I met with a couple former colleagues that are now retired and they asked, "What’s new in ERP?" My initial response was, “same-old, same-old”, but that’s not entirely accurate…or is it?
It’s still true that most manufacturers looking for an ERP need the usual integrated sales, purchasing, manufacturing and accounting, but it’s where and how they are looking to use the ERP that has changed.
There are 3 trends that have been around in some form for the last number of years, but instead of being a passing trend, they are continuing to gain some traction in adoption, practical use and necessity.
Almost everybody has a smart phone. They do so many things for us that we can’t leave the house without them for both our personal and business life. More and more businesses are looking to have their ERP data, not only available on a mobile device, but to interact with that data. This started out with being able to see your customer contacts and has grown into full blown CRM with information about orders and inventory right at your fingertips.
Now, manufacturers don’t just want to see the information, but they want to transact that information - order it, ship it, receive it, report time and more. Many of these functions were built into device specific applications, remember the “we have an app for that” ads. Now, many of the specific apps are being ported over to run in a browser. This trend saves the developer time and money by not having to write the same app for different devices and it saves companies time from having to install each app on every device. This trend leads us right into the Cloud.
10 years ago, very few companies were willing to “risk” putting their entire business in the Cloud. There were several reasons like security, performance and access. All valid reasons and, to various extents, all these still exist today, but now we are seeing real adoption and not just people asking if it’s available and then going the tried and true route of everything on-premise. Perhaps this trend is helped by the growth in smart phone use and power.
The use of the Cloud computing for ERP can save customers time and money. You are essentially renting the software and the computer it’s on and you don’t have to do all the IT tasks of installing upgrades to the hardware and software and your backups are usually taken care of. There are many hybrid options for deployment: Multi-tenant cloud, private cloud, on-prem cloud and a mix of these. When ERP in the Cloud was first being talked about, there were few real Cloud ready products. Many of the well-known products were on-premise only. Now, many of them are available in the Cloud in some form.
- AI (Artificial Intelligence)
We’ve seen the movies…after we turn over control to the machines, it doesn’t turn out well for us. Maybe this isn’t really turning everything over to the machines, but it’s having the machines help us. Most of us have a smart phone or device in our home that you can yell a specific command out and have it followed. Some ERP’s have their own digital assistant that you can ask it questions, “Hey so-n-so, what are today’s bookings?” and that’s nice, but is it really helpful or just a novelty? Time will tell.
AI is also tools that help predict what may happen and tell us those details before they happen. Most manufacturers want/need tools that will help predict inventory and capacity needs. MRP and what-if scheduling systems have been around in some form for a while, now they are getting more accurate and more flexible to various needs. AI is also automation; we do one thing and the system does a bunch of things behind the scenes. We enter a sales order, and the system creates the production orders or creates replenishment orders. Some of this has been around for a while, but it’s getting more refined and now it has a trendy name like AI.
These trends aren’t brand new ideas, but new ways of adopting those old ideas.
In the old days, mobile devices were specific to the task. Now, the same devices do almost everything.
In the old days, we didn’t call it cloud computing, it was time sharing on an old mainframe and you waited in-line to get things processed. Now, the programs are accessible everywhere and get processed immediately.
In the old days, if we yelled to our ERP to tell you today’s bookings, we never got an answer.
So, to answer my retired colleagues’ question on what’s new in ERP...it’s the same ideas, but we have different answers.