SAP HANA was brought to market more than three years ago and since then, close to 4,000 customers have selected to implement the product. With adoption continuing to grow, Ken Tsai and his team wanted to create a forum to showcase some of the impressive ways organizations are using SAP HANA to effect change in their businesses, and how this change is positively affecting people’s lives. This idea led to the creation of the SAP HANA Innovation Awards. In this article, Tsai shares the story of the awards program and provides a few details on what made this year’s winners stand out.
It has been said that SAP HANA enables the art of the possible. While true, the phrase is forward-looking; implying a future transformation rather than one that is already occurring. That is partly by design as we continue to spread the word about the boundless opportunities SAP HANA creates. However, in the three-plus years since SAP HANA’s release, numerous companies have by now discovered firsthand that “the possible” is now in fact a reality.
It is in this vein that we launched the inaugural SAP HANA Innovation Awards this year. The possible is now represented by real-world examples of companies that are using SAP HANA in some way to change their businesses. They are running smarter, simpler, and faster. These companies all have a unique story to tell, and the intent for creating the SAP HANA Innovation Awards was to give them a platform to help bring those stories to life.
In conceiving this awards program, it was very important to us to have full transparency and an open environment. This would of course help spread awareness and encourage other companies to share their own SAP HANA success stories. But even more significant, the awards would offer recognition from one’s peers, which is often the highest form of praise. Because SAP HANA can help enrich both organizations and the communities they serve, we thought it best to leave it to the organizations themselves and the user communities to agree on how and where SAP HANA is best making a difference. That is why the first round of voting to identify finalists was conducted in a strictly public format. Once the finalists were identified, a panel of 11 judges — a mix of representatives from the SAP user groups and SAP executives — voted on the winners using a comprehensive scorecard intended to make the decision as objective as possible.
This format helped us stay true to the original intent of the awards as a grassroots-driven campaign to foster the sharing of ideas for innovation, with SAP as the facilitator of this exchange. In keeping with this spirit, we wished to recognize companies in three submission categories:
- Trailblazer Innovator — companies using SAP HANA to substantially empower their workforce and customers
- Social Hero Innovator — companies improving the health and lives of others while balancing those improvements with profits with SAP HANA
- Big Data Innovator — organizations that are using SAP HANA to create a new and revolutionary
business model that benefits their customers
Each category is meant to showcase the positive impact of SAP HANA. The essence of SAP HANA, after all, isn’t just that it is a great technology that can change a business; it’s the influence of that technology on human life. This is the concept of the SAP HANA Innovation Awards in a nutshell: A technology as groundbreaking as SAP HANA can transform everything we do, and those are the stories that we wanted to hear.
From a personal standpoint, helping to launch this awards program was a tremendously rewarding and humbling experience. Even as someone devoted to knowing all there is to know about how SAP HANA is affecting organizations around the world, I was still amazed by the barrage of new insight as we explored the details and inner workings of some of the submissions. These were customer stories, in the customers’ own words, and they were powerful to hear.
Because there were so many compelling submissions, it was not easy for the panel of judges to score the finalists. Each and every submission had its own merits, but the ones you will read about here are some of the winning entries that really stood out from the crowd.
Winner — Spirit Aerosystems
The Trailblazer Innovator category was created to recognize organizations using SAP HANA specifically to transform the business in a substantial rather than incremental fashion. One important criterion, and what set the more interesting submissions apart in the public and finalist voting, was the perception that the submitting organization was doing something with SAP HANA that it couldn’t do before, rather than merely doing the same thing faster or more efficiently.
This was a hotly contested category with so many deserving entries, but in the end Spirit Aerosystems, Inc. came out on top as the inaugural SAP HANA Innovation Awards Trailblazer Innovator winner. Spirit Aerosystems — once a division of Boeing Commercial Airplanes — is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of fuselage assemblies for commercial, military, and business jets, and its clients include a majority of the largest global aircraft manufacturers.
Since diversifying from Boeing in 2005, Spirit Aerosystems’ customer base had grown substantially, leading to a $41 billion backlog of orders to fill. To meet this demand, the business needed to increase production by 30%. Additionally, more customers had led to more data. To no one’s surprise, the manufacture and assembly of an aircraft fuselage produces a massive amount of data (the bill of materials for a single fuselage can contain millions of rows of data). This and other data flows put incredible stress on Spirit Aerosystems’ in-house production and testing processes that its existing information systems had trouble keeping up with.
The business recognized that what it needed was a way to effectively manage the two terabytes of data that was being pulled from its SAP ERP system, a volume that was overloading its business warehouse. Logistically, in the up to eight hours it took to build a report, a different work shift would already have started, making the information out-of-date as soon as the new work shift took up positions on the manufacturing floor. To best minimize this inefficiency, supervisors relied on manual efforts to prepare charts, reports, and analyses.
With a directive from CIO Jim Cocca to use IT solutions to streamline operations from a total cost perspective, Spirit Aerosystems decided to implement SAP HANA. This decision was made after a test on its quarterly financial audit reports (that previously took 37 hours to prepare) took just 14 seconds with SAP HANA. With this development, Spirit Aerosystems created the Fuselage Shop Floor Optimization initiative to hone in on expanding production, using SAP HANA to pinpoint sources of process delays, create real-time production dashboards, and streamline capacity analysis, assembly operations, and manufacturing planning.
Benefits were substantial. Scheduling optimization, a drastic reduction in overtime costs, and increased throughput are just a small part of how the business is using SAP HANA to reinvent its production processes. By running reports in 30 seconds instead of eight hours, Spirit Aerosystems is now running real-time reports up to four times a day to deliver far more granular data, and the production dashboards allow for a multi-million dollar inventory reduction and a decrease of several days in flow time. Real-time analytics also help the company better allocate its workforce, reducing the need for overtime by 40% in select areas. When SAP HANA is implemented in all assembly areas, the business expects an overall reduction of 25% in production flow times and a 30% reduction in assembly inventory levels.
Spirit Aerosystems reported in its entry that the mindset of employees on the shop floor has changed noticeably. Because managers now have real-time visibility into current operations, they can proactively avoid bottlenecks and know exactly which jobs should be performed next on the factory floor. Everyone knows that they are contributing to a production line running at maximum efficiency where there’s little to no wasted effort.
Winner — NCT
The Social Hero Innovator category was meant as an expression of our strong belief that great technology affects not just a business, but the people it serves. Of all the entries we received in this category, the National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT), based in Heidelberg, Germany, best represents this philosophy by using SAP HANA to help fight cancer.
NCT’s mission is to find the optimal cancer treatment plan for patients based on their unique molecular profiles. This is, of course, of vital importance to cancer patients around the world, each of whom responds differently to treatment. While there is no exact way of knowing which treatments will work best for a specific patient, identifying a patient’s unique molecular profile can help because of an understanding of how molecular alterations can drive tumor development and progression.
The more understanding NCT has of a molecular profile, the more insight it has into the underlying cause of the disease, and the better it can act on an optimal treatment. At the heart of designing this treatment plan is mass genome analysis and fast consolidation of massive data volumes from a number of different structured data sources. These sources include tumor documentation, medical records, and clinical trials. Unstructured data sources such as biomarker data that is extracted from patient evaluation letters, treatment guidelines, trial reports, medical publications, and images also contribute to a patient’s genetic profile.
Historically, compiling and analyzing this data took time, and while it did not delay treatment, it delayed determining a treatment specifically tailored to a patient’s unique profile. With SAP HANA, this all changes. NCT can now manage these hundreds of thousands of data sets and several million data points in real time, and optimal treatment plans can be devised and implemented from the first day that a patient walks through the door. Just as importantly, a tailored treatment plan can be updated daily to tackle head-on whatever course the disease may take.
According to NCT’s entry, SAP HANA has made it significantly easier to gather and analyze data from cancer research together with data from similar cancer therapies, and use this information to dramatically increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the entire treatment process. For patients without the luxury of time, this is groundbreaking indeed.
Here, from NCT’s SAP HANA Innovation Awards submission, is how the organization describes the difference SAP HANA is making: “The analytical capabilities enabled by SAP HANA provide our researchers a deeper understanding of the subject matter and will facilitate decision finding for our therapists. Sometimes these analyses lead to new and innovative treatments to replace failing standard therapies.”
Winner — CenterPoint Energy
The Big Data Innovator category is the most technology-driven of the three categories. In this category, using SAP HANA to positively impact lives was still a consideration, but for the most part this was an offshoot or unintended consequence of using SAP HANA to embrace big data and become more of a data-centric business. Submissions in this category were scored higher for using SAP HANA to gain newfound insight from previously untapped data sources.
CenterPoint Energy (CNP) stood out in this category for using SAP HANA to harness data in ways that dramatically affect its business and customers. Based in Houston, Texas, CNP serves the energy needs of more than 5 million residential and business customers throughout the eastern US. Of these customers, 2.2 million have digital smart meters. Smart meters feature two-way communications that send and receive information to and from CNP’s customers, and CNP reads the devices remotely.
Traditionally, the information exchanged via smart meters wasn’t customer-specific. Load studies, for example, were based on stratified random samples of residential, small commercial, and all industrial customers. CNP realized that incorporating smart meter data into load studies would significantly increase the value of the devices, resulting in better estimates of weather impacts and a vastly improved understanding of changes in usage. For consumers, too, this could result in personalized consumption readings from which they could detect patterns and use the data to lower their energy use.
CNP used SAP HANA to develop its Forecasting Model Engine platform and, in partnership with an SAP data science team, developed the innovative applications Gate Keeper Wizard (to verify the quality of interval and weather data) and Weather Response Function Wizard (to validate estimates of predicted weather impacts against observed changes in hourly loads). Additionally, CNP built a Change Analysis dashboard to help understand period-over-period trends for various key performance indicators.
With SAP HANA, CNP is now correlating big data sets such as 15-minute interval data from smart meters (representing roughly 5 billion records), weather history dating back one year, customer information from 2.3 million customers, and geographical location information. With this data, CNP is performing advanced analytics and predictive models more efficiently and accurately.
In short, CNP is using SAP HANA as a platform to drive innovation, allowing it to manage multiple data sets, gain new insight, and vastly improve the speed of analysis. Business users can access data easily, and are using granular data sets to drive critical processes and decision making.
On to Next Year
All three of this year’s first-time winners were well deserving of their awards, whether they improved the company’s bottom line, improved customer satisfaction, or transformed the business in another way as a trailblazer, social hero, or big data innovator. I would like to acknowledge that the SAP HANA Innovation Awards were created and designed by people such as Ruks Omar, Jun Wan, Rachel Muchmore, and Dan Lahl, and made possible by virtually an endless list of collaborators within and outside of SAP. And I think I can speak for the entire team when I say that being involved with this program was one of the highlights of my career to date. I am already looking forward to the 2015 SAP HANA Innovation Awards.