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MAPAL Teams with SAP and Apple to Digitally Transform a Big Challenge with Small Parts

Feature Article | February 28, 2017 by David Trites

For industrial manufacturers, managing C-parts – the small, comparably inexpensive parts and tools used and consumed during the manufacturing process, is a big challenge. MAPAL, a family owned precision metal cutting tool supplier based in Germany, is tackling this challenge with innovative technology solutions from SAP and Apple.

At first glance, C-part management may not seem complicated. But just imagine how many small parts and tools a major auto or aerospace manufacturer uses worldwide on a daily basis. Then imagine how many different departments are involved in the procurement, storage, use, and maintenance of C-parts, how much data comes with each part and tool, and how much collaboration is required between manufacturers and suppliers to ensure C-parts flow and run efficiently.

What you see is that C-part management is complicated and expensive. The administrative costs are disproportionately high compared to the cost per item and large volumes of important data are locked away in disparate systems and spreadsheets throughout the supplier and manufacturer ecosystem.

Cloud-Based Platform Gives Users Real-Time Information

To battle this challenge, MAPAL created c-Com, an open cloud-based platform that enables complete lifecycle management of C-parts. c-Com was built on the SAP Cloud Platform and has many advantages.

In c-Com, both manufactures and suppliers can easily share and maintain all of their C-part data. This gives users on both sides of the process an unobstructed view of accurate, real-time information. Better C-part data allows manufacturers to harmonize procurement across locations, driving down purchasing costs and optimizing inventory.

“When suppliers, like us, and manufacturers start sharing C-part data and collaborating on a single platform we can see when parts and tools need to be replenished, repaired, or replaced much faster and easier,” explains Stephan Köstler, Engineering Manager of Mechatronic Systems at MAPAL.

c-Com also enables manufacturers to provide their suppliers with accurate C-part utilization and performance reports across manufacturing locations. In turn, suppliers can provide manufactures with the latest specs and updates to ensure optimal usage of parts and tools.

Mobile App for Technicians

To make it easy for suppliers to upload and maintain their C-part data in c-Com, MAPAL created a mobile data care app using the SAP Cloud Platform SDK for iOS. The app allows technicians, working in the manufacturing facilities, to quickly edit C-part data on the spot and save it in the cloud. Even if Wi-Fi isn’t available, the data care app saves and uploads the information as soon as the mobile device gains connection.

“Having a mobile app for tool data maintenance is important because to get accurate data you need to be onsite, standing in front of the machine, examining it to see what is happening with the tool. It gives you real-time data capture capability and updates the central database for everyone with authorization to see,” said Köstler.

MAPAL also used the SAP Cloud Platform SDK for iOS to create a mobile app for tool managers working in manufacturing facilities. Built on the SAP Cloud Platform, the tool manager app houses all relevant tool info, like its meta data, usage, and downtime, in real-time on an iOS mobile device. Tool managers can simply scan a QR code on the tool to pull up its digital twin and complete data set. They can also see every tool needed to produce a work item and monitor overall production efficiency at a glance.

The tool manager app connects to backend ERP systems, so if a tool needs repair or replacement the app can be used to take a picture, make notes, and create and send service requests to suppliers. If the tool needs replacement, a purchase requisition will automatically popup on the c-Com platform and can be forwarded to the supplier with a simple touch of a button.

Like a Startup: MAPAL, SAP, and Apple Improve User Experience

MAPAL set up a small team that works with SAP and Apple on these innovations. “It’s like a start-up. We have the engineers and use cases and SAP and Apple have the technology and UX design experience needed to turn our ideas into useful platforms and mobile applications that solve real problems,” said Köstler.

MAPAL’s digitization of the C-part management is a win-win for the industrial manufacturing industry. Suppliers and manufactures gain centralized, cloud-based data management and mobile apps that increase collaboration and efficiency, drive down costs, and simplify work management. “Everyone in the industry has issues with data so if we solve that problem it will be a big benefit to all,” said Köstler.

Watch the video from Mobile World Congress in Barcelona where Stephan Koestler from MAPAL reports about how they use the SAP Cloud Platform to build intuitive native Apple iOS apps that harness the power of the Internet of Things.

Photos via MAPAL

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