The world of manufacturing is undergoing dramatic changes, driven by market trends, technological advancements, and new workforce dynamics. The pressure to be more responsive to highly variable product configuration requirements and more agile in production operations, while also contending with complex processes driven by massive amounts of data from a multitude of sources, is a major challenge for manufacturers.
One market trend in particular is having a significant impact: the expectation that products be designed, manufactured, and delivered to a “market of one.” Customers not only are more informed and influenced by the wealth of information available about products and their pricing, they expect to be able to configure products to their specific needs and requirements. For instance, Nike has enabled wholly customized shoe design, and Harley-Davidson has changed its entire manufacturing operation to enable customers to configure nearly every detail of its motorcycles.
The design and manufacturing challenges of delivering uniquely configured products while maintaining cost effectiveness and efficiency are significant. The approach requires manufacturers to be agile in their processes and to ensure that they are maximizing their resources, whether they are people, machines, or information. In addition, while manufacturers are facing these operational challenges, they are also undergoing a transition in the workforce as employees retire and a new generation of workers continues to emerge with expectations for a sophisticated, personalized user experience with applications and interfaces that can be used just as easily on their personal devices as on company desktops.
Advances in technology provide manufacturers with compelling opportunities for addressing these challenges. To improve operations and maximize assets, manufacturers can take advantage of the intelligence built into machines through sensors that can provide real-time performance information. By combining machine-to-machine (M2M) communication with solutions based on the Internet of Things (IoT), this real-time information can be analyzed and interpreted on a predictive basis to alert operators to potential issues before they occur. Once this information is integrated into processes that involve people, IoT becomes the Internet of Everything (IoE). The power of mobile communications enables this information to be garnered from anywhere, and provides flexibility in maintaining assets through globally dispersed technicians with mobile devices.
SAP is committed to helping manufacturers take advantage of these opportunities to meet the challenges they face. To stay competitive, manufacturers must respond to highly variable product requirements and the dynamic market demand that comes along with this variability. SAP’s idea-to-performance solutions enable manufacturers to adapt to this environment by helping streamline internal processes and create agile production lines that can build customized products. With the real-time analysis capabilities of SAP HANA, IoE support, and a comprehensive user experience strategy that incorporates cloud, mobile, and the latest in user interface (UI) design, SAP enables a complete supply chain-to-consumer integrated network platform that can readily ingest information from machine sensors and other IoE devices, and provide visibility into production status and asset performance (wherever that asset may be) in an approachable, intuitive UI.
Manufacturing, innovation, an end-to-end connected product network, and customer expectations have converged to create a new business reality for manufacturers. SAP is ready to help its manufacturing customers not only adapt to these changes, but harness their power to excel.