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Manufacturing the Future

Traditional manufacturing processes were designed to achieve the greatest productivity with the greatest degree of efficiency. Now manufacturing must meet new market challenges and new customer demands.

While they should still be designed for efficient production, manufacturing sites do not exist in a bubble. The manufacturing process is dispersed across many sites, and often across many countries. Because manufacturing supply chains are subject to disruption and may be required to scale production from individual units or small batches to mass production, a new digitalised model for production has evolved.

The best practices of Industry 4.0 streamline these processes and integrate them with the wider business operations in order to provide real time information flow across the value chain. This more agile and more transparent business model achieves much higher levels of efficiency, and is more centred on the needs of the customer.

Smart People for Smart Factories

Intelligent factories following these practices are able to ensure a sustainable manufacturing process, a safe working environment and compliance with manufacturing regulations, while also increasing productivity.

The manufacturing sector is undergoing a wave of change: as it responds to the challenges of globalisation, the need to become environmentally sustainable, and adapts to economically disruptive world events like pandemics and wars.

As a result the demand for IT consultants who can confidently implement and maintain manufacturing ERP systems such as SAP Digital Manufacturing Cloud is increasing rapidly, particularly in light of the skills shortage in the IT sector.

So this week IgniteSAP is looking at SAP Digital Manufacturing Cloud: how SAP specialists can take advantage of this trend in SAP service provision for manufacturing sites, and how they can improve their career prospects with training in SAP Manufacturing solutions.

SAP Digital Manufacturing Cloud: An Overview

SAP describes SAP Digital Manufacturing Cloud as a “fully cloud-based manufacturing execution system that focuses on the execution, data analysis, control and integration of manufacturing processes”. This means it is an ideal solution for intelligent factories, and for integrating manufacturing processes with the wider business landscape of a manufacturing enterprise.

Integration of the manufacturing endpoints on the shop floor with the database and the rest of an ERP system is at the core of the design. An implementation of SAP DMC extends the ERP system into the physical manufacturing space, and to points of contact with employees like hand-held devices and augmented reality systems for desk-less workers. It also extends outwards.

This bi-directional flow of information, along with information from the extended supply chain and other business partners, contributes to real time analysis of the overall performance of the business, so that strategic business operations decisions are based on the situation on the ground.

Implementation Scenarios

Implementation of these scenarios can be divided into types of integration: SAP DMC for execution, for insights integration, and for the shop floor. Implementations can be on-premise if required and integrated with SAP S/4HANA and other SAP ERP components via a Cloud Connector.

These implementation scenarios with S/4HANA differ according to whether they are for: Discrete industries, where the manufactured product consists of parts which can be easily disassembled (such as electronic appliances, and automotive products), and Process industries, where the end product cannot be disassembled into components (like paper, chemicals, medicines, or steel and other materials).

This situation results from the fact that there are many types of manufacturing and consequently implementations of SAP DMC will have different requirements, and different types of master data, and transactional data.

Like other areas of SAP ERP an implementation will require a different method dependent on the desired outcome. While an instance of SAP DMC is operational, analytical, ensuring safe and compliant processes, or connecting manufacturing process assets, it will always contribute to a larger ERP system, so it is worth understanding and being familiar with other SAP products like S/4HANA or SAP Extended Warehouse Management, and the wider context of the business.

Digital Manufacturing Cloud implementations utilise extensions to help integrate the business processes, the UI using public APIs, or even AI and Machine Learning extensions for scenarios like visual inspections in quality management. Many of these extensions have been created and preconfigured by SAP partners on the SAP Business Technology Platform.

The SAP Manufacturing Learning Journey

The road to becoming a competent SAP professional working in the manufacturing sector is clearly laid out in the SAP Manufacturing Learning Journey. By following the steps of this Learning Journey you will work through openSAP free introductory content, to detailed online courses and classroom learning available through paid subscription to SAP Learning Hub.

An SAP Digital Manufacturing Consultant will be able to demonstrate proficiency in a wide range of skills and so there is a lot to learn if you are looking to specialise in this area, but the rewards are substantial because the need for competent professionals is great.

For example, the SAP training course “Processes in SAP Digital Manufacturing Cloud for Execution” (DMC100) provides an overview of the foundational elements of the process capabilities of SAP DMC for Execution. This means that participants will have gained the basic skills to participate in implementation projects for SAP DMC in manufacturing facilities, as part of a team. The more courses from the Learning Journey that you complete, the wider the number of potential SAP manufacturing jobs or contracts that you will be eligible for.

Other courses of the ten included in the SAP Manufacturing Learning Journey reflect different implementation scenarios for SAP Digital Manufacturing Cloud: “Machine Model and Connectivity” (DMC300), or “SAP S/4HANA Manufacturing for Production Engineering and Operations” (S4280). “SAP Manufacturing Integration & Intelligence – Fundamentals” (SCM380) or “SAP Plant Connectivity” (SCM385).

Who Pays for Training?

We should mention at this point that the course costs are high (subscriptions to SAP Learning Hub for courses are the best value), but this will provide a return on investment fairly quickly as the demand for skilled SAP manufacturing specialists is also high. Another route to funding this investment in your future is through your existing employer, who may well be persuaded to fund your ongoing training through the SAP Learning Hub: if they are a manufacturing business able to maintain an SAP Manufacturing specialist in-house then the business will save on the fees to a consultancy or independent consultant when they want to make changes to the existing system.

Equally, an employee of an SAP consultancy may be able to make the case that it would increase the number of potential SAP service contracts open to that business. With each implementation project your own employability in this area would grow, and perhaps later you might start your own consultancy.

The Cutting Edge of SAP

The reason why SAP skills in manufacturing are so crucial to businesses are because so many of the challenges and opportunities facing the economy intersect in manufacturing.

Factories need to be more efficient, safer, more productive, environmentally sustainable, and more adaptable to the changing demands of the market.

The only way to achieve this is through greater reliance on technology, connecting the production process upstream to suppliers, and downstream to customers.

It is not enough to automate the physical processes of manufacturing. Without a corresponding expansion of connectivity and real time information flow then the manufacturing process will be just filling up warehousing space. There needs to be connection, not just to immediate demand but to customers: forecasting future demand and adjusting the process ahead of the curve.

Society is now dependent on mass production, automation and just-in-time supply chains, and we have seen recently how this situation can go wrong. The manufacturing sector needs systems like SAP Digital Manufacturing Cloud, but it also needs skilled and visionary SAP professionals to provide the requisite services in order to implement and maintain these systems.

At the height of the skills shortage, at the apex of the manufacturing sector’s need for SAP manufacturing consultants, when the machine is broken, now is the time to step up and say: “Hey, I can fix that.”

Do you have SAP skills just waiting to be snapped up? Our team can connect you with your ideal employer, so reach out and get in touch with IgniteSAP