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SAP Explores Industry 4.0, Big Data and More

At the SAP Manufacturing Industry Forum this week, the software provider and several of its customers explained Idea to Performance and how they are taking advantage of data, the cloud, mobile computing and other key enablers.

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Industry 4.0 is what’s commonly referred to as the next industrial revolution. A term born from German high-tech strategy, it refers primarily to an age of cyber-physical systems—including virtualization in a highly connected society, with much-talked-about trends like the cloud, big data and the Internet of Things (IoT).

Idea to Performance is SAP’s response to Industry 4.0, and it was a key theme at the SAP Manufacturing Industry Forum this week outside Chicago. “It’s not just about silos, but end-to-end business processes,” said Mike Lackey, vice president of solution management at SAP, during his welcome address.

Quoting a prediction of 50 billion connected devices by 2020, Lackey returned, “What good is a connected device if we are not solving a business problem?” SAP then spent the next two days showing many different ways they could help industry solve its business issues, whether related to supply chain, energy use, EHS, yield or any number of other manufacturing concerns. Considering the amount of data that will be coming at us through those 50 billion devices, Lackey added, “It’s not about collecting the data; it’s what are you going to do with the data once you collect it?”

There are SAP customers doing some impressive stuff with that data: better forecast accuracy at pharmaceutical manufacturer Perrigo; EHS risk management optimization at Southern California Edison; and yield improvement at Motorola, just to name a few. SAP’s poster child is Harley-Davidson, whose facility in York, Pa., has gone from a 21-day frozen schedule to a 6-hour leadtime by capturing data at the source and providing pervasive visibility to its reduced manufacturing force.

SAP has long talked about “shop floor to top floor” data. But these days that’s more important than ever as manufacturers look for ways to compete smarter, faster and simpler.

Expanding on the Idea to Performance theme, Garrett Miller, head of solution management for next-generation manufacturing and R&D for SAP, spoke of the five key elements of Industry 4.0: solution lifecycles, vertical integration, a shared economy, new business models and the new social economy. He detailed aspects of big data that has manufacturers not only able to explore predictive maintenance but also usage-based billing. One example: Rolls Royce doesn’t just sell jet engines anymore; it sells hours of jet engine time.

Miller listed the key enablers for Industry 4.0 as mobile computing, social media, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine, and big data and predictive analytics. Many of these factors have been around for years, but what’s changed now is the ability to marry them together in an affordable way. “The Internet of Things is an incredible enabler of things to come,” he added.

Also on display this week was SAP’s Big Data Bus, making its way to the Westin parking lot in Itasca, Ill., to try to make big data more tangible for customers. Applications that SAP showed inside the demo on wheels included the mobile application of SAP Work Manager, making technicians’ jobs easier with 3D visualizations of work environments and assets; analytical and historical data through SAP’s HANA that suggests possible scenarios for fixing or optimizing a wind turbine; and the ability to use social media data to help satisfy regular customers at a ball park.

P.S. There’s a reason I’ve been stuck this week on The Who’s Magic Bus…

Every day you'll see the dust (too much, Data Bus)
As I drive production in my Data Bus (too much, Data Bus)

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