In 1972 five engineers left IBM to develop a vision for the business potential of technology. They developed a mainframe program for payroll and accounting, instead of storing the data on punch cards mechanically, they stored it locally, in real time. This was the beginning of SAP (Systeme, Anwendungen und Produkte in der Datenverarbeitung which translates to Systems, Applications, and Products in Data Processing). Throughout the last 45 years, SAP has managed to catch the right waves at the right time, producing time specific innovation. From punch cards to real time in the 70s’, to today, providing a platform for integration of additive and distributed manufacturing.
Part of a Whole
Not everything needs to be 3D printed, but for many parts, Additive Manufacturing brings significant business advantages. One of the main business benefits of additive manufacturing is in the ability to be integrated with other systems creating an end-to-end solution. SAP can provide that platform, encompassing both manufacturing and logistics. Last year SAP announced a new partnership with UPS, creating an on-demand 3D printing network. By looking at the complete process, identifying the weak spots as well as the potential, the new collaborative network enables distributed manufacturing. “Everyone is focused on printing the parts, but we view it more as an end-to-end process”, says Gil Perez, Senior Vice President Digital Assets & IoT at SAP.
The Equation of SAP + UPS
The combination of Additive Manufacturing with a software system interfaced with the enterprise’s ERP system can seamlessly optimize and streamline not just manufacturing but also logistics processes. For each order, the optimal supply chain path can be examined and determined in real time. The software can determine if an ordered part is available and where, calculating what would be the best alternative money-wise and time-wise for the customer and for the company – 3D printing it or pulling it from stock. UPS provides the infrastructure to calculate time and shipping into the equation, according to distance and size. Another important component UPS provides is additive manufacturing facilities for companies who haven’t invested in a 3D printer, allowing an even more dispersed manufacturing model.
“Technology innovations such as 3D printing are revolutionizing traditional manufacturing and redefine our notion of the industrial supply chain, by bringing together the on-demand manufacturing and logistics expertise of UPS and the extended supply chain leadership of SAP, we can enable direct digital manufacturing and an on-demand industrial manufacturing network that connects from manufacturing floor to the customer door”. States Bernd Leukert, member of the Executive Board, Products & Innovations, SAP SE.
The Right Size
“Up to now, we had two options, take a part out of inventory or take it off the production line. Now we’re adding a third option”, says Gil Perez. Companies hold spare parts for products even when they are out of production, this requires manufacturing large amounts of parts without being able to predict how much will be needed. A company can decide to discontinue the production and inventory of a part but that would mean taking the risk of not being able to supply their customers when in need. The third option Gil Perez is referring to is additively manufacturing a part on-demand. When a customer requires a part it can be produced on the spot without keeping an unnecessary production line running and without unnecessary inventory. The third option allows a business to keep the “right size” inventory for slow-moving parts, saving costs of production and materials as well as storage space.
Today we are accustomed to receiving quick information and quick results, yet the manufacturing field is not quite there. Manufacturing takes time, so does the logistics of it. The supply chain software developed by SAP offers an adaptation of the known business models, applying them to Distributed Manufacturing. Today’s businesses should be able to streamline their supply chain, to react quickly and cost-effectively to the needs of the market.
Last month SAP launched an early access program for its Distributed Manufacturing application. At the moment 30 co-innovation companies, are taking part in the program. Nikolai Zaepernick, senior vice president at EOS Central Europe, one of the collaborating companies explains: “This SAP program is a perfect fit for us, it provides an ideal collaboration platform to merge supply and demand for the industrial 3D printing technology we offer. As a leader in this field, EOS contributes a wealth of deep and long-standing technology experience. The platform, on the other hand, enables us to integrate our technology into existing supply chains and production environments on the way to becoming an established way of manufacturing.”
On-Demand Manufacturing will be integrated into SAP’s software, the parts ordered through UPS will be approved and certified by SAP, accelerating and standardizing the process. Gil Perez explains the process: “We have SAP Approval and Collaboration, which allows you to start with a 3D model and goes through the whole process of testing, inspection, quality assurance, etc., at the end of this process, you really have a manufacturing instruction package for a specific printer with a specific material that you need in order to get a part that will meet your specifications. This manufacturing package is one that the company will be happy to put their logo on and provide their warranty with”. The aim is to ensure consistent production and delivery each time, using existing ERP processes and installations to allow minimal disruption to the normal operations of the product company/brand. Consistent quality is very important for companies everywhere and minimizing the disruption makes adoption that much easier. We, at Make it LEO, appreciate this approach and follow a similar one.
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