Systems of Future – Why ERPs Are Not Enough For The Manufacturing Industry!

Enterprise Resource Planning software (ERP) act as Systems of Record, with a focus on cash cycle and most often merely mirror the paper-based maintenance process. Automation of paper-based forms and process, without digitizing the underlying interactions results often in vanity ware. A clear metric is the effective usage of Plant Maintenance module in popular ERPs.

Feedback from the floor is often that it’s not usable (“need to navigate 7 screens to find one piece of info”), not available at point of work (accessible on PC at the desk than at point of work”), not useful (“a chore to satisfy by higher-ups, than me deriving any value”) etc.

Forms are printed on paper, taken to shop floor and end of the day the recorded values are fed back to the ERP, resulting in many inefficiencies and information leakage.

A system of engagement puts the user at the center and carefully builds the universe around him. From a maintenance perspective, it’s ease of use (as friendly and intuitive as Whatsapp or Facebook), available (availability over mobile devices can help carry the power of computing to the point of work), value adding (all design manuals, vendor contacts, history card available on tap), productive (do more in less time, with information available on demand) and integrate with other systems.

New generation Computerized Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS) is maintenance centric and focuses on a 360-degree view of the Plant Maintenance.

With more and more processors start invading the shop floor, machines are becoming intelligent and we witness an explosion of information. We are fast approaching an era where we manage information through exception than full consumption.

From that perspective we need a System of Intelligence – a system that can aggregate all the information from the different machines, validate against business rules set in, raise alerts to stakeholders on exceptions and warn on first symptoms.

Information delivery needs to be replaced with actionable insights that combine the various factors on equipment specifications, operating conditions, production output and failure history. Systems of intelligence are needed to transform Plant Maintenance from reactive to predictive mode.

Against these changing needs, most ERPs still approach the whole Plant Maintenance activities from a cash cycle and often overlook what’s beyond the spares and labor costs.

The many data points pertaining to the assets, especially the non-financial information are left to disparate spreadsheets and manual records that are fragmented across the enterprise, often their existence not known to outsiders. Productivity improvements and quality initiatives do not find a place in ERP and left to be managed in a parallel world.

SCADA systems act as a stand-alone platform, often not integrated with other enterprise systems and being used for post-facto forensics on breakdowns than for raising alerts on first symptoms. Internet of things is still in infancy but from what little we have seen, organizations are not ready with enterprise level backbone for their integration and effective usage.

Systems of future needs to blend the record keeping abilities (Systems of record), engagement with the users (Systems of Engagement) and integration with the machines (Systems of Intelligence). 

Popular ERPs in their current form and stated roadmaps are still not aligning with this vision and have a long way to go. Meanwhile, the stage is open for the new digital game changers.