Between the 24th and 25th of September, the International SAP Conference on Intelligent Asset Management took place in Madrid, Spain. Hosted by event organisers, T.A. Cook, it was an excellent opportunity to take away some fantastic, intelligent asset management insights. The conference played host to keynote speeches, workshops and presentations over two days.
Following the event, it is hugely beneficial to drill deep into what the key takeaways were from the conference. Were there any particular stories or case studies which we can use to develop our own asset management strategies?
Let’s take a closer look at some of the customer studies from the event. Let’s also consider what we can take away from them to apply to our processes.
DFS: Going ‘Fully Digital’
DFS, or Deutsche Flugsicherung, is Germany’s premier air control service. Eva-Maria Gerber took to the stage on the first day of speeches to address the significant changes SAP intelligent asset management has already made to their operation.
DFS’ situation pre-SAP struggled through multiple spreadsheets and a lack of communication. Integration, or a lack of it, was impacting heavily on work shared between all corners of their operation. DFS’ various departments were divided in terms of focus and terms of expertise. Therefore, a minimal amount of consensus was achievable.
What Happened Next?
Naturally, Gerber and the team sought to overturn this. In conjunction with Evora IT Solutions and SAP mobile asset management, DFS strived to improve the quality of the data they shared in-house. Additionally, greater transparency was a primary goal, as was installing an efficient verification process.
But how did they achieve these goals? Step by step, of course – and here are a few takeaways they shared with conference attendees.
- How they improved facility labelling with universal RFID branding
- The standardisation of the services they provide
- They streamlined their clients’ ‘per execution’ payment model, as well as their monthly tariffs
- Therefore, DFS moved towards Maintenance-as-a-Service (MaaS) as a key business model
- That allowed the firm to make firmer predictions and visualisations of potential impacts
DFS used SAP modules to redefine its maintenance schedule, expanding its strategy by applying automated processes for purchase acquisition and for offsetting its cost centre. Partnering with SAP, the brand has been able to embrace going ‘fully digital’. As a result, the firm’s once-cluttered digital admin is now more efficient and easier to manage.
Swiss Federal Railways (SBB): Targeting Innovation, Inspiring Users
Urs Gehrig, speaking on behalf of Swiss Federal Railways, took to the stage. Revealing the effects asset management has had on the running of the firm, Gehring reconfirmed just how much business the transport service oversees daily.
Over 1.25 million passengers use their transportation system each day. Six thousand trains can be seen operating during the same period, with over 2,600 train drivers taking the helm. From this evidence alone, it is clear to see they are highly depended-upon.
SBB relies on over 2,800 different interfaces, 160 various business projects and 450 IT projects running at any one time. Therefore, as a public service, there is an ongoing need to boost innovation for efficiency and productivity.
Applying SAP Techniques
Gehrig explained that a smarter RCM (Reliability-Centred Maintenance) system was responsible for driving the results the company was ultimately looking for. Here are just a few takeaways we can glean from his presentation.
- RCM analysis can be used to corroborate knowledge and experience
- RCM can also help to map said knowledge for simple retrieval
- Failure modes, through RCM, can help to drive firmer prediction analysis
- Thus, the chance of potentially harmful defects can diminish
- SAP Asset Strategy and Performance Management (ASPM) helped SBB to operate what they define as ‘value-driven smart maintenance.’
- ASPM allows users to create bespoke workflows for functions, potential failures and outcomes
- ASPM also enables users to visually plot checklists and workflows for ease of access
By following a basic RCM model, bolstered by ASPM and failure modes, SBB enhanced its maintenance model through smart automation and custom database management. By pooling expert knowledge, documenting this information and using it to install new, predictive measures, risks and potential failures are now easier to spot and to prepare for.
Smoother predictive strategies, run through automated systems, now allow SBB to provide safer, more efficient services to their regular customers.
Effective asset management is all about rethinking and refining the steps we take to reach an end product. With thousands of people to welcome on board each day, balancing an RCM core with SAP ASPM has helped the company to continue running autonomously, safely, ready to predict what comes next.
NETZSCH: Increasing Intelligence
Bernhard Diemer, speaking on behalf of NETZSCH, opened the second day of speeches. NETZSCH is a leading name in the development of pumps, macerators and laboratory equipment. Across three sectors, the brand has a lot of assets to manage.
As Diemer confirms, the brand is responsible for over 3,600 personnel worldwide. Crucially, they design, build and ship scores of products and parts for sensitive applications. They cater to industries such as Oil and Gas, Chemical and Pulp, Environmental and Energy and even Food and Pharmaceuticals.
How SAP Helped NETZSCH
NETZSCH adopted SAP’s Asset Intelligence Network (AIN), specifically, to boost efficiency and ease of inventory control. Collaborating with suppliers, the company used AIN to build a central hub for its assets.
The collaborative element now allows the company to automate asset movement and data collation across the business, with cloud technology and usage analytics helping to bolster such management. Beyond this, a fully automated process makes sure that all products have full records and spare parts lists available to view.
Asset management has helped NETZSCH and its customers in more than one way. Not only does the ‘digital twin‘ system allow the brand to monitor everything they generate, but it also means that users can scan a product and access all of its data at short notice. The ‘digital twin’ model, therefore, works as a single source of truth for all parties.
In addition, NETZSCH has founded a spin-off called ‘CHAIN’ which provides different services around the Asset Intelligence Network, including: ‘AIN as a service’, ‘AIN Kick-Starter’ and ‘Extended Onboarding’.
SAP intelligent asset management and automation have helped the company to grow more efficient, more productive, and to reduce confusion at all levels of collaboration. Moving forwards, automated archiving has delighted their end-users. Why rely on paper manuals when everything is there in a database?
BP Upstream: Rethinking Intelligent Enterprise
BP, or British Petroleum, is an integrated Oil and Gas company with global reach and operations across Upstream and Downstream.
Andreas Skubski, speaking on behalf of BP plc, explained that a major challenge is to protect their existing investments in SAP technology while making the most of emerging technologies and transitioning in a controlled manner from their legacy systems. Exploring a modern solution-based approach, BP conducted a Design Thinking workshop.
Improving the User Experience
‘Design Thinking’ is an iterative and cyclical process which is growing in popularity, with the concept of understanding the end-user at its core. As a result of this human-centred assessment, the potential of a new user interface in the Asset and Work Management area of BP Upstream operations was clearly highlighted. As such, it was decided to introduce a new UI layer to facilitate BP Central Planning Process.
The new digital capability is delivered with an agile project management methodology. By empathising with users and defining their potential concerns before the testing phase begins, BP strives to push a concept of ‘look’, of ‘feel’ and of ‘usability’ through everything they develop. By means of Personas, Storyboards, Wireframes, Scrums, Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and Backlogs, the team has developed SAP Fiori applications with roles for supervisors, planners and technicians. Focused more than ever on simplifying the user experience, this innovative solution is aligned with SAP Fiori five design principles: Role Based, Adaptive, Coherent, Simple, and Delightful.
A further takeaway from BP is that SAP applications such as Fiori could help to lower the cost of systems training.
A New Economy
Patrick Crampton-Thomas and Hans Thalbauer, representing SAP, explored the phenomenon of experience economy in their opening address to the conference. This economy revolves around customer centricity. Experience is a vital component of the process, with the user journey bolstered by connections between sales, delivery and service in between. In addition, ‘volatility’ should be achieved through complete visibility.
The concept of an experience-centric model has greatly inspired BP. By connecting their resources and focusing more on the customer, they seek to achieve the potential for business sustainability Crampton-Thomas and Thalbauer introduced in their keynote speech.
Endress + Hauser: A Digital Journey
Speaking on behalf of Endress + Hauser AG, alongside SAP’s Armin Pühringer, Gary Dreyer introduced visitors to how asset refinement helped to transform the company for the digital age. Endress + Hauser are responsible for designing, building and providing process equipment for many different sectors.
A family firm, they have a reach that extends across more than 120 countries worldwide. Users approach the brand for software, flow and analytical measurement systems, as well as pressure design. However, they agree that there’s room to grow.
Endress + Hauser intend to corner a market based around the Industrial Internet of Things, or IIoT. Similarly to IoT, this revolves around industrial equipment communicating with each other to automate processes. The company asserts that over 90% of the sensors they operate are ready for IIoT integration and connectivity. With over 40 million sensors in action already, this is an exciting prospect.
However, the main challenge for the company has been unlocking data potential. Dreyer stated that 3% of all available global data is actually accessed and used. That, it is suggested, is as a result of so much being locked away in inefficient processing.
The Impacts of SAP Intelligent Asset Management
Customer centricity was a growing point of interest for the firm. Without a reliable, collaborative network and database in place, customers were potentially losing out on genuine value from the company’s products. There needed to be fresh insight.
Dreyer considered what it was that held the company back. Maintenance, for example, continued to suffer from a lack of data to set useful precedents. Essentially, without any helpful inventory to work from, this side of processing was left to get slower and slower.
Endress + Hauser’s mission has always been to cut down on complexity. Similarly, to NETZSCH, the firm worked to develop a ‘digital twin’ model. That allowed them to replicate their hardware on a digital database for ease of reference.
Looking forward, they switched from a ‘siloed’ system of asset details to a ‘collaborative’ system. Endress + Hauser adopted SAP’s AIN system to automate asset data collection and collaboration. They were also able to harness SAP’s Asset Central to link processes, suppliers and users together through AIN. The two models make use of IIoT standards to ensure operations and maintenance, for example, can keep running smoothly – as well as autonomously.
Rather than split assets into sections, they opened up the playing field to all experts. That means manufacturers, engineers, service providers and end-users can now work from the same core of information.
A Digital Future for All – Thanks to Open Industry 4.0
Endress + Hauser doesn’t just feel that the influence of SAP has helped to prepare them for the digital world. There’s confidence that their processes are safer, more accurate, and therefore more efficient.
By making use of the Open Industry 4.0 Alliance Ecosystem, the company has been able to create an environment where they can offer real-time asset management. Collaboration through this ecosystem, too, will allow manufacturers and customers to work together from the same database.
SAP Intelligent Asset Management: Closing Thoughts
SAP’s Dr Robert Meusel took to the podium to close the event with a final keynote presentation. In this, he explored what SAP defines as the ‘intellification’ of managing assets in the workplace.
‘Intellification‘ has many different implications. In particular, Meusel explored ways in which automated machine learning (AutoML) can be leveraged to bridge the skills gap and redefine older processes. A machine can be taught to set configurations, choose algorithms and create features. A domain expert can then use their knowledge and experience to refine their work further.
He also stated that cloud data analytics save time and effort when putting insights together. In the end, it is never a case of giving everything to a machine; instead, it is about helping people and systems work hand in hand.
Human and Machine Collaboration
SAP believes that, even at the highest level of data management, there should still be human intervention. That’s why their system models still allow users to weigh in on critical elements. By using machine learning to automate simple tasks, more time can be used to apply critical thought. Taking away just enough human oversight on one side will benefit the other end of the process.
SAP has already made strides to embrace this future. They were the first technology firm in Europe to set up an Ethics Advisory Panel (EAP) specifically for artificial intelligence. They are focused on developing AI to improve lives and to protect the world around us. Therefore, they work to a principle or value-driven model to foster trust in their processes.
2019’s International SAP Conference gave a fantastic insight into why asset control is so essential for enterprises and asset-dependent firms. SAP’s array of guests brought forward some inspiring use cases which provide us with plenty of food for thought. It is also crucial and inspiring to see SAP technology at work in an evolving world.
One of the biggest takeaways from the event is the notion that businesses are moving more towards the notion of experience. Customer centricity is driving firms on the continent to redefine their production and well as their daily operation.
Another key element to consider is a focus on embracing new technology. More businesses are considering automated communication to boost operational efficiency. IIoT connectivity is now more readily available to willing adopters than ever before. Services such as SAP’s AIN and Cloud Platform are enhancing collaboration, and therefore reducing maintenance time. As mentioned, SAP, too, is keen to bring ethical AI and machine learning to the masses.
It can be easy to expect growing companies to lose sight of what’s crucial to their end products. However, with SAP asset management in place, there is no excuse to lose sight of what’s important.
To some businesses, SAP intelligent asset management and control can seem a little complex. However, these processes are often more flexible than you think. When you have a variety of assets to manage and a lot of ground to cover, simplification makes sense. These stories serve as great inspiration moving forward.