Manufacturing adhesives is a complex process and ensuring production line machines are well-maintained, safe, clean, and calibrated is a constant challenge.
That’s why Jowat looked to empower its technicians to prioritize work more effectively, manage inventory and costs more efficiently, and make smarter strategic decisions about asset investments.
Avoiding Sticky Situations with Effective Maintenance
The production line sits at the heart of any manufacturing company. If production misses a beat, the whole business feels the impact. And if a breakdown takes production offline, the consequences can be both operationally and financially disastrous. That’s why Jowat, one of the world’s leading suppliers of industrial adhesives, takes plant maintenance very seriously. As a key supplier to the furniture, packaging, textiles, automotive, and electrical industries, any delay in delivering its products could cause significant disruption and potentially cost the company and its clients millions of Euros. So, it’s vital that all production line equipment is always properly maintained.
Natanael Hernandez, SAP manager at Jowat Corporation, explained: “Adhesive manufacturing is particularly challenging because of the nature of the product. Our machines need regular and thorough cleaning to avoid contamination between batches. Hot glue can be hazardous to work with, so safety is critical. And to meet our environmental goals, we aim to recycle as much of the water and oil we use as possible, which adds to complexity and cost of labor.”
To keep operations running smoothly, Jowat’s maintenance teams need to do more than just corrective break/fix maintenance. Regular inspections and preventive maintenance are key for technicians and supervisors. Moreover, many of the company’s production line machines rely on expensive components that take months to manufacture, so inventory management is vital to ensure that technicians always have the parts they need. And in the bigger picture, Jowat also wants insight from maintenance processes to feed into strategic decision-making. “We realized that if we could gain more insight into the total cost of maintaining each of our production line machines, we could make better decisions,” said Hernandez. “For example, does it make financial sense to keep this line running, or should we replace it with something more efficient?”
It was clear that with a deeper understanding of its maintenance and inventory processes, the company could streamline the management of its plants and make smarter investment decisions. That’s where SAP came in.
Digitalization Transforms Asset Management
Until a few years ago, Jowat relied on a legacy application to manage maintenance tasks. The system was not integrated with the company’s core SAP applications, so technicians and supervisors had to manage their daily tasks manually. “The paperwork made it impossible to track time and labor costs, and it was difficult to establish an audit trail,” said Hernandez. “So, we decided to introduce the SAP Enterprise Asset Management solution (SAP EAM) to digitalize and standardize our maintenance processes.”
Integrated with Jowat’s core SAP S/4HANA software for inventory, purchasing, sales, and cost accounting, SAP EAM introduced a more formal process around the creation of maintenance work orders. The solution also provided an inventory management system that enabled Jowat to manage its stock of spare parts. “For the first time, we had an accurate view of our inventory, as well as the cost and lead time for ordering replacements,” said Hernandez. “This makes it easier for us to maintain appropriate reserves and gives visibility to other companies within the Jowat group. So, if a plant in Germany needs a part that we have in stock in the U.S., they can see it and buy it from us straight away instead of waiting months for the manufacturer to ship it to them.”
SAP EAM was a big step forward for the maintenance team, but its user interface was designed for power users sitting at full-sized screens, not mechanics and electricians working on the factory floor. “We needed something simpler and more streamlined that our technicians could use on their mobile devices,” explained Hernandez. “At the same time, we wanted to be able to track the work they were doing more accurately.”
Jowat discovered the SAP Service and Asset Manager mobile app, which is part of the SAP’s industry cloud. “SAP Service and Asset Manager was exactly what we were looking for. We loved the simplicity and it was a great fit for our business processes. As soon as our technicians saw the new application, they wanted to work with it. Now, our technicians and supervisors have an intuitive mobile app that gives them the visibility and control they need to maintain our production line equipment more efficiently,” he added.
Working with AG, an experienced SAP partner, Jowat launched the new mobile app at its U.S. plant and planned a global rollout for its manufacturing sites in Germany, Malaysia, and China. So far, 21 technicians are using the app on their iPad Mini devices, while seven supervisors can choose between using the app on their iPhone or logging into the main SAP EAM interface. To help ensure smooth adoption of the solution, Jowat is also working with the SAP Enterprise Support team.
Doubling Productivity with an Intuitive Mobile Solution
With SAP Service and Asset Manager, Jowat’s technicians can see all corrective and preventive maintenance work orders assigned to them immediately, so they can organize their work more effectively. For example, if they are assigned several tasks on the same machine or in the same area of the plant, they can do them all at once instead of spending time going back and forth. For supervisors, the app helps make it easier to understand the status of open work orders and prioritize more efficiently. They can move more urgent tasks forward or put less important ones on hold and, crucially, they can document the reasons for their decisions. If a work order can’t progress until a replacement part has been delivered, it’s immediately clear why the job is on hold.
Since the launch of the SAP solutions for asset management, Jowat has seen a reduction in total downtime on its production lines. Moreover, productivity has effectively doubled. Before the implementation, around 45% of work orders in the system were actively worked on by technicians. Today, that figure has risen to around 85%-90%. At the same time, the maintenance backlog has been reduced by 75%, from three months to around three weeks. “A three-week backlog is probably optimal for our business, because there will always be a proportion of tasks that have to wait for a viable maintenance window,” explained Hernandez. “The key thing is that the backlog doesn’t increase – once we got it down to three weeks, it has never crept back up again.”
The app can also provide new capabilities for reviewing and approving completed work orders. Technicians can use their mobile device to take pictures of the before and after state of the assets they are working on to document the repairs they have made. And if during a maintenance visit a technician notices a problem that hasn’t been reported yet, they can take a photo or video and send it directly into SAP EAM to generate a new work order. Inventory management is simpler, too. Whenever stock of a required component falls below a minimum threshold, the system can automatically trigger a purchase requisition to order replacements. “Before, we didn’t know what we were spending on spare parts,” added Hernandez. “Now, we can allocate costs to specific lines and even specific machines. With full visibility of the cost of parts and labor, we can make much more informed decisions on whether to continue maintaining an asset or replace it with a newer, more efficient machine.”
Expanding Functionality in the Future
In the future, Jowat hopes to build on the success of this project by expanding its use of SAP Service and Asset Manager to introduce calibration capabilities. The company is also evaluating introducing the SAP Integrated Business Planning for Supply Chain solution, as well as taking advantage of the predictive material and resource planning functionality in SAP S/4HANA.
“At the moment, our focus is on maintenance, but we know there is so much more we can do,” concluded Hernandez. “We’re excited to work with SAP and great partners like AG to explore the possibilities.”
Karin Fent is senior director of Global Customer Success, Digital Supply Chain, at SAP.