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D!conomy – CeBit’s Ideas and Solutions for a Digital World

As the great and the good in IT flocked to Hanover for CeBit 2017 last week, I was grateful not to have to walk the floor and instead I reviewed the key themes at the event, from the relative comfort of my desk.  Amongst event keynote subjects, like the Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI), a topic which CeBit calls 'D!conomy' caught my attention.

D!conomy appears to be the show's attempt to redefine digital transformation underway as a part of Industry 4.0.  The 'd!conomy - no limits' keynote focused on how limits of collaboration across company and industry borders are being redefined-including the human-technology interface. But, what does Industry 4.0 mean for industry now?

There's no doubt that Industry 4.0 will have ramifications throughout the manufacturing industry and a majority of manufacturers agree that what is being referred to as the fourth Industrial Revolution will have a big impact on the sector. Industry 4.0 calls for a future of agile, affordable manufacturing fueled by technology enablers such as IoT, 3D printing, cloud computing, mobile devices and big data. Both small and large manufacturers will benefit from these capabilities and in fact today they are becoming more affordable and within reach of small manufacturers. 

Take for example the impact of the cloud. What makes it so exciting for the small manufacturer is that cloud computing technology levels the playing field against larger manufacturers. Previously enterprise resource planning (ERP) and manufacturing execution systems (MES) were designed to accommodate large manufacturers, required substantial upfront investment for the software, the infrastructure to run it, and the IT resources to maintain them. For today's small manufacturers, cloud computing options are far simpler to implement and require less time and fewer resources to "go live" with no huge up front capital investment.

However, there are challenges to be overcome. There can be concerns about cybersecurity and data ownership when working with third-party providers in the cloud, but moreover difficulties are sometimes encountered internally when coordinating efforts across organizational boundaries. 

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges is making sure to stay on course to push through such a radical transformation. Industry 4.0 is having a significant impact on the industrial workforce and one of the top challenges will be the lack of qualified employees both from the perspective of retraining the existing workforce and ensuring our educational systems are preparing students with training in these fundamentally new skills. Low prioritization and lack of management commitment could be the most challenging of all for some organizations. As with any IT project, it's important to have clear plans for implementation and metrics to measure success, as well as adequate resources to support projects from both a financial and talent investment perspective.

It's clear that for manufacturers, growth in an Industry 4.0 environment will be intrinsically linked with a business's ERP system that needs to support connections among machines, production processes and systems. Next-generation ERP solutions will put manufacturers in a better position to meet the fast-paced and connected requirements of Industry 4.0. Integration between production and management discipline, as well as a range of systems will help manufacturers realize the growth opportunities presented by this new age of intelligent manufacturing. 

Over the past few years Epicor has delivered new and enhanced capabilities to enable the movement towards Industry 4.0 transformation. We offer a true multi-tenant solution, extensive manufacturing functionality, knowledge and expertise, and a global presence to address these needs and requirements.

So, no matter what you call it-D!conomy, IoT or Industry 4.0- real-time data sharing and organizational responsiveness is becoming synonymous with transforming industry and enabling greater collaboration, visibility and efficiency in operations from shop floor to the top floor, for improved competitiveness.

Posted by Terri Hiskey, VP, Manufacturing, Portfolio Marketing, Epicor Software Corp.



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