How ERPs power industrial hyper-automation

 By Marius Wessels 

Today’s technology landscape is dynamic and ever-changing, especially when you look at its deployment in industrial interventions. Yet, still, in this case, the rise of hyper-automation has been seen as nothing short of revolutionary. Amid these transformations, the enterprise resource planning (ERP) system sits at the centre and remains a practical tool that continues to be the driving force behind advanced industrial automation.

In the current digital age, ERPs emerge as the spine of efficient and intelligent operations that drive organizations and businesses towards heightened levels of productivity, accuracy, and innovation.

For starters, hyper-automation, which is a term coined by Gartner, an American technological research and consulting firm based in Stamford, Connecticut, is a business-driven, disciplined approach that organizations use to rapidly identify, vet, and automate as many business and IT processes as possible.

It involves the directed use of multiple technologies, tools, or platforms, including artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), event-driven software architecture, robotic process automation (RPA), business process management (BPM), intelligent business process management suites (iBPMS), integration platform as a service (iPaaS), low-code/no-code tools, packaged software, and other types of decision, process, and task automation tools. The concept embodies the synergy between all these advanced technologies working in harmony to fashion a seamless, automated workflow.

At its core, hyper-automation is about enhancing processes, reducing human intervention, and optimizing resource utilization, and in this regard, ERPs act as the fabric of this technological revolution. They integrate data and functionalities across the organization to create a unified, intelligent system.

One of the key features that make ERPs instrumental in powering hyper-automation is their ability to seamlessly integrate data from different departments and processes across an enterprise or organization. In a manufacturing environment, for instance, ERPs enable the real-time exchange of data between production, inventory, procurement, and quality control systems.

This integration facilitates informed decision-making by providing a much more holistic view of operations and eliminating data silos. This, in turn, minimizes the chances of errors caused by manual data entry.

The union of ERPs with AI and machine learning capabilities has also ushered in an era of predictive analytics and smart decision-making in tech-driven organizations and ecosystems. ERPs trained with AI can analyze historical data to identify patterns, forecast demand, and optimize inventory levels. This not only reduces wastage but also ensures that the right resources are available at the right time.

Machine learning algorithms embedded in ERPs can enhance equipment maintenance schedules by predicting breakdowns before they occur, thereby minimizing downtime and maximizing the overall productivity of the organization.

Furthermore, ERPs can harness AI to automate routine tasks, freeing employees to focus on more strategic, creative, and value-added activities in the business. With this development, ordinary insipid tasks within the organization are left for the ERP while the employee engages in much more meaningful tasks. And this not only boosts their morale but also brings out the often fully untapped human resource potential within the organization.

Further to these, as is common knowledge, hyper-automation is all about efficiency, and ERPs excel at streamlining and enhancing workflows. Such tasks as order processing to supply chain management see ERPs virtually provide end-to-end visibility. This kind of visibility enables businesses to identify any snags and hence optimize processes.

RPA), a software technology that makes it easy to build, deploy, and manage software robots that imitate human actions interacting with digital systems and software, is yet another component of hyper-automation that can be seamlessly integrated into ERPs. This automates redundant tasks such as invoice processing, data entry, and payroll calculations and not only reduces errors but also speeds up the rate of organizational operations.

Additionally, in this age of hyper-automation, it is worth noting that real-time insights are important. ERPs can integrate with Internet of Things (IoT) devices to monitor production lines, track shipments, and manage inventory levels in real time. In this regard, sensors embedded in manufacturing equipment can transmit data directly to the ERP system which enables proactive maintenance and in turn minimizes downtime. IoT-enabled ERPs can also enhance quality control by monitoring the production regulations and flagging any detected deviations from the set parameters. This ensures consistent product quality.

The impact of hyper-automation extends beyond the industrial site as ERPs play a key role in enhancing the customer experience. They enable accurate order tracking, personalized communication, and swift issue resolution. A simple integration of customer relationship management (CRM) functionalities in the ERP enables it to help the business fully understand customer preferences, and their anticipated needs, and thus deliver to them tailored solutions. This is a level of personalized service that not only encourages customer loyalty but also drives the organization’s revenue growth.

Worth noting is that while the potential of ERPs in driving hyper-automation is undebatable, it poses quite some issues that organizations must navigate.

For instance, the implementation of such a comprehensive system requires careful planning, quite substantial investment, and change management.

Legacy systems may also need to be integrated into the systems, and employees might require some training to adapt to the new automated processes. Additionally, data security and privacy concerns need to be addressed to protect the business’ sensitive and confidential information flowing through the interconnected ERP ecosystem.

However, if the organization capably steers itself through these apparent snags, then ERPs could prove to be quite a powerful tool in driving the business’ industrial hyper-automation.

(Marius Wessels is the Professional Services Manager at SYSPRO Africa).


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