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Cloud ERP critical to manufacturers’ bid in work-from-anywhere vision

Wed, 2nd Feb 2022
FYI, this story is more than a year old

"Anywhere operations" is one of the top five trends that will impact manufacturers' future platforms and business strategies. Cloud Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software can play a significant role in supporting deskless workers and their need for remote connectivity.

Many industries, including manufacturing, pivoted toward a dispersed workforce as they faced COVID-19 related restrictions for distancing in the workplace. Often, the policies adopted out of necessity also brought unexpected benefits. Remote workers have proven to be highly productive, and a distributed infrastructure can still maintain security and reliability. Plus, the ability to connect from anywhere enhances agility, collaboration, and expands the talent pool. Flexibility is valuable to the workforce.

So, why go back to the traditional business model? Many manufacturers are considering this carefully and examining how to retain the best components of remote connectivity without compromising shop floor activities and the fulfilment of customer orders. Technology can help. With modern remote connectivity, employees can stay connected, accessing tools and data and engaging with colleagues and customers from anywhere.

Gartner analysts predict: "By 2023, 40% of organisations will blend virtual and physical experiences, leading to increased workforce productivity and customer reach."

Employees do not need to be in one location to interact with each other, but they do need technology and governance along with newly redefined workflows. Protecting proprietary processes, intellectual property, and data accuracy requires extra attention and rigorous precautions. The ability to adopt anywhere operations largely depends on the maturity and readiness of digital capabilities.

Creating location independence for the workforce is a pragmatic move as volatility may continue to be a factor in the workplace. Gartner states:

"This means organisations must be composable with modular, adjustable autonomous components. They must use sophisticated technologies such as AI, engineering the approach with a disciplined focus to achieve sustained resiliency."

There are five main building blocks to develop a foundation for anywhere operations.

Collaboration and productivity. Manufacturers must consider scalable and integrated solutions to support internal collaboration on product design and development and collaborate with customers for engineer-to-order and make-to-order manufacturing. Product configuration tools also help customers select and visualise customised products.

Secure remote access. Organisations can take advantage of cloud-based solutions to support deskless workers, from managers on the shop floor to field technicians servicing equipment in the plant or at a customer's site. Providing remote access to data is important. Solutions intentionally built for manufacturing provide the types of screens, reporting, and role-based dashboards required to run a business from anywhere.

Cloud and edge infrastructure. Manufacturers can secure infrastructure provided by security providers and select platforms that can integrate edge applications to manage key capabilities like distribution, supply chain management, and human capital management. The tightly integrated solutions provide end-to-end visibility with no gaps or disparate data.

Quantification of the digital experience. Organisations need easy-to-use reporting tools to evaluate results and finetune processes continually. Advanced solutions driven by artificial intelligence and machine learning can help business users measure the results of new post-pandemic business models.

Automation. Automation initiatives can include a wide variety of technologies, from Internet of Things technology to robotics and autonomous material handling. No matter an organisation's tactics, highly flexible, scalable, and agile solutions are required so IT teams can automate and streamline processes as needed.

The Gartner survey revealed that 73% of heavy manufacturing respondents have already deployed a digital work-from-home model, and another 18% plan to within the next 12 months.

Where should organisations start? Any digital initiatives, if already underway, will provide a foundation of cloud storage, remote access to data, and secure infrastructure. Employee experience can be further enhanced by offering a remote digital experience, allowing access from anywhere in the plant or a remote location.

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