Digital thread for enterprise collaboration via SAP Enterprise Product Development (EPD)
While writing this blog, I am working as a Senior Architect in the SAP R&D North America services department. The views expressed are per my experience working with customers in various industry types.
There is a considerable amount of valuable information on SAP EPD solutions, e.g., videos, blogs like here and here, or the SAP Product site. SAP EPD is a cloud-based enterprise tool that has multiple capabilities. However, this blog intends to highlight some essential differentiators of the SAP EPD’s collaboration capability.
Some of the closest synonyms of ‘Collaboration’ are teamwork, alliance, and coordination. In the world of product development, is collaboration a new word? The answer is NO.
Collaboration is not a new concept. Being there for years, part of the product development process between internal and external users. However, in the era of digital transformation, more than ever before, the term “Open Innovation” has become very important for product and company competitiveness. Effectively managing the complete spectrum of collaboration across the product lifecycle and the extended enterprise has become more critical.
What if I say; you can now bring enterprise-wide users on a single collaboration platform and bring down the silos among departments for various product-related collaboration needs of users inside and outside the organization? Isn’t that exciting? If yes, keep reading.
The picture below highlights some of the vital SAP EPD collaboration features
This blog intends to zoom into the collaboration differentiators, so here is a high-level non-technical architecture emphasizing the enterprise-wide SAP EPD usability without any custom integration.
Yes, you read it right, without custom integration!
Below are the main elements of this architecture:
- Internal Users: Users within the organization like Engineering, Manufacturing, Purchasing, quality, etc. can either directly work in EPDs collaboration spaces or indirectly share information through the S/4 system
- Eng. Systems: Users from the engineering community (SAP PLM) can share their early product development info like engineering BOM with external partners. Even users from 3rd party engineering (PLM) systems can easily share information (Thanks to SAP’s next-generation powerful interface)
- SAP Ariba: Suppliers added as partners can directly contribute to collaboration.
- Future Pipeline: SAP plans to roll out many new features and integrations, making scalability and ROI attractive.
- External users: Any user outside the organization can have a simplified and controlled UI to participate in collaboration
What if I want an additional integration of my non-SAP system with EPD? The answer is Yes. Thanks to the EPD public APIs and a low-code platform, this integration is simplified.
Understanding this Architecture can shine a lot of use-cases; however, below is an example use case.
Use case example – Form, Fit, or Function change:
Change needed on a running product that needs collaboration from Enterprise users like Engineering, Manufacturing, Procurement, Suppliers, and External partners.
Below are some of the possible roles involved:
- Change initiator: Person responsible for coordinating the changes
- An Engineer: from within the organization of SAP PLM or 3rd party PLM system
- External Partner or Design contractor: working with Engineering and Procurement
- Supplier: coming from the Ariba system to participate in the collaboration
- Procurement Specialist: responsible for new part creation and procurement process.
Two traditional ways to manage such change
- Organizations generally have disconnected processes doing things in silos and might have a coordinator in the last to put the pieces together.
- Other better-planned organizations have some system applications, e.g., 3rd party PLM collaboration tools or other legacy apps to manage the steps.
Weaknesses of the traditional ways:
- Both methods above lack proper digital thread and a single platform, thus limiting traceability and design re-use options.
- Scalability to current and future Enterprise users gets defenestrated.
- A disconnected system discourages parallelization and global template vision
- There is no easy way to check the entire list of collaborations on a given product catalog.
On the other hand- Managing change with EPD-Collaboration
Integrated with your change management system, EPD allows bringing enterprise-wide business roles to a single collaboration platform without losing the digital thread and controls of your existing change management process. Below is a simplified closed-loop flow:
Paybacks of EPD collaboration:
- Enterprise users come on a single platform creating a proper digital thread and encouraging traceability plus design re-use options.
- Scalability and ROI.
- A connected system inspires parallelization and a global template vision
- One-stop shop to see all running and old collaborations for a given product.
To support above flow, here are a few EPD relevant system screens:
1. A dedicated workflow to support the process, controlling who does what and when
2. Data (Structured, e.g., BOM or Unstructured, e.g., Documents) from one or multiple S/4 systems with or without change number
3. Enterprise-wide participants on a single platform in a controlled way
4. Embedded SAP Ariba integration for supplier participation
5. Easily add any external participants with their name or email:
6. Embedded 3D Viewer to facilitate visual collaboration using redlines or markups
7. Enriching collaboration by linking to other past/ongoing collaborations, sharing Material/Parts attributes, Specification data and much more!
Breaking the silos & supporting a true digital transformation, EPD takes collaboration to new heights by allowing enterprise-wide participants on a single collaboration platform. It also supports the organization’s simplification, parallelization and a global template vision. Flexible licensing, easy deployment and Future roadmap make the ROI & scalability attractive.
Enterprise product development is a SAP product and below are a few valuable pieces of information
- SAP Product site here
- EPD public API business hub here
- EPD help portal here
- EPD Roadmap explorer here
Reach out to your Sales Account Executives(SAE) to learn more.
To finish, I want to thank SAPs excellent Product development team for their sincerity and swift resolution of deployment matters and for helping me answer many customer technical queries.
Comments or questions are welcome. Appreciate your time in reading the blog!