We reprised APICS writer David Turbide’s comments regarding the evolution of ERP from his recent APICS Magazine article in our first of this two-post series here. Today we’ll see what he and APICS have to say about today’s systems and choices.
Turbide notes that topping the list of tools modern ERP suppliers now include in their product suites is enhanced analytics capability. Dashboard indicators, business intelligence (BI) tools and deep drill-downs are becoming the norm today. This encourages executives to have more interaction with their systems personally than in years past. Data analysis tools – often involving Microsoft Excel at some point – are being enhanced with more powerful data visualization capabilities, a trend expected only to evolve further. It makes decision makers more connected to the pulse of their organizations.
User interfaces (UIs) are likewise evolving. We see this today in things like Microsoft Dynamics’ recent innovations in the area of the role-tailored client, which lets users focus only on what’s important to them, instead of seeing screens cluttered with other (and often irrelevant) menu options. For a long time systems increasingly came to look like Microsoft Windows and in particular Office tools like Excel. That’s still true, but it’s equally true now that they are starting to look more like websites. Both design approaches serve the greater functionality of the user, with both built in to today’s UIs.
That UI is now moving into mobile as well. (Here too, Microsoft recently announced availability for its Dynamics NAV product on tablets including iPad and Android devices, moving beyond pure Windows devices.)
And best of all, users will say, is the ability to search within an enterprise system for just about any piece of information they need, from just about any functional area or module. Once again, UIs are delivering greater value to the user.
Turbide goes on to point out how today’s systems have evolved from a dozen or so modules to as many as 50 or 100 “apps” that can be stacked like blocks to form a tailored ERP solution for specific industries. These (often third-party) adds-ins serve to further extend the functionality of today’s ERP offerings. Meanwhile, the lines between ERP, supply chain and manufacturing execution systems (MES) are becoming fuzzy and less meaningful. Overlaps occur between scheduling and quality as ERP encroaches into the MES domain by offering direct connection to machines and sensors. Similarly, ERP has been gradually improving in other areas outside its traditional domain, like demand-planning ability, distribution and warehouse management bundled functionality.
In short, ERP continues to evolve, grow and spread its influence into more and more areas of the enterprise, encompassing an ever-greater share of the firm’s database of business intelligence. That trend will only continue. The benefit is that today’s buyer has greater choice in the tools and solutions available to them for managing the enterprise than ever before. As Turbide concludes, “Today’s ERP is far and away more functional, flexible and capable than ever before.” But if you look closely, you can still see the long heritage of providing the tools and automation that manufacturers need to run their business. ERP evolves to keep pace with the changes in manufacturing that today’s global business demands. Plus, as the article notes, there will always be the upstarts stoking the competitive fires as well. All this bodes well for the continued innovation, integration and growth of business management and planning systems for the growing manufacturer. And in so doing, will advance the entire industry.