The time when automobiles were developed, manufactured and assembled by the manufacturer in their entirety from the spark plug to the exhaust is long gone. For some time now, the majority of components and parts have come from suppliers. Suppliers are also taking over the responsibility for an ever increasing number of tasks in production, development, organization and logistics which were previously the domain of the manufacturer. While in the past suppliers developed components according to precise specifications from the automobile manufacturers, they are increasingly operating as module and system suppliers and deliver their parts directly to the assembly line. According to information from the German Automobile Industry Association (VDA), the level of production of German automobile manufacturers is only around 25 percent, while this figure is even lower in modern production sites. 75 percent of vehicle components are thus provided by suppliers. Intelligent logistics that function effectively are essential in this differentiated added value structure.
To ensure that the automobile assembly process runs smoothly, the right components and assemblies must always be in the right place at the right time (Just-In-Time, JIT). An add-on to this process is Just-In-Sequence (JIS) delivery which also takes into account the correct sequence of components. This may sound relatively easy but is, in fact, a highly complex business when one considers that approximately 5000 individual parts go to make up a vehicle. In final assembly, the number of individual parts is significantly reduced by fitting pre-manufactured assemblies but approximately 30 modules must still be supplied to the automobile manufacturer for each vehicle in an exact sequence. For this reason, manufacturers are placing a greater emphasis on geographical proximity and demand that their suppliers locate production sites in ‘supplier parks’ directly adjacent to the automobile plants. From here, the required components are produced, pre-assembled and delivered via special transport systems to the relevant assembly station in the plant. This approach has considerable advantages such as greater security of supply and the ability to react to changes faster, not to mention the shorter transport distances.
In conjunction with its partners T-Systems and Seeburger, SAP Deutschland has developed a special JIT/JIS solution which supports customers in meeting these demands and saves them from having to develop their own customized Just-In-Time software. The solution focuses on the typical logistical processes of a JIS supplier and is thus extremely “lean” and can be implemented quickly. It combines components of SAP for Automotive such as delivery plan management for suppliers to the automotive industry, JIT-Inbound/JIT-Outbound (managing inbound and outbound call-offs in synchrony with the production processes), packaging logistics and delivery and transport management with extremely flexible JIT/JIS control. This is mapped using ‘action matrices’ which enable individual control for each automobile manufacturer, delivery point or material number. The solution is rounded off with a range of communication and conversion tools. These include OFTP adapters (Odette File Transfer Protocol), mapping and conversion tables.
The solution comes pre-configured and can therefore be installed quickly and easily: It can be fully implemented within a short period of time. The focus of the solution is on logistical management, such as assembly, procurement and delivery as well as mapping JIT/JIS processes. In addition to the standard functions, T-Systems, a Special Expertise Partner SAP for Automotive, has developed additional modules to be able to meet the complex requirements of various automobile manufacturers. These include an expanded parts group location system based on the class and feature system or additional sequencing options when simultaneously supplying several assembly lines at the automotive manufacturer plant. Process models developed, optimized and pre-defined by T-Systems are used for this purpose.
Linking up via IDOC
The solution also supports communication via EDI (Electronic Data Interchange). The SAP Partner Seeburger is responsible for this component. A system tailor-made for the relevant processes developed by Seeburger ensures secure data exchange for popular standards and takes relevant manufacturer specifications into consideration. Emergency routines round of the solution.
Due to its open architecture, the JIT/JIS solution can be linked up to the central SAP application without any problems. The various systems communicate via IDOC structures present in SAP R/3. Depending on the specific requirements, the central system may not necessarily have installed SAP for Automotive. Furthermore, the solution can also be linked up to non-SAP systems.
Clear “division of labor” between parent factory and JIT plant
While the near real-time logistical processes such as processing JIT/JIS signals, final assembly and delivery in the correct sequence are mapped using the separate solution on-site, the central functions continue to run in the parent plant system. This includes requirements planning, production of semi-finished products, purchasing and managing payment information and monetary flows with the manufacturer. Various configurations are pre-defined for this purpose in the JIT solution, e.g. for the different forms of billing such as individual invoices or aggregated daily delivery notes.
JIT/JIS processes can be managed in a customized and simple manner using the action matrix. Manufacturer-specific EDI data is integrated into the system using preset mapping and conversion routines. The delivery information is also automatically updated in the central system and is thus available in near real-time to all authorized users.