The title of the post may be a bit reaching, but while I was interviewing people for background for the SAP/Harris Survey, I picked up some definite vibrations.

A little history, first. When SAP brought together all the suites bundled as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) there were a couple of problems. Like its Manufacturing Resource Planning (MRP) ancestor–an application I learned as far back as 1977–ERP forced companies to adapt their workflows to the software workflows.

Now this was contrary to what I was taught. Back then, they (IBM in my case) taught us to rationalize your physical systems and workflows first, then implement a digital solution. 35 years later, I still hear the wisdom of that teaching. From both first-hand and anecdotal evidence, too many people who implemented ERP went the other way around. They bought a package, then hired consultants to rationalize the business around the software.

I don’t know if that was SAP’s fault (they are always blamed, of course) or the fault of the people who implemented the application.

Connecting to the enterprise

The second challenge was integrating manufacturing enterprises with data brought directly from the plant or factory. To solve that problem, SAP acquired Lighthammer with the evolution of its product becoming MII.

The layer between the plant and the enterprise is known as Layer 3 of the Purdue Model–the execution layer. SAP has also undertaken efforts to incorporate MES into its offering.

Bringing it together

The interesting thing within the conversations I had was the matter-of-fact way the executives referred to this connectivity into the SAP mother ship.

I am interested in hearing about your experiences with all this connected SAP. Are you doing it? In the process of implementing? How is it going? What would you recommend to the next group of people trying to do this? Are you replacing another MES? Did you rationalize your operations–say using the ISA95 model?

Let me know.

Watch for the launch of The Manufacturing Connection coming soon. “Connecting things, data  and people in a digital world promoting manufacturing excellence.” Register with your email  address now and be among the first to see the unveiling.

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