How SAP changed Carl Zeiss AG’s view of optical product manufacturing

It’s 1857 in Jena, Germany, and you want a microscope—but not just any. You’ve set your sights on owning the finest instrument anywhere. And you know where to go. A retail shop has just opened at Johannisplatz square 10 in Jena—home to Carl Zeiss.

When Carl Zeiss produced his microscope prototype years earlier, he created a high standard for precision and quality, using the most advanced, efficient manufacturing processes of the time. And that standard continued with an expanding line of products created with ever-evolving tools and systems.

Real-life transformers

Time-jump to 2023. The company that Carl Zeiss created has transformed into an internationally recognized leader in optical products and solutions for the segments Semiconductor Manufacturing Technology, Industrial Quality and Research, Medical Technology, and Consumer Markets. The company’s product line includes some of the world’s premier photographic lenses. 

And there was another innovation waiting for the ZEISS Group: an intelligent manufacturing solution with digital documentation capability from SAP.

Picture years and years of paper

Until recently, ZEISS’s highly regulated manufacturing environment relied heavily on two documentation types: Digital History Records (DHR) to validate data for compliance and Work Instruction documentation to stipulate the required steps in performing specific activities. Both were managed through a paper-based process. 

Imagine production steps, test results, and assembly component records documented with lots and lots of paper. Reams of it, in fact. More than 30+ years of paper-based DHR records had piled up. 

Handling the paperwork was time-consuming. There was no integrated, single source of data for production and order fulfillment status, and real-time data was difficult to access, slowing down the workflow and affecting visibility into the operations. What’s more, the 30+ years of paper opened the door to potential legal challenges for records management.

Moving the focus to a modern solution

SAP Services and Support deployed its Digital Manufacturing (DM) at ZEISS working with Deloitte, Soffico GmbH, and Syntax Systems GmbH & Co. KG.

DM is a manufacturing execution system (MES) that allows users to handle processes, analyze scenarios, and integrate systems, taking a resource-efficient Industry 4.0 approach.

It has transformed ZEISS´s shop floor operations. It has eliminated paper-based, siloed processes and paper consumption throughout the production cycle, saving time and legwork. 

DM automates data collection from machines and operators, offering critical insights into the status of assets. It provides a single, transparent data source, improving visibility at every stage of manufacturing. It produces and distributes documentation digitally, eliminating legal risks connected to archiving paper-based records. And it maintains machine specifications and instructions based on change history and approval workflow for enhancing operational efficiency. 

Improving Meditec’s view and efficiency

ZEISS first put DM to work as a proof-of-concept (POC) in its subsidiaries. Following that success, the company began deploying DM across its production lines, with the first rollout helping ZEISS reduce by approximately 100% paper-based DHR printing as well as the time required to verify versions of printed work instructions. 

“The implementation of SAP Digital Manufacturing Cloud has revolutionized the way we do business,” says Andreas Busse, Connected Smart Factory, Carl Zeiss AG. “It has allowed us to navigate the challenges of the ever-changing VUCA [volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity] market and position ourselves as a leader in innovation. I am proud to be a part of this game-changing initiative and honored to be considered for an innovation award.”

And the winner is…

But ZEISS is no longer being considered for a 2023 SAP Innovation Award, now celebrating its 10thanniversary. Based on Carl Zeiss’s vision of manufacturing excellence that was established all those years ago and continued to this day, the company is now an SAP Innovation Award winner in the Business Innovator category.

Check out the company’s Innovation Awards pitch deck and get a snapshot of the success story.

Digital Transformation