Facebook at the Factory: Manufacturing software must become more like social media, study says

IFS North America is releasing the results of a study that shows that manufacturers want to see more integration between social networking tools and their enterprise resources planning (ERP) systems - and more social network-like, enterprise 2.0 functionality.


Click here for a little more of the research from this study.


IFS North America is releasing the results of a study that shows that manufacturers want to see more integration between social networking tools and their enterprise resources planning (ERP) systems - and more social network-like, enterprise 2.0 functionality. The study, conducted for IFS by a third-party research organization, found that while 40 percent of survey respondents said that ERP and social networking integration was extremely or very important, the vast majority indicated that they wanted their ERP system to help them perform functions typically associated with social networks and other Web-based collaboration tools.

A full 62 percent of respondents said they wanted their ERP system to "capture and record the knowledge of senior experienced engineers and professionals so that it becomes part of your corporate knowledge base." Among manufacturers with more than $1 billion in revenue, 72 percent said they wanted this capability.

"Enterprise 2.0 and social media tools are designed to draw information out of people, to get them to talk," IFS North America Chief Technical Officer Rick Veague said. "This will become more of a business critical issue as the current generation of senior manufacturing operations and maintenance professionals prepare for retirement, only to be replaced by a smaller, less experienced but more technologically sophisticated generation. Wikis, threaded discussion boards and other features of social media will become common fixtures in enterprise software-including IFS Applications."

According to IFS AB Chief Technology Officer Dan Matthews, IFS is taking seriously the challenges presented by the aging and shrinking workforce, and is introducing functionality to address these needs. IFS has already evolved IFS Applications in this direction with its new usability-enhanced interface, IFS Enterprise Explorer, which includes embedded search tools and innovative knowledge capture devices including "sticky notes," which allow users to informally add and edit comments to any record.

"We have been told that IFS is fairly unique in that we operate a Web 2.0 community for our users," Matthews said. "We are planning to integrate this community directly with the applications so that our customers can access the wisdom of users outside of their organization as they learn the finer points and more advanced features of IFS Applications. We are also working to structure our embedded help information not as static documentation, but in the format of wikis, so that our customers can document their business processes and indeed, capture the knowledge of senior people in a format that has lasting enterprise value."

The study was based on a survey of more than 260 manufacturing software decision makers. An in-depth report of the findings will be available from IFS North America later this month.

About IFS: IFS is a public company (OMX STO: IFS) founded in 1983 that develops, supplies, and implements IFS ApplicationsTM, a fully-integrated, component-based extended ERP suite built on SOA technology. The company has more than 2,000 customers in more than 50 countries and focuses on seven main industries: aerospace & defense, utilities & telecom, manufacturing, process industries, automotive, retail & wholesale distribution, and construction contracting & service management. IFS has 2,700 employees and net revenue in 2008 was $383 million, the company said.

- Edited by Mark T. Hoske, online products editor, Manufacturing Business Technology, MBT, www.mbtmag.com

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