In a business environment of increasing competition, growing markets and rising customer expectation, it’s not going to be enough for manufacturers to simply maintain the status quo.
To survive and thrive, manufacturers must focus on growth, meaning they must embrace Industry 4.0 technologies.
Industry 4.0 encompasses the current trend of automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies, including IoT, cloud computing and cognitive computing.
Enterprise resource planning (ERP) vendors and resellers are developing solutions that are Industry 4.0 ready. This follows an expectation of a boom in Industry 4.0 technologies as well as an increase in manufacturing processes that embrace the principles of the fourth industrial revolution.
So what makes Industry 4.0 so crucial in relation to ERP systems? Through the digitization of products and the processes that create them, a production environment that’s far superior, far more connected, and increasingly more efficient can be developed.
Despite most ERP manufacturers being aware of the anticipated Industry 4.0, according to a report by myForesight, only 30 percent have begun to invest and utilize modern technologies in their processes. However, research has shown that those businesses who have jumped the digital bandwagon have experienced growth at above average rates in the last three years.
According to Terri Hiskey, vice president of portfolio marketing-manufacturing at Epicor software, in order to best prepare for Industry 4.0, businesses need to analyse existing IT systems to see if their current ERP will be able to cope with the changing demands.
Hiskey suggests the following considerations as a good place to start:
What does your current ERP software architecture look like?
According to Hiskey, auditing and assesses your current software is crucial in order to see how “future-ready” it is. In a fast-moving Industry 4.0 world, ERP software acts as a central management platform for those along the supply chain which is subject to continuous requirements in terms of scalability, data management, and connectivity with third party systems.
If frequent changes are costly and burdensome for your business, then your ERP systems may not be well suited to Industry 4.0.
How do your systems currently talk to each other?
Secondly, you should consider how different departments in your business relate and communicate with one another as well as what kind of data they share. In order to see the benefits of Industry 4.0, all departments should be able to have access to the same real-time production data on an ERP system.
Are your decisions based on gut instinct alone?
The ability to make quick and accurate decisions is a key principle of most businesses in an Industry 4.0 world. The need for these decisions to be data-informed is critical. Often for many businesses, the access to detailed production data quickly and efficiently is difficult, with many business leaders resulting to make decisions based on past experience or gut instinct.
This way of decision making makes it extremely hard to measure success or track ROI. With Industry 4.0 based ERP systems, you can access the real-time data needed to make business decisions with conviction.
Are you using multiple data sources?
According to Hiskey, an “Industry 4.0 ready” ERP solution should allow different departments in a business to speak the same language.
The integrated analytics functions of today’s ERP solutions allow for data to be stored and captured from many different business areas such as production process, customer behavior data and market developments information.
Providing this ‘networked view’ of the business to all departments enables all employees, from finance to sales, to make decisions based on the same information. This can bring great benefits to the business.
“If customer behavior data reveals an increased trend for a particular product, the sales team will have access to real-time information to drive increased sales of the product. Manufacturing plants, in turn, will be able to respond with increased production, in time to meet demand, ” says Hiskey.
Do you have the same functionality in the cloud?
The Epicor VP adds that an ERP system that lacks a sophisticated cloud or hybrid option can be very limited for businesses that are growing and changing at a quick pace. An ERP solution that encompasses the use of cloud, on-premise and hybrid options built on the same architecture offers the ultimate level of flexibility.
“For example, if your business decides to open a new facility in a geographically remote location, you may want this new facility to use cloud-based software initially, so it can hit the ground running, and continuously share data and process flows with central systems,” he says.
Is your ERP ready for IIOT?
As well as telling machines what to do, successful ERP solutions will also take orders from machines.
For instance, when a machine part in an IIOT (Industrial Internet of Things) production plant requires maintenance, it will alert the ERP system before it becomes a real problem. As well as this, it will work on different tasks ensuring that production levels are not interrupted.
With the correct technology in place, the opportunities presented by the IIOT in ERP and maintenance are endless. If you want to fuel business growth with Industry 4.0, ask yourself the above questions to ensure your ERP solution speaks fluent IIOT.
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