At this year’s Hannover Messe trade fair, SAP and its partners showed how they are embedding artificial intelligence (AI) in their products to help companies achieve new levels of excellence in manufacturing and other industries.

The glass bottles on the high-speed filling line made quiet clinking sounds as they sped around the bend of the track. The visitors to the SAP booth at the internationally renowned industrial trade fair were waiting for the moment when an optical sensor, using AI support, spotted the bottle that was only three-quarters full and kicked it out of the line and into a defects bay. “This system has a capacity of 6,400 bottles per hour,” said a grinning Ben Hughes from SAP’s Solution & Innovation Experience team. “In comparison, the original system from our partner Krones can fill 50,000 bottles, but that would be much too loud here at the trade fair booth.”

The showcase demonstrated how the cloud-based SAP Digital Manufacturing solution could serve as the process order management system for SAP customers, whether they typically work with a lot size of one or with continuous manufacturing at higher speeds. The purchase order could have come from an SAP S/4HANA system, for instance, and ended here with execution in production. “We can see the hardware integration with our own eyes,” said Hughes.

AI was also involved: a camera captured the fill level of each bottle. If it was outside the defined tolerance, the bottle was rejected and this information was sent to the SAP system. A manufacturer could use this data to calculate the production costs for the system and the profitability of every work center, all with AI support. The data from all systems would give experts and management insights into how well the production process was working. This, in turn, would help improve planning.

Complete Portfolio from the Industry’s Point of View

Hannover Messe 2024 took place from April 22-26. Muhammad Alam paid a visit for the first time in his role as leader of the SAP Product Engineering Board area. At the SAP booth, which featured the motto “Bring out new manufacturing excellence,” he emphasized the importance of AI as an integral part of SAP solutions: “AI has the opportunity to fundamentally create significant value for our customers, particularly in the industrial space, with an ability to create resiliency from a supply chain perspective that just wouldn’t be possible without the application of AI.”

SAP demonstrated nearly its entire portfolio in an industrial context in Hannover. “SAP uses what we call ‘end-to-end scenarios’ to do this,” said Georg Kube, head of Industry Data Ecosystems. To reflect this, the booth was set up in line with this logic. The “design to operate” graphical element, which maps all steps of the manufacturing process, showed the corresponding step in the value chain at each station of the booth. “We integrate our solutions with the specific process that manufacturers have,” Kube said. “They design a product, then it’s manufactured, then it’s bought by a customer, and in the end it is being used and maintained. We offer integrated solutions for every step in this process.”

Working Together for Success

Darcy MacClaren, global CRO for Digital Supply Chain, acknowledged the challenges faced by SAP, its customers, and its partners: “We are facing environmental and geopolitical disruptions and we want to be sustainable.” She said collaboration is the key to achieving these daunting goals, a message that was echoed in many presentations and podium discussions at the booth.

Deliver individualized, sustainable, and smart equipment, products, and components

For example, experts from BMW, Witte Automotive, and SAP discussed how the automotive industry network Catena-X is creating a standard that enables collaboration, data interchange, and transparency to support decarbonization along the value chain. Catena-X serves as a blueprint for other industrial networks under the Manufacturing-X umbrella, such as Factory-X for factory equipment suppliers and operators.

The showcases at the trade fair booth wouldn’t be possible without partners, which also play a decisive role in SAP’s competitiveness and future viability. “The partner ecosystem is a key success factor for SAP,” said Andreas Markus Thon, head of Digital Supply Chain MEE. “They are enriching our suite with their applications and solutions and are critical for high quality and successful adoption and use of our solutions.”

A Fleet of Robots Delivers Materials

SAP’s “Modular Manufacturing” showcase let visitors witness examples of successful partner collaboration for themselves. It demonstrated a fleet of autonomous transport robots that delivered a variety of parts for a valve from storage to assembly stations. Thanks to the fleet control software with embedded AI from SAP partner Kinexon, the robots from different manufacturers worked together seamlessly, making autonomous, situational decisions as to which station should assemble or disassemble the parts. The scenario demonstrated that SAP systems can also implement modular production, which is typically used in manufacturing scenarios involving many variants and low to medium product volumes. SAP S/4HANA, SAP Extended Warehouse Management, and SAP Digital Manufacturing were deployed here.

The “Industrial Metaverse” showcase was another big draw. It let visitors to the SAP booth put themselves in the shoes of a systems operator, using VR (virtual reality) glasses to inspect a system virtually, even if the manufacturing was taking place on the opposite side of the globe. The “Injection Molding Machine” scenario vividly demonstrated how planning and manufacturing dovetail in integrated, agile, made-to-order production, as the machine produced colorful recycled plastic cups for guests at the end of the process.

Other topics at the trade fair included potential uses of digital twin solutions, such as virtual models and real-time simulations, as well as collaboration between people and machines. A summary description of all the presented scenarios is available here.

The World’s Largest Industrial Trade Fair

The guiding theme of Hannover Messe 2024 was “Energizing a sustainable industry.” Nearly 4,000 exhibitors from 60 countries presented solutions for a high-performance, sustainable industry. As part of an industrial ecosystem, they showed how carbon neutrality can be achieved through electrification, digitalization, and automation.

Companies from Germany, China, Turkey, the U.S., Italy, and France booked the largest exhibition spaces. Around 1,600 speakers appeared on the venue’s 11 conference stages. This year’s partner country was Norway.

Under its motto “Bring out new manufacturing excellence,” SAP demonstrated how it is using AI to advance manufacturing processes, among other solutions, at its more than 1,000-square-meter booth in Hall 15. Visitors to SAP’s booth had the opportunity to see 27 product demonstrations and nine interactive showcases. More than 25 SAP partners showed the collaboration and variety of potential uses of their solutions, and 35 presentations by experts and customers were featured at the booth.

Photo ©nottebrock.

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