Talking to the Shop Floor

December 12, 2005 by SAP News

According to a survey by AMR Research in September 2005, less than one percent of the companies questioned automatically incorporate production data into their ERP solutions. Even a typical, smallish manufacturing company has between 10 and 50 shop-floor automation systems (SFAs) and, as a rule, the data from these is not put to efficient use. In June 2005, SAP took over the Lighthammer Software Development Corporation, an Enterprise Manufacturing Intelligence specialist. It has expanded the Corporation’s Collaborative Manufacturing Suite to create SAP xApp Manufacturing Integration and Intelligence (SAP xMII), a packaged composite application to support business processes in the production environment.

Adaptive manufacturing

Report window in the SAP NetWeaver Portal

Report window in the SAP NetWeaver Portal

In order to improve production processes, it is necessary to record and analyze the current production status and compare it with specified targets for parameters such as performance and quality. The assessment serves as a basis for production-related progress. This is what is known as adaptive manufacturing. Process data from production is transferred directly to SAP production and logistics modules. This means that when decisions need to be made, analysis data, quality data, reports and warnings are available on a single centralized platform. Consistent interlinking of SAP business solutions and production control applications enables supply chain and production processes to be mapped comprehensively and in real time. SAP xMII links existing production and ERP systems to an ISA 95-compliant production solution.
Until now, for example, when a piece of production machinery broke down, it usually took quite some time for management to become aware of this. The information first went – in unstructured form and without IT support – to the head of the production department and from there to the works manager. If the latter was unable to find a solution, the report was forwarded to the company’s commercial sales management team. In the worst-case scenario, this took so long that it was no longer possible to complete the job on time. This may well have led to the customer canceling the order and the job being lost. With SAP xMII, a product manager in the sales department is automatically informed of problems with the relevant SFA system. The report goes straight to his SAP portal environment, enabling a quick and targeted response.

Integration and intelligence

Link between production and ERP

Link between production and ERP

The two main components of SAP xMII are Manufacturing Intelligence and Manufacturing Integration. The Integration level constitutes the technological basis for any link to ERP solutions or, for example, a Supply Chain Management application. Together with the SAP NetWeaver Exchange Infrastructure, it ensures full integration, linking the shop floor to the business end of the company.

SAP xMII components

SAP xMII components

The Manufacturing Intelligence level above this is used for analysis purposes. It collects data, events, alerts and key figures and passes these on to the display level within SAP NetWeaver, the Manufacturing Intelligence Dashboards. Embedded in SAP NetWeaver, SAP xMII – together with the SAP Business Information Warehouse, mySAP ERP, SAP Manufacturing and mySAP SCM – forms an integrated intelligence solution for the manufacturing industry.

Bidirectional link

Many SAP products process production data. As regards ERP, for example, this may include the components for materials management, production planning, production planning for the process industry, works maintenance or quality management. Each of these components can exchange data with external applications using BAPIs. Whether or not it is beneficial to use BAPIs depends on two factors. The first is the configuration level of the SAP installation as a whole. The second is the limited ability of external systems to create links to these BAPIs and understand the data provided by SAP. Special adaptations have previously also been required for the information flow in the opposite direction, when production data needed to be transmitted to the SAP solutions. Their content and structure had to be adapted to the “receiver horizon”. Economically and technically speaking, such system transitions have always been problematic and this remains the case.

Manufacturing Dashboards

Manufacturing Dashboards

Modern, efficient production relies on important master data. A comparison with links using BAPIs shows that SAP xMII synchronizes processes and automatically transfers production schedules, specifications, material data, formulae or other information required from the ERP environment to production, without this data having to be replicated. As regards the information flow in the opposite direction, SAP xMII accesses a whole host of production data. The Manufacturing Services Adapter (MSA) within SAP xMII opens up universal access to processes at production level – from SCADA (Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition – a network control system for electrical networks) and LIMS (Laboratory Information and Management Systems) to SPC (Statistical Process Control) and MES (Manufacturing Execution System). SAP xMII transfers data from a wide variety of sources via the SAP NetWeaver Exchange Infrastructure to the SAP NetWeaver Portal or the SAP Manufacturing Dashboard, where it is displayed as user-specific production performance indicators (Key Performance Indicators – KPIs). SAP xMII thus provides employees with role-based support for monitoring complex production processes and reacting to exceptional circumstances through event-driven alerts.
Over 400 successful installations with the product’s predecessor underline the importance of SAP xMII to the manufacturing industry. A cost comparison over a five-year period for a company with 20 production sites and a comprehensive, integrated production solution clearly demonstrates the benefits of SAP xMII. Without an integrated solution, at least 50 interfaces to SAP components are required. Programming and maintenance – usually costing around 20,000 dollars per interface – generate costs amounting to roughly five million dollars during this period. Because SAP xMII integrates directly into the existing solutions at ERP level and in production, it saves on maintenance and the associated costs. This is not merely a notional calculation. According to AMR Research, “New ERP and MES architectures based on Web services form a basis for composite applications that synchronize widely spread production sites with standardized, global processes. Dow Corning, Whirlpool, Procter & Gamble, Colgate Palmolive and others have demonstrated that it is possible to introduce composite applications such as SAP xMII within a matter of months and obtain a return on their investment in a matter of weeks.”

Torsten Kipping

Torsten Kipping

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