Innovation occurs at a rate faster than most humans can adapt. It takes dedication to stay on top of everything that hits the consumer market, let alone the manufacturing industry. From technology impacting Industry 4.0 to the Internet of Things (IoT) and everything in between, businesses have to keep pace with technology if they’re going to stay on par with or surpass the competition. Increasingly, enterprise resourcing planning (ERP) solutions, built to help companies manage nearly every aspect of their operation, are evolving to make use of big data and offer real-time views into day-to-day processes.
According to Gartner Inc., one of world’s biggest research and advisory firms, Epicor is a leader in ERP functionality for midsize enterprises. One in five of Epicor’s manufacturing customers is in the metal fabrication business.
The software Epicor develops for manufacturers, which is available to be used on-premise or in the cloud, includes solutions for aerospace and defense, automotive, industrial machinery, process manufacturing, fabricated metals and many more.
“From a manufacturing perspective, fabrication is one of the largest markets we serve,” says Christine Hansen, product marketing and senior manager at Epicor. “We have a very strong presence and focus in the industry.”
The ERP software is built to create a connected enterprise by leveraging the assets and people within an organization to a point where they can achieve real-time data visualization, take advantage of predictive analysis and improve communication technology and automation in the workplace. Furthermore, using big data in concert with ERP software drives results toward smarter manufacturing.
“Data is one of the new currencies,” Hansen says, “and how we leverage it and utilize it in a very contextual way is an important part of what Epicor does.”
Epicor seeks to integrate assets and people with technology that provides insights. For example, sensors attached to machines on the shop floor provide operators with real-time data visualization, predictive analysis and better communication, all of which is tied in with the Epicor ERP software. The result is increased efficiency and speed to market, which drives up productivity and profitability.
“We also look at what we do from a technology perspective to support customers’ scalability and support instant notification,” Hansen adds, “not only in their ERP system, but perhaps in some of the systems they extend to other devices they want to connect with on the platform.”
The Epicor Advanced Manufacturing Execution System (MES) is utilized to improve quality, reduce scrap and deliver products on time. The software is designed to provide insights into issues affecting downtime, and it also improves visibility into how to make more parts and cut costs – which equates to finding more capacity.
The company’s MES system connects directly to the equipment the operators are running, collects information about productivity (yield, scrap, etc.) and can even give the manufacturer the insights they need to maintain the machine for the customer.
According to Epicor, one of its customers produced scrap at a rate of 3 to 4 percent before implementing the Epicor Advanced MES. After implementing it, the customer was able to cut the rate down to 1.37 percent. Another customer from the automotive industry discovered that implementing the solution helped them find problems that needed to be solved, allowing them to focus decisions and resources on the areas that needed them.
Improve with IoT
A study from Mordor Intelligence, a market intelligence and advisory firm, reports the IoT market was valued at $420.8 billion in 2019 and is expected to reach more than $1 trillion by 2025. Software companies are definitely aware of this growth trend, including Epicor, which released Epicor IoT last year to take the analysis of device data a step further.
The IoT product is integrated with Microsoft’s Azure IoT Hub, which is a managed service hosted in the cloud that offers highly secure and reliable “bi-directional communication” between IoT applications and the devices that manage the applications. This is what allows manufacturers to monitor and collect data from their equipment
“It has the level of security that businesses need for those devices,” Hansen says. “It can track all the data and send notifications to your ERP system for the anomalies that you care about.”
A customer in the Netherlands noted that the IoT solution from Epicor that connected to their current ERP system not only “made our machines and related equipment smarter, it’s making our company smarter.” The company improved visibility, reduced cost, increased uptime and gained a more empowered workforce by implementing the IoT solution.
An empowered workforce is one with answers to questions and access to information that allows them to make fact-based decisions. With Epicor IoT technology, operators can create rule-based alerts that allow them to prevent production issues from occurring. They can also track and visualize dynamic inventory to help find workflow bottlenecks.
“It really has created this extension for businesses for what they’re able to do and how they’re able to leverage it,” Hansen says, adding that one clever customer utilizes the software with a drone that takes inventory of items in hard-to-access places and records it into the ERP system.