The planet runs on warehouses. Whether we like globalization or not, a huge number of our goods and supporting service items spend an inevitable amount of time somewhere in a warehouse, usually on a wooden palette, moved around by a forklift truck and typically covered in some form of protective plastic coating.
The people that shift our goods around inside these facilities usually wear overalls or some form of one-piece jumpsuit type garment designed to protect them. These people are the frontline of modern supply chains and we need to care about them. While we can provide good working conditions, competitive salaries and wellbeing support services to make our supply chain backbone workers’ lives better, we can also clearly now use technology to improve the way these systems run.
People & planet
German softwarehaus SAP used its annual Sapphire user convention this year to focus on this aspect of the world economy and table a number of new products and services designed to accelerate innovations that will benefit our overall-wearing heroes, us the consumers and, ultimately and hopefully, the planet as well.
Describing its latest solutions as modular industry-specific cloud offerings that automate supply chains with data-driven insights, youthful-looking SAP CEO Christian Klein has pointed to the obvious flaws that have been exposed in global supply chain systems as a result of the disruptions driven by the pandemic and wider economic upsets.
“For 50 years, SAP has been helping companies adopt digital processes so they can thrive in a rapidly evolving world,” said Klein “We understand the urgency of digital transformation today, as well as the issues and challenges it can bring. Our new innovations are designed to help our customers transform to become more agile, build resilient supply chains and turn data into greater business value.”
To help warehouses run more smoothly, SAP is partnering with Apple to make SAP Warehouse Operator, a new mobile app that lets workers complete warehouse tasks using their personal iOS devices, available now at the Apple App Store. The company is also taking warehouse automation to the next level with SAP Warehouse Robotics, now part of SAP Extended Warehouse Management.
The suggestion here is that by connecting supply chains to warehouse robotics, companies can make supply chains more powerful and effective, augment workforce performance and so make warehouses safer.
To help customers optimize manufacturing performance, the new SAP Digital Manufacturing Cloud is said to bring together analytics, edge computing (i.e. Internet of Things) and automation with state-of-the-art manufacturing processes, including the integration of processed and planned orders from SAP S/4HANA and SAP S/4HANA Cloud.
Her Majesty’s logic
SAP has echoed Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s comments on climate inaction and called for a move from well-meaning talk to meaningful action vis-à-vis sustainability. According to SAP, many companies have made important commitments to improving the sustainability of their operations and supply chains, but in most cases, they’re not doing enough to make the kind of impact they might.
“Every industry has unique business needs, functions and processes that necessitate customization of basic solution functionality. While cloud solutions in general support agile, continuous innovation, [our] experience helping companies across industry create and connect digital business processes from end to end raise its cloud offerings to a level unmatched by other providers,” said SAP, in a product statement.
New capabilities in SAP Cloud for Sustainable Enterprises are hope to help companies develop in key areas of sustainability management. SAP Product Footprint Management promises to allow customers to reduce product carbon footprints at scale with live connectivity from S/4HANA, now including transport and travel capabilities. SAP Responsible Design and Production, which helps customers manage obligations for Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) regulations, now extends to plastic taxes such as those recently implemented in the UK.
Enabling technologies into action
If we achieve all these things, will we really have made life better for the overall wearing (other factory and warehouse-specific clothing is also available) workers of tomorrow and us the users, with the planet at large also benefitting? In theory yes, the drive to digitize workflows should exist in the boardroom, on the sales floor, in the warehouse and in the field; this is the age of data-driven work management and its benefits should be applied at every tier of business.
Does SAP hold all the answers? It’s unlikely.
There are many big-scale enterprise software companies out there and it would be foolish to put all our eggs in one basket, especially on a forklift truck. But naysaying aside, the fact that the global narrative has moved to champion these essentially environmentally and human wellbeing-friendly concerns front-and-center is encouraging.
Let’s take more overall care over all overalls, did somebody say tea break?