Extend the Value of ERP

Integration with manufacturing operations promises substantial benefits.

By Fred Reever, CISUG, and Frank Kochendoerfer, SAP

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geographical integration
Figure 3. -- Geographic integration: Companies
benefit if they can consider market conditions
and plant operations on a global basis.
Click on illustration for a larger image.


While the exact impact on the bottom line would vary for each company, the number generally would be enormous. In fact, the team worried the benefits would be so huge they might undermine credibility and buy-in at their companies. To mediate this concern, the team decided to go beyond describing the vision and its potential benefits to actually show how the vision would work in a real-world environment. The objective is to have manufacturing and business leadership recognize the benefits of the integrated/collaborative environment and start a question-and-answer dialog. Can we do that? Why can’t we do that now? What do we need to do that? Team members agreed that the answer to the first question would be “No,” and that the answers to the other questions would form the basis for developing a roadmap to create the environment in their companies.

Making the Case
The first step in the plan was to develop an executive-level presentation that describes the industry vision and potential benefits; it covers much of what we have discussed so far. The presentation also explores a real-life scenario — a batch emulsion polymerization reactor experiencing operational problems — to show how an organization could function in an integrated/collaborative environment to predict and respond. The systems and situations typify almost any chemical process.

The problem with the batch emulsion polymerization reactor disrupts planned production and product shipping schedules. Thanks to an integrated/collaborative manufacturing ecosystem involving the control room, plant floor, in-house and third-party maintenance, production planning, sales and the customer, the situation is resolved with minimum impact and significant business benefits.

The integrated/collaborative environment integrates SAP with manufacturing applications such as a process data historian, production scheduler, advanced manufacturing algorithms, predictive quality models and maintenance systems. (An overall solution would include laboratory information management systems and other customer-based proprietary systems.)

This scenario reveals the benefits of the integrated/collaborative environment for:
• preventing an unscheduled shutdown, thus preserving asset utilization and capacity;
• delaying or possibly eliminating a future scheduled shutdown, providing more capacity;
• minimizing required time for shutdown, again adding capacity;
• obviating costs for expedited maintenance;
• avoiding a potential aborted batch, saving on material costs and improving capacity utilization;
• maintaining, if not enhancing, customer satisfaction, thus offering the prospect of increased market share; and
• lessening organization stress through proactive response.

But it’s one thing to discuss the value of the vision and another to demonstrate how it can become a reality. The team recognized that showing the vision in action was crucial to get solid buy-in and support from corporate leadership and, so, created an interactive demo based on the scenario. This illustrates how role-based workplaces — sometimes called dashboards or cockpits — can enable everyone in the organization to have real time accessibility and visibility to the data they need to do their jobs.

The demo starts with the workplace for an executive, so leaders can see what their workplace might look like and what capabilities they can have in the integrated/collaborative environment. It’s pointed out that the workplace is secure and can be customized to an individual’s needs and preferences, enabling access to business and performance issues crucial to the particular executive. Typically it will contain high-level safety and environmental performance data as well as rolled-up business and financial data. It also can include information and links to customer, supplier and competitor material or, for that matter, to any other desired internal and external sources of data and information. It can provide alerts to abnormal situations or deviations from standards or plans — as well as drill-down capability to investigate these and to immediately connect to the appropriate people in the organization. It’s emphasized that everyone in the organization has a similar workplace and drill-down and collaborative capabilities based on that person’s role and job responsibilities.

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