Siemens uses process mining to improve manufacturing visibility

TTlogo 379x201 Siemens uses process mining to improve manufacturing visibility

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. This is particularly true for manufacturers when it comes to process mining.

“What we do is provide X-ray pictures,” said Lars Reinkemeyer, head of global process mining services at Siemens AG. “We used to not have tools to get transparency [into] these big volumes of data. Now, we wonder why we’d never looked into process efficiency before.”

The German manufacturer, which produces components for healthcare, energy and city infrastructure devices, used to have little visibility into the efficiency of its processes. So, two years ago, it started collecting and analyzing ERP data to try to identify bottlenecks in production, delivery and payment processes.

Process mining starts with ERP systems

It all starts with Siemens’ 70 SAP ERP systems. These systems tie into processes that track supplier information, the movement of parts throughout manufacturing processes, and billing and payment. Eventually, this ERP data is fed into a HANA database and Reinkemeyer and his team analyze it using a process intelligence tool from Celonis.

Prior to implementing this system, the company managed processes manually. Individual supervisors were responsible for keeping processes on track, but when things didn’t go according to schedule — say, when a shipment of parts came in late or when a machine broke down, stalling production — there was little visibility into how that affecting overall operations.

“Prior to this, people were looking into single processes and trying to understand how [they] impacted how other things were going,” Reinkemeyer said. “What we’re doing now gives us transparency.”

Reinkemeyer said he thinks this new transparency is a big improvement on how things were run in the past, but not everyone at Siemens agreed — at least not initially. He said there was pushback from some managers who had been in their roles for a long time and thought they knew how to handle processes efficiently.

Change management critical for success

Reinkemeyer said, much like with medical X-rays, some people might want all of the information available, while others might prefer to avoid hearing bad news.

“The point is about change management and the willingness to look into this new big data approach,” he said. “There are certain business managers who are saying ‘We’ve done it for years. It’s all running fine.’ But we have an increasing number of people who are recognizing that this is a new approach.”

Reinkemeyer said he’s had luck driving adoption among business managers by identifying the individuals who have been receptive to the new approach and who are using it to evangelize the technology. Since the system was installed, certain lines of business using it have shown improvement. Word has spread, and adoption is ticking up.

So far, this process monitoring has helped Siemens identify slowdowns in parts procurement, billing inefficiencies which were costing the company millions of dollars and late deliveries of products. With these apparent improvements, Reinkemeyer said he expects everyone to clearly see the benefits of adoption.

“It’s really about finding the right people in the business departments who are willing to improve their processes,” he said. 

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