We live in an incredible age of technology. The possibilities seem endless, especially for manufacturing. Innovations like three-dimensional printing and cloud computing have opened up avenues for many businesses
These recent advancements are only the beginning, and more has predicted to appear in the coming years by experts. Despite having the latest equipment, even the most technologically advanced manufacturer knows it’s only as useful as the business management solution your business runs on. That is why an equally advanced ERP is integral to any technologically-advanced manufacturing business.
Here are five predictions for how an ERP helps manufacturers tap into new tech:
1. Smart Equipment
There’s a lot of buzz about smart technology for personal or home use, but the interesting possibilities in smart technology lie at the industrial level. Production order receival and fulfillment through an Internet or Bluetooth connection opens up significant opportunities for manufacturers. Lean manufacturing will be redefined once these possibilities become reality.
The Internet of Things (IoT) has created significant opportunities for a new level of interconnectivity between machines, and between machines and people. The physical burden on humans can be mitigated with the ability to manage assembly lines from a distance, and operator input can be more strategically allocated to maximize operational efficiency.
ERP will evolve to facilitate the management of all these independent machines in order for production to go smoothly. Managers will require an intuitive yet comprehensive interface to be able to properly monitor all those self-propelling devices during day-to-day operations. They will also need simple and fast action commands to exert control over any machines that are not functioning properly. Future solutions will also need to be able to be accessible from multiple entry points, namely mobile and tablet applications in order to save time costs and remove the necessity for onsite maintenance.
2. Advanced Analytics
As software improves, data will too. A study by McKinsey & Company estimates that manufacturers already diligently applying more advanced analytics towards their processes saw between three and five percentage-point resulting returns from their sales. Data gathering will have to expand as a result of the increasing speeds of delivery, though it will be aided by the arrival of more sophisticated Artificial Intelligence (AI) programs. AI will continue to advance to the point it will be able to process incoming data more conscientiously, and will offer a more thorough analysis than is capable from humans.
Though AI will relieve some of the pressure on humans, it cannot do everything. Intelligence programs may have to be limited to individual or groups of tasks in order to achieve the most effective output from their deployments. Final data interpretations and decisions will still likely be left up to people.
The increased speed of data exchange will also mean there will be significantly more of it (we are already using an estimated 2.5 quintillion bytes per day), and that will make data storage that much more important. The decentralization of processes should allow an ERP solution to work primarily as a central data hub from which all silos can be successfully maintained and kept up-to-date in real-time. With the insight provided by expedient AI program add-ons, users can more effectively make timely decisions based on their vastly superior quality of data.
3. Predictive Applications
Many activities on the factory floor are simply reactive. Businesses are often forced to deal with situations as they come because of imperfect processes that do not allow for more proactive forecasting. However, future technology will generate the opportunities to rectify this.
Where future ERP solutions will really shine will be in the management of automated forward-thinking functions. ERP software’s intrinsic ability to provide an all-encompassing view of departmental operations will be expanded beyond allowing users to react to situations as they appear. Not only will more accurate data provide a better big picture, but it will also lend to actively making predictions to be made on consumer trends, especially in conjunction with AI.
On top of hosting enhanced intelligence programs, future ERP should also be able to monitor all smart equipment as well. Potential software applications for Wi-Fi or RFID-connected machines will actively inform users of equipment degradation or other incidents. Future features may even include automated self-repair of deteriorating tools, removing the need for manual checkups and repair requisitions, and therefore reducing downtime.
4. Enhanced Communication
One of the most interesting and potentially disruptive new, theorized trends is the move towards “mass customization.” This will only be made possible by superior communication methodologies between suppliers, manufacturers, and consumers. Streamlined modes of interaction will be facilitated by vastly improved message delivery systems that will allow for customer input at every stage of production.
The advent of the sharing economy and the “social customer” denotes the growing desire of consumers to establish a more personal connection with their vendors. Customer relation management must expand as a result in order to meet this demand. Digital communication lines between customers and manufacturers have already grown in popularity, and are likely to continue developing towards a peer-to-peer dominated market.
However, this shift of control further towards the customer places an even greater emphasis on maintaining a stable relationship between vendor and consumer. In order to sustain a beneficial experience for clients, manufacturers must retain consistently accurate CRM reporting. CRM modules will become even more valuable additions to ERP suites, and must account for the eventuality of real-time communication with customers.
Internal communication will also benefit from advances in ERP architecture derived from new digital upgrades. The move towards decentralization will also necessitate better remote methods of interaction between personnel and databases. Cloud technology has already jump-started this trend and there will likely be greater improvements to offsite means of communication and data storage.
5. Improved Manufacturing
Perhaps the biggest boon to manufacturers in the new technological age is the emergence of new and better methods of production. Three-dimensional printing is revolutionizing how things are made, and a report by PwC indicates that a sizable segment of manufacturers plan to adopt it within the next few years. Manufacturing will increasingly benefit from progressively faster and less chaotic means of creating items, as well as the added ability to finely-tune each end result to individual specifications.
Even as 3D printing advances continuously for functionality, new avenues have begun to open for more fascinating opportunities. The next step for producing fully formed objects will be to add conditional properties to each item. Though the so-called “4D printing” is far from ready, it has created interesting possibilities. Researchers have been able to generate rudimentary end-products that respond to external stimuli, such as temperature. Imagine a box that could close itself when cold, and then reopen when it detects an increase in heat.
Such technology would be amazing, but still requires careful oversight all the same. Along with handling more complex functionality features, future ERP solutions must be able to account for the considerably more intricate processes that will end up factoring into the new material requirements planning methodologies. They also must be programmed to do this with the inherent possibility of limited human input.
Manufacturing of the future may still be far away
Some of this technology has already been put into practice, and some of it is still far out of reach. However, the long lifespans of ERP solutions mean that extended suites might be slow to incorporate any emerging innovations. There is also an added cybersecurity risk from the emphasis on decentralization with the future forms of ERP, and there have been no concrete proposals for counteracting it. Until these bugs can be worked out, you should check out what current, more flexible ERP solutions can bring to manufacturing.