SAP.info: What is the SAP Perfect Plant strategy?
Boris: The Perfect Plant is SAP’s strategy to enable efficient manufacturing by driving lean processes, utilizing assets effectively, and linking the plant to the enterprise in real time. Ultimately, this will allow companies to power highly responsive supply networks. It’s all about achieving clarity across the manufacturing enterprise. It’s impossible to get that clarity – the “clear enterprise” – unless you directly connect to critical sources of data on the production floor. In the past, SAP effectively stopped at the door to the plant. The Perfect Plant strategy continues that connection all the way down to the machine.
SAP.info: What does that enable?
Boris: When you create that pervasive visibility in real time, you push actionable information down to the operator, the person who can impact the process. As an operator, I typically look at a key performance indicator that tells me if the machine is running effectively. The Perfect Plant lets me tie machine performance to the enterprise plan and objectives. This is crucial. Now I can run a machine more effectively by producing the right mix of product at the right time to support a lean supply chain.
SAP.info: That’s great for the operator – but what does it mean for managers and executives?
Boris: Management gets aggregated data that tells them what they need to know about performance, such as cost and delivery timetables. They can see where they’re headed based on real information, with no lag between visibility and event. Live feeds tell them what is happening with machine throughput, supply chain effectiveness, energy consumption, and even their carbon footprint. They can troubleshoot root causes, drive out waste, and quickly change strategy.
SAP.info: What are the central elements of the SAP Perfect Plant strategy?
Boris: The SAP Manufacturing and Intelligence application is the backbone of this portfolio. It can tie into the data at its source, aggregate it, and then execute. Things like push it to a dashboard, issue transactions, or “sound a horn” to get someone’s attention. Other elements are the SAP Manufacturing Execution and SAP Lean Planning and Operations applications. Key partner products include, for example, Enterprise Inventory Optimization by SmartOps; asset effectiveness solutions from NRX and Meridium; weigh and dispense capability from Werum; batch manufacturing software from Performix; document management from Lexmark, high-speed vision from Böwe Bell + Howell; high availability hardware from Stratus; and solutions from machine-tool builder Okuma to unlock data from machines. The portfolio and partnerships continue to grow rapidly.
SAP.info: What benefits have customers achieved through Perfect Plant initiatives?
Boris: Let me give you just some examples. Whirlpool implemented across 30 plants and realized a 20x return on investment in two years. Valero saves U.S.$60 – 180 million yearly on energy consumption. And the benefits aren’t restricted to large companies. Sauder Woodworking eliminated 85% of non-value-added operator time in a truly lean environment. Smaller organizations like Sweet Ovations’, Tasty Baking Company, and B&G Manufacturing are having great success.
SAP.info: With those kinds of numbers, what’s holding others back?
Boris: People tend to get into an analysis/paralysis loop, where they talk and talk about it – and then say they’re not sure if they’re ready to make a decision. Some focus on improving local asset performance – through KPIs such as overall equipment effectiveness – while failing to see that OEE is only part of a comprehensive program. Then again, others say that they need to do something but don’t think they have enough data from the machines or processes on the plant floor.
But I can tell you, I’ve never been in a facility that did not have enough data to get started and drive real improvements. People have to understand that with each week they wait, they pass up thousands of dollars of ROI. They have to begin impacting their process. They have to do their due diligence, talk to other customers to see that the Perfect Plant strategy works – and get the ball rolling. The Perfect Plant is a pursuit, not an end state. You need to start now.
SAP.info: Where is SAP on delivering its Perfect Plant vision?
Boris: We have the components and plumbing in place to deliver a manufacturing execution strategy in any industry. We’re working on making it more repeatable and easier to do through best practices, process templates, and plug-in pieces. SAP is the best at documenting best practices industry by industry, with an impressive set of benchmarking data to back it up. We want to take that same approach right down to the manufacturing floor – if so-and-so did a project in 12 weeks, can we put capability into the product roadmap that would allow the next company to do it in six weeks? We also need to clarify our message on how we deliver for manufacturing. The Perfect Plant is not a philosophy or theory. It’s a way to drive performance at the customer and create huge business value – that’s why it continues to grow through grassroots customer initiatives.
Paul Boris went to the General Motors Institute for Mechanical Engineering. He spent a number of years running both process and discrete manufacturing operations before focusing on information technology as it related to manufacturing. Boris heads up Perfect Plant for North America as well as a global community of practice for SAP.