Change your view: Enterprise vendors want users to embrace ERP as a strategic tool
Most manufacturers rely on ERP systems to take orders, track inventory, record payments, and process other major transactions. Now ERP vendors want users to embrace their systems as strategic tools to improve business performance. Getting users to change the way they think about ERP was evident in the product announcements coming from the fall user conferences of three midmarket ERP vendors.
Most manufacturers rely on ERP systems to take orders, track inventory, record payments, and process other major transactions. Now ERP vendors want users to embrace their systems as strategic tools to improve business performance.
Getting users to change the way they think about ERP was evident in the product announcements coming from the fall user conferences of three midmarket ERP vendors. New Web-oriented user interfaces, role-based portals, and tight links to desktop applications are key components of what these vendors now refer to as next-generation ERP suites.
IFS offered attendees to its North American user conference a demonstration of its new Aurora user interface, which the company says sailed through alpha testing in the summer.
IFS CTO Dan Matthews says Aurora “brings the usability of enterprise software to the next level, emulating the look, feel, and simplicity of consumer applications.” Aurora is available as an add-on to IFS Applications 7.5, and is expected to be the default interface in the next version of Applications.
“The new navigation possibilities are amazing,” Senior CAD Engineer Derek Johnstone for IFS customer Wolfson Microelectronics . “The collaboration functions eliminate many of the manual steps necessary to communicate with colleagues. Now I carry out all the stages in a single application. With a couple of clicks I can select information and send it very quickly.”
Allowing users to execute complete business processes within a single application is a goal Infor hopes to accomplish with the release of MyDay, a Web 2.0 interface unveiled at Infor's conference.
“MyDay is a new type of interface that lets users look at information in a way that is relevant to their specific roles,” says Christina McKeon, Infor's director of product marketing for performance management solutions. Infor hopes users will establish MyDay as the default homepage on their desktop PCs, bringing them immediately to the Infor application suite when they log on.
“A plant manager can log in and get a list of alerts about issues that might delay the manufacturing process that day,” McKeon says. “They can click an alert to get more details, and then immediately move the appropriate applications to resolve the situation.”
MyDay is expected to be generally available in January 2009. McKeon says interfaces for 16 roles—“including several that are core to manufacturing, such as production planner, purchasing manager, and warehouse manager”—should be available at that time. And in keeping with its process of moving a series of recently acquired applications to a single technology platform, Infor is making the first release of MyDay available to users of four of its product suites: SyteLine, Adage, Visual, and LN.
McKeon says Infor relies on its Open SOA (service-oriented architecture) platform to link MyDay to these suites. It introduced Open SOA at its 2007 user conference and declared it would be the platform for connecting all new Infor functionality to existing products moving forward.
Right now, Infor is developing software components that perform various business functions, and can be linked to any of its existing applications through the Open SOA platform. In January 2009, 19 components are expected to be available.
Epicor says SOA is underpinning the latest version of its ERP suite—Epicor 9—which it unveiled at its user conference mid-October.
Epicor CEO Tom Kelly lists these key features:
Enhanced business intelligence and performance management functionality;
A flexible, scalable architecture; and
The ability to access the system anytime, anywhere—including on mobile devices.
“Epicor 9 is designed for the way people work today,” Kelly says. “Our strategy is to provide unprecedented flexibility and choice. It's about delivering business without barriers.”
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After almost a decade of uncertainty, the confidence of plant floor managers is soaring. Even with a number of challenges and while implementing new technologies, there is a renewed sense of optimism among plant managers about their business and their future.
The respondents to the 2014 Plant Engineering Salary Survey come from throughout the U.S. and serve a variety of industries, but they are uniform in their optimism about manufacturing. This year’s survey found 79% consider manufacturing a secure career. That’s up from 75% in 2013 and significantly higher than the 63% figure when Plant Engineering first started asking that question a decade ago.