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What is Manufacturing ERP Industry 4.0

What is Manufacturing ERP Industry 4.0

A Brief History Of ERP

By Karl Lauri is a managing team member at MRPeasy, a developer of MRP software for small and mid-sized manufacturers.

Before the invention of current-day ERP systems, small-medium sized manufacturers were a simple combination of different types of machinery, processes, and software platforms.

Computer technology may have existed, but it was not being utilized to its full potential within businesses, and instead, was predominantly used by management personnel.

Because of this, data was not integrated within businesses, and this also meant that different parts of company systems could not effectively communicate with each other. If data exchanges needed to occur between departments such as finance and purchasing, or manufacturing and finance, the data would first need to be translated into a language that would make sense for the department that the data was being sent to.

Yes, technology had significantly increased efficiency within firms in comparison with the past, but it had many areas in which it needed to be improved, if it were to provide maximised value and efficiency for firms.

It is arguable that the arrival of ERP systems brought firms a more effective method for continually improving their operations, through the use of data and technology. ERP (or Enterprise Resource Planning) was created for the purpose of coordinating data flows, as well as for the integration of data between different departments within firms.

ERP enabled firms to un-silo data and create shared databases for all areas of the business to access, which also assisted with decision-making in all areas of the business.

Over the years, ERP systems have developed significantly, and have become an essential part of manufacturing. ERP systems have allowed manufacturing firms to significantly increase their production efficiency, together with the general improved efficiency of all operations within the business.

ERP systems now also provide masses of insightful, useful data, together with analytical systems. Just like ERP was new decades ago, Industry 4.0 has become the new arrival in manufacturing, bringing with it some huge changes and implications for the manufacturing industry.

What Is Industry 4.0?

Some refer to Industry 4.0 as being the ‘‘fourth industrial revolution’’. Within this so-called ‘revolution’, IoT devices (Internet Of Things) are typically sold and serviced along with analytical software that is powered by AI, as well as ‘machine learning’, and these devices are usually retrofitted within manufacturing equipment, or they are fitted into new equipment.

As firms make moves to secure and analyze more data, this shift towards smarter, more interconnected factories is creating a significant impact within the manufacturing industry.

Here are some of the ways that Industry 4.0 is changing manufacturing:

  • IoT technology enables factory equipment to be connected within one database. Decision-making can now be an automated thing, and this technology has also enabled analysis to be carried out at a significantly quicker rate, in comparison with standard human interaction. This relates to and includes: the operation of machines, the management of labour, scheduling, and more.
  • With IoT and Industry 4.0 it is possible to create maintenance programs that are predictive by nature. This form of maintenance extends beyond the world of preventative maintenance, and it does so by detecting problems, and then scheduling repairs and amendments as a response.

Amendments are also able to be implemented autonomously, without the need for a technician or operator to intervene. Firms that have utilized IoT devices, and which have opted to use predictive maintenance have achieved reductions in maintenance costs and time taken, up to as much as 20%!

  • IoT enables manufacturing firms to introduce analytics to their supply chain management. Firms that are able to use a digital form of JIT (Just In Time) technology, through the use of the data they collect from their production equipment, will find that the data can assist them with achieving more accuracy in terms of tracing, tracking, and consuming materials, with more efficiency, and at a more cost-effective rate.

The potential impact of Industry 4.0 for the manufacturing world is a huge prospect. For example, some people estimate that in 2020, there will be 30 billion or more connected devices in the world, and nearly 70% of those are going to be regularly used within business applications.

ERP & IoT

Some might assume that Industry 4.0 will logically replace ERP systems as time goes on, simply because new technology typically replaces older technology. However, there are synergies that exist which indicate that a strong partnership between ERP and IoT is possible.

Moreover, Industry 4.0 is reported to be more likely to increase the usage of devices in manufacturing firms, owing to the capabilities within the majority of ERP systems, which are now increasingly providing more IoT connectivity within their frameworks.

In addition, there are many reasons why ERP and Industry 4.0 are more likely to work in tandem with each other, as opposed to against each other, and here are some of the major ones:

  • A major issue affecting the decision to choose IoT is that data is often ‘siloed’ in standard, traditional manufacturing, and between varying functional areas of the business.

The utilization of platforms that have been disconnected, together with disparate metrics between departments reduces the amount of data that is received, as well as its effectiveness.

It is important to note that firms who use ERP systems tend to have already ‘unsiloed’ their data, and will have integrated it within a singular database, which is developed for and is accessible by the entire firm, for the purpose of managing and maintaining all parts of their operations.

This is a great match with IoT’s capabilities, since ERP lays the groundwork in terms of the reduction of time taken for implementation, education, training, and adjustments to processes.

  • As the majority of ERP systems are by nature, modular and flexible, they provide an infrastructure that enables data from IoT devices to be used, as well as the ability to use the IoT devices in the same manner, provided they are programmed to work in the same way.

This is also very much true for cloud-based ERP systems, due to the fact that users have the ability to customize the functionality of the systems, in order to better match their manufacturing processes and unique requirements.

One could say that ERP systems leverage Industry 4.0’s capabilities, as well as the strength of them. Furthermore, the majority of current-day ERP systems have the ability to assist with the facilitation of interpreting large amounts of data, and this is achieved via their customizable nature.

One particular major benefit is that users can connect these systems if they wish to implement decisions on a decentralized basis.

Since humans do not have the ability to analyze data in the swift, effective manner that can be achieved with AI and detailed analytics, they also cannot make the quick decisions that are required for the purpose of optimizing systems, or generally improving the efficiency within them.

  • One barrier that may be preventing people from adopting Industry 4.0 as well as IoT technologies, sooner rather than later, is the issue of security in relation to IoT.

Most providers of IoT technologies do not possess in-house security systems, and the firms that choose to adopt these systems have to locate the security component they require to run the system themselves, so as to maximise and make sure that all of their connected IoT devices are secure and protected.

However, the majority of manufacturing firms that utilize ERP systems possess security systems that routinely monitor and control data flows in the places that require it, within their ERP systems.

It goes without saying that areas such as HR, the CRM, finance etc must be secure, with all data being kept confidential and fully-integrated in the system.

These types of systems may require enhancements or upgrades, but since companies will be using one shared database (if they use an ERP system), there will be a clear understanding between departments in terms of how they are connected, and a clearer understanding for everyone with regards to what extra security measures need to be implemented, and how the system can be updated accordingly.

Whenever new ERP systems become available, and the older systems need to be upgraded, functionality for security can be built into the system to ensure that IoT is available for staff that do not yet have access to it.

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Business

Return to work: Flexibility, preparation and communication are key

Return to work: Flexibility, preparation and communication are key 1

By Matt Weston, Managing Director, Robert Half UK

As lockdown restrictions ease for the foreseeable future, conversations across the business world are starting to turn to how employers can safely and seamlessly prepare for their workforce to return to the office.

Research from Robert Half has found that over half (54%) of employees are worried about working in close proximity to their colleagues, while a similar proportion are eager to return to the office due to loneliness working from home (45%) or concerns about missing out on career opportunities (30%).

Unsurprisingly, after everything companies and their employees have done to successfully adapt their operations and working practices to social distancing rules over the last few months, immediately returning to the old ways of working will likely neither be sensible or practical. With safety being the key priority for the ‘new normal’ of office life – communication, flexibility and preparation should be the main focus areas for employers.

With this in mind, what are the challenges and opportunities that employees anticipate as they prepare for the return to work, beyond government and industry supplied health and safety best practice? Furthermore, how can employers best support their staff during this period?

Keep people at the heart of change

It is important to recognise that your workforce has been working through an intense period of uncertainty and change for months, which can be incredibly unsettling. On top of this, working for weeks in isolation without the usual physical interactions with team members could be potentially detrimental to employee engagement and mental wellbeing.

Having adjusted to keep staff connected with one another from a distance with virtual team building exercises, video calls and daily check-ins, as teams begin working in hybrid models with some in the office and others remote, staff engagement will need to adapt again.

Managing people with greater sensitivity and maintaining positivity throughout will be crucial. To help instil a sense of normality and engagement, encourage maximum collaboration between individuals (in accordance with social distancing rules), and make sure teams feel part of company goals and opportunities through regular meetings and communication – no matter their location.

Continuing to invest in technology and offering flexibility will also be important to ensuring that people can continue to work remotely or on-site, either in accordance with their own wishes or as part of your staggered return-to-office plan.

Communicate, communicate, communicate (and listen)

Reassuring staff that they are able to safely return to the office will require continuous communication. From expectations of the physical office, to expectations of how to operate within hybrid teams, these new expectations and new workplace requirements should be communicated to all staff clearly to avoid confusion.

Regular email updates, updates on the company’s intranet and social media channels, as well as frequent town hall meetings (either online or in a smaller setting) could be key elements of an effective communications approach.

Also, consider a feedback channel to allow staff within the team to offer thoughts on their experience of returning to the office and any suggestions on improving the process. Whether on a company-wide basis or a team-by-team approach, schedule regular check-ins to engage with employees’ questions and concerns.

Maintaining open communication channels with your team will be essential for keeping up employee morale and ensuring clarity. For example, if some employees aren’t comfortable with coming to the office every day, then they should have plenty of opportunities to voice their concerns and have them dealt with promptly, respectfully and fairly.

Staggered return-to-office planning

Depending on the size of business and density of office space, maintaining home working arrangements across teams on an alternating basis could make it easier to implement safe social distancing. This involves select teams working remotely while others work on-site on any given day.

An alternating approach to remote working might also reduce the risk of staff feeling pressured or overwhelmed by an immediate return to the office five-days-a-week. After all, some families might be juggling temporary disruptions to childcare arrangements and public transport systems will likely become crowded again. So, a transitionary period will help everyone adjust to post-lockdown office working.

Finally, if you have developed your technology infrastructure to facilitate remote working, you would do well to continue to leverage these new capabilities as in all probability, a mixture of remote and at-office work will be needed for some time.

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Business

Contis enters RBS Capability and Innovation Fund bid seeking £35 million for disruptive SME growth strategy  

Contis enters RBS Capability and Innovation Fund bid seeking £35 million for disruptive SME growth strategy   2

Leading payments provider, Contis, has applied for two grants from the RBS & BCR Alternative Remedies Package, totalling £35 million.  

Unlike most applicants who will deploy funds through a single brand, Contis is taking a completely different approach. The funding will be used to drive fintech innovation in the UK by developing an off the shelf, B2B electronic and card payment technology platform for SMEs. With Contis’ powerful tech stack and regulated status, this will empower hundreds of fintechs to support the SME market with groundbreaking technologies, payments and lending capabilities. Contis today services over 800,000 consumer accounts, 14,500 business accounts and processes £4bn in transactions per year, demonstrating a proven track record.   

UK businesses are facing a challenging economic environment with the impacts of Covid-19 and Brexit. As large corporations and entire sectors are affected, SMEs will play a vital role in the recovery. Contis’ approach is completely disruptive, offering three channels to maximise support for SMEs and sole traders, through three unique brands, all powered by APIs from Contis’ modular and configurable engine. 

1.       Canvas for Business 

Contis is a super-vendor in the world of fintech, offering payments through proven banking rails and card scheme capabilities including issuing pre-paid, debit and virtual cards. They’re linked to digital delivery like Apple Pay and Google Pay, and a trusted tech stack that boasts 99.99% uptime.  

With funding from the Capability and Innovation Fund (CIF), Contis’ technology and regulated services will be made available to the whole fintech community, enabling them to provide dedicated SME accounts with the latest leading-edge capabilities delivered via Contis’ wholly owned, secure, cloud-based technology and apps. Contis’ solution has a firm eye on the need for SMEs to compete internationally, particularly after Brexit, and offers FX integration as standard.  

Canvas for Business will increase competition by providing fintechs serving the SME market with technology that outstrips the big banks. Contis will also provide credit referencing capabilities and empower fintechs to lend to their SME client base through Contis’ own credit licence. Without the constraints of legacy systems, it will enable simple connectivity to accounting and payments solutions, as well as to unlimited future innovations.  

2.       Engage for Business 

Over 150 Credit Unions currently use Contis’ Engage service and technology, and hold an estimated £400 million in undeployed cash reserves. Developed with CIF funding, Engage for Business will enable Credit Unions to launch business accounts and payments products for the first time, and allow excess funds to be redeployed in the SME sector through business support loans. This will revolutionise access to funding for sole traders and small businesses. 

3.       Freedom for Business 

With CIF funding, Contis will also offer large scale SMEs a direct-to-market solution where Contis holds the relationship and provides a bespoke offer to meet the business’ exact needs. 

Contis’ application to the Capability and Innovation Fund is focused on creating the widest possible impact for UK SMEs by fulfilling their accounts & payments needs and driving innovation in SME financial services. 

Through the grant, Contis will empower over 200 fintechs and Credit Unions to provide credit, simplify payments integration into everyday business needs, offer digital credit referencing, provide budgeting tools to SMEs, enable automated payments, give predictive insight on cash flow, provide rewards to SMEs on spending, and much more. 

Peter Cox, Founder and Executive Chairman of Contis said: “Our mission is to democratise payments and financial services for all SMEs, so they’re spoilt for choice with innovative and affordable solutions that meet their exact needs. Our approach, based upon proven technologies, will broaden and disrupt the services available to SMEs far beyond the capabilities of existing providers such as the big banks.  

“By driving competition and innovation, while improving the availability of funding, our approach will increase the services on offer to SMEs and make them more affordable, therefore becoming easier for every entrepreneurial person with vision to run their own businesses.” 

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Business

Four years of digital transformation in four weeks: UK lockdown puts pressure on brands to digitally deliver

Four years of digital transformation in four weeks: UK lockdown puts pressure on brands to digitally deliver 3

Nearly a third (32%) of consumers would switch providers if a brand’s website is unavailable for more than 24 hours

A study released today reveals the scale of omni-channel pressure brands now faced as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, as consumers flock to apps and websites to as the priority destination to transact with brands.

The UK has experienced a huge leap in use of online services thanks to lockdown, with the public appearing to have less concern for the availability of a brand’s physical location. Research by Sungard Availability Services (Sungard AS) uncovers a “window of availability” that UK businesses now have before consumer loyalty changes:

  • If a brand’s website is down for 24 hours – 32 percent of consumers would switch provider
  • If a brand’s app is down for 24 hours – 28 percent of consumers would switch provider
  • If a physical store is closed for 24 hours – 20 percent of consumers would switch provider

The results by industry paint an interesting picture of the availability timeframes brands are expected to adhere to:

  • For online retailers, excluding grocery retailers – 23 percent of consumers would switch provider if they could not access online services for 12 hours, rising to over a third (34 percent) after 24 hours
  • For financial services and entertainment streaming platforms – 21 percent of consumers would switch provider after 12 hours, rising to 33 percent after 24 hours
  • In the case of online grocery shopping – 20 percent would switch provider after 12 hours, rising to one third 33 percent after 24 hours

The findings also highlight that as digital reliance increases, so will consumer expectations towards availability in the future. Over the coming two years, a third (33 percent) of consumers expect online financial services to always be available, rising to 35 percent for streaming services.

“UK consumers have become reliant on the constant availability of online services, and lockdown has only served to heighten this,” comments Chris Huggett, SVP, EMEA at Sungard AS. “What used to be a choice between physical and digital has now firmly accelerated into digital environments across various industries. As online worlds continue to outpace bricks and mortar as the face of businesses, ensuring constant availability and clear communications on downtime will be key for brands to build trust and loyalty.

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