How ERP can make good on the promise of real-time actionable intelligence
Mobile, social, analytics, cloud, the Internet of Things, nanotechnology, 3D printing and more - manufacturers are facing a barrage of information about how new disruptive technologies will change the face of their industry. But for manufacturers to embrace these technologies, they must have a clear understanding of the technology value-add within the context of today’s business environment – what I like to call 'purposeful innovation'.
Big data and the IoT as technology concepts are exciting, but what do they mean to manufacturers from a practical application perspective? As digitization becomes defacto on the manufacturing floor, there is great potential to improve responsiveness and agility, and adapt more quickly to customers’ changing needs. As more digitally controlled technologies are introduced, we build more connections. As we become more connected, building the IoT, we generate big data. And as the volume of data grows, we need new and faster ways to drive insight and actions, and easier ways to arrive at decisions.
So while these disruptive technologies are expected to improve responsiveness, they create new challenges in managing an increasingly overwhelming volume of data that must be converted into actionable intelligence. Manufacturers can’t afford to allow these technologies to inadvertently slow them down, as this would be contrary to the aforementioned goal.
When it comes to the IoT, it’s not about the data perse, it’s about what you can do with that data. As Industry Analyst Nigel Fenwick at Forrester Research has said: “It's important to note that digital isn't just about gathering new external connections; it's about having the operational agility to act on them.”
Some of the manufacturing purists may argue that IoT isn’t new to them – after all, machines have had sensors for a long time reporting back information to the user – like the ubiquitous laser jet printer that tells you exactly how much ink is left and even where to order replacement cartridges. However, what’s new is we now have the technology capabilities to enable the integration of information across the entire product lifecycle – from design, through engineering, manufacturing, delivery, and service — to deliver immediate and actionable information to the necessary departments and functions with greater speed, accuracy, and efficiency than ever before. Imagine the new printer that prints your production schedule at the beginning of the shift when it detects you have arrived on the shop floor and automatically emails you a PDF of that schedule?
This is about gaining instant access to information “in context” to the task or decision at hand. The value-add is aggregating data quickly to make meaningful decisions today that manufacturers couldn’t make yesterday. What’s 'new' and notable with the IoT is this ability to aggregate data, analyze it and even use it for predictive modelling.
With all this talk about the IoT, manufacturers may wonder – where does ERP fit into all of this new digital frontier? The reality is ERP is more relevant in this equation than ever before – as it’s the key to unlocking the value of IoT. To be able to realize the full value-add of big data/IoT initiatives, manufacturers need the ability to contextualize data and integrate it into downstream process flows. This is what ERP has always done, however today next-generation ERP platforms are more approachable and more powerful than ever – functioning as the fabric that connects people, processes, data and things in an intelligent and strategic manner that allows manufacturers to create value from new data streams.
To do this however, ERP systems must be reimagined to meet the needs of new and emerging technologies in the business of manufacturing. Responsiveness demands simplicity and mobility with tools designed to meet the specific needs of specific users. It demands new levels of collaboration throughout the supply chain, inside and outside the enterprise. It demands choice in the way information is presented, applications are accessed, and solutions are deployed. With an ERP system that delivers all this and more, manufacturers can check off a big box on their IoT readiness checklist and make good on the promise of real-time actionable intelligence.
By Sabby Gill, Executive Vice President, Epicor Software International
Follow @ManufacturingGL and @NellWalkerMG
Siemens: Providing the First Industrial 5G Router
Across a number of industry sectors, there’s a growing need for both local wireless connectivity and remote access to machines and plants. In both of these cases, communication is, more often than not, over a long distance. Public wireless data networks can be used to enable this connectivity, both nationally and internationally, which makes the new 5G network mainframe an absolutely vital element of remote access and remote servicing solutions as we move into the interconnected age.
Siemens Enables 5G IIoT
The eagerly awaited Scalance MUM856-1, Siemens’ very first industrial 5G router, is officially available to organisations. The device has the ability to connect all local industrial applications to the public 5G, 4G (LTE), and 3G (UMTS) mobile wireless networks ─ allowing companies to embrace the long-awaited Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).
The router can be used to remotely monitor and service plants, machines, as well as control elements and other industrial devices via a public 5G network ─ flexibly and with high data rates. Something that has been in incredibly high demand after being teased by the leading network providers for years.
Scalance MUM856-1 at a Glance
- Scalance MUM856-1 connects local industrial applications to public 5G, 4G, and 3G mobile wireless networks
- The router supports future-oriented applications such as remote access via public 5G networks or the connection of mobile devices such as automated guided vehicles in industry
- A robust version in IP65 housing for use outside the control cabinet
- Prototypes of Siemens 5G infrastructure for private networks already in use at several sites
“To ensure the powerful connection of Ethernet-based subnetworks and automation devices, the Scalance MUM856-1 supports Release 15 of the 5G standard. The device offers high bandwidths of up to 1000 Mbps for the downlink and up to 500 Mbps for the uplink – providing high data rates for data-intensive applications such as the remote implementation of firmware updates. Thanks to IPv6 support, the devices can also be implemented in modern communication networks.
Various security functions are included to monitor data traffic and protect against unauthorised access: for example, an integrated firewall and authentication of communication devices and encryption of data transmission via VPN. If there is no available 5G network, the device switches automatically to 4G or 3G networks. The first release version of the router has an EU radio license; other versions with different licenses are in preparation. With the Sinema Remote Connect management platform for VPN connections, users can access remote plants or machines easily and securely – even if they are integrated in other networks. The software also offers easy management and autoconfiguration of the devices,” Siemens said.
Preparing for a 5G-oriented Future
Siemens has announced that the new router can also be integrated into private 5G networks. This means that the Scalance MUM856-1 is, essentially, future-proofed when it comes to 5G adaptability; it supports future-oriented applications, including ‘mobile robots in manufacturing, autonomous vehicles in logistics or augmented reality applications for service technicians.’
And, for use on sites where conditions are a little harsher, Siemens has given the router robust IP65 housing ─ it’s “dust tight”, waterproof, and immersion-proofed.
The first release version of the router has an EU radio license; other versions with different licenses are in preparation. “With the Sinema Remote Connect management platform for VPN connections, users can access remote plants or machines easily and securely – even if they are integrated in other networks. The software also offers easy management and auto-configuration of the devices,” Siemens added.