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Internet of Things: Five Tried-and-Tested Scenarios

Feature Article | November 23, 2017 by Hans Rauwolf

The Internet of Things (IoT) offers endless opportunities for enterprises to make their manufacturing, logistics, and services processes smart. So where exactly will they see the benefits of embracing new technologies?

We look at some compelling examples from the SAP environment, where IoT is already an everyday reality in many lines of business and where the latest technology trends are helping companies optimize their packing process, their warehousing, their flow of materials, and much more.

1. Streamlining the material flow in manufacturing and logistics

When we think of Industry 4.0, we think of sensors. Their many uses include helping manufacturers track work pieces in real time and automating the flow of materials from the warehouse. Work pieces are fitted with RFID tags that allow sensors to transmit each component’s position to the relevant SAP software in real time. This allows human operators to refer directly to the SAP system to find out where and when orders are ready for processing ‒ thus making optimal use of time lags in the production process.

2. Enabling autonomous machines

Real-time interaction between machines and backend systems allows efficient make-to-order production. Manufacturers can set up interfaces in an SAP system to enable communication between external systems and almost any machine. Thus, a machine can independently download and execute a “recipe” for mixing individual components or ingredients. While the machine is running, it generates data, which it transmits back into the system. This information provides the foundation for further automation and simplification.

3. Optimizing high-rack warehouses

Operators of high-rack warehouses can create a digital twin to optimize their collaboration with manufacturers and service partners. The digital twin of the warehouse is mapped in the SAP system and shows the condition and position of the assets within it. This makes it possible, for example, to check and monitor the condition of the high-rack aisles. Manufacturers, service providers, and plant operators can all access the relevant digital files via the SAP Asset Intelligence Network portal and optionally store items such as operating manuals and certificates there. When they receive a service request, high-rack storage system operators and service technicians can open a ticket in the system, communicate with one another, and access all the data they need on the go.

4. Establishing new maintenance processes

Service technicians are often responsible for a large number of machines distributed across a wide area. For them, augmented reality smart glasses such as Microsoft’s ”HoloLens” can take service and maintenance processes to a completely new level. Teamed with SAP S/4HANA, SAP Cloud Platform , and a 3D engine, smart glasses can optimize maintenance tasks by ensuring that service technicians have all the information they need ‒ quite literally ‒ right in front of their eyes. They are also empowered to examine the inside of the machine before physically touching it. And, if they have questions, they can communicate with their colleagues in the back office via the HoloLens.

5. Identifying potential hazards early

The cloud-based IoT network SAP Asset Intelligence Network links up manufacturers, operators, and service partners. If a sensor reports an unusually high concentration of dust in a machine room, the machine manufacturer can decide from hundreds of miles away whether or not it needs to send a field technician to the site. Sensors are also the key to predictive maintenance because they transmit information that is stored in the cloud as a basis for detecting possible issues before they cause trouble.

Whether in manufacturing, logistics, or service, IoT-based solutions offer a wealth of opportunities for optimizing processes and making them more efficient.

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