Royal Swaziland Sugar Corporation (RSSC), a leading producer of sugar and renewable energy, has commissioned IT company Britehouse’s expertise and software development firm, SAP technologies to streamline its operations and improve its business processes.
According to Rob Coombe, Chief Information Officer at RSSC, the company has been particularly interested in the possibilities of integrating IoT solutions in its daily operations.
The move comes at a time when the global sugar market is struggling in the midst of low pricing.
“We are aware of the potential impact this may have on our business. We wanted to drive cost-saving measures that would help maintain production costs at global standards to enable us to compete on equal footing with our international competitors,” RSSC said in a statement issued this April.
According to Danie Smit, Presales Business Architect at SAP Africa, RSSC identified four business cases for IoT that would improve the business on an incremental and strategic level.
“The first was focused on farmland production, another on improved use of strategic water resources, the third focused on inbound logistics, and the last related to the use of machinery. The customer already had some sensors in place, but they were not integrated to the company’s core business processes,” he said.
The discovery phase kicked off with an executive briefing in late 2017, followed by design thinking workshops in February 2018.
SAP believes that in the highly competitive and scientific sugar production industry, even incremental improvements can enhance the profitability, efficiency and long-term sustainability of sugar production companies.
The Royal Swaziland Sugar Corporation was founded in 1952 and operates 22, 000ha of irrigated sugar cane producing 3.6 million tonnes of cane per season for the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and European markets.
The Southern African sugar cane industry has been under extended pressure due to falling global prices and escalating fuel, labour and other input costs. In addition, cheap imports stemming from a global oversupply of sugar cane has led to the closing down of many sugar cane farmers and related industries, with total production in South Africa falling from a peak in 2005 of 2.5 million tonnes to only 1.6 million tonnes in 2017.
As such, RSSC, Britehouse and SAP hosted design thinking workshops with engineers and farmers to better understand which areas had the greatest potential for positive business impact and ROI. “Our teams deployed the sensors to SAP HANA on the SAP Leonardo platform so that all data would be integrated with the company’s business data. We also chose two key strategic projects to pilot.”
RSSC, Britehouse and SAP Africa also made use of SAP’s Co-Innovation Lab, a global network of SAP product and innovation labs found in 16 locations worldwide. The first Co-Innovation Lab on African soil opened in South Africa in 2016.
Tshepo Mahloko, Co-innovation Architect in the SAP Co-Innovation Lab, explains that the Co-Innovation Lab provides SAP partners with a structured and guided global approach to produce innovative solutions with shorter time-to-market at reduced risk.
A second project looked at how the flow of water in the two main rivers could be better utilised, and to overcome the impact of drought while building some reserves.
“Agriculture is by its nature a highly scientific business involving substantial analysis, thinking and agronomy. By ensuring we get the right data to the right people at the right time, we can make incremental improvements to our performance while improving our long-term sustainability and agility,” Coombe explained.
“Today’s most successful businesses are the ones that can integrate exponential technologies such as IoT and predictive analytics to a digital core that drives the entire enterprise’s business processes. As one of the leading producers of sugar in Southern Africa, RSSC has also through this deployment empowered its ability to compete on the global stage, pointing to a bright and successful future for the organisation,” Smit concluded.