ERP can improve project controls and bottom line

CSIA Executive Conference 2014: Plant floor automation and connected systems can be more efficient with mobile, social, and cloud technologies, using enterprise resource planning (ERP) as a enabling architecture, suggested Erik Johnson, vice president technical strategy, Epicor Software Corp.


At the 2014 CSIA Executive Conference, Erik Johnson, vice president technical strategy, Epicor Software Corp., Dublin, Calif., suggested that plant floor automation and connected systems can be more efficient by using mobile, social, and cloud technologieWhile those dealing with automation, controls, and instrumentation may have considered enterprise resource planning (ERP) as a faraway system that may exchange some data points with the plant floor, ERP also can be an enabling platform for plant-floor mobility applications. At the 2014 CSIA Executive Conference, Erik Johnson, vice president technical strategy, Epicor Software Corp., Austin, Texas, suggested that plant floor automation and connected systems can be more efficient by using mobile, social, and cloud technologies as part of an enabling ERP architecture.

In his April 25 session, "Innovating with ERP: Improving Your Project Controls and Bottom Line," Johnson suggested that company CEOs are focused on innovation to drive business growth and see technology as a critical factor toward capturing that innovation. Technologies supporting mobile, social, and cloud-based applications can transform business and processes and drive innovation.

Johnson said:

- Information technology (IT) spending on technology can separate winners from losers, according to a Harvard Business Review article.

- When looking at the steep part of the hockey stick graph that accompanies Moore's Law (computing resources double every 18 months), looking backward always seems flat, reflecting continuing tremendous advances in computing power ahead.

- New technologies in the right hands are creating huge advances and saving costs. Using a 3D printer, the medical profession can print a model of bones in a week, from x-rays, for about $150, versus weeks for thousands previously.

- Future factories will be assembled, owned, and operated by individuals in multiple companies, with production orders arriving via smartphone applications, like people order pizzas via text messages now.

- ERP is more relevant for the plant floor as devices are overriding the PC client as the primary user interface.

- Twitter showed people how pull messaging works, as opposed to push messaging. Personalized feeds of what people see can easily be changed daily, and this model can be used for plant floor applications, where those involved subscribe to information related to a project for a designated time period.

- An example from Flickr shows how social media can be used inside an organization's supply chain for a project. Searching in Flickr on Dubai shows about 195,000 photos from 400 contributors, and about 80% were from 30 people. Depending on project goals, one could use this to hire the most productive (80/20 rule) or select the best few by quality, from the long tail of other photographic contributors.

- Following the adage, "you cannot manage what cannot measure," new tools can quickly assemble resources to resolve issues or take advantage of opportunities that traditional systems didn't anticipate ahead of time, from the bottom up. Analytics can be available to be more of a self-serve model, as needed. A globally diverse group of individuals in an organization may assemble using social-media-like tools supported by an ERP architecture, quickly solve a problem, and then disappear into the history books after those involved are done, he suggested.

- Mark T. Hoske, content manager, CFE Media, Control Engineering,

Online extra 

Control Engineering's archived webcast, Wireless Mobility, covers related issues.

See other coverage below on related topics from the CSIA meeting. 

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