Question 3: Is your ERP software capable of central data management?
To prepare for Industry 4.0 ERP software should meet three key criteria. Firstly, it should offer businesses a modular platform, based on a service-oriented architecture. This way business processes can be easily customised without changing the software code, securing the way for future technological developments or release updates. Secondly, ERP software should allow for central master data management. Last but not least, it should offer real-time data processing, enabling all stakeholders in the business to have access to the latest and most accurate data in real-time.
These three requirements form a powerful combination when it comes to accurate business decision-making. It enables all parties to view the same information about projects, customers, raw materials or locations, helping manufacturers to improve their customer experience and speed to market.
Question 4: Does your ERP system facilitate mobility and social collaboration?
Whilst data sharing is becoming synonymous with Industry 4.0, this will also enable fluid cooperation across departments, from the shop floor to the top floor. As part of this flexible communication, user-friendly access to ERP information via tablets and smartphones will become essential for manufacturers. ERP solutions that feature intuitive dashboards and comfortably suit all screen sizes, will be key to businesses embracing the Industry 4.0 ethos of updating and sharing information in the mobile-working world. These solutions should also have the necessary mobile infrastructure in place to ensure real-time data synchronisation.
Collaboration is increasingly important and next generation ERP solutions are integrating social capabilities to help external partners, suppliers and customers become part of the business process. Embedded in the ERP system, information from these informal discussions is stored centrally in context with ERP data, instead of being buried in third-party systems.
Question 5: Are you ready to benefit from the powerful analytics and business intelligence associated with Industry 4.0?
Powerful planning and management functions in next generation ERP systems can ensure that the benefits of intelligent manufacturing have an impact on all relevant areas of the company. Within the Industry 4.0 world, sophisticated analysis tools will, for example, help to verify the planning, execution and evaluation of new business models; testing what will work, allowing business leaders to make informed decisions, and helping them to adapt to market or customer demands.
It is clear that for manufacturers, growth in an Industry 4.0 environment will be intrinsically linked to a business's ERP system. Those with next generation ERP solutions in place will be in a better position to meet the fast-paced and connected requirements of Industry 4.0. Certainly, the boundaries between production and management should diminish. Additionally, ERP and MES systems must form an integrated unit if businesses are to realise the growth opportunities presented by this new age of intelligent manufacturing. Taking a critical look at the existing IT environment in your business is the first step towards understanding how prepared - or unprepared - you are for Industry 4.0.
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