For any enterprise, remaining competitive in a tough, global economy requires a commitment to operational excellence and access to the latest information on which to base critical business decisions. A familiy of software products focused on the SAP manufacturing user community helps companies to create a composite application platform which enables them to collect and assimilate data from geographically distributed production facilities and technologically diverse systems and databases.
Manufacturers employ dashboard and performance improvement initiatives to deal with the tremendous pressure to cut costs, improve quality and increase responsiveness in their operations. These initiatives provide views with graphical representations of the key performance indicators (KPI) or metrics that each user relies upon to make decisions on the operation and execution of their responsibilities. The data required to generate metrics and measure the impact of these initiatives is locked up in a myriad of applications and databases from multiple suppliers. And, the volume of data required can paralyze an organization without a platform to deal with it.
Lighthammer, an expert in enterprise manufacturing intelligence and collaborative manufacturing, created a family of software products focused on the SAP manufacturing user community. These include the Lighthammer Collaborative Manufacturing Suite (CMS) SAP Edition, the Lighthammer Manufacturing Services Adapter (MSA) for SAP NetWeaver, and the Manufacturing Performance Improvement (MPI) xApp. As Lighthammer is both an SAP xApp and a Powered-By-NetWeaver partner, these applications are deployed on and tightly integrated with SAP NetWeaver.
Enabling "next practices in manufacturing
The CMS platform delivers a comprehensive set of functionality including: connectivity to manufacturing applications and data sources, visualization and analysis of manufacturing and non-manufacturing data, KPI and alert management, quality analytics, and event-based plant-to-SAP integration. The MSA includes much of the functionality of CMS, without the visualization services. MPI is a "cross application that leverages the Lighthammer platform to deliver manufacturing key performance indicators (KPIs) such as product levels, asset utilization, and scrap rates. MPI delivers alerts, such as safety stock thresholds exceeded, scrap rate has exceeded a preset limit or a product quality indicator is indicating a problem. And, MPI delivers event notifications such as order status change, equipment outages, quality problems, and others. These information assets are delivered into the SAP NetWeaver environment, specifically the portal-based manufacturing dashboard included in mySAP ERP 2004.
The CMS is a software solution that enables manufacturing companies to rapidly implement these applications that support operational excellence activities such as performance management, continuous improvement, and operational synchronization. The foundation for this approach is a service-oriented architecture (SOA), in which a network of "services are weaved together to produce new applications as part of a broader Enterprise Services Architecture (ESA).
The technological base is a service oriented architecture
Unique to the CMS is the ability to leverage existing infrastructure, data and application functionality without modification or duplication, three fundamental tenets of any composite application. The solution touches not only the data and systems, but just as importantly, the people and business processes that embody the manufacturing ecosystem. The SAP Enterprise Portal enables people to interact with these work processes, and the integration with SAP Exchange Infrastructure (SAP XI) extends and integrates enterprise business processes with plant/manufacturing business processes.
The services included in the suite represent a holistic yet extensible set of services on which the wide range of manufacturing applications can be quickly configured and deployed. The six core services of the CMS include Data Access, Visualization, Business Logic, Portal, Analysis, and Security.
The key enabling technologies are XML (Extensible Markup Language) and Web services. As CMS was architected from conception as a composite application, there is no need to implement massive amounts of custom coding to construct applications. This can be achived through visual configuration. Extensibility and interoperability are "designed in, not "bolted on.
No need for duplication
The data access service exposes information in the appropriate context, e.g. "tags for plant automation systems, tables/columns for SQL data, cubes/dimensions/measures for OLAP sources, and schemas for complex data structures in enterprise applications. The solution also eliminates the need for duplication of data by creating a "meta-model" or "virtual data model" that contextually binds dissimilar systems using the appropriate information like order, date/time or time interval, customer, product, lot and machine.
Rich visualization and analytical capabilities are provided, including manufacturing-specific charting components, dashboard display objects, and quality analysis objects for continuous improvement initiatives such as Six-Sigma, and other process improvement initiatives. These displayed objects can be linked together to provide cross-data-source drill down capabilities that can be very useful in root cause analyses and other investigative or discovery processes.
The CMS deeply exploits the capabilities of the SAP NetWeaver platform. It runs on the SAP Web Application Server (SAP Web AS), integrates with mySAP ERP directly and via SAP XI, provides single sign-on and content delivery via iViews to SAP Enterprise Portal, and delivers two-way interaction with SAP Business Intelligence (SAP BI).
Real-time, event-based integration
The MSA for SAP NetWeaver represents a way to implement operational synchronization between enterprise systems and processes and plant-level systems, processes, and people.
It allows event-based movement of information between these participants in the internal supply chain, in either direction, and allows SAP applications to interact and interface with the hundreds of diverse and proprietary systems found in the manufacturing world via a single "adapter. Customers such as Dow Corning connect into and integrate dozens of "systems of record including plant historians, control systems, data warehouses, laboratory systems, and other operational decision support systems.
This type of solution allows interfacing with virtually every aspect of mySAP ERP. In fact, it includes comprehensive connections to legacy SAP R/3 systems, SAP Business Information Warehouse, SAP XI, and SAP Web AS.
In addition to the two-way transactional integration afforded by the adapter, MSA enables "just in time delivery of master data to manufacturing applications. Duplication of master data is an all too common and unnecessary practice in many manufacturing environments today that can be eliminated with the use of MSA to deliver production plans, specifications, and other master data "as needed to support production operations.
Delivering accurate and timely information between enterprise and plant-level business processes effectively removes what has historically been the "weak link in the supply chain and enables "manufacturing at the speed of business.
Boosting manufacturing performance
The xApp MPI on SAP NetWeaver connects to and aggregates data across the manufacturing landscape providing greater operational visibility to information from multiple processes, lines and plants. KPIs and event-based alerts can be quickly and easily configured and deployed using MPI. The xApp includes preconfigured content and configuration iViews, as well as direct integration to the Plant Manager dashboard and alert management capabilities delivered with mySAP ERP.
MPI leverages Lighthammers data access, analytics, and business logic services to connect to virtually any data source in manufacturing such as plant automation, maintenance, manufacturing execution systems (MES), and quality data from all major vendors.
MPI on SAP NetWeaver enables subject matter experts anywhere in the organization or its value chain to work together to solve problems through the SAP Enterprise Portal. Actions may be taken in any other mySAP Business Suite application to resolve a problem, rapidly. The sooner a worker responds to a problem, the smaller the impact of the problem on the business.
Improved decision-making, increased business velocity
Manufacturing information architectures are typically a compilation of off-the-shelf and homegrown applications, each serving a valuable purpose. Users can extend the value of these systems by linking the content together, without replicating it. Decision making at the plant and enterprise level is enhanced by providing up to the minute information about the current conditions and capabilities of manufacturing. Even more dramatic results are achieved when enterprise data is linked with plant/manufacturing data. A December, 2003 report from Advanced Manufacturing Research (AMR) described enterprise manufacturing intelligence as "the rare low-risk, high-reward project with short time to payback and typical Return on Investment (ROI) ranging from 5 to 10 times the initial investment in the project.
About the author
Rick Bullotta is the co-founder and CTO of Lighthammer, based in Exton, Pennsylvania in the United States. Rick has 20 years of experience in the manufacturing industry in a wide range of roles, including user, systems integrator, and software vendor. He graduated from Cornell University with a degree in Operations Research and Industrial Engineering. He is active in a variety of professional societies and standard organizations and is a frequent speaker on topics related to leading-edge software in the manufacturing sector.