The Next Gen Manufacturing ERP Solution
ERP solutions with technologies such as AI and ML allow manufacturers to achieve new levels of efficiency through automation and so on.
Posted: January 17, 2023
In today’s digital age, we have all become familiar with disruptive technologies as cloud, the internet of things and Big Data became business as usual. So, as technology continues to rapidly evolve and become more accessible to small and medium-size businesses, manufacturers are increasingly turning to business management solutions, such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, to stay competitive and navigate times of disruption. In fact, ECI Software Solutions’ most recent State of SMB Digital Transformation report found that 70% of manufacturers use an ERP solution to drive their day-to-day operations, and nearly 95% say that their ERP helped them manage the impacts of the pandemic.
But every ERP journey looks different. With the rapid advancement of technology, manufacturers need to evaluate their tech stack, determine its readiness to integrate any new layers of complexity and decide what investments will continue to drive operations forward.
Traditional ERP Software Development
ERP solutions have historically been overly cumbersome to implement, and the accessibility costs have caused issues. This stems from ERP vendors attempting to be “everything to everyone” and causing labor-intensive processes that do not match the preferred and more efficient “happy path.”
The traditional software development process can also overlook the user experience and is often characterized by a waterfall approach to development. From the start, if the software developer doesn’t have extensive manufacturing process experience, like many don’t, so much gets lost in translation when requirements are detailed. The requirements then pass-through other teams of developers, who may have even less manufacturing process experience. So, by the time quality assurance takes over to check the quality of the solution and develops test scripts based on the business requirements, it has already gone through multiple individuals, hence the waterfall approach. Finally, if the customer is even involved, the waterfall development process engages the customer in a beta program; however, it is now too late in the process to make significant changes without a complete rewrite of the software.
Evolving the Process
Agile and scrum development has improved the ERP software development process by connecting multiple teams who need to work together in order to deliver well-rounded, complex solutions. This also includes engaging with customers early in the development process, so any enhancements are validated from the start and often come from the users themselves. Moreover, the convergence of multiple disruptive technologies has completely changed how software developers develop products and has resulted in much needed enhancements, which legacy solutions may have a difficult time adjusting to.
Given the rapid advancements within the industry, new up-and-coming ERP vendors are entering the market and developing new solutions quickly. The voice of the customer is being incorporated more extensively in these new applications being developed, which are also becoming more like point solutions and applets through the magic of APIs.
Another recent development is low-code/no-code development, where the end user can quickly and easily change the solution based on their requirements without needing to know programming language. These low-code/no-code platforms simply require an understanding of business processes and flowcharting tools that create the underlying business logic.
The Next Gen Manufacturing ERP Solution
These days, manufacturers can look to implement intelligent ERP solutions that integrate the latest technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and machine and business intelligence. These technologies allow manufacturers to achieve new levels of efficiency through automation, data analytics and so on — enabling them to become resilient in today’s market and capture growth despite ongoing challenges, such as labor shortages and supply chain delays.
Through integration with an ERP solution, these intelligent technologies eliminate the need to complete repetitive tasks and allow individuals to spend their time on more valued-added efforts. These technologies generate more powerful business data, which can be transferred into actionable insights. For example, by integrating a machine intelligence platform in an ERP solution, manufacturers can combine data from their ERP with real-time machine performance information, allowing them to monitor and improve operational performance. When manufacturers have visibility at an actionable level, they can capitalize on the real-time information needed to improve shop floor performance — ultimately increasing overall efficiency.
Having access to this real-time data through business intelligence also helps manufacturers be better prepared for future operations, manage costs and extend overall functionality and data collection within their ERP solution. The real-time data capabilities can alert manufacturers when there is a problem or delay, letting them coordinate an alternative solution with other suppliers and vendors before an issue is real.
Overall, the integration of these intelligent technologies enables better-informed business decisions and enriches the customer experience.
Implementing and Evaluating ERP Solutions the Right Way
In addition to keeping up with the ongoing advancements, manufacturing ERP solutions tend to be overly complex and designed to fit the needs of almost every type of manufacturer and every scenario that one could think of. That said, manufacturers must identify their goals and determine their needs before implementing an ERP solution. They must weigh out their options to uncover which solution has every feature that makes it function to fulfill their specific objectives.
Once implemented, manufacturers need to set objectives to verify if the ERP solution has improved the customer experience, which can be achieved through tracking ratings and repeat customers. Measuring productivity is also crucial to determining if the ERP solution is successful, which could mean monitoring the average task completion rate and transactions processed and orders completed. Additionally, an ERP solution is designed to help businesses grow and achieve greater ROI. Manufacturers must consider if the ERP solution improved forecasting, enabled more informed decisions based on real-time data, reduced downtime and saved on costs related to inefficiencies.
Furthermore, manufacturers today are depending on their ERP solution to streamline and optimize business operations. And with evolving customer expectations, it has become essential for manufacturers to understand and utilize the power of disruptive technologies available today in order to gain a competitive advantage, especially during times of economic uncertainty. One thing is for certain, however, and that is things are changing and manufacturers cannot miss out on business due to an outdated ERP solution. While technology will continue to evolve, so will the next gen manufacturing ERP solution.
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