Manufacturing Engineering: What are the top trends for ERP users today?
Himanshu Palsule: Today, operational efficiency and business agility are more important than ever to support modern business innovation. Global markets continue to combine with competitive pricing pressures, placing increasing stress on maintaining margins. Organizations are under pressure to find the efficiencies needed to protect their market share.
At the same time, global economic forces are opening up opportunities in new markets and organizations of all sizes are looking to take advantage of the changing economic tide to grow business. Business leaders are looking to the CIO and their team to drive change and enable this high-growth mode. The challenge for many companies is matching technology investments with the rapidly changing needs of the business.
A solid technology strategy places the onus on innovation with a purpose. Several technology trends that I believe have the power to transform businesses by providing the tools to innovate are cloud computing, Big Data/analytics, Internet of Things [IoT], and mobile apps. These technologies have the potential to be central to business success over the coming years.
ME: Your latest Epicor ERP software released in May emphasized new cloud analytics; how will that help manufacturers?
Palsule: For some companies, adopting cloud may be a simple, tactical exercise to meet some immediate infrastructure needs. However, for those looking to drive real technology transformation, it can be the catalyst to embracing an entirely new strategy for IT.
The next step for us, and our customers, is to take the data that are available, and analyze it in context, to make better and more efficient business decisions. The challenge for ERP systems has been around how to transform the onslaught of unstructured data into practical information. As technology develops, we can expect to see more integration between ERP, Big Data and predictive analytics because data are the business resource of the future—both in terms of optimizing processes and services, and as a basis for innovative business models.
ME: What are other key technical improvements in your latest ERP?
Palsule: It is important that we continue to keep up with the pace of innovation, and we have to do it at the speed of the customer. Technology on its own is not a sufficient strategy. Understanding how cloud, Big Data, social, mobility, analytics and IoT technologies can underpin business models is central to achieving business growth. This is what we, at Epicor, call ‘purposeful innovation.’
Our cloud-first commitment is central to our multi-year product modernization strategy. The new features and capabilities of Epicor ERP reflect this focus. For example, our dedicated tenancy cloud deployment option is intended to make the cloud much more attractive to customers. It gives them an additional option from traditional on-premises, or single-tenancy or multi-tenancy in the cloud.
I believe this will be a game-changer, as we’ve seen a ramp up of multi-tenant adoption, but some customers are just not yet ready for it. They have two big challenges. One is the cadence of adoption. While they like the cost structure of multi-tenancy, everything upgrades at the same time, and customers are asking for some leeway there. The second issue is that they want some more control of the process—and the dedicated tenancy cloud option gives them that added control.
ME: How important is it to fully leverage the digital transformation underway today, with manufacturers connecting to the IIoT?
Palsule: It is one of the most important things they can do. Maintaining the status quo no longer gets them ahead; they must do things differently to win market share in today’s environment—embracing digital transformation is one thing they can do to get ahead. As prices of communication equipment and sensors continue to drop, smart manufacturers will be able to gather information from a wide range of devices. With connectivity enabled via IIoT, these devices send valuable information back to them to analyze and position themselves to take advantage of new market opportunities and differentiate themselves from the competition.
ME: What progress have smaller- to mid-sized manufacturers made in migrating to the cloud?
Palsule: We see a lot of movement in the midmarket toward the cloud. These businesses want complete visibility of their operations; they want to be able to manage costs more effectively; and they want to create a highly visible, mobile environment that fosters collaborative communication between shifts and departments. The connectivity that cloud-enabled applications and cloud-based communities provide is reshaping the expectations manufacturers have of those with whom they are doing business. They think, ‘My customer is in the cloud, my suppliers are in the cloud, what does this mean for me?’ Epicor ERP makes it easy for manufacturers to run their business in the cloud or on-premises, so it’s really the expectations of the companies they engage with who are already in the cloud that will drive their decision to migrate to the cloud.
ME: How critical is it for ERP users to employ high-speed in-memory computing technology, like some ERP developers have today, for Big Data and other compute-intensive applications?
Palsule: Consolidating and storing that data in the cloud makes these processes visible to personnel from operators to managers using any device; however, that storage and access are just the beginning of the story. To fully realize the benefits of the cloud, the conversation about cloud ERP doesn’t necessarily begin with feature sets but rather with IT infrastructure. It is understandable that the average manufacturer is busy tending to day-to-day business operations. For those who choose to embark on a journey to cloud ERP, an important first step is asking their ERP vendor about how their cloud offering works—how the solution is architected and if it can handle their specific loads.
ME: How does the current manufacturing business climate look?
Palsule: It’s an exciting time for manufacturers from many accounts—all these areas [cloud, IIoT, mobile and analytics] that were considered largely exploratory in 2016 have moved past the design and concept stage to full-on production execution and deployment. In addition, just as over the years manufacturers have leaned out manufacturing processes and cut costs as much as possible; in 2017 and beyond, the supply chain will be ‘the new frontier’ for opportunities to lower costs, improve responsiveness and reduce risk. Lastly, it will be quintessential for business growth for manufacturers to continue to devise strategies to attract and retain Millennial talent—especially given their digital savviness that can give businesses a big leg up in the new age of Smart Manufacturing.
Siemens and HP Announce New
HP-Certified Additive Module
Accelerating their longtime partnership, Siemens PLM Software (Plano, TX) and HP (Palo Alto, CA) announced the longtime partners have accelerated their 3D printing development with creation of a new HP-certified Additive Manufacturing (AM) software module from Siemens.
The new software module, Siemens NX AM for HP Multi Jet Fusion, is now available from Siemens PLM Software as an extension to Siemens’ end-to-end design-to-production solution for additive manufacturing. The NX module will allow customers to develop and manage parts in a single software environment for their HP 3D Printing projects, avoid costly and time-consuming data conversions and third-party tools, and improve their overall design-to-finished-part workflow efficiency, the companies said in a joint statement.
Siemens and HP are also aligning future technology roadmaps to enable designers and engineers to completely reimagine products to take advantage of HP’s 3D printing capabilities, escape limitations of conventional manufacturing, and cost-effectively produce new products at faster speeds.
The Siemens software module will enable NX customers to combine design, optimization, simulation, preparation of print jobs, and inspection processes for HP Multi Jet Fusion 3D printed parts in a managed environment. Users can now load multiple 3D part models into NX, and auto nest and submit them to an HP 3D printer, all in a single environment and with a minimum of steps. The NX and Multi Jet Fusion integration also eliminates the need for data conversion between software applications or process steps and, in the future, is intended to allow unprecedented control, including material characteristics down to the individual voxel-level. This will result in the ability to print parts with variable textures, density, strength and friction, as well as thermal, electrical, and conductivity characteristics.
“HP and Siemens are bringing together the best in design and manufacturing workflow software for the best in 3D printing, unleashing a wave of new product possibilities with the speed, quality, and economics required for the modern digital industrial era,” Michelle Bockman, global head of 3D Printing Commercial Expansion and Development, HP Inc., said in a statement. “We look forward to collaborating with Siemens to continually raise the industry bar on what’s possible for customers with the voxel-level design capabilities of our Multi Jet Fusion 3D printing solutions.”
“At Siemens, we see additive manufacturing as a transformative digital force that is empowering companies to reimagine their products and factories to achieve new levels of business performance,” said Zvi Feuer, senior vice president of Manufacturing Engineering Software, Siemens PLM Software. “Deepening our partnership with HP and driving their innovative 3D printing technology is especially important as companies look to increase speed to market, differentiate on product performance, simplify production and supply chain operations, and implement new business models. As products become more complex and individualized, we look forward to the next frontier of 3D printed parts with multiple materials, tunable mechanical properties and integrated electronics.”
GE Digital (Boston) announced availability of the latest version of Production Manager, the company’s manufacturing execution systems (MES) software solution for complex discrete manufacturing environments.
Formerly called Proficy for Manufacturing Discrete, GE’s new Production Manager is a discrete MES system that manages all aspects of production. It is adaptable to multiple manufacturing environments ranging from the production of long-cycle, complex products engineered to order, to discrete products being configured to order.
The Production Manager software addresses important issues where existing plant floor IT systems are inconsistent across plants where managers can’t re-use configurations, leverage expertise, or lower overall MES costs. The software completely digitizes paper-based processes so companies can increase production output per person, reduce reporting and administration, decrease defects and material required, and ensure up-to-date routes and work instructions.
The key features include updated route management; order dispatch; personnel and machine qualification management; labor tracking (clock on/off); work instructions; document management; CNC integration, with uploading CNC documents from Predator into the MES; and a flexible and extendable web-based user interface.
Siemens PLM Software (Plano, TX) announced that it would acquire Tass International (Helmond, The Netherlands), a developer of simulation software and provider of engineering and test services aimed primarily at the automotive industry.
No financial details were disclosed in the deal, but Siemens said it will acquire 100% of the share capital of Tass and integrate the business into its PLM Software Business Unit, which is part of its Digital Factory Division. Tass International has approximately 200 employees and has an annual turnover of €27m.
Focused on autonomous driving, integrated safety, advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), and tire modeling, Tass has developed a rich family of solutions that will further strengthen Siemens’ PLM software portfolio.
“The automotive industry is a core focus for Siemens and our acquisition of Tass International is another example of our commitment to offer a complete Digital Enterprise solutions portfolio, enabling automotive companies to realize their digital transformation and fully benefit from all opportunities of digitalization,” said Jan Mrosik, CEO of Siemens’ Digital Factory Division. “Tass International is a proven leader in both integrated safety and autonomous driving, two fields of engineering that are increasingly important for the industry. By combining its strengths with Siemens’ PLM offerings, we are able to respond even better to today’s challenges in the automotive industry.”
Software Update is edited by Senior Editor Patrick Waurzyniak; firstname.lastname@example.org.