Manufacturing companies need to change their worlds because the world around them is changing. To survive in the new global economy, companies need to respond quickly to business demand. They're acquiring new businesses and have to get them up and running quickly. They're adding new products, partnerships, and suppliers to satisfy their customers. They have employees and clients who expect real-time information and responsiveness.
What is agility?
Agility is the ability for a company to react quickly to changes in business conditions without a lot of disruption. That means the ERP system has to be easy to use, customize, and integrate with existing technologies. It has to offer continuous visibility. The agile manufacturer needs to respond quickly when requirements change. If a part that has been ordered is suddenly not available, or a better, cheaper, replacement part comes to market, the manufacturer needs to find out right away, and make rapid decisions to bring the product to market in a timely and efficient manner.
The factory of the future
According to the IDC report "The Journey Toward the Factory of the Future," 43% of manufacturers are building the factory of the future. The new factory will respond to several trends, including new customer fulfillment strategies and supply chain models. As a result, the factory of the future will require many features, including real-time processes and visibility to support business demands. It will also benefit from collaboration and mobility.
[ What does the future hold for cloud computing? Read Cloud Computing: The Next Generation. ]
Collaboration is one of the keys for the agile enterprise. The ability to collaborate, along with a reliable audit trail, enables companies to realize several critical goals:
- Take advantage of new opportunities as they arise. By sharing live data throughout the supply chain, all business partners can respond quickly to changes in demand, cost and availability.
- Boost internal productivity. Collaborating in the cloud means sharing the right data with the right people throughout the company. It means giving employees access to the information they need, and boosting their productivity while improving communication across departments.
- Improve communication with customers. Collaborating in the cloud means sharing information with customers to make you a more effective partner. Customers can view invoices, payments, RMAs, credit memos, shipments. The company can share whatever data it wants based on its business requirements.
Mobility is becoming an increasingly valuable tool for modern manufacturing companies. According to the report "The State of Mobility in Manufacturing," produced by Motorola, now owned by Google, companies can save up to 42 minutes per employee per day with mobile applications. The most popular use cases are inventory and materials management, field sales, and shipping and receiving. The ability to have real-time visibility and respond on the factory floor, or in the field, makes employees more efficient, and enhances the company's ability to respond to their clients.
How does software in the cloud help?
Software that has been built or "born" cloud is architected for continuous innovation. The architectural elements that are important to enable this are:
- Multitenant infrastructure ensures that the software is always up-to-date.
- "Point and click" customization makes it easy to add new fields, change workflows and quickly build reports and dashboards. And those changes are protected during updates. So, this makes it easy to adjust your business processes as your business changes.
- Open APIs make it easy to extend your business processes to new or existing applications. And some cloud solutions are built on a platform that supports custom development or offers hundreds of complimentary applications that you can add as easily as you add an app to your phone today.
Cloud solutions incorporate the latest technology, such as real-time processing, social, and mobile, so you can apply these technology advances to advancing your business.
Cloud-based business applications give companies many advantages over on-premises systems, on top of savings in total cost of ownership. They're inherently easier to use and extend. They allow manufacturing companies to get closer to their consumers because it's easier to add the features they need. The agile manufacturer can more easily react to changes in a world that expects quick responses and results.
Sandra Kurtzig is chairman and CEO of Kenandy Inc., the leading producer of cloud-based ERP software for global enterprises. She is the founder of ASK Computer Systems, which produced ERP software for minicomputers and became one of the 10 largest software companies in the world.
Emerging standards for hybrid clouds and converged datacenters promise to break vendors' proprietary hold. Also in the Lose The Lock-In issue of InformationWeek: The future datacenter will come in a neat package. (Free registration required.)