The Best of Two Worlds: Combining Smart Sensing with Continuous Measurements from IoT Sensors
The one thing I love most about being a product manager of Internet of Things solutions at SAP is working with customers and witnessing how they continuously evolve their processes and strive for customer satisfaction. Many of them have laid out digital transformation strategies, some of which I already shared.
To further help customers in their transformation strategies towards Industry 4.0 we have recently released ”smart sensing” capabilities as part of the SAP IoT offering. Smart sensing refers to automatically identifying events related to physical business objects such as a delivery of electric vehicle batteries entering a warehouse, enriching them with business context and integrating them into business processes. Technologies typically considered as smart sensing include QR codes, RFID, optical character recognition, voice recognition and others.
There are many examples how customers can apply smart sensing in their manufacturing and logistics processes. Think of IoT enabled kanban, quality control in production or goods movement. For instance, each movement of a physical item entering the warehouse can be tracked even at high speed, update the IT systems and trigger subsequent process steps. Receiving a delivery means ‘goods receipt’. When the delivery has been equipped with RFID tags, a ‘goods receipt’ can be created automatically in SAP S/4HANA as soon as it passes the RFID gate at the warehouse dock. Based on the scan event, it can be detected if the correct handling units and the correct number of handling units has been shipped.
Often, the delivered goods are highly sensitive, and quality must be ensured before a ‘goods receipt’ can be issued and the goods can enter the next step in the business process. Think of auxiliaries, active pharmaceutical ingredients or finished medical products that need to be kept at certain temperature to ensure quality and guarantee minimum shelf life. Other examples are temperature or humidity-sensitive components for luxury cosmetics or vibration-sensitive glass such as wind screens being delivered for truck assembly or ampoules for medical production. The quality of these goods is highly relevant for a continuous production process and quality of end products.
As to automate business processes further for example by including quality checks into the goods receipt process, customers can now connect smart sensing events with sensor measurements in one single solution – SAP IoT.
Let me explain how this could be set up with regards to quality control for goods receipt.
Looking first at the left side of the graphic relating to the setup of measurements during the delivery process, a digital twin of the handling units needs to be created in SAP IoT. That way, sensor data such as temperature, vibration or pressure can be continuously monitored. In case violations of threshold value(s) are detected, the information can either be stored as derived value or as custom output event and can be accessed at a later point in time.
The center of the graphic shows the handling unit entering the warehouse. Through smart sensing services the purchasing party can create object instances for each handling unit or material inside the handling unit, depending on industry standards and customer specific IDs.
The Business Context and the Business Context Hierarchy service allow to select which objects need to be replicated from the backend. Currently, we support subscriptions from SAP S/4HANA and SAP S/4HANA Cloud. For each object type, you can select the fields that are relevant to your use case such as plant, delivery, purchase order or handling unit to limit the amount of data being transferred. You can also define how the data should be loaded and set filter conditions e.g. to load data only for selected plants.
An EPCIS scan event at the warehouse dock detects when the delivery arrives.
As the object instance carries the information which handling unit / purchase order it belongs to, rules and actions can be defined to identify if there has been a violation of thresholds captured during delivery. In case delivery conditions have been violated, a warehouse clerk is notified to conduct additional quality checks. If conditions were fine, a goods receipt is automatically posted to SAP S/4HANA. For the setup of automatic issuing of goods receipt, customers may use a template we deliver out of the box.
That way customers can build a resilient supply chain by increasing transparency and reducing operational costs as goods receipt processes are being automated.
And there is more: In order to provide reliable connectivity smart sensing will soon be extended to the edge. The consequence for the business is that no pallet or truck will ever stand still as it ensures business continuity and offline operations even for the most mission critical processes.
Call to action:
IoT roadmap: SAP Road Map Explorer
Edge Services roadmap: SAP Road Map Explorer