The central processes of any company can be grouped into the following four areas: Source to Pay (financial accounting), Hire to Retire (includes personnel processes), Lead to Pay (management processes for customer relations), and Design to Operate (the process chain from development to operation).
Ideally, these four core processes are based on a uniform technology platform – something that SAP calls Intelligent Suite, consisting of the central module S/4 and supplemented by intelligent technologies such as machine learning, analytical models, or big data. The Intelligent Suite is designed for both traditional operating models (on premises) and more innovative ones (cloud or hybrid environments).
New products are usually based on a fundamentally novel idea or the need to optimize an existing solution. In the development process, information, visions and feasibility concerns have to be weighed against each other. Together with customers and partners, the first prototypes are developed in the early stages and subsequently brought to product maturity. After the product ideas have been developed, all the individual components must be produced and assembled. Afterwards, the goal is to deliver the manufactured products as quickly as possible, which requires stable logistics processes. Once commissioned, the products and systems have to be kept in operation for as long as possible to enable high-capacity utilization and to offer optimal customer support.
Since no components in today’s manufacturing industry work seamlessly together without integrated processes and powerful software, the products and solutions of SAP and Cenit come into play here.
Excellent manufacturing processes
Manufacturing companies have to quickly and flexibly react to changes in the market, produce a large number of product variants in small batches, and transform new innovations into successful products through a continuous improvement process. Closed Loop Engineering enables companies to map digital transformation across all steps of product development – integrating development, planning, construction, purchasing and controlling in the process. Production and assembly data enable support teams to ensure operational reliability for customers.
Once all these areas are integrated in the Design to Operate processes, manufacturing excellence becomes possible. A homogenous system landscape based on SAP standard software supports the provision of digital information and the synchronization of production processes.
Closed Loop Engineering
By using ideal-typical roles, I will exemplify the respective tasks and dependencies in the Design to Operate process in a manufacturing company.
Based on customer feedback and reports from sales teams and partner firms, initial product innovations can be made. After a finite decision to implement the changes and requirements in the project, the product or program manager takes on the more precise preliminary specification, starts the project, calculates the budget and coordinates with the systems engineer, who checks the specifications. The design engineer maps the new components on the product and contacts the required suppliers.
The program manager keeps a constant eye on the course of the project and detects deviations at an early stage. They also check and approve conformity to internal and external specifications, confirm feasibility of manufacturing processes, and carry out production planning. As soon as production is complete, the product can then be delivered to customers, and the project is completed.
Now, it is up to support teams to ensure that the system or product fits customers’ requirements. The service technician takes care of necessary maintenance, repairs and conversions during the product lifecycle. Customer feedback flows directly into further improvements or the optimization of the product.
With Closed Loop Engineering, SAP and Cenit offer a holistic concept for manufacturing processes from a single source.
Synchronization of processes
Digital transformation of commercial business processes is far advanced in most modern manufacturing companies. The success of standardized ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) solutions in large companies began about 50 years ago. Since the 1990s, specific industry solutions have also been established in mid-sized companies. The focus is usually on planning and management of business transactions, from offer to customer to invoice (Lead to Cash).
The current situation for production processes is quite different. To this day, decentralized data structures and fragmented process flows have been retained in production. However, differentiation from the market environment and the generation of new business opportunities will only be possible if, in addition to the already digitized Lead to Cash process, a consistently mapped Design to Operate process is implemented. The synchronization of these central business processes must therefore be an elementary component of a holistic digital transformation strategy.
Focus on the customer
Companies that digitally interlink the two key business processes create the prerequisites for placing the customer at the center of all activities. The technology behind it is Closed Loop Engineering: end-to-end digitalization enables the optimization of the product and its processes in a closed loop.
Cenit’s products in the context of Design to Operate represent this holistic approach and offer a modular solution portfolio to complement SAP ERP. Digital twin technology is the foundation, even in the early stages of the product lifecycle. The digital twin is enriched with data at each step in the Design to Operate process and thus transparently documents the completed production steps.
Design to Operate is a central component of SAP’s offering for the Intelligent Enterprise. SAP also covers the requirements of the manufacturing industry in a holistic way. With scalable SAP standard software and Cenit’s Closed Loop Engineering concept, manufacturing companies have the opportunity to implement state-of-the-art manufacturing processes.
Companies that place their customers at the center of all their activities furthermore have the opportunity to clearly differentiate themselves from competitors in the future. The resulting data are consolidated across all production steps and the digital twin is created in parallel to the physical product. This opens the possibility of establishing new business models and reaching niche markets.