SAP SE (NYSE: SAP) has launched SAP® Distributed Manufacturing, a “new application resulting from its co-innovation with customers and service providers to make 3D printing a seamless part of digital manufacturing.”

The platform is intended to be an “environment that standardizes industrial preproduction and approval, the application connects engineering design and procurement teams with 3D printing service providers to optimize design and integrate order creation and procurement.”

Early access to the program was first opened in February this year. The announcement comes as the industrialization of 3D printing continues to make progress with companies including Siemens and Stratasys also making progress.

$1.3 trillion in commerce

SAP has considerable experience in such digital ecosystems and are also the owners of one of the first B2B procurement marketplaces, Ariba. SAP Ariba is a cloud based B2B marketplace used by over 2.5 million companies for over $1.3 trillion in commerce. For comparison Alibaba processed $463 billion in transactions for the most recent fiscal year, while Amazon reported net sales of $136 billion for 2016.

Gil Perez at the 2017 Materialise World Summit. Photo by Michael Petch.

The SAP Distributed Manufacturing platform is part of the SAP Leonardo portfolio for the Internet of Things (IoT). In today’s announcement from Hannover Messe the company said, “SAP Distributed Manufacturing provides a scalable process for manufacturers to collaborate with 3D printing companies, service and materials providers, and OEMs in open or private environments.”

Through integration with SAP S/4HANA®, it supports the entire end-to-end, quote-to-contract process, enriching standard procurement objects with all required details on how to make the part through additive manufacturing. The general availability of the application follows successful validation in early access and adoption phases with more than 45 participating customers and service providers, including UPS.

Cost-effective local production, customization and rapid delivery

Dr. Tanja Rueckert, executive vice president, IoT and Digital Supply Chain, SAP explains further, “As 3D printing technology advances beyond prototyping, more companies are rethinking their manufacturing and supply networks to take advantage of cost-effective local production, customization and rapid delivery to meet changing customer expectations.

After successfully co-innovating with our customers, we are now delivering a solution for manufacturers to have a standard and scalable business process to intelligently manage design, material, pricing, procurement and logistics decisions in a collaborative network to drive more effective Industry 4.0 strategies.

SAP has previously announced co-innovation projects with UPS, Jabil and HP Inc. “Combining Jabil’s manufacturing expertise with SAP Leonardo and manufacturing solutions, Jabil can create a digital twin to effectively manage the entire lifecycle of a part from design to production and recycling,” said a SAP spokesperson.

An early partner working with SAP to audit and certify the processes of 3D printing service providers in the network is TÜV NORD, a Hannover-based technical services provider with operations in more than 70 countries, which plans to offer ISO 9001 certification adapted for distributed manufacturing. Ulf Theike, general manager of TÜV NORD Systems explained,

For customers it’s enormously important that the manufactured components should be of consistently high quality so that they can be safely and reliably used. To this end, demonstrably reliable processes and certification from trusted providers provide assurance that customers require.

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