These are exciting and challenging times for manufacturing companies.
Firms of all sizes are eager to realize the productivity and efficiency gains that cloud ERP brings and that ultimately drive growth.
But they want increased mobility too; in this age of advanced mobile communications, manufacturers need to access their cloud ERP systems on cell phones and tablets from anywhere in the world.
The demands of modern manufacturing are pushing these two technologies together and the results can be seen in cloud ERP mobile solutions.
How the Cloud Has Already Changed Manufacturing
Cloud-based ERP has changed the business landscape for the manufacturing sector by helping manufacturing firms either replace their on-premise legacy ERP systems or implement new cloud ERP systems that provide immediate real-time access to big data stored in the cloud.
The benefits of moving to the cloud are well-known to manufacturing firms:
- On-demand real-time access – The days of manually retrieving relevant information about a customer or inquiry are over – firms can now access the information from any Internet connection. On-demand real-time access to important resources means that every department in the supply chain can react instantly to the changing needs of the business. Manufacturing firms can fill orders faster, quickly respond to changing customer habits and manage inventory more efficiently.
- Big data - The cloud lets firms store, manage and access large amounts of important data. Cloud ERP for manufacturing gives firms the ability to access big data, including plans, simulations, documents and other manufacturing resources from the cloud.
- Reduced Costs - Cloud-based manufacturing solutions have been found to reduce infrastructure, maintenance and lifecycle costs by as much 54% according to industry analysts. Cloud solutions save both money and time by increasing real-time collaboration and reducing the time it takes to bring products to market.
- Scalability - Cloud ERP solutions deliver only as much storage and power as needed, allowing manufacturing companies of all sizes to determine when they need more or less power based on changing project workloads.
All of these benefits lead to greater efficiency and productivity across the entire supply chain, which ultimately leads to increased profits. A recent study by Gartner predicted that industry adoption of cloud-based manufacturing and distribution software will increase from 22% in 2013 to 45% by 2023. The same study found that a total of 47% of organizations surveyed plan to move their core ERP systems to the cloud within five years.
The Demand for Mobile Technology
Cloud-based ERP continues to evolve and change modern manufacturing while another technological revolution is occurring at the same time.
We have all seen how mobile technologies such as cell phones and tablets have changed the way people interact with each other. People access the web on their mobile devices to talk to each other, shop online, listen to music, watch TV shows and movies, and share information with each other in real time.
This phenomenal change in the way people communicate is affecting business and workplace behavior too.
As manufacturing supply chains become more global in nature, with plants and customers located across the world, firms are seeing mobility as the key piece of technology to tie all of their employees and managers together.
Executives need to communicate instantly with plant managers and shop floor managers, who in turn need to access real-time business intelligence in order to resolve issues immediately and from anywhere.
Manufacturing firms are now demanding that their cloud-based ERP systems deliver integrated mobile technology. They clearly see the benefit of allowing their managers and employees to access data in real-time over a cell phone or tablet and collaborate with each other from any location.
Companies that have already implemented some kind of mobile software in their workplace saw a 44% increase in operational efficiency, according to a recent study by the Aberdeen Group. Manufacturing firms are watching and they want to enjoy the same benefits. In fact, according to Tech Target's Annual IT Priorities Survey, nearly 40% of manufacturers are planning to use mobile devices for their businesses.
Mobile integration brings a level of collaboration to manufacturing operations that was impossible in the past. Every department in the manufacturing operation, from the shop floor to inventory control and shipping, benefits from greater mobility.
Mobile technology benefits shop floor workers by giving them real-time access to data that can identify potential issues before they become problems. Workers at any site can connect to their ERP system on their smartphones and tablets from any location to access the data they need when they need it. Inventory tracking and shipping is faster.
Managers and executives benefit by receiving instant views of performance across the entire operation and by being able to communicate with their supply chain.
Mobile ERP can also increase business. According to Tech Target, when sales reps take prospective customers on a site visit, they can instantly retrieve statistics and data on their mobile devices.
Manufacturing firms of all sizes can realize these benefits. According to the Aberdeen Group, it’s not just large firms that want mobile ERP.
What the Analysts Say About Mobile ERP
In response to the demand for greater mobility, ERP software vendors are integrating mobile technology into their systems. Industry analysts see this is one of most important drivers of cloud-based ERP software in the present and near future.
In a 2012 Gartner research report, "Accelerate ERP Value through Mobility," analyst Sunil Padmanabh said "Mobility in ERP will increase end-user productivity by at least 15% and enable faster decision making through access to real-time ERP data."
Many analysts agree that within six years, mobile devices that access ERP software and can be used to input data or make changes will become the norm. This is mostly due to the rapid evolution of mobile technology.
"The more unwired we are in terms of devices, the more tethered we are to the business," Cindy Jutras, president of Mint Jutras, an independent consulting firm. "In the past, people would get alerted on their mobile device. Then they would call someone to do the corrective action. People are becoming less patient. They don't want someone else to have to dig into and do the corrective action. This brings an executive user to ERP when in the past they did not touch it."
Don't Wait for Mobile Solutions
Fortunately, manufacturing firms don’t have to wait for mobile integration into cloud ERP software. Companies like Rootstock Software already offer robust cloud ERP solutions that deliver integrated mobility. What should you look for?
Is the ERP Salesforce 1 Certified? This certification means that the Salesforce interface calls the ERP's Mobile Transaction Processing Engine (SYDATA) and enables it to provide a suite of mobile-ready transactions, including Purchase Order Receipt and Work Order Issue. Such a cloud ERP system would be designed specifically for the Salesforce ecosystem and 100% native to that platform. Solutions should support multiple companies, multiple divisions and multiple sites, all within a single tenant on the Salesforce platform.
Manufacturing firms benefit from the ERP's powerful cloud solutions, which represent every step in the manufacturing process, and from the integrated mobility that the Salesforce platform provides. Check for ERP modules for sales order management, purchase order management, production engineering, inventory management, lot and serial control, scheduling and capacity planning, and shop floor control. Material requirements planning (MRP) helps you plan what to buy or make in time to build products. Manufacturing cost control and project control modules give companies finer control over costs.
Mobile-ready cloud ERP solutions help manufacturers succeed by providing the flexibility they need to accommodate any workflow, implement social collaboration, add new capabilities and quickly address changing requirements. Such software brings cloud ERP and mobile technology together to deliver the productivity and efficiency so critical to today’s manufacturers.
Pat Garrehy is the Founder, President and CEO for Rootstock Software and has an extensive background as a software architect and engineer. With over 30 years of management, sales and technical experience, Garrehy brings a unique blend of analytical focus and business savvy to the table.