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Systems, Applications and Products in Data Processing or SAP, is the largest European software enterprise (fourth largest in the world).SAP is headquartered in Walldorf, Germany.SAP is best known for its SAP ERP Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software.SAP was founded in the year 1972 by five former IBM engineers.SAP is important to the world of manufacturing largely because of the implications that it has on ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning).

The world of manufacturing is changing rapidly.Today's customer is more geared towards a service oriented product than ever before.This means that software based innovations are needed so that people can focus more on the service based portion of their businesses.A move towards increasing the use of software allows a manufacturing company to increase adaptability, flexibility, openness and efficiency.

According to a press fact sheet from SAP, "SAP is the only enterprise applications software vendor that is both building service-orientation directly into its solutions and providing a technology platform and guidance to support companies in the development of their own service-oriented architectures spanning both SAP and non-SAP solutions."

The move away from hardware and towards software has a direct result on another manufacturing term: ERP.Enterprise resource planning (ERP) is an enterprise-wide information system designed to coordinate all the resources, information, and activities needed to complete business processes such as order fulfillment or billing.The ability for wide spread use of software makes processes like ERP more feasible for smaller or even mid-sized companies that do not have the resources that other large manufacturing companies have.

The company behind SAP produces products that focus on ERP as the company's main product combines the two and is called SAP ERP.This software package contains several applications, four of which are listed below:

  • Customer relationship management (CRM) - helps companies acquire and retain customers, gain marketing and customer insight

  • Product lifecycle management (PLM) - helps manufacturers with product-related information

  • Supply chain management (SCM) - helps companies with the process of resourcing its manufacturing and service processes

  • Supplier relationship management (SRM) - enables companies to procure from suppliers

While SAP officials are confident that their product will revolutionize the manufacturing world as they say that there are over 100,600 SAP installations serving more than 41,200 companies in more than 25 industries in more than 120 countries, SAP is not without its critics.There are critics of the SAP process and its parent company that criticize the company for what they call "One-size-fits-all product strategies."The implication is that the software covers such a large scope of the business operation, that is can become a disadvantage when changes such as company mergers and acquisitions take place.SAP also provoked controversy and frustration among its users in 2008 when it raised the cost of its maintenance contracts.Naturally the state of the economy has business owners pinching pennies and an increase in the software that has become essential to their operations has left many without an alternative and suffering financially.This issue is still the subject of intense debate and discussion among SAP users.

Systems, Applications and Products in Data Processing, whether you are talking about the company or the process of manufacturing operation, are becoming more and more the norm of manufacturing plants.With so much information available to consumers (mostly accessible through electronic means, like the internet), their demands are increasing and it only makes sense that these demands be met with a solution that can compete with the seemingly limitless options available to inquisitive and innovative clients.Most manufacturers have taken advantage of the benefits that are available through the use of a Systems, Applications and Products in Data Processing software program in one form or another.

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