkward screens and mandated data fields needed! Everything of importance and relevance could be shared immediately with everyone involved with the immediate matter being addressed. At the same time all this communication could be stored in a way that everyone involved could look at all the communications and content at any given point in time.
In the consumer world this communication is already possible using social networks like Facebook or Google+, but in most industrial cases, these consumer-oriented channels are not viable options. To open up the heart and soul of a manufacturing company on a public network could clearly pose tremendous challenges in regard to protecting intellectual property as well as competitive differentiation.
Instead of a network like Twitter or LinkedIn, consider an industrial platform that enables the sharing and communication mentioned above in a totally-secure, enterprise context. At SAP, we can help make sure that only the right people get the right information at the right time. Preventing unauthorized access and storing all the data in a well-protected, extremely-safe environment is of paramount importance for all of the business planning and execution processes associated with manufacturing on an industrial scale.
Unstructured data from a myriad of internal and external sources combined with structured information from IT systems can be used for quality assurance, training, maintenance, production scheduling and control, materials management, and an infinite array of other industrial processes.
Simple right? With SAP’s help, it just might be. The Industry Cloud is here now.
For further details have a look at: www.sapjam.com