The 2019 iteration of the SAP-Centric EAM Conference recently occurred from March 18-20th in San Antonio. It remains the only SAP-focused asset management conference in North America, giving attendees the opportunity to learn more about emerging technologies and strategies in the world of enterprise asset management.

More than 130 companies were present at the conference, and speakers covered a wide range of cutting-edge developments across industries. Many organizations offered interactive sessions, and top players from a variety of logistics-related fields were in attendance.

It would be impossible to communicate everything the conference offered, so this article will cover some of the main ideas we took away from the event. If you’re interested in learning more about EAM, consider signing up for the 2020 conference.

Event Schedule

After a day of pre-conference sessions on March 18th, the SAP-Centric EAM Conference offered two full days of keynotes and conferencing.

Attendees heard from a range of speakers in a series of six 45-minute keynotes split between the two conferencing days. Each day’s conferences were separated into eight tracks depending on the specific focus, including topics like warehouse management, planning and scheduling, and an SAP test lab.

By the end of the conference, each attendee had the chance to interact with other professionals and EAM thought leaders. Speakers and conference leaders discussed some of the most pressing challenges and opportunities in the world of supply chain management.

Asset Management and the IoT

The Internet of Things is one of the most important technologies for asset-centric businesses, making track 3 (IoT, PDM, and Mobility) a crucial aspect of the SAP-Centric EAM Conference. Throughout four keynotes on the first day of the event, speakers explored some of the most important changes the IoT brings to predictive asset management and mobility.

Oliver Mainka, VP of Product Development at SAP Labs, presented with Dan Greenwood, an Asset Management Consultant at CenterPoint Energy, presented on CenterPoint’s “insight-to-action” development with SAP Predictive Maintenance and Service (PdMS). They showed what PdMS and the larger Intelligent Asset Management Suite can do for a company’s asset management practices.

One important aspect of this presentation was the ability of cutting-edge predictive maintenance solutions to identify potential failures significantly earlier than human employees or equipment-driven options are capable of. IT-driven programs use business rules and data science to achieve earlier issue detection and greater flexibility when performing maintenance.

Greenwood cited a number of benefits offered by SAP Asset Management including reduced asset risk and improvements in transparency and reliability. CenterPoint was able to leave behind their reactive approach to outage and asset management in favor of proactive maintenance using the SAP suite. They found that “PdMS not only provides valuable insight into asset condition, but also provides a method to execute the appropriate task in order to reduce risk.”

SAP Asset Management leverages the Internet of Things to provide high-quality, real-time asset analytics that offer actionable information for decision makers. The IoT is a rapidly growing tool with both industrial and personal applications, and its impact on asset management can’t be overstated.

The Future of Artificial Intelligence

Though it’s impossible to predict what advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning will achieve in the next five to ten years, forward-thinking businesses in a wide cross-section of industries are investing heavily in the technology’s potential. Marc Teerlink, SAP’s Global VP of Intelligent Enterprise Solutions and Artificial Intelligence, spoke on “The AI Goldrush” and how companies can act to anticipate these unprecedented changes.

Though artificial intelligence offers unmatched opportunity, Teerlink believes that only a small percentage of businesses will find ways to effectively integrate this technology. He discussed some of the key strategies between contemporary AI implementations and how modern approaches to AI differ from the way it was used in the past.

While early implementations of AI were often relatively straightforward applications of its capabilities designed to achieve immediate results, current businesses are looking for ways to leverage artificial intelligence for large-scale change. Rather than simply making existing processes more efficient, AI is now working closely with humans and transforming the way maintenance is done. Humans play an important role in determining when and how to apply machine learning.

Although some data-centric businesses offer AI itself, the majority of companies use AI-based solutions to improve the efficiency of their own practices. Artificial intelligence provides more accurate and more actionable maintenance data than is available with any other technology. To that point, Teerlink pointed out that “people want to do the same things they’ve always done, only faster, cheaper, and with much more data.”

On the other hand, implementations of artificial intelligence are far from being limited to maintenance-related settings. Hotels, for example, are leveraging AI technology to create chat bots capable of responding to common questions with no need for face-to-face interaction. SAP EAM offers stable and valuable AI at an affordable rate, giving businesses access to cutting-edge artificial intelligence technology without having to create their own solution.

Cloud-based Analytics and Asset Management

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Tuesday’s second track involved presentations on reporting, MDG, and analytics. Jeff Witt, EAM Technology Program Manager for Owens Corning, described how his insulation, roofing, and fiberglass business went beyond “standard” SAP to address several pain points.

Before switching to SAP EAM, Owens Corning was using a relatively stable CMMS solution that they no longer felt was meeting their needs. With a relatively low emphasis on continuous improvement, Owens Corning needed a way to adapt to changes in asset management.

Throughout the process of moving to a more modern solution, Witt talked with all Owens Corning stakeholders to get a better idea of the use cases and pain points involved in their asset management practices. They were able to put together a working system in under four weeks which has now been running for more than a year.

Rather than being content with the progress made in the initial implementation, Owens Corning has continued to complete a range of Proof of Concepts and improve its CMMS systems. They’re consistently finding new ways to address their pain points and get even more out of SAP EAM.

Streamlining Planning and Scheduling

The first track offered during Tuesday’s conferences involved an analysis of how the SAP landscape is affecting the way companies approach planning and scheduling processes. Bob Meyers, an IT Business Partner for Operations, Engineering, and Supply Chain, and Chad Pennings, a Maintenance and Reliability Analyst, examined the integration of SAP systems within Johnsonville, LLC.

Johnsonville is a privately owned and operated company which supplies a range of meat products to businesses in 45 countries and 50 states. They decided to update their planning and scheduling practices in order to address important pain points, including an inefficient use of people and equipment resources.

Integrating the Viziya scheduling solution into their organization involved training 160 employees who had access to support at any time of the day for a full week. Implementing the Viziya Work Align Scheduler allowed Johnsonville to find more effective ways of addressing their scheduling opportunities.

With Viziya’ s Work Align Scheduler in conjunction with SAP, Johnsonville achieved an increased level of schedule compliance which resulted in a reduction in emergency work. They were able to prioritize their work orders more efficiently and significantly cut down on unplanned downtime.

Lynnanne Catron, Assistant VP of IT at Norfolk Southern Corporation, presented on “Turning Vision into Reality” and how Norfolk Southern leveraged SAP on its EAM journey. As an asset-intensive company, Catron pointed out that “improving asset utilization by even a small percentage can result in a huge impact on operating ratio.”

Norfolk Southern experienced many pain points which commonly motivate decision makers to implement SAP, including process inconsistency, inconsistent data analytics, and a lack of system integration. In response, they began to leverage SAP and look for ways to achieve continual improvement: “It’s all about organizational change management. Simply swapping out software equals change management failure.” They adopted the motto build once, deploy many times.”

Catron described their results with SAP which included crucial benefits to both operating ratio and asset ROI. In addition to increases in asset availability and reliability, Norfolk Southern was able to offer better customer service and simplify their IT landscape. She concluded that conventional business processes and maintenance management systems simply aren’t enough, especially for companies in asset-centric industries.

Inventory Management

Effective inventory management is an increasingly critical component of nearly any company’s practices, and Wednesday’s track four covered some of the most interesting developments in this area.

Kieran Dawson, Director of ERP APO Solutions for Pfizer Inc., detailed the challenges experienced by major pharmaceutical companies and how SAP Enterprise Inventory and Service-Level Optimization (EIS) is changing practices across the industry.

One of the pain points he mentioned was the need to decrease inventory while increasing supply chain flexibility. Pfizer leveraged the SAP solution to integrate data from all areas of the supply chain and allow changes in one location to affect decision-making in the others.

With the improved flexibility achieved using SAP, Pfizer has been able to reduce its inventory without sacrificing flexibility or speed. Stock levels are automatically updated to track variations in supply and demand, ensuring that their inventory is always optimized.

SAP Asset Manager and Mobile Asset Management

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Being able to quickly and effectively manage assets from a computer or mobile device is a critical advancement for businesses with large-scale supply chain needs, and SAP Asset Manager is designed to do just that. Karsten Hauschild, a solution Manager for Digital Supply Chain and Manufacturing at SAP, described how SAP is currently advancing mobile asset management practices.

With SAP Asset Manager, decision makers can execute orders directly from their smartphones, making mobility a crucial feature of the SAP Intelligent Asset Management suite. The application is currently available for both Android and iOS devices and also offers visual feedback to further inform decision making.

In addition to managing work orders, Asset Manager 3.0 makes it easy to view and update time sheets from any device. For iOS users, SAP has partnered closely with Apple to provide an intuitive experience that is just as easy to use as its desktop counterpart. Users can also create new documents and manage permissions.

SAP Asset Manager integrates directly with other applications in the SAP Intelligent Asset Management suite, and it continues to receive updates as user needs change. It’s a great tool for any asset-centric business to add to its mobile asset management practices.

Hauschild also covered some of the most important features included in SAP Work Manager, another mobile app available to SAP users on both Android and iOS. It is intended to maximize asset reliability and lifespan while increasing the safety of your workforce and speeding up work cycles. Users can access real-time information about each worker including location, progress, and status.

While SAP Asset Manager offers important updates compared to the earlier Work Manager, Work Manager is still used by a large audience and continues to receive regular updates. That said, Asset Manager is the newer solution and likely to receive more support in the long term. We recommend that companies transition to Asset Manager as it becomes the main mobile application in the SAP suite.

Reporting and Information Sharing

Access to updated, actionable information about assets is a crucial component of what makes the SAP suite so effective, distributing this data throughout and across businesses to help all decision makers stay as informed as possible. Colin Kirkwood, Asset Manager at Glencore Coal Australia, described the importance of information sharing and reporting in the context of asset management.

Glencore leveraged the power of SAP Intelligent Asset Management to provide sufficient information for the execution of Continuous Improvement Projects. Their implementation involved determining who needed which types of information and providing feedback and training to help personnel interpret this data effectively when making decisions.

With SAP, they were able to ensure that the right people had access to the right pieces of information at the right times, streamlining their asset management practices at all levels. They monitored their weekly progress and monthly results to ensure that their processes continued to improve as new solutions were found.

Supply Chain Integration with EAM

Many businesses with outdated supply chain management practices rely on a range of processes across multiple systems. This leads to significantly more time spent on things like reporting and analytics, which can often be inconsistent among different systems.

With an unintegrated supply chain solution, decision makers are less mobile and assets are prone to a higher failure rate. With that in mind, Bob Pennington from CITGO Petroleum explained the role of integration in his company’s implementation of SAP.

SAP makes it easy to manage workflows across businesses and decision makers, providing relevant documentation to each party involved. This automatically facilitates routine communication, integrating data points from multiple sources into a single application which users can view at any time.

Automated workflows push notifications to the relevant users whenever necessary, ensuring that everyone involved is kept up to date with the latest developments. Streamlining communication allows companies to leverage SAP more effectively and make more informed decisions at all levels.

Improving the SAP User Experience

With so much focus on the technology and power behind the SAP suite, it’s easy to lose sight of the importance of an intuitive user experience. Colin Kirkwood, Asset Manager at Glencore Coal Australia, described the “Fit for Purpose Road Map” which helped them apply design thinking to their SAP implementation.

Glencore started by examining its own practices and the pain points responsible for its most common inefficiencies. They found processes that were taking too long and that were not fully optimized and began to look for ways to update their approach.

Some of the main themes involved in their transformation included a “simplification of interaction with SAP” and “greater access to asset information.” In the end, Glencore was able to reach a better understanding of SAPs functions and capabilities.

With SAP, it’s easy to allocate less resources to a variety of tedious tasks and allow your decision makers to act more quickly, proactively, and effectively. Glencore ran workshops with a number of users to help build a solution that worked for the company’s priorities.

They developed a basic system to better address the needs of supervisors including a number of features to streamline common processes. These included screen changes to declutter the interface and new shortcuts which facilitates existing processes.

Kirkwood emphasized the importance of tailoring your SAP experience to your organization’s unique needs and pain points. Start with small changes at first before moving on to larger adjustments.

The 2019 SAP-Centric EAM Conference connected some of the most important thought leaders in a number of industries related to asset and supply chain management. These are just a few of the most exciting topics that were covered—stay updated with the latest EAM-related developments by following us on social media or subscribing to our newsletter.