This past week we visited the main headquarters of the SAP company. Systems Applications and Products in Data Processing is the world’s largest provider of Enterprise Application Software (EAS). Along the tour, we learned a bit about the company’s background and how they came to be.
Starting in 1972, five IBM employees took their idea of real-time data processing to the head offices at IBM and the managers simply told them their idea was not innovative enough. IBM insisted they would get around to their idea in due time, however, this did not cut it for these developers. Cue the inception of the small start-up tech company, SAP. This small company went from sharing offices and computers with their customers to developing R/3 (their most comprehensive client-service software) and paving their own way through the competition with NetWeaver, an innovative software that seamlessly integrated SAP and non-SAP systems for businesses in real-time. Over the next years, SAP grew by 65% and successfully evolved a new way to do business.
The most intriguing part of the tour was learning that SAP had created 5 exabytes of information in their software, in just 12 hours, while all of our humanity had been trying to create this much information for over 2000 years.
With over 330,000 customers, SAP reaches around 190 countries worldwide. Their customer base makes up 87% of the Forbes Global 2,000 Companies, 98% of The Top 100 Most Valued Companies, and 100% of the Dow Jones Top Scoring Sustainability Companies. To grasp an idea of just how influential SAP is in the world market, they are currently involved in 78% of the world’s food industry, 82% of the world’s medical devices, and 3 out of every 4 transactions around the world go through a SAP system.
The specific factory we have visited has been their major location since 1980 and it is currently SAP’s largest location in the world employing over 8,800 employees, consisting of over 75 nationalities, and hosting the largest SAP development lab in the world.
As a program, we were lucky enough to walk directly into the heart of the SAP operations. We stepped into their “D-Shop” to learn the inner-workings of 3-d printers, Microsoft’s HoloLens, and HTC’s Vive Virtual Reality. The developer showed us the products he had invented as a hobby that made a world of a difference around his office. He then completely blew our minds when he put the Microsoft’s HoloLens on and began endlessly pulling up files and browsers around the room and organizing them without us being able to actually see any of it happening in real-time.
As a person, the developer was very interesting to talk to because it was so easy to see his brain was running 20 miles a minute. For him, it was not just accepting this innovative technology for what it was. When we asked him what the future of this type of technology looked like he replied with the most optimistic and innovative answer saying, given the work of the developers, he sees augmented reality, very soon, becoming part of the company’s everyday business operations.
If you asked me about the SAP factory the morning of, I would have never imagined I would see the future of technology from such a front-row perspective. From mingling with the employees over a company lunch to observing a pair of technological developers cover a glass marker board with groundbreaking ideas this world has yet to see, we found ourselves lost in what seemed to be a surreal futuristic world.