Manufacturing execution systems (MES) are used in many production facilities as the link between process automation and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. What used to be an integral part of many industrial systems now becomes a questionably unnecessary cost factor, at least for those who are using SAP applications and controlling their production with zenon. Copa-Data has now created a direct connection: a SAP-certified bidirectional interface now connects SCADA with ERP. Zenon and SAP ERP work in unison to take over the tasks that used to be performed by separate MES products or by manually transferring data.
Copa-Data has opened its already highly connective zenon to the world of SAP. The HMI/SCADA system interacts with SAP ERP via a bidirectional interface. This means it sends messages about any type of event to the ERP level and also receives control commands from there. Companies can now directly link their process level with the ERP level to create a closed information loop, producing a complete overview of their business – from order management, recipes and production to shipment – as it happens.
ERP systems are increasingly required to be directly connected to processes and real-time data, their combined functionality taking over tasks that were performed by MES or similar systems. Zenon integrates to these ERP systems not by developing its own MES components, but rather by creating a clearly defined standard interface for direct connection.
Communicate with any ERP system
Thomas Punzenberger, CEO of Copa-Data, says: "We asked ourselves, what do you really need MES for? Generally, zenon can communicate with any ERP system. SAP already covers a wide range of requirements with its applications, from order management, bill of materials and schedules to production planning. Zenon can fulfil further important real-time process-level tasks such as traceability, data acquisition, secure user management or maintenance management. So why should our users need to make a separate MES investment?"
The new interface allows SAP applications to have extended functionality that would be difficult to achieve even with a separate MES, that is to say, direct interaction with the process level. Zenon takes over commands – such as recipes and other data sequences – from SAP applications and executes them in cooperation with its integrated straton SCADA-logic. Once executed, the steps are reported back in a closed loop and new commands are acquired. The complete process is transparent with fast reaction times. Copa-Data uses the widely accepted PP-PI interface to communicate with a wide variety of SAP applications.
For example, it is used in SAP ERP to monitor stock in real time, with zenon delivering exact data about real resource consumption from the SCADA level. The SAP application is now in communication with real-time stock levels instead of planned or predicted levels. Just-in-time production, as well as long-term planning, becomes more precise and efficient, with cost savings and efficiencies associated with reduced work-in-progress and inventory holding.
Zenon is already provided with a set of modules that enables users to obtain a clear overview and the ability to plan ahead, including the 'industrial performance analyser' (IPA), which raises production efficiency, and its ingenious partner module ‘industrial maintenance manager’ (IMM), which organises maintenance tasks in an economic and efficient way.
Hardware and software compatibility
According to Cop-Data, zenon is compatible with any hardware and many software packages, paving the way for new applications both in the discrete and process industries. It integrates seamlessly into existing systems through its automatic engineering and standardised integration features. Zenon–SAP connectivity can therefore be used where other vendors’ control systems are used.
Many advantages are delivered by the bidirectional connection between SCADA level and ERP level. Thanks to the direct exchange of data, two levels that used to be separated are now combined into a continuous system that controls everything from order to shipment, taking into account actual production data and events – the unpredictable is now brought under control. This enables the optimal use of labour and material as the various tasks reflect the true production position rather than an off-line and therefore probably obsolete production plan.
Product manager Reinhard Mayr comments: "Our direct connection to the ERP level gives zenon users access to new ways of efficient and effective production planning. Why invest in an intermediate level, incur additional costs for implementation and maintenance and also increase risk of errors from an additional system?"
This co-operation with a market leader for ERP systems enables Copa-Data to offer new and interesting applications, potential and benefits to its customers. The certified integration allows zenon users to have seamless interaction with SAP applications.