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Integrated operational systems are the first step toward real, and often surprising, progress in a manufacturing organization.

Change for the sake of change always ruffles peoples' feathers. As Robert Kennedy said, "Progress is a nice word. But change is its motivator. And change has its enemies." As businesses strive for progress, change is inevitable. (Disclaimer: I'm no politician.)

I found myself in Cleveland, Ohio earlier this month. I was participating in one of SAP's semi-annual Customer Value Network events for manufacturing and sustainability lines of business. Simply put, "change" leapt out as the major theme of the convention. Real, attainable, positive business change. Each customer presentation shared a number of positive changes experienced as a result of manufacturing system integration, made possible by SAP Manufacturing Integration and Intelligence (SAP MII).

I noticed several common themes around integration that kept appearing in each presentation. I jotted down a short list of these "no-brainer reasons" for others to enjoy as well:

1. Achieve operational synergy

I have to admit - I'm loath to use the word "synergy". On the scorecard of Business Buzzword Bingo, "synergy" would be the free space. However... it aptly describes the reduction of extraneous effort. With one single system of record, you aren't juggling four different programs to process one task. Your efforts aren't a duplication of your colleague's efforts, because your whole team is able to work from the same real-time data.

Information is visible, accurate, and easily accessible. Miscommunication becomes an obstacle of the past.


2. Measure performance with real-time analytics

Most people recognize that goal-setting is a great way to achieve success. But a goal doesn't work like a rotisserie oven - you can't just "Set it and forget it!". Reaching a goal takes continued performance measurement, analysis, and readjustment until you reach your desired result.

Now in manufacturing, collecting data is one thing. But data is mindless - information, on the other hand, is actionable. SAP MII enables businesses to transform their overwhelming quantities of mindless data into actionable intelligence, no matter the source.

This means seeing real-time KPIs streaming in from multiple sources along a live production line... and analyzing those metrics against past, or even predicted future performance. This also means the ability to cross-reference and combine that data with data from your top floor ERP system for a completely transparent view of your business.

MII empowers customers to improve their manufacturing operations by integrating and understanding the data behind it.

3. Establish your competitive advantage

Possibly the most buzzed-about theme I encountered in Cleveland was MII's ability to enable new competitive advantages for our customers. In some cases, this meant improving manufacturing margins (and total profits!) in times of lower total sales. In other cases, this meant enabling entry to newer, more profitable markets.

No matter your industry, maintaining competitive advantage is a crucial aspect of your business. Do you want to achieve the "perfect plant"? Maybe you want to be a leading innovator in your industry. Or, are you chasing your competition instead? Are you interested in introducing a more mobile platform for your daily operations? SAP MII is a driver of these changes.

I'll sum up what I learned with this: change isn't always easy, but progress makes it worthwhile. And the business progress I saw throughout my two days in Cleveland was nothing short of impressive.

What no-brainer reasons would you add to this list?


For more information about SAP MII, check out the MII Wiki on SDN. Feel free to follow me on Twitter @RJordanGray ... it's also a no-brainer!