Hannover Messe: The Power of the Digital Supply Chain

At booth A02, hall 17 of Hannover Messe, the world’s largest industrial trade fair, SAP is showing how intelligent solutions can improve products over their entire life cycle.

At SAP’s booth at Hannover Messe 2019, an expected 220,000 trade visitors will have the opportunity to experience live how digital networking can help perfect real-life processes along the value chain. From product design to planning, production, and logistics, and even operations, an end-to-end showcase will emphasize the strengths of intelligent networking.

A prime example is a double-seat valve by Evoguard. The valve, which is required in the food and beverage industry, helps ensure that different substances are reliably separated from one another at pipe junctions. No matter which station the valve is currently passing in the integrated supply chain, SAP solutions optimize every step of its way.

Intelligent Product Development is Predictive

The speed with which the digital revolution is spreading in industry is visible from the start. The valve in question was already presented at Hannover Messe in 2018, but as a strictly mechanical component. Since then, Evoguard has identified additional customer needs for quality control and equipped its product with electronics and sensors in response.

A complex upgrade like this poses many questions for the designers: Where will the new parts be located? How will the performance requirements be met? Which materials will be needed? Every modification also affects the manufacturing, warehousing, and transportation processes, as well as changes the total costs.

Hala Zeine

“Our software can calculate these costs predictively over all downstream process steps. The development process benefits from the significant improvements to prototypes, testing, and simulations,” explains Hala Zeine, president of Digital Supply Chain and Manufacturing at SAP. “SAP’s major strength is our ability to serve the full supply chain.”

The digital twin of the product is already created at this stage and serves as a “single source of truth” for all parties, a reliable source of data that provides information about all parts and materials used.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited SAP’s booth at Hannover Messe 2019

Artificial Intelligence Supports Planning

The modified valve now has to be added to the existing business plan, in which expected demand and the available capacities determine the necessary inventories of preliminary products. Machine learning makes precise predictions here, enabling the procurement department to make informed decisions.

The SAP Global Track and Trace solution creates a shared network of manufacturers, suppliers, and freight forwarders. The result is shipment tracking similar to the popular, convenient consumer solutions used by shipping companies. If sudden delays occur in any step, the manufacturer can quickly determine which production order is linked with the affected shipment. Timely intervention can then help avoid impending production shutdowns.

Production: Bringing Machines to the People

The farthest-reaching changes associated with the fourth industrial revolution will likely occur on the shop floor itself. In the past, work here always focused on the direct production process.

The first wave of industrialization created a factory system in which everything was concentrated at one point: the central steam pipes, which all the machines were dependent on. The introduction of electricity enabled the first segmentation of this rigid structure, but the workshops continued to be characterized by the nature of the assembly line. Ultimately, sophisticated computer chips automated significant parts of the production lines but proved incapable of eliminating their serial logic completely.

The digital factory is different. The various components of the double-seat valve are already available in the warehouse as a ready-made kit. A collaborative robot (cobot) picks them up. But instead of feeding them onto a conventional conveyor belt, the autonomous vehicle navigates to modular stations, where it also serves as a workbench. In the process, people can move around freely; the vehicle can detect them and stops when necessary. The SAP Digital Manufacturing Cloud solution enables the robot to act like a human navigating the supermarket checkout. It recognizes which stations are currently occupied and sends the workpiece to the most opportune available option.

During her visit at the SAP booth at Hannover Messe, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was able to see a solution that can help with an issue she addressed in a recent podcast, improving the inclusion of people with disabilities. This co-innovation project between SAP and Munich-based startup 4tiitoo enhances SAP applications with eye tracking options. Artificial intelligence (AI) is used to translate eye movements into program commands. This is also a blessing for industries that have to maintain high hygienic standards. In the clean rooms of chip production and the foods industry, physical contact by humans is often challenge number one.

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Logistics and Operations: Keeping Track of the Product

After the product leaves the shop floor, intelligent systems help to plan the logistics down to the smallest detail. The position of the parts on the truck and the sequence in which they have to be loaded are apparent at first glance. The person responsible for transporting the finished valve can now use the same cross-company network that was used for planning, except that the manufacturer now assumes the role of supplier.

In the past, delivery to the final customer often represented the end of a company’s involvement with its product — “out of sight, out of mind.” That is changing now. Thanks to digital twins, a manufacturer and an operator can now jointly access a digital model that is identical to the physical part. Maintenance and upkeep — traditionally duties of the operator — can now be supported or even taken over entirely by the manufacturer, opening up new business opportunities. The data from the digital twin can be combined with machine learning to conduct predictive analyses of likely failure points, based on defined thresholds. As a result, maintenance no longer has to be scheduled at rigidly defined intervals, but instead can be based on the actual wear and tear of the components. This data is particularly valuable to manufacturers. Knowledge of how products are used by the end customer can help to understand their needs even better, making the manufacturing process more customer-centric.

Realization: Cross-Company Collaboration in Open Industry Alliance 4.0

Digitalization is also increasing the need for businesses to collaborate beyond their own premises. Many find this challenging, not only because of the resulting changes in the corporate culture, but also because cross-company standards for reliable communication have to be established.

Nils Herzberg

At Hannover Messe, companies from plant engineering, industrial automation, and software industries – including SAP – have announced the creation of an open ecosystem aimed at avoiding the implementation of standalone solutions.

“For SAP, the Open Industry Alliance 4.0 is a long-term commitment,” said Nils Herzberg, global head of Strategic Partnerships for Digital Supply Chain and Industry 4.0 at SAP. “Our goal is to have up to 80 percent of the machines in a smart factory speaking the same language.”