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Eliminate Inefficiencies in Product Development

by George Earle | SAPinsider

July 1, 2012

Many companies are facing inefficiencies when it comes to sharing information across the enterprise. The inability for departments to easily share up-to-date product data throughout the enterprise slows the product-to-market process and consumes staff resources. This article explores how SAP Visual Enterprise solutions — with help from SAP's business partners — enable better and faster decision making by combining 3D visual information with relevant data from SAP Business Suite.

Many manufacturing, service, sales, and marketing departments have not yet benefited from the visual revolution that integrates product information with the engineering department’s accurate, up-to-date visual data product models. Companies are constrained building the world’s planes, trains, automobiles, and heavy equipment while relying on one of the most prevalent tools in the industry — Microsoft PowerPoint. While the application is a great tool for presenting visual information, screenshots of engineering information displayed in static slides cannot fully present business process-driven, dynamic data.

The inability for departments to efficiently share up-to-date product data throughout the enterprise consumes staff resources, slows the product-to-market process, and reduces the number of creative iterations of marketing media, sales collateral, manufacturing design reviews, and service revisions. To respond to other groups’ needs, the engineering staff often manually prepares snapshots of CAD screens or creates spreadsheets, resulting in lost productivity. The services and support department, for example, continuously needs product models and data from engineering to plan in-depth service procedures, supply chain sourcing, and aftermarket catalogs.

How can companies release this stranglehold on product development? The sooner engineering data is sourced in a usable form, the more time various teams will have for their creative and deliverable development processes.

Visual Applications with Stunning Interfaces

As discussed in the other feature stories in this issue of SAPinsider, SAP Visual Enterprise solutions enable better, faster decision making by combining 3D visual information from engineering with relevant data from SAP Business Suite and making it available to other departments. These applications allow 3D visual navigation and queries of SAP business and product information, including graphical 3D animations of assembly and maintenance procedures.

Once a company has successfully implemented an SAP Visual Enterprise solution, that company is ready to scale up visual solution deployments using SAP Visual Enterprise modular software components, dynamic SAP ERP standard user interfaces, and SAP web service infrastructure. Visual solutions can eliminate the cumbersome manual workflows used to combine information from different screens and systems. Automatically combining all relevant visual and business information improves the bottom line by presenting relevant and related information simultaneously — in context and in real time.

The SAP Visual Enterprise Services group and SAP Visual Enterprise partners build visually stunning interfaces that provide process and role-centered business information with vastly simplified user experiences using the SAP Visual Enterprise software development kits, Web Dynpro, and SAP web service infrastructure. SAP Visual Enterprise Services has been implementing these visual interfaces, or “templated” solutions, for several years at major aerospace, defense, mining, automobile, and heavy equipment customers (see Figure 1).1

Three examples of SAP Visual Enterprise templated applications and how they display product information


Figure 1 — Three examples of SAP Visual Enterprise templated applications and how they display product information

The key to making these interfaces useful is to present the visualization of products in relation to the SAP master data model. This master data model, including the SAP Visual Enterprise core data model, consists of both the material master data hierarchy and its relationship to a product’s visual data model. All material master business data, CAD-based metadata, product lifecycle management (PLM)-based metadata, and 3D digital representations are dynamically presented at the same time, and can be viewed on the screen of a PC and tablet.

Drive ROI by Using Rapid Deployment

The SAP Visual Enterprise platform integrates multiple data sources — including product manufacturing information, CAD, and ERP systems — automatically, transforming this data for all downstream stakeholders. Specifically, SAP Visual Enterprise Generator converts and transforms native CAD data from multiple product data management systems. The application turns this data into accurate, lightweight, 3D product information, bill of material structures, and metadata, which is stored in a visual repository like the SAP document management system, and can be accessed by standard web browser plug-ins or SAP document management system interfaces.

In addition to processing existing product data into completely new graphical media forms, the visual platform can incorporate new criteria, authoring functionality, and information to update existing product deliverables.

This apparent complexity of integrating CAD product data management systems, SAP Visual Enterprise solutions, and an ERP system can seem daunting. Therefore, a packaged solution that handles standard interfaces, use cases, and data flows is necessary to achieve rapid ROI when deploying an SAP Visual Enterprise solution.

The SAP Visual Enterprise rapid-deployment solution meets this need. The solution is a packaged offering that helps companies achieve predictable, out-of-the-box integration and provides a selection of adoption choices to meet varying business demands. The predictability that comes with a rapid-deployment solution means that customers achieve value quickly, in a matter of weeks. The SAP Visual Enterprise rapid-deployment solution has a fixed cost to enhance financial predictability and a fixed best-practice scope to limit use-case variability and meet target deadlines. Prebuilt integration into SAP ERP ensures that projects can start reliably, while still allowing for growth options to be added later.

SAP offers two modular rapid-deployment scenarios to meet specific business needs and allow individual adoption paths while ensuring predictability. The two scenarios, SAP Visual Enterprise Standalone and SAP Visual Enterprise Integrated with SAP PLM, include flexible licensing and deployment options. Both scenarios come with operating data content, enablement materials, and consulting services to ensure a thorough deployment of a production-capable system. The package includes installation of all of the server and client software necessary to translate, store, and author deliverables for any production use case, and it contains all of the best-practice templates and tool content to ensure a straightforward deployment.

Contained within the rapid-deployment solution, SAP also offers training materials and instructor-led classes featuring lessons learned and cross-disciplinary examples to help you properly deploy the solution and ensure that your staff is prepared to use it by the end of the deployment period.

Promote Better Communication and Faster Decision Making

SAP Visual Enterprise solutions enable companies to integrate product data with visual models, eliminating inefficiencies and enabling better decision making across the business. To help companies achieve this, the SAP Visual Enterprise Services group and SAP Visual Enterprise partners implement dynamic interfaces that allow users to view relevant and related visual information and business data in real time.

To get up and running quickly, organizations can take advantage of the SAP Visual Enterprise rapid-deployment solution to deploy the application predictably and reliably, enabling better communication and faster decision making through the reuse of corporate product assets. Let SAP and our partners help your company realize the exciting promise of visual communications.

To learn more, visit


George Earle ( has been with SAP for seven years via the acquisition of Right Hemisphere, Inc. In his current role as Senior Director of Visual Enterprise Center of Excellence, George uses his passion for building enterprise visualization to enable consultants to implement beautiful interfaces that integrate visual information with big data from SAP Business Suite. Prior to SAP, he held a variety of senior leadership and technology positions at Chordiant, Blazent, Non-Stop Logistics, Trimble Navigation, and GTE Strategic Electronic Defense.

1 In the future, SAP technologies such as SAP HANA, SAP Manufacturing Integration and Intelligence (SAP MII), and the cloud infrastructure will ensure that interfaces operate in more real time and have a greater reach. [back]

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