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Author's profile photo Stefan Weisenberger

5 quotes that stuck – Looking back to the International SAP Conference for Building Materials, Forest Products, Metals and Mining 2021


Milky way gazing.

These 3 days flew by like a blur, and my head is spinning. Never before did we have such an impressive collection of customer case studies in one industry event. What started ago many years as “The SAP Paper Conference”, covers now metals, mining, building materials, and also chemicals.

It has remained the down-to-earth meeting point of industry practitioners that show off the best of innovations on the SAP platform. It is dominated by SAP customers presenting to SAP customers.
We talk about what worked, and where we struggled. I really, really like this format. It’s pretty rare.

The huge advantage of a virtual event is that I have a time machine at hand: all sessions are recorded, all slide materials, and chat questions and answers are accessible for 3 more months. Netflix will have to wait a bit.

What I want to share with you, are 5 quotes that stuck with me, that deeply inspired me. Totally subjective, my playlist of thoughts:

Industrial symbiosis

In our cross-industry panel on “sustainability along the value chain”, Davide Zampini, Head of R&D at Cemex, coined the term industrial symbiosis. He was talking about how the steel and construction materials industry collaborate and share waste streams. This approach of circular economy helped Cemex to reduce our CO2 emission by an additional 20-30%.

The industrial symbiosis extends far beyond waste. Davide stressed that we should not limit ourselves to what we know (as a company or as an industry). We need to work with neighboring industries, we need to extend beyond our supply chain to solve the biggest challenges like poverty or climate change.

It starts with simple insights that you will need to find local partners to avoid spending more on transportation cost than you save with secondary materials. But this is not just about circularity of materials, also of ideas. I really loved the dynamics in our panel when one purpose-driven company inspires the next, like Cemex’ shared value business model Patrimonio Hoy acting as a reference & inspiration for Gerdau’s own bottom-of-the-pyramid initiatives.

Curious to learn more about how to make sustainability profitable and profitability sustainable?
Explore how SAP provides the foundation for holistic steering and sustainability reporting, as well as solutions that address the urgent need for climate action, transformation to a circular economy, and socially responsible value chains.

Methodology efficient

I asked Josef Schön, corporate strategy & sustainability for Audi, how they approach sustainability. For some raw materials, like aluminum, Audi participates in the cross-industry value chain consortium Aluminum Stewardship Initiative. The ASI certifies an industry standard for sustainable aluminum. But there are also more granular approaches like mass balances (like FSC for sustainable forestry), or true provenance and traceability, e.g. for Cobalt.

Josef answered with the beautifully simple idea of being methodology efficient:
Do not measure what you don’t need afterwards. Apply traceability where needed, and only there.

I will carry this with my into my next circular economy workshops.
Find out more about SAP’s solution portfolio for circular economy here.

The art of the impossible

Steinbeis’ Ulrich Middelberg has presented their multi-award winning SAP platform. Initially, he had the vision to only improve their production process with the help of a modern platform.

Then he realized that this same platform can also become the foundation for their digital transformation. They incorporated their technical machine data, and their commercial ERP data live now on the same platform, and they used SAP’s HANA Graph to combine both data worlds:
Streaming data from 25.000 sensors and ERP data, with automatic onboarding of new sensors.  Pretty amazing.

They started their thought process: “Which are the use cases that are so far not solvable with the systems we had?” You will need to listen to their innovation award pitch to hear all 6 of them.

My favorite one is about automatic anomaly detection on the shop floor. Pretty sophisticated for a mid-size paper company.

The golden thread

What is driving collaboration between businesses? Alex Small, Tata Steel Europe’s BIM and digital platforms manager, has a less than romantic, very down to earth point of view:

The number one reason for collaboration is regulation, he said, and he gave the example of the Greenfell tower disaster that has resulted in new regulations in the UK for high risk residential buildings, asking for a golden thread. The golden thread is a reliable digital record of a building throughout its entire lifecycle from design to maintenance. An architect needs to know that the product actually implemented in a building has exactly the performance characteristics as specified – which asks for BIM (Building Information Modelling) and for parts traceability and genealogy.

Find our more about SAP’s version of the golden thread: the SAP Project Intelligence Network.

Better together

This is an industry cloud and a start-up story. Domingo Amunátegui, Arauco North America’s VP of Supply Chain, presented together with Adam Compain, founder and CEO of ClearMetal:

ClearMetal is an SAP.iO start-up, and provides global visibility information for international shipments. 

Arauco is a global manufacturer of forest products shipping their products 1000s of km, working hard to be a consistent and reliable supplier. And this year has been “interesting” for supply chain planners. Static assumptions on transportation modes and times were no longer sufficient.

Domingo has put it nicely: ClearMetal will not make vessels go faster or resolve congestion in the port. But the solution might be able to help avoid congestion, or, at least, give customers a heads-up that their shipment might be late.

Initially, Arauco didn’t want to use ClearMetal’s dashboard, and only intended to include ClearMetal’ s data stream into their SAP system. Today, Domingo says they’re better together, and means their SAP ERP system and ClearMetal’s solution.

SAP calls this Industry Cloud. “Better Together” may have been a much better name.


Good News! You can now get free on-demand access to the excellent customer speeches from the International SAP Conference for Mill Products & Mining! Go to the On Demand Platform
Also you can easily access all the presentations directly here.

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