To prepare for Industry 4.0, ERP vendors are moving away from pre-built interfaces and formulas to develop highly connected systems that conduct operations at the production line level, whilst giving business decision makers the real-time data they require. One aspect of this is how the Industry 4.0 compatible ERP system will fully integrate with manufacturing execution systems (MES). As a result, it will be possible to track and document the transformation of raw materials through to finished goods.
Taking a car manufacturer as an example, each car will have an RFID chip for the manufacturing process. This will contain all of the information about the product - from the colour of the body, to the type of materials on the seats, and any bespoke features or details. When the chassis reaches the first workstation in the production line, the RFID chip will send a message to the MES, which will direct the machines to paint the body in the bespoke shade requested by the customer. Once complete, the action will be registered on the RFID chip and the car will move onto the next work station. This process makes it possible to meet individual customer requirements, whilst maintaining the efficiencies expected of the manufacturing process. Because it is so dynamic, Industry 4.0 allows for last minute changes to production, so manufacturers can respond flexibly to disruptions, order changes, or supplier failures as necessary.
Crucially, manufacturers need to address whether their existing ERP environment can support this level of system integration as they embark on their journey towards Industry 4.0. Below are five questions, which every manufacturer should be asking about their ERP system in order to get ready for Industry 4.0.
Question 1: Is your ERP system flexible?
Industry 4.0 is a journey, not a one-off project. Manufacturers will therefore benefit most from ERP software that has flexible deployment options. This will allow them to adapt to new business and service opportunities, new processes, workflows, data networks and decentralised locations, all in real-time as their business grows in an inter-connected world. Whether your ERP solution is hosted in your own data centre, in the cloud, as a managed service, on-premises, or a combination thereof, it should be possible to easily switch processes and adapt to new ways of working, to maintain business agility.
Question 2: Is your MES compatible with your ERP system, and able to cope with multiple locations?
The best next generation ERP solutions are able to integrate with an MES solution effectively. This is important because it allows for real-time data exchange. For growing manufacturers, their MES should be able to cope with individual facilities, but also with the centralised management of multiple production sites. This will give them the freedom they need to integrate their production lines with higher-level business processes, step-by-step, according to their strategic plans, without compromising on the end result.
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.