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Simplify the Complex

by Michael Lynch | SAPinsider

July 1, 2012

While globalization opens new doors and can help increase profits, it also introduces complications. Growing language requirements and more intricate manufacturing processes are forcing business leaders to rethink their operations. That's why, through the integration of new 3D visualization technology, SAP is creating an environment in which employees can seamlessly interact with product data and 3D product imagery to gain a faster understanding of even the most complicated business problems.
 

There is no denying that business is getting more complex. We see it every day. The globalization of supply and manufacturing is not only making supply chains more complicated, but also increasing the language requirements in many organizations. Companies across all industries are enhancing their product customization and configuration to better suit customers, making the product design and collaboration processes more complex. And big data certainly magnifies the complexity of information management as companies seek simpler ways to interact with and leverage their data. These are just a few examples. So in this environment of accelerating business complexity, what can companies do to continue to grow while simplifying their business processes?

Visualization is one way companies can simplify some of their most complex business processes. Through the integration of new 3D visualization technology, SAP is creating an environment in which employees across an organization — and across multiple organizations — can seamlessly interact with product data and 3D product imagery to gain a faster understanding of the most complicated business problems.

The time for the visual enterprise is now.

Visualizing Simpler Processes

The goal of SAP’s visual enterprise strategy is to remove complexity from certain business processes to streamline product development and speed the go-to-market process for our customers. Let’s take a tour of how the 3D visualization technology of SAP Visual Enterprise solutions can simplify business challenges. (See Figure 1 for an overview of the applications in the SAP Visual Enterprise solution portfolio.)

 

Application
    
Main Functions or Uses
   
Key Benefits to Users

SAP Visual Enterprise Access

 

Enables users to browns and search assets across the enterprise; provides reporting and version control capabilities

 

Dashboards and search capabilities make locating and accessing the right assets very intuitive

SAP Visual Enterprise Author

 

Creates 3D animations, embedded documents, and high-definition imagery

 

Streamlines the creation of assets with a configurable user interface, reduces photo and translation costs, and drives sales

SAP Visual Enterprise Generator

 

Translates 3D CAD files into a lightweight file format for use in downstream processes

 

Improves asset management and collaboration, and streamlines the product development process

SAP Visual Enterprise Navigator

 

Enables product fly-through and special query capability; provides visual business intelligence

 

Improves productivity and helps users match data with product parts

SAP Visual Enterprise Viewer

 

Allows users to view and interact with large assets (models and animations) in various formats

 

Improves collaboration, productivity, and time to market by increasing access to models and animations

Figure 1 — The applications that make up the SAP Visual Enterprise solution portfolio

Challenge #1: Globalizing Product Documentation

As the extended enterprise continues to become more global, so too must product documentation. The increasing number of languages spoken across a global enterprise exponentially increases the amount of product documentation required in that organization. Every time a piece of documentation is translated, it introduces the chance for mistakes or misinterpretations.

To minimize complexity in this process, however, companies can incorporate 3D visual steps and diagrams within the documents to describe certain processes, instead of using text-based descriptions (see Figure 2). This reduces the amount of language-specific content that needs to be created and translated for employees or users all over the world, and increases the ease with which the process can be understood.

With SAP Visual Enterprise Author, users can access technical documentation visually, with 3D models and visual step

Figure 2 — With SAP Visual Enterprise Author, users can access technical documentation visually, with 3D models and visual steps

Challenge #2: Making Complex Designs Easier to Understand and Share

As product manufacturers strive to customize their products for specific customer groups, the design documents behind those products have become more intricate and more complex, moving from 2D CAD to 3D models and fully digital prototypes. And while that’s a benefit for the design process, the massive amount of complicated associated files can impede internal and external collaboration. An Aberdeen Group report found that “to achieve best-in-class performance, companies must capture non-engineering feedback on designs as requirements for future designs.”1 This can be difficult when the design documents are staggeringly complicated.

With SAP Visual Enterprise solutions, large and complex documents can be viewed and shared in a lighter, more user-friendly format (see Figure 3). This capability improves collaboration between departments and dramatically speeds time to market. As the Aberdeen Group report puts it: “As a collaboration solution, visualization offers the capacity to capture downstream insights earlier in product development.”

SAP Visual Enterprise Viewer presents CAD data as easily understandable product graphics for better collaboration

Figure 3 — SAP Visual Enterprise Viewer presents CAD data as easily understandable product graphics for better collaboration

Challenge #3: Simplifying Big Data Analysis

Another area that is getting more complex is data management and analysis. As companies produce and collect more data — and more types of data — it becomes increasingly difficult to be able to leverage all of that data efficiently.

One way to streamline the analysis of big data while increasing its value in the enterprise is by putting it into a visual context instead of viewing it in a static report. For example, imagine selecting areas of a visualized product and being able to access interactive charts of business data associated with that product with a single click (see Figure 4). Instead of toggling between a design image and a massive report from a business system, all of the associated data — regardless of the source — is available in the same system as the image.

Leveraging visual analytics, users can access business data with a simple click

Figure 4 — Leveraging visual analytics, users can access business data with a simple click

Challenge #4: Streamlining Supply Chain Processes

Supply chains are becoming increasingly complex with suppliers located all over the world. When a specific supplier goes out of business or falls below a certain quality threshold, a manufacturer wants to know where within its product the supplier’s components are being used. In the visual enterprise, that manufacturer will be able to fly through the product in a 3D model and find all of the parts that a supplier provides for a given product (see Figure 5). This will allow the manufacturer to adjust its manufacturing line efficiently.

A user can fly through a 3D model and quickly identify where certain components are located

Figure 5 — A user can fly through a 3D model and quickly identify where certain components are located

Or, envision a plant manager looking at a 3D model of his plant while accessing throughput data to see exactly where product bottlenecks are happening, with associated charts and business intelligence adding additional insight. The plant manager could also view which areas of the plant have the most accidents, or find out how certain loading procedures affect efficiency in different locations.

The Bottom Line

These are just a few examples that show SAP Visual Enterprise solutions at work, simplifying complex business challenges to speed product delivery. SAP is now building these solutions across the enterprise to fully integrate visualization, business data, and business processes; any process or any product that involves physical assets can be improved through this integration.

 

     

Michael Lynch (michael.lynch@sap.com) is Vice President of Solutions Management LoB for SAP Visual Enterprise, leading the SAP Visual Enterprise organization. He joined SAP in 2011 as part of the acquisition of Right Hemisphere Inc., where he was the CEO. Previously, Michael helped grow 7th Level from 20 employees to a US$70 million IPO. He has produced more than 30 award-winning Internet, education, and entertainment software products for Learn2.com, Disney, Real Networks, IBM, Microsoft, and Sony. Prior to entering the software world, Michael was a successful stage actor on Broadway and in television.

1 Aberdeen Group, “Visualization and the Enterprise Value of 3D Product Models” (June 2010). [back]

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