A New Platform Clears the Path for the Coming Industrial Revolution

BrandPost By Keith E. Greenberg, SAP Contributor
Aug 15, 20225 mins
Collaboration Software

Despite being a leading manufacturer of sensors and sensor solutions, Sick AG lagged behind at tracking equipment and material along the supply chain – until its SmaRTLog platform changed the game.

Sick AG SAP Innovation Awards Two men in conversation
Credit: Sick AG

Since its beginnings as a German engineering company founded in the wake of the Second World War, Sick AG has evolved into an enterprise that lives by the motto of “sensor intelligence,” specializing in factory, logistics, and process automation.

But in recent years, the global manufacturer of sensors and sensor solutions has had to adjust its supply chain system to match its goals of blurring the lines between the physical and digital worlds.

The lack of integration between communication systems – not all of them digital – was slowing decision-making and incurring unnecessary costs.

“If a big company ordered some material, you’d have every person looking underneath his or her table to see if that material was there,” recalled Roland Avar, Sick AG’s Head of Product Management I Localization (RTLS).

What Sick AG needed was a real-time, global locating system – an integrated solution that would close the information gap.

“You waste a lot of time searching for material or an asset. Localization data enables agile planning of production and logistical processes for better delivery quality and reliability.” Avar pointed out. “With a digitized system, we would know where everything was at any time.”

Not a lottery game

Sick AG’s product portfolio includes RFID (radio frequency identification) readers, light grids, vision sensors, opto-electronic protective devices, bar code scanners, and analyzers for gas and liquid, along with gas flow measuring tools.

With more than 10,000 employees worldwide, the company serves as a guidepost for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, or Industry 4.0, a time of rapid change to industries, technology, and societal patterns due to smart automation.

As technology expands, so have the company’s processes in logistics and production. But as Avar noted, “Complexity definitely increases when you have multiple systems talking to each other. That’s why we needed to have the systems connected. Without that interconnectivity, it’s like playing the lottery, where you’re guessing numbers and hope that you are right.”

No one involved in the implementation of the new solution expected the process to be easy. “Let me say it like this,” Avar remembered. “We had some really challenging discussions.”

The name says it all

Even the dialogue about the platform’s name was spirited. In the end, developers settled on smaRTLog – for smart, real-time logistics.

The effort was a collaboration between Sick AG and multi-national, enterprise resource software (ERP) leader SAP.

smaRTLog connects real-time location-based information coming from Tag-LOC System, together with SAP business transactions. In other words, Tag-LOC System consists of the hardware, antennas, and tags for indoor tracking, and a technology independent intelligent hub Asset Analytics which interacts with SAP technologies for further analytics of all inventory and logistics – capturing, processing, and storing the information that would provide complete transparency and blot out the gray areas.

When items were delayed, all affected workers would receive alerts, along with updates on arrival times. Built-in mechanisms would spot defective material and eliminate it from the production process. Incidents previously characterized as “unexpected” were now telegraphed in advance, increasing predictability, along with the quality of warehouse management.

Growing within the system

In less than a year after its July 2021 deployment, the SmaRTLog solution had transformed manufacturing, automation, and logistics for Sick AG and its clients.

The average search time for missing materials decreased from 45 to 15 minutes, while the period between a requisition and delivery was reduced by 20%.

Companies that have adopted the platform report a more engaged workforce. “People aren’t worrying about, ‘Did I scan this? Did I not scan this? Did I do a good job? Did I do a bad job?’” Avar said. “And they have more time to concentrate on more crucial jobs, more satisfying jobs. Their confidence level grew like the system itself.”

Earlier this year, Sick AG was recognized for the creation of smaRTLog by being designated a 2022 finalist at the SAP Innovation Awards, a yearly event honoring organizations that have used SAP technologies to improve both business and society. You can read about Sick’s amazing accomplishment in their Innovation Awards pitch deck.

Avar believes that, with infrastructure considerations now diminished, the solution gives companies the flexibility to grow in ways that hadn’t existed before. The platform “can change or support their digital strategies,” he said, “and it’s a blueprint that other companies can follow.”

To learn more about Sick’s creation of smaRTLog, read their Innovation Awards pitch deck.