Toward the beginning of the year, we published an article with findings on what we believed would be the top trends in manufacturing for 2022.
We named IoT, predictive maintenance, and advanced analytics as key drivers — and a quick check on Google trends shows that those topics are indeed trending (IoT especially).
Another trend we mentioned was “innovation in ERP.”
This choice was based less on what we were seeing in the trend data and more on what we were seeing in the trenches (much of it resulting from some of our clients’ brilliant pivots during the global pandemic).
Every innovation in ERP in manufacturing that we have seen (or, in some cases, helped deliver) has been focused on improving the enterprise experience.
In the same way manufacturing businesses are innovating on the front end to improve the customer experience (through AI-driven call-routing, self-service portals, and other tools), they’re also innovating on the back end.
They’re leveraging machine learning to speed production, improve forecasting and extending their core ERP platforms with applications to optimize revenue recognition, and embracing traditional B2C/ecommerce tools and tactics to drive more revenue and deliver more data.
What we’ve seen, primarily, has been innovation fueled by technologies (applications that customize and optimize an ERP system across all aspects of manufacturing) and methodologies (new approaches to solving problems and, as importantly, serving customers).
Innovation through extension
The #1 way we’re seeing manufacturing concerns improve operations is by extending their ERP platforms with specific extensions that serve an overarching strategic goal or solve an immediate need.
For example, one manufacturing client, James M. Pleasants Company (JMP), moved past simply updating their ERP systems to transforming how they do business entirely, by extending that system with Azure Data Factory, Power BI, Dynamics 365 Sales, Dynamics 365 Customer Service, and Argano’s Data Insights application.
The company’s main innovation, however, was in leveraging supply chain data and other key metrics from across their business applications and delivering that data to their suppliers, creating an “insights feedback loop” that optimized SCM, improved sales, and empowered the company (and its network of 30+ manufacturers) to pivot on a moment’s notice. View their story here.
Another manufacturing client was able to stay up-and-running throughout even the early stages of the pandemic (and is still running strong) by leveraging its ERP system, Power Apps, and thermal imaging hardware to create a solution that screened people entering its manufacturing plants. That data was then centralized and analyzed and, when necessary, acted upon — an innovation that likely saved its entire line of business.
Using both custom applications (using Power Apps, as in our example) or pre-built applications (such as Argano’s Data Insights and One Step Consolidation), manufacturing business are transforming their ERP solutions. What was once seen primarily as a system for finances and accounting is becoming the beating heart of the enterprise experience.
In manufacturing, the ERP system is often about resources more than anything else. Where are our raw materials? What are our costs? How quickly and efficiently are materials sourced? Where are the bottlenecks? How do we get our products made and to market faster? What resources do we have? What ones do we need?
And while these “resources issues” are mostly supply-chain centric, there is another, even more critical resource more enterprises need to plan on using: customers.
Granted, customers can’t be on-site where raw materials are being sourced or on your assembly lines or in your warehouses where your inventory is stored and managed. But they can and should be more tightly looped into your SCM workflows via self-service mechanisms, client portals, and other applications that more quickly connect their needs to the data in your ERP that drives your business forward.
Manufacturers are creating more consumer-friendly tools and systems to both speed operations and improve insights. And when you integrate “direct from the customer” data into your ERP system and its workflows and processes, you move from resource planning to resource management and optimization—you move from reacting to predicting.
And isn’t that what trends are all about…?