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Serialization in the Supply Chain for a Deeper Analysis to Identify Bottlenecks and Issues

Granular data empowers SAP customers to track the location and status of individual products and share appropriate data with their ERP.

by Pierce Owen, VP, Research, SAPinsider

October 10, 2019

We recently interviewed leadership at ACSIS about its serialization capabilities in its Intelligent Product and Asset Traceability solutions. Serialization essentially means separating out the data from each individual product.

Here, we share some of our thoughts on serialization with IoT and analytics technologies and how it builds on SAP ERP functionality to contribute to digital twins.

Digital Twins on SAP Systems

A digital twin gathers and collects data on a product or line of products to monitor, track, simulate, learn from, and predict their future performance. The first companies to adopt digital twins used them to react to issues and upgrade or repair high value assets ranging from space shuttles to electric cars, jet engines, and turbines.

Today, the digital twin originates in the design process with the CAD models of products and simulations that can help refine the design. It continues its life through the production process as companies simulate how they will manufacture the products and monitor the production process to ensure maximized uptime and minimal quality issues. Post-manufacturing, companies can monitor digital twins of products throughout the supply chain and as they perform in the field. This empowers companies to guarantee quality, to offer products-as-a-service, to deploy over-the-air (OTA) updates to software, and to improve future generations of the product.

SAP has positioned itself well to deliver value with digital twins as it can store much of the necessary data in SAP S/4HANA, collect and track equipment information and IoT data in SAP Asset Intelligence Network, and provide simulations or predictive engineering analytics in SAP Predictive Engineering Insights enabled by ANSYS.

Adding Granular Data

SAP customers can use SAP ERP, SAP Asset Intelligence Network, and SAP Predictive Engineering to manage and analyze data for high value assets, orders of individual high-value products, and batches of orders of large numbers of products. When it comes to tracking and collecting information on individual serialized products within those batched orders, SAP has technology partners such as ACSIS.

Solutions such as ACSIS’s empower SAP customers to serialize and track data from individual cannisters, containers, or products. In the chemical industry, they can track attributes of reusable chemical containers such as what was in it last, what can go in it next, and the temperature and humidity of the chemical currently in it and tie the necessary data back to the SAP order. In cold chains, customers can use these solutions to serialize each packaged item to monitor the temperature and record what carrier had possession when an event occurs that causes a change in temperature.

To do this, companies such as ACSIS will provide an IoT gateway that plugs into each data source and connects to a cloud backbone with analytics and event management which exchanges data with the SAP ERP. They can also source production data from manufacturers by pairing with manufacturing execution systems (MES) and converting the necessary data for records in SAP ERP.

These types of solutions capture data at a more granular level that ERP systems generally find useful, but they can use the data to identify bottlenecks and issues and then share the appropriate insights with the ERP.

What Does This Mean for SAPinsiders?

Based on our research and interview with ACSIS leadership, the following will help SAP customers get more value out of their granular operational data:

  • However the organization collects serialized or granular IoT data, ensure the insights can connect with the ERP. Any time an organization deploys a standalone solution to improve operations, it risks creating a data silo that may present difficulties when trying to scale throughout the enterprise and cannot maximize the utility of the data. IoT applications should always have the ability to deliver actionable insights to the ERP to maximize impact and value.
  • Organizations in highly regulated industries or industries with high risks of counterfeits or returned products should consider serializing. By monitoring each individual packaged item or container, companies can significantly reduce the risks of quality or counterfeit issues.
  • Respond in the moment. If an event occurs or a pattern emerges that could lead to downtime in operations or a delayed order, companies need the ability to respond right away. They can only respond immediately if their systems process data in real-time. To gain this capability, organizations need a combination or edge and cloud computing and event management with event-driven messaging.
  • Tie it all back to digital twins. Not only should SAP customers ensure their delivering insights into their SAP ERP, but they should maintain digital twin capabilities for longer term planning. As they collect real-world data, they can use this data to improve simulations and plan for future operations and product generations.

Following this strategic guidance should help SAP customers get the most out of operational data in a way that leverages intelligent technologies to improve performance and accelerate growth.

SAPinsider has opened a new Intelligent Technologies and Analytics research team within its research division.

This team will produce benchmark research reports on technologies such as analytics, Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, digital twins, and cybersecurity starting in Q4 2019. Like all our research, we will base the intelligent technology reports on survey data and build on that data with research briefings with SAP executives, customers, and partners.

Additionally, SAPinsider will host its Intelligent Customer-Driven Supply Chain conference in Orlando, Fla., November 6-8, 2019. SAP customers can register for the event here: https://www.sapinsiderevent.com/events/intelligent-customer-driven-supply-chain-orlando-2019/event-summary-5d17cbe9db3c4e09912db634c4b12279.aspx

Pierce Owen, VP, Research, SAPinsider, can be reached at Pierce.Owen@wispubs.com.

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