Lately, there has been a lot of buzz around bots. Bots are the lightweight programs that will make our work easier, and help us escape the multitude of apps that users have to navigate. Bots have a simple text interface that eliminates the need for a Graphical User Interface (GUI). Bots talk to systems, applications, and things- hence the term chatbots. Much has already been written about bots, machine learning, AI, Natural Language Processing, and so this blog discusses a very specific sub-topic: Chatbots for SAP.
Interfaces with SAP come in many forms—the SAP GUI, Personas, and SAP Fiori among others. That is till now-enter the conversational interface. At Unvired, we have developed chatbots for SAP to enable various Use Cases:
1.SAP ERP-Workflow: How about SAP messaging you an alert that a Purchase Order needs to be approved? You look at the details, and approve. Your text “Approve” gets the PO approved in SAP.
2.SAP ERP-Sales: The Sales leader needs to report to the CEO the latest sales figures. A quick text to SAP, and the answer comes right back. How about looking at a sales chart—that can be viewed too.
There are so many chatbots for SAP that would be a must have—for SAP ERP, S/4 HANA, SAP CRM, Cloud for Customer (C4C), SuccessFactors, and others. Customers in industries including Manufacturing, Chemicals, Financial Services, and Real Estate have indicated interest in exploring Use Cases for chatbots.
Chatbots for SAP enable receiving alerts from SAP, taking actions/decisions on those alerts, and searching/querying all with the intent to streamline workflow, and make work easier.
If you are an SAP customer or SAP partner, and want to collaborate with Unvired to build chatbots for SAP, please send me an Inmail or email me or comment on this post. We would love to jointly define some Use Cases for chatbots. These are exciting times indeed. As always, looking forward to others sharing their experience with and thoughts on bots.
Earlier this week, I attended the Best Practices for Chemicals (SAP) Conference hosted by The Eventful Group in Houston. It was a great conference attended by several CIOs including from Huntsman, Nova Chemicals, PLZ Aeroscience, and Americas Styrenics among others. There were many great presentations. Here are the top themes:
1.Digital: Chemical companies are embracing digital. Mobile applications, Internet of Things (IoT), Predictive Analytics, and the Cloud is being adopted by this industry. Agricultural chemical companies are combining sensor data, soil data and weather information to increase crop yield. HANA is beginning to be adopted as a database and SAP S/4 HANA is also making headway as the digital core. Customers, Suppliers, Employees, and Assets are the four pillars of Digitization.
2.Outcome based: Chemical companies are also innovating and defining new business models. For example, instead of selling compressors, they are selling “Compressed Air” as a service. It is all about Outcome based models.
3.Cyber-security: Chemical companies are very concerned about being hacked. Given the nature of the products they make, a cyber attack can be very dangerous. There are regular meetings held where Chemical companies discuss how best to implement cyber security.
4.Global Compliance: Chemical companies have to ensure that their products comply with various regulations. Also, they have to register each product in the country where they plan to sell. Regulations change frequently, and it is critical to stay on top.
This blog first appeared on LinkedIn
The chemicals industry is going through very interesting times. This is an intense period of building new plants in the Gulf Coast, mergers and acquisitions are frequent along with divestitures, and products are becoming commoditized. Supply chains are ever complex, and safety/compliance issues are paramount. At the same time, the workforce is beginning to retire, and with that, a lot of knowledge is walking out the door. Uptime has to be maximized, processes have to be optimized, cycle times reduced, and the workforce has to be engaged by leveraging digital technology. The need for real-time information to manage demand and supply is making chemical companies adopt sensors to collect data and make predictive decisions. Digital, indeed is being embraced by chemical companies. As we talk to various chemicals/refinery customers in Texas and beyond, we have found 3 non-obvious Digital use cases for mobile applications (beyond Operator Rounds, Work Orders, Warehouse Management):
1. Supply Chain/Transportation: Chemical companies ship products that are frequently hazardous. Many times, they outsource the shipping to third-party carriers. These carriers can be shipped via trucks and rail. However, the liability to ensure that the transport vehicle is roadworthy still rests with the chemical company. So, the employee of the chemical company has to do inspection checks and record them. Calculations need to be performed as the quantity of chemical loaded depends on various parameters. These are today performed manually, and results are recorded on paper. All this paper and manual work could be replaced by a mobile app that can record data on a smartphone/tablet, and send that data to SAP or some other system. Results in better safety/compliance, faster shipping, and better customer service.
2. Production: In chemical processes, the yield is different from the theoretical value due to process parameter variations or impurities. Hence, it is difficult to know beforehand the exact quantity of a product produced. So, frequently, the production order has to be adjusted or a new order created. Mobile apps on tablets/smartphones can be used to adjust/create production orders in SAP straight from the shop floor.
3. Product Shipping: It is not uncommon for wrong products to be shipped—the chemicals industry is no exception. However, shipping a wrong chemical is vastly different from shipping a wrong pair of sneakers. There can be serious legal and financial consequences. Mobile apps that scan barcodes to compare material number in various documents like Shipping Order, Certificate of Analysis or Bill of Lading can minimize the probability of wrong product shipments by alerting warehouse workers in case of a mismatch.
Hope that you found the above non-obvious mobile use cases in Chemicals interesting. If you have ideas related to these, pl. share them.
Unvired Rounds (Inspections) for SAP Plant Maintenance helps maintenance operators to inspect equipment and locations easily. The following infographic provides a process flow view of the mobile application:
I am a sensor, a device that senses the environment. Humans first made me to enhance their industrial operations, and now I gather, my species can help them monitor their health too. My host is a machine called a turbine, and my particular DNA enables me to detect vibrations in my host. I was born in Taiwan and shipped to Houston, Texas as an infant. Maintenance folks every so often visit me, inspect my readings, and record them on a paper form. Or at least that is how they used to. Nowadays, they whip out their iPads with a flourish and use mobile applications leveraging Mobile Application Development Platforms. But, I hear from analysts that all that is about to change. Technicians will not visit me to inspect my host-instead, I will send data to them. For, we have arrived at a momentous event—the Internet of Things (IoT) is here. I am told that the IoT will connect Machines to Machines (M2M) and things to humans, and everything to everything.
I for one, am confused. For decades, I led a lonely life isolated on the shop floor with only the occasional visit from the Maintenance Technician. Now, in one fell swoop, I am going to be connected to what they call the Internet. Others say that I am going to talk to the cloud. I will be sending vibration data about my host—not plain old data but Big Data. This Big Data will be analyzed in real time using frameworks like Hadoop. All this vibration data analytics will actually help keep my host healthier and enable humans to run their industries better. But, I feel like Brutus, in that I have betrayed my turbine host, by sending data every minute without permission. Is there no data privacy for machines?
The other day, some reputed consultants had come over to “Connect” me. They were repeating a mantra incessantly—what I could decipher was Social, Mobile, Analytics, and Cloud (SMAC). I felt like “smac(k)ing” them on their faces. “Bluetooth Low Energy” will make it feasible for me and my brethren to be connected in droves of billions—in fact over 50 Billion things will be connected within 6 years. I am anti-social and do not want to be connected. Just because humans have replaced reading on Facebook, doesn’t give them the right to impose this state of “always on” on me. I like my quiet time.
In any case, my turbine host will also not be spared. Augmented Reality will be used to perform better maintenance on her. Our technician visitors will come armed with Wearables when they come to repair us—novel looking Google Glasses and fashionable smartwatches powered by Android Wear. Beacons may be deployed on the manufacturing floor, I hear to deliver contextual data.
I guess I am being a spoilt sport. Rooted in the past. Isn’t progress the purpose of life—even for a lowly sensor and a turbine? Are Cars not being connected too? Are Homes not being Nested? So, I am going to embrace this brave new world. I say, usher in the era of the Internet of Things.
An operator in a warehouse is driving a forklift and has to check a particular material’s stock level for delivery. The operator has an iPad where he can get the stock levels from SAP. To do that he has to free his hands and use the iPad. Instead the operator talks to his Google Glass, scans the barcode on the material pallet and gets the stock levels for that material across all storage locations and batches by categories (quantity that can be shipped, quantity in quality inspection, etc.) on the Google Glass. He quickly glances at his Glass and knows exactly which storage locations he needs to visit in order to prepare for his delivery.
Then the operator has to move some materials to a different storage location to make space for his delivery. Driving the forklift he moves the materials. Once he moves the materials he scans the barcodes of the material, quantity and batch on his Glass. He dictates the from and to storage locations and moves the goods in SAP using his Glass!
Yes this is the new way of working in a warehouse! All this is possible because of Google Glass and Unvired Inventory Manager (based on SAP ERP) on Google Glass.
Yes! Unvired Inventory Manager is now on Google Glass!
Google Glass is an enterprise device that can be used in multiple industries – manufacturing, oil & gas, chemicals, utilities, etc. Inventory management on Google Glass is a classic case across these industries to manage the warehouses. Operators in the warehouses are very busy carrying goods and driving forklifts desiring hands free access to data and business processes. While smart phones and tablets provide instant information, Google Glass can provides the same information in a more convenient manner. Operators in the warehouse can now use the Unvired Glass application to manage inventory more conveniently (apart from using the app on tablets). Unvired Inventory Manager on Google Glass glassifies 2 processes – checking stock and moving goods across locations.
Stock Overview: Lookup stock levels in the warehouse from the Glass.
Goods Movement: Move goods in SAP from the Glass.
More processes from Unvired Inventory Manager and other Unvired applications will be on Glass shortly! Watch this space for more news.
Unvired started innovating with Google Glass very early and has developed multiple applications on Google Glass. We have had many enquiries on how Google Glass can be used in the enterprise and if Glass can be used in the enterprise at all. Our answer is a resounding YES based on early results.
Early trends show Google Glass use cases in the enterprise as:
- Collaborate with Remote expert helping the Glass user solve problems
- Just in time training or training content creation
- Hands free Digital checklists / surveys enhancing compliance
- Remote data access from ERP and other systems
- Capturing images and videos, and sharing them with colleagues
Unvired is working with early adopter companies to develop applications on Glass. Watch this space for more updates and demos on Google Glass apps (integrated with SAP ERP and other systems). For a full primer on Google Glass click here.
Recently, Wearables have been getting a lot of attention with Google Glass and Android Wear based smartwatches. Gartner has predicted that companies can save over $1 Billion in costs related to Field Service leveraging Wearables including Glass. We have done our own research talking to Exploration and Production companies as well as Oil Field Services. We have also brainstormed with Google on this. The use of Glass is ideal where hands free use is needed, typically in a messy environment where workers may be wearing gloves. Here are some of our findings where Google Glass applications can be useful:
1. Collaboration with Remote experts: Workers in the Field can make video calls, and take pictures to get expert opinions thousands of miles away
2. Training: Glass can record video from the user’s perspective while activities/tasks are being performed. This video can then be used to train new workers.
3. Digital Checklists: Workers can get hands free checklist instructions on their Glass that can enhance compliance.
4. Data Overlay: Workers in Exploration can get reservoir/geospatial data overlay on Glass to help them appraise the Field better
5. ERP Remote Data access: Workers can get data from their SAP and Oracle systems and perform transactions like Goods Movement and Inventory Check.
The Use Cases of Glass are emerging and will be defined over the next year as companies launch pilot projects. Unvired is working with several early adopter customers to usher in the era of Wearable Computing.
Master data collection and updates is a challenging and expensive affair for customers. Be it collecting the master data at the start of the project to enter it into an ERP / CRM system or keeping the master data clean once the system is in use is a massive task. Dealing with master data for over 10 years has given us key insights in collecting / updating master data along with keeping the costs low.
1. Trust the user in the field
The most important aspect of master data is to understand who is in the best position to deal with master data. Users in the field have the best view of the master data – field service technicians, inspectors, sales people, etc. It is often a misconception that the field service has to be centrally managed and leaving to the users on the field can leave the master data battered.
Central office has the farthest seat in the stadium. The action is on the field. So let the people in the field collect the master data. Most successful projects with the highest percentage of master data cleanliness have field users empowered to collect and update master data.
If the supervisors, managers and the central master data team wants to retain control then retain it over verification and not over collection. Make master data collection a 2-step approach where the field users collect / update the master data. The submitted master becomes operational only once there is an approval from the verification authority.
2. Initial data collection and subsequent updates to master data should have the same process
It is a common practice to follow different approaches for initial data collection for entry into the master data system (ERP, CRM, etc.) and subsequent updates of master data. This is not the best way to deal with master data. There has to be a common approach to treat master data consistently
3. Mobility is the solution: Eliminate paper and admin assistants
Eliminate paper based processes and admin assistants to manage master data. Use a mobile application to manage master data. Make master data collection and updates a process in the mobile application. Field users can use the mobile application (on smart phones or tables) to collect / update master data – both during the initial stage where master data is collected for the first time and later to update the master data.
Either the mobile application will field processes (required by users) along with master data management can be built in one go or split into two parts – build the mobile application with master data enablement processes first and later extend the application with other field processes (ex: Work orders, inspections, opportunities, leads, sales orders, etc.)
1. Empower the field people to collect master data using a mobile application eliminating paper based processes and admin assistants. Eliminate unnecessary expenses and minimize master data errors.
2. Retain approval process for collected master data to ensure correctness of data.
3. Weave the master data and other business processes into the same mobile applications so that the master data updates can be done easily as a part of the normal business flow. Ex: While creating a sales order, processing a plant maintenance work order, etc.
Unvired’s customers use master data processes along with other processes in their mobile applications based on Unvired Mobile Platform. Unvired master data management mobile solution has helped customers save a lot of money and keep their master data clean.