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At Hannover Messe, SAP Presents End-to-End Solutions for the Digital Factories of Tomorrow

Feature Article | March 20, 2018 by Andreas Schmitz

At this year’s Hannover Messe (HMI), SAP is showcasing “Generation 2018” of the open integrated factory, demonstrating how customers can create a digital twin for end-to-end processes – from product design and customer orders to manufacturing and product inspection.

The main advantage: flexible and scalable manufacturing with mobile assembly workstations and matrix production.

Generation 2018 of the open integrated factory (OIF) focuses on the assembly of a valve used in bottle filling equipment because this “complex component from a complex machine,” as Ralf Lehmann puts it, is a good example of the interconnection between customized goods orders and manufacturing processes, the supply chain, and  digital twins.

For Lehmann, senior director Solution Management at SAP, Generation 2018 clearly highlights the potential of digital manufacturing solutions from SAP (see graphic 1 below). The showcase factory at HMI makes one thing especially clear: Integrating processes opens up a wide range of options – from identifying the most efficient way of manufacturing an order to forming new business models based on digital twin technology.

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HMI 2018: Four Focuses for the Digital Factories of Tomorrow

SAP is using component supply for mechanical engineering at this year’s HMI to showcase what is achievable today. To complete a valve, a control head is first fitted onto a cylinder and then compressed-air hoses are connected. The control head can be operated electronically or mechanically and, like the hoses, is available in a range of colors. Once the selected product has been configured, several innovations help manufacturers to produce their products as efficiently as possible.

1. Efficient Manufacturing Processes

Driverless transportation systems act as mobile workbenches, completing individual stages of the manufacturing process. To do this, they drive up to specific processing stations throughout the factory. The showcase features the station where control heads are fitted and air hoses or other components are connected. Decisions on where the vehicles go next are based on the current situation and are made at short notice. The vehicles constantly communicate with each other about their next destinations. So, if a station becomes temporarily inaccessible, they can react immediately.

To ensure that these decisions are coordinated, the manufacturing control system, the SAP Manufacturing Execution application, creates a dynamic decision tree (see graphic 2 above). This graphic is available in the SAP HANA-based database of graphs.

“SAP Manufacturing Execution controls and monitors the options open to the vehicles, and deletes those options that are not suitable in the current situation from the database,” explains Rüdiger Fritz, product manager for Plant Connectivity at SAP. The system can freely and actively adapt its approach so that the vehicles and the manufacturing process do not become rigid. This decentralized decision support accelerates manufacturing and increases flexibility.

“Top-down planning specifications are just too static and liable to disruption,” says Fritz. “But with digital manufacturing solutions from SAP, you can give the whole system a certain amount of freedom to make decentralized decisions on the manufacturing process behind an order, and the next steps in the process.”

2. 3D Printing Fast Enough for Manufacturing Processes

Whereas certain steps such as fitting the control head and connecting the hoses need to be completed manually, the vehicle automatically docks at other stations. A nameplate bearing a serial number and the name of the recipient stands in for a customizable component that a 3D printer can create beforehand.

“A 3D printer is able to create several different-shaped components simultaneously,” explains Carsten Dietze-Selent, product owner for Manufacturing at SAP. In recent years, manufacturers of 3D printers have been able to significantly increase the print speed, making it possible to manufacture customized components using 3D printing. Configuring different customer orders updates the print file that is required by the 3D printer.

Visitors to SAP’s stand at HMI 2018 will see an industrial printer that can simultaneously print nameplates and replacement parts using different materials and colors.

3. Digital Twins: Digital Records for Components

Every component is designed using a 3D computer-aided design (CAD) system, which means that a digital version of the component is also available. This digital “design twin” is enhanced with manufacturing engineering data and production process information, including the component’s documentation and genealogy, manufacturing and maintenance information, and data from sensors.

“This information breathes life into the valve,” explains Fritz, who believes that a digital twin for future service processes is born when a newly manufactured product is entered into SAP Asset Intelligence Network. Data is added to the respective profile straight away, and can be reviewed at any time. As such, if a factory worker loosens some screws while doing maintenance work, they can check the digital twin to find out how tight the screws were before. “The digital twin makes their work easier,” says Fritz.

4. Better Efficiency with the Cloud

Manufacturing managers, plant managers, and COOs have a different perspective. They want to know how to make processes more efficient and how the plant compares to others. What proportion of components were produced within their specified timeframe? What percentage of orders are overdue? And how big is the discrepancy between target manufacturing durations and the actual time taken?

SAP released an application last year to answer these and other questions: SAP Digital Manufacturing Insights. Lehmann calls this product the “digital backbone” of manufacturing, because all standard key performance indicators (KPIs) can be assessed from a single dashboard. This gives the COO insight into the level of productivity at the plant, measuring the overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) in all of its facets. If other valve manufacturers also measure these KPIs, the COO can aggregate and analyze the data, and make direct comparisons, establishing a solid basis for decisions.

More information: Visit SAP at HMI 2018 in Hannover.

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