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10 Ways To Improve Cloud ERP With AI And Machine Learning

Capitalizing on new digital business models and the growth opportunities they provide are forcing companies to re-evaluate ERP’s role. Made inflexible by years of customization, legacy ERP systems aren’t delivering what digital business models need today to scale and grow.

Legacy ERP systems were purpose-built to excel at production consistency first at the expense of flexibility and responsiveness to customers’ changing requirements. By taking a business case-based approach to integrating Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning into their platforms, Cloud ERP providers can fill the gap legacy ERP systems can’t.

Closing Legacy ERP Gaps With Greater Intelligence And Insight

Companies need to be able to respond quickly to unexpected, unfamiliar and unforeseen dilemmas with smart decisions fast for new digital business models to succeed. That’s not possible today with legacy ERP systems. Legacy IT technology stacks and the ERP systems they are built on aren’t designed to deliver the data needed most.

That’s all changing fast. A clear, compelling business model and successful execution of its related strategies are what all successful Cloud ERP implementations share. Cloud ERP platforms and apps provide organizations the flexibility they need to prioritize growth plans over IT constraints. And many have taken an Application Programming Interface (API) approach to integrate with legacy ERP systems to gain the incremental data these systems provide. In today’s era of Cloud ERP, rip-and-replace isn’t as commonplace as reorganizing entire IT architectures for greater speed, scale, and customer transparency using cloud-first platforms.

New business models thrive when an ERP system is constantly learning. That’s one of the greatest gaps between what Cloud ERP platforms’ potential and where their legacy counterparts are today. Cloud platforms provide greater integration options and more flexibility to customize applications and improve usability which is one of the biggest drawbacks of legacy ERP systems. Designed to deliver results by providing AI- and machine learning insights, Cloud ERP platforms, and apps can rejuvenate ERP systems and their contributions to business growth.

The following are the 10 ways to improve Cloud ERP with AI and machine learning, bridging the information gap with legacy ERP systems:

  1. Cloud ERP platforms need to create and strengthen a self-learning knowledge system that orchestrates AI and machine learning from the shop floor to the top floor and across supplier networks. Having a cloud-based infrastructure that integrates core ERP Web Services, apps, and real-time monitoring to deliver a steady stream of data to AI and machine learning algorithms accelerates how quickly the entire system learns. The Cloud ERP platform integration roadmap needs to include APIs and Web Services to connect with the many suppliers and buyer systems outside the walls of a manufacturer while integrating with legacy ERP systems to aggregate and analyze the decades of data they have generated.

  1. Virtual agents have the potential to redefine many areas of manufacturing operations, from pick-by-voice systems to advanced diagnostics. Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, Google Voice, and Microsoft Cortana have the potential to be modified to streamline operations tasks and processes, bringing contextual guidance and direction to complex tasks. An example of one task virtual agents are being used for today is guiding production workers to select from the correct product bin as required by the Bill of Materials. Machinery manufacturers are piloting voice agents that can provide detailed work instructions that streamline configure-to-order and engineer-to-order production. Amazon has successfully partnered with automotive manufacturers and has the most design wins as of today. They could easily replicate this success with machinery manufacturers.

  1. Design in the Internet of Things (IoT) support at the data structure level to realize quick wins as data collection pilots go live and scale. Cloud ERP platforms have the potential to capitalize on the massive data stream IoT devices are generating today by designing in support at the data structure level first. Providing IoT-based data to AI and machine learning apps continually will bridge the intelligence gap many companies face today as they pursue new business models. Capgemini has provided an analysis of IoT use cases shown below, highlighting how production asset maintenance and asset tracking are quick wins waiting to happen. Cloud ERP platforms can accelerate them by designing in IoT support.

  1. AI and machine learning can provide insights into how Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) can be improved that aren’t apparent today. Manufacturers will welcome the opportunity to have greater insights into how they can stabilize then normalize OEE performance across their shop floors. When a Cloud ERP platform serves as an always-learning knowledge system, real-time monitoring data from machinery and production assets provide much-needed insights into areas for improvement and what’s going well on the shop floor.

  1. Designing machine learning algorithms into track-and-traceability to predict which lots from which suppliers are most likely to be of the highest or lowest quality. Machine learning algorithms excel at finding patterns in diverse data sets by continually applying constraint-based algorithms. Suppliers vary widely in their quality and delivery schedule performance levels. Using machine learning, it’s possible to create a track-and-trace application that could indicate which lot from which supplier is the riskiest and those that are of exceptional quality as well.
  2. Cloud ERP providers need to pay attention to how they can help close the configuration gap that exists between PLM, CAD, ERP and CRM systems by using AI and machine learning. The most successful product configuration strategies rely on a single, lifecycle-based view of product configurations. They’re able to alleviate the conflicts between how engineering designs a product with CAD and PLM, how sales & marketing sell it with CRM, and how manufacturing builds it with an ERP system. AI and machine learning can enable configuration lifecycle management and avert lost time and sales, streamlining CPQ and product configuration strategies in the process.
  3. Improving demand forecasting accuracy and enabling better collaboration with suppliers based on insights from machine learning-based predictive models is attainable with higher quality data. By creating a self-learning knowledge system, Cloud ERP providers can vastly improve data latency rates that lead to higher forecast accuracy. Factoring in sales, marketing, and promotional programs further fine-tunes forecast accuracy.
  4. Reducing equipment breakdowns and increasing asset utilization by analyzing machine-level data to determine when a given part needs to be replaced. It’s possible to capture a steady stream of data on each machine’s health level using sensors equipped with an IP address. Cloud ERP providers have a great opportunity to capture machine-level data and use machine learning techniques to find patterns in production performance by using a production floor’s entire data set. This is especially important in process industries where machinery breakdowns lead to lost sales. Oil refineries are using machine learning models comprise more than 1,000 variables related to material input, output and process perimeters including weather conditions to estimate equipment failures.
  5. Implementing self-learning algorithms that use production incident reports to predict production problems on assembly lines needs to happen in Cloud ERP platforms. A local aircraft manufacturer is doing this today by using predictive modeling and machine learning to compare past incident reports. With legacy ERP systems these problems would have gone undetected and turned into production slowdowns or worse, the line having to stop.
  6. Improving product quality by having machine learning algorithms aggregate, analyze and continually learn from supplier inspection, quality control, Return Material Authorization (RMA) and product failure data. Cloud ERP platforms are in a unique position of being able to scale across the entire lifecycle of a product and capture quality data from the supplier to the customer. With legacy ERP systems manufacturers most often rely on an analysis of scrap materials by type or caused followed by RMAs. It’s time to get to the truth about why products fail, and machine learning can deliver the insights to get there.

10 Ways Machine Learning Is Revolutionizing Manufacturing In 2018

  • Improving semiconductor manufacturing yields up to 30%, reducing scrap rates, and optimizing fab operations is achievable with machine learning.
  • Reducing supply chain forecasting errors by 50% and lost sales by 65% with better product availability is achievable with machine learning.
  • Automating quality testing using machine learning is increasing defect detection rates up to 90%.

Bottom line: Machine learning algorithms, applications, and platforms are helping manufacturers find new business models, fine-tune product quality, and optimize manufacturing operations to the shop floor level.

Manufacturers care most about finding new ways to grow, excel at product quality while still being able to take on short lead-time production runs from customers. New business models often bring the paradox of new product lines that strain existing ERP, CRM and PLM systems by the need always to improve time-to-customer performance. New products are proliferating in manufacturing today, and delivery windows are tightening. Manufacturers are turning to machine learning to improve the end-to-end performance of their operations and find a performance-based solution to this paradox.

The ten ways machine learning is revolutionizing manufacturing in 2018 include the following:

  • Improving semiconductor manufacturing yields up to 30%, reducing scrap rates, and optimizing fab operations are is achievable with machine learning. Attaining up to a 30% reduction in yield detraction in semiconductor manufacturing, reducing scrap rates based on machine learning-based root-cause analysis and reducing testing costs using AI optimization are the top three areas where machine learning will improve semiconductor manufacturing. McKinsey also found that AI-enhanced predictive maintenance of industrial equipment will generate a 10% reduction in annual maintenance costs, up to a 20% downtime reduction and 25% reduction in inspection costs. Source: Smartening up with Artificial Intelligence (AI) – What’s in it for Germany and its Industrial Sector? (52 pp., PDF, no opt-in) McKinsey & Company.

  • Asset Management, Supply Chain Management, and Inventory Management are the hottest areas of artificial intelligence, machine learning and IoT adoption in manufacturing today. The World Economic Forum (WEF) and A.T. Kearney’s recent study of the future of production find that manufacturers are evaluating how combining emerging technologies including IoT, AI, and machine learning can improve asset tracking accuracy, supply chain visibility, and inventory optimization. Source: Technology and Innovation for the Future of Production: Accelerating Value Creation (38 pp., PDF, no opt-in) World Economic Forum with A.T. Kearney.

  • Manufacturer’s adoption of machine learning and analytics to improve predictive maintenance is predicted to increase 38% in the next five years according to PwC. Analytics and MI-driven process and quality optimization are predicted to grow 35% and process visualization and automation, 34%. PwC sees the integration of analytics, APIs and big data contributing to a 31% growth rate for connected factories in the next five years. Source: Digital Factories 2020: Shaping the future of manufacturing (48 pp., PDF, no opt-in) PriceWaterhouseCoopers

  • McKinsey predicts machine learning will reduce supply chain forecasting errors by 50% and reduce lost sales by 65% with better product availability. Supply chains are the lifeblood of any manufacturing business. Machine learning is predicted to reduce costs related to transport and warehousing and supply chain administration by 5 to 10% and 25 to 40%, respectively. Due to machine learning, overall inventory reductions of 20 to 50% are possible. Source: Smartening up with Artificial Intelligence (AI) – What’s in it for Germany and its Industrial Sector? (52 pp., PDF, no opt-in) McKinsey & Company.

  • Improving demand forecast accuracy to reduce energy costs and negative price variances using machine learning uncovers price elasticity and price sensitivity as well. Honeywell is integrating AI and machine-learning algorithms into procurement, strategic sourcing and cost management. Source: Honeywell Connected Plant: Analytics and Beyond. (23 pp., PDF, no opt-in) 2017 Honeywell User’s Group.

  • Automating inventory optimization using machine learning has improved service levels by 16% while simultaneously increasing inventory turns by 25%. AI and machine learning constraint-based algorithms and modeling are making it possible scale inventory optimization across all distribution locations, taking into account external, independent variables that affect demand and time-to-customer delivery performance. Source: Transform the manufacturing supply chain with Multi-Echelon inventory optimization, Microsoft, March 1, 2018.

  • Combining real-time monitoring and machine learning is optimizing shop floor operations, providing insights into machine-level loads and production schedule performance. Knowing in real-time how each machine’s load level impacts overall production schedule performance leads to better decisions managing each production run. Optimizing the best possible set of machines for a given production run is now possible using machine learning algorithms. Source: Factories of the Future: How Symbiotic Production Systems, Real-Time Production Monitoring, Edge Analytics and AI Are Making Factories Intelligent and Agile, (43 pp., PDF, no opt-in) Youichi Nonaka, Senior Chief Researcher, Hitachi R&D Group and Sudhanshu Gaur Director, Global Center for Social Innovation Hitachi America R&D

  • Improving the accuracy of detecting costs of performance degradation across multiple manufacturing scenarios reduces costs by 50% or more. Using real-time monitoring technologies to create accurate data sets that capture pricing, inventory velocity, and related variables gives machine learning apps what they need to determine cost behaviors across multiple manufacturing scenarios. Source: Leveraging AI for Industrial IoT (27 pp., PDF, no opt-in) Chetan Gupta, Ph.D. Chief Data Scientist, Big Data Lab, Hitachi America Ltd. Date: Sept. 19th, 2017

  • A manufacturer was able to achieve a 35% reduction in test and calibration time via accurate prediction of calibration and test results using machine learning. The project’s goal was to reduce test and calibration time in the production of mobile hydraulic pumps. The methodology focused on using a series of machine learning models that would predict test outcomes and learn over time. The process workflow below was able to isolate the bottlenecks, streamlining test and calibration time in the process. Source: The Value Of Data Science Standards In Manufacturing Analytics (13 pp., PDF, no opt-in) Soundar Srinivasan, Bosch Data Mining Solutions And Services

  • Improving yield rates, preventative maintenance accuracy and workloads by the asset is now possible by combining machine learning and Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE). OEE is a pervasively used metric in manufacturing as it combines availability, performance, and quality, defining production effectiveness. Combined with other metrics, it’s possible to find the factors that impact manufacturing performance the most and least. Integrating OEE and other datasets in machine learning models that learn quickly through iteration are one of the fastest growing areas of manufacturing intelligence and analytics today. Source: TIBCO Manufacturing Solutions, TIBCO Community, January 30, 2018

Additional reading:

Artificial Intelligence (AI) Delivering Breakthroughs in Industrial IoT (26 pp., PDF, no opt-in) Hitachi

Artificial Intelligence and Robotics and Their Impact on the Workplace (120 pp., PDF, no opt-in) IBA Global Employment Institute

Artificial Intelligence: The Next Digital Frontier? (80 pp., PDF, no opt-in) McKinsey and Company

Big Data Analytics for Smart Manufacturing: Case Studies in Semiconductor Manufacturing (20 pp., PDF, no opt-in), Applied Materials, Applied Global Services

Connected Factory and Digital Manufacturing: A Competitive Advantage, Shantanu Rai, HCL Technologies (36 pp., PDF, no opt-in)

Demystifying AI, Machine Learning, and Deep Learning, DZone, AI Zone

Digital Factories 2020: Shaping the future of manufacturing (48 pp., PDF, no opt-in) PriceWaterhouseCoopers

Emerging trends in global advanced manufacturing: Challenges, Opportunities, And Policy Responses (76 pp., PDF, no opt-in) University of Cambridge

Factories of the Future: How Symbiotic Production Systems, Real-Time Production Monitoring, Edge Analytics and AI Are Making Factories Intelligent and Agile, (43 pp., PDF, no opt-in) Youichi Nonaka, Senior Chief Researcher, Hitachi R&D Group and Sudhanshu Gaur Director, Global Center for Social Innovation Hitachi America R&D

Get started with the Connected factory preconfigured solution, Microsoft Azure

Honeywell Connected Plant: Analytics and Beyond. (23 pp., PDF, no opt-in) 2017 Honeywell User’s Group.

Impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution on Supply Chains (22 pp., PDF, no opt-in) World Economic Forum

Leveraging AI for Industrial IoT (27 pp., PDF, no opt-in) Chetan Gupta, Ph.D. Chief Data Scientist, Big Data Lab, Hitachi America Ltd. Date: Sept. 19th, 2017

Machine Learning & Artificial Intelligence Presentation (14 pp., PDF, no opt-in) Erik Hjerpe Volvo Car Group

Machine Learning Techniques in Manufacturing Applications & Caveats, (44 pp., PDF, no opt-in), Thomas Hill, Ph.D. | Exec. Director Analytics, Dell

Machine learning: the power and promise of computers that learn by example (128 pp., PDF, no opt-in) Royal Society UK

Predictive maintenance and the smart factory (8 pp., PDF, no opt-in) Deloitte

Priore, P., Gómez, A., Pino, R., & Rosillo, R. (2014). Dynamic scheduling of manufacturing systems using machine learning: An updated reviewAi Edam28(1), 83-97.

Smartening up with Artificial Intelligence (AI) – What’s in it for Germany and its Industrial Sector? (52 pp., PDF, no opt-in) McKinsey & Company

Technology and Innovation for the Future of Production: Accelerating Value Creation (38 pp., PDF, no opt-in) World Economic Forum with A.T. Kearney

The Future of Manufacturing; Making things in a changing world (52 pp., PDF, no opt-in) Deloitte University Press

The transformative potential of AI in the manufacturing industry, Microsoft, by Sanjay Ravi, Managing Director, Worldwide Discrete Manufacturing, Microsoft, September 25, 2017

The Value Of Data Science Standards In Manufacturing Analytics (13 pp., PDF, no opt-in) Soundar Srinivasan, Bosch Data Mining Solutions And Services

TIBCO Manufacturing Solutions, TIBCO Community, January 30, 2018

Transform the manufacturing supply chain with Multi-Echelon inventory optimization, Microsoft, March 1, 2018.

Turning AI into concrete value: the successful implementers’ toolkit (28 pp., PDF, no opt-in) Capgemini Consulting

Wuest, T., Weimer, D., Irgens, C., & Thoben, K. D. (2016). Machine learning in manufacturing: advantages, challenges, and applicationsProduction & Manufacturing Research4(1), 23-45.

Why Cloud ERP Adoption Is Faster Than Gartner Predicts

200393880-001A recent study completed by Gartner titled Survey Analysis: Adoption of Cloud ERP, 2013 Through 2023 published on January 24, 2014, written by Nigel Rayner advises CIOs and application leaders of financial services institutions to “consider cloud ERP as a potential replacement for aging core ERP systems that are out of support or running on an old technology platforms (such as mainframes).“

The methodology is based on a survey of Gartner Research Circle members from North America, EMEA, APAC and Latin America from companies that range in size from $10M to $10B.

Key take-aways of the study including the following:

  • Including the 2% that already have core ERP in the cloud, a total of 47% of organizations surveyed plan to move their core ERP systems to the cloud within five years. This is because their ERP requirements tend to be focused around administrative ERP (financials, human capital management and procure-to-pay) where there is a wider range of cloud options (compared with manufacturing).
  • In aggregate, 30% of respondents say that the majority of their ERP systems will be on-premises for the foreseeable future as can be seen from the following graphic.

cloud adoption pie chart

  • 30% of organizations surveyed said they planned to keep the majority of their ERP systems on-premise for the foreseeable future.  Manufacturing organizations dominated this survey segment.

Why Cloud ERP Is Accelerating Faster Than Gartner Predicts

Two-tier ERP is the Trojan Horse of cloud ERP.  If Gartner had asked their respondents about if and how cloud-based ERP systems are being considered and used in two-tier ERP strategies globally, their survey and previous forecasts would have been significantly different.

From researching and working with manufacturers where two-tier ERP strategies make perfect sense for extending their legacy ERP systems to move into new markets, the following key take-aways emerge:

  • Achieving faster time-to-market while reducing cost of quality.  This is quickly turning into a year of transition for many supply chains, with the shift most noticeable in aerospace and defense.  Tighter project schedules driven by reduced budgets, coupled with more aggressive launch schedules is making this the year of the agile supplier.  Cloud-based ERP systems are essential to suppliers in this industry especially.
  • Legacy ERP systems lack scalability to support 21rst century compliance. One CIO who is a good friend jokingly refers to the legacy ERP systems populating each division of the manufacturing company he works for as fuel for his silos of excellence.  His point is that legacy ERP systems don’t have the data models to support the current quality management and compliance requirements corporate-wide and are relegated to siloed roles in his organization.  Cloud-based applications, specifically designed for ISO 9100, AS9100 Rev. C can do what legacy systems can’t, which is span across the aerospace manufacturer’s entire operations.
  • SaaS-based manufacturing and distribution software will increase from 22% in 2013 to 45% by 2023.  According to MintJutras, a leading research and advisory firm tracking ERP trends, a survey completed in 2013 shows SaaS-based applications will steadily grow from 22% of all manufacturing and distribution software installed to 45% within ten years.  The catalyst for much fo this growth will be two-tier ERP system adoption.
  • Microsoft’s New CEO knows the enterprise and cloud’s role in it. Satya Nadella has the daunting task of bringing innovation back into Microsoft.  As Anshu Sharma writes in his blog post today Satya Nadella: Microsoft, Coffee and the Relevance Question provides an excellent analysis of the challenges and paradoxes faced by the new Microsoft CEO.  It’s common knowledge in the Microsoft Partner community that the company runs one of the largest two-tier ERP system architectures in IT today, with an SAP R/3 instance in headquarters and Microsoft Dynamics AX running in each subsidiary.
  • All cloud ERP providers including Microsoft intend to monetize two-tier as much as they possibly can, architecting their respective Cloud OS strategies and enterprise suites to capitalize on it. Microsoft released an overview of their Cloud OS strategies in the following presentation, which provides a thorough overview of their perspective of the hosting market and how it relates to their apps business. Also included is the following graphic, Cloud OS: Innovation at Scale.  All of the factors taken together will drive up adoption of Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 and streamline two-tier enterprise sales across all cloud ERP providers.  Last year at Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference the announcement was made that Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 would be available on Windows Azure in July, 2014.

cloud scale

  • Mobility is unifying the manufacturing shop floor to the top floor faster than anyone thinks.  In traditional ERP systems mobile platforms are most often used for material handling, warehouse management, traceability, quality management, logistics and service tracking. From the discussions I’ve had with CIOs and a few CEOs of manufacturing companies, there’s a high level of interest in analytics, alerts and approvals on Android and Apple tablets.  These apps and the speed of results they deliver are the new corporate bling. Intuitive, integrated and fast, these mobile apps make it possible for senior managers to check up on operations for wherever they are globally, in addition to approving contracts and being notified of events via alerts.  For Gartner’s assessment of cloud ERP to have been complete in this survey, mobility also needed to be covered
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