Have you ever thought about how a piping system can contribute to climate protection?

Based in Germany, aquatherm is a global manufacturer of polypropylene pipe systems for plant construction and building services. Polypropylene is a material known for its ecological properties and high temperature and pressure resistance.

Climate protection, green energy, and clean water: with all these, aquatherm wants to contribute to preserving the natural foundations of life everywhere in the world. Its sustainable products, comprehensive service, and expert knowledge are part of its commitment to a climate-neutral life. The production line covers 17,000 articles across six lines for various applications, such as connection to heating and cooling, heating and cooling networks, and potable water.

With about 500 employees, the company operates in 70 countries via a strong partner network.

In 2022, aquatherm implemented SAP S/4HANA Cloud as its core business system and integrated a legacy solution to manage its production processes. But it heavily relied on manual data input, resulting in poor data quality and a high risk of human error. To meet increasing demand for its products and keep up with the company’s growth, aquatherm aimed to optimize its production processes by incorporating the latest technology.

Streamlining Operations and Automating Processes

Patrick Keller, SAP technical consultant, Digital Manufacturing, aquatherm, explained: “We wanted to streamline operations across nine manufacturing divisions and six production lines, minimize manual input, reduce interfaces, and track performance on the production floor. Our objective was also to gain visibility into machine activities, comparing key performance indicators across machines, workers, and production areas. In addition, we wanted to establish comprehensive traceability throughout the production process to swiftly address any issues.”

The solution was to implement a cutting-edge manufacturing execution system that was adaptable for the future and able to eliminate any manufacturing errors quickly by leveraging real-time machine data and KPIs. “After careful consideration, we decided to utilize SAP Digital Manufacturing for collecting machine data to automate processes. Overall, our intention is to utilize as many products as possible within the SAP cosmos,” Keller said.

Sustainable, risk-resilient manufacturing is here

SAP Digital Manufacturing is a manufacturing execution system (MES) provided as a cloud solution that can support sustainable, risk-resilient manufacturing operations through a resource-efficient, Industry 4.0 approach. It helps optimize production processes by connecting the business systems with the shop floor equipment and can enable execution, visibility, and analysis.

Establishing a Single Source of Truth to Improve Visibility

SAP Digital Manufacturing is currently implemented at one of the production areas, providing aquatherm with insight into machine performance and any issues that arise. It allows the company to check indicators from machines, like production times, and helps reduce downtime. As SAP S/4HANA Cloud is integrated with SAP Digital Manufacturing, information is pulled from SAP S/4HANA Cloud and transferred back from SAP Digital Manufacturing, enabling real-time insights to help improve decision-making.

“We appreciate the benefits of this cloud-based solution, as we get quarterly software updates and new features,” Keller said.

One of the challenges aquatherm faced was obtaining necessary and correct machine data from various machine manufacturers with different standards. By working with SAP and its partner BA Business Advice GmbH, it developed a standard machine template to use for each machine. “By utilizing the SAP fit-to-standard approach, we avoided custom development and stayed within our existing processes without the need for significant change to production processes,” Keller said. “With support of BA Business Advice, we went live within only six months, after a three-month proof of concept,” he added.

The overall benefits aquatherm achieved include:

  • Achieved a 100% unified overview of manufacturing operations
  • Experienced 90% less time spent on PC-based tasks through automated data exchange, freeing machine operators to focus on their core role
  • Established a single source of truth for manufacturing operations, significantly improving visibility
  • Improved data quality and freed up time for machine operators by eliminating manual processes and interfaces
  • Empowered key stakeholders with accurate, real-time data for more transparent production management and informed decision-making
  • Laid the foundations for enhanced data analytics and AI solutions to support future optimizations, helping to boost overall production efficiency

Future Plans to Boost Overall Production Efficiency

Looking to the future, aquatherm plans to roll out the solution across all production areas. Moreover, it plans to leverage the SAP Digital Manufacturing bundle for insights to even better control production operations and further integrate the SAP S/4HANA Cloud data exchange with SAP Digital Manufacturing in both directions. It also plans to utilize SAP Analytics Cloud and the production connector to help exchange data between SAP Digital Manufacturing and industry-specific standard data sources.  

“SAP Digital Manufacturing has enabled us to digitalize and automate our production processes thanks to a single source of truth. Accurate, real-time data ensures that there are no blind spots, so we can keep our operations running smoothly,” Keller said.

Karin Fent is senior director of Global Customer Success Digital Supply Chain at SAP.

Top photo courtesy of aquatherm.

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