This blog was written by Darcy MacClaren and originally published on LinkedIn.
Have you ever been to Wichita? Recently, I had the opportunity to travel to the lovely Midwest city to participate in The Smart Factory @ Wichita Opening Summit. During the three day event, attendees heard from experts in a wide array of fields on topics ranging from Industry 4.0 to the importance of youth education for the future of supply chains. I was fortunate enough to share the stage with leaders from the other Smart Factory Ecosystem Founders and provide my expertise on the future of manufacturing as well as how SAP is helping our customers tackle today’s challenges while building for the future. Everyone was wowed by this event – both in content and execution. Even still, it was the facility itself that stole the show.
The Smart Factory covers 60,000 square feet on the Wichita State University campus, just northeast of the city center. Great care has been taken to ensure the building’s energy use is net zero, including being part of the university-managed smart grid and having renewable energy generation onsite. This intentional approach clearly demonstrates the Smart Factory’s commitment to sustainability. Upon arrival, visitors are greeted by the Tomorrow Table, a physically massive digital installation, which contrasts traditional methodologies with cutting-edge technology.
When proceeding to the shop floor, our entire tour group was enamored by what we saw. Laid out below was a fully operational, smart manufacturing production line based on Industry 4.0 concepts. There were robots everywhere! When you enter this space, your eyes are immediately drawn to the huge dashboards that give the feeling of a sports stadium. The screens project information pulled from the technology stack that seamlessly runs this impressive series of machines.
The information displayed is designed to be informative for both supply chain experts and newcomers. This important element is well aligned to a part of the Smart Factory’s mission that I particularly admire, and that is to make the underlying concepts accessible to anyone. Everything presented was well articulated and easy to consume – not an easy task when dealing with such complex technology!
All of this adds up to a truly unique experience for visitors. I cannot emphasize the real live experience aspect strongly enough, as the immersion in the live production environment allows visitors to experience Smart Factory concepts in a way that’s not possible through standard conversations or presentations.
The Smart Factory @ Wichita is a terrific showcase of the digital supply chain technology that helps our customers unlock the value of Industry 4.0. At the core is SAP S/4HANA, the intelligent enterprise cloud solution that runs the mission-critical operations with integrated supply chain solutions for Manufacturing and Asset Management. These digital solutions enable the physical production line on the shop floor.
Customers can get an under-the-hood view at how SAP solutions are involved in a functioning manufacturing facility. With over fifty use cases to choose from, visitors can envision how Industry 4.0 can drive value for their business. We’ve all heard seeing is believing…the Smart Factory is on a mission to make everyone a believer.
SAP is part of the comprehensive Smart Factory Ecosystem which powers this unique experience. At SAP, we are always seeking opportunities to drive innovation and were drawn to become a Founder of the Smart Factory partially because of its commitment to sustainability, but also for its vision of an extended partner ecosystem. The ecosystem includes stakeholders from software, hardware, robotics, consulting, academia, and the community-at-large. There’s a real sense of collaboration and willingness to grow among the partners, and you can feel that as you explore the Wichita facility. The Smart Factory is all about working together to tackle today’s greatest challenges and optimize for the future.
One area where there’s opportunity to have a significant impact on the future is sustainable manufacturing. Manufacturing is directly connected to everything in our physical world. And so, The Smart Factory is leveraging current global interest in sustainability to educate students, from elementary school through college, about smart manufacturing in a series of programs and its impact on sustainability outcomes. The most notable of these programs is the facility’s advanced manufacturing capabilities producing Smart Rover Kits designed to “empower students of all ages with enduring skills needed to design, code, and build for the future.” During the Opening Summit panel discussion on education, it was announced that over 200 of these kits have already been donated to schools and this program is expected to far exceed those numbers in the years to come.
The Smart Factory @ Wichita currently focuses on Manufacturing and Asset Management use cases though that certainly isn’t the end of the road. The next step is to enable the full end-to-end supply chain scenario, including SAP technology supporting Product Innovation for R&D and Engineering, Logistics for Warehousing and Transportation, and Supply Chain Planning.
In addition to SAP´s Founder status with The Smart Factory, SAP is also investing in its own physical sites in the United States and Germany where customers can get up close and engage with SAP´s smart manufacturing technologies. The immersive nature of these facilities transforms how customers think about the future and unlocks the ability to think more creatively. Alternatively, you can experience our digital Industry 4.0 experience right now from anywhere.
Smart factories provide a unique experience and The Smart Factory @ Wichita is no exception. Thank you to the organizers for hosting me and the whole SAP team for the fantastic Opening Summit. We are excited to immerse our customers in the future of manufacturing and create some more Industry 4.0 believers.