IT and business must align for better solutions and deployment strategies. Delegates at The Manufacturer’s ERP Connect event shared discussion around how and why in Manchester last week.
The Manufacturer magazine ran the latest in its series of technology Connect events on Thursday October 21. Over the course of a day that put businesses in touch with the future of manufacturing software the themes of complexity, putting your business first and engaging the right people in technology change were paramount concerns.
Hosted at Old Trafford stadium, ERP Connect North had an up-beat kick-off from technologist Simon Moores who put cutting edge development in cloud computing into context for delegates. Moores harked back to the industrial revolution to explain that – just as the need for factories to support their own power generation was made redundant by the innovation of the national grid – the need for companies to host their own IT infrastructure will disappear as cloud capabilities become preeminent: “The mass availability of AC current destroyed the sense and competitive advantage for a factory producing its own power. Cloud services will mean there is simply no competitive advantage to hosting your own servers and applications.”
Moore’s prediction of a paradigm shift in thinking around business and IT is no doubt still in its infancy; recent research from IDC revealed that less than 10% of manufacturing companies, out 700 surveyed, have invested in software as a service (SaaS) ERP solutions with over 40% still retaining a single solution managed on site. However, as became clear throughout the course of the day, the pace of change and innovation is ever accelerating, driven by a desire for competitive advantage and differentiation.
How to cope with this environment of change and the attendant complexity it could drive into internal business processes and systems was addressed by keynote speaker Jeff McGowan, Sourcing Manager at Johnson and Johnson LifeScan. McGowan shared his research into the effects of complexity and emergent problems with delegates and investigated how advanced lean problems solving techniques coupled with appropriate use of ERP technology can enable companies competing in complex global markets to gain control over the complexity within their own systems in order to retain what simplicity and predictability as far as possible.
Setting the macro context for technology progression and manipulation these keynote presentations were followed by a range of practical case study presentations from a dynamic cross section of manufacturing sectors. Companies who took the time to share their experiences and knowledge of how to overcome the notorious challenges attendant to ERP implementations and upgrades included Shepherd Neame, the oldest brewing company in the UK, medical device manufacturers, Talley Group and the innovative provider of interactive learning technology, Promethean.
Each presenting organisation helped to build a collective understanding for delegates and sponsoring technology suppliers around ERP implementation and usability issues. As the event Chair Guy Washer, MD of Redshift Research, summed up, although the keynote presentations made clear that the pace of technology change and the pressure of the new economy and complex markets are creating new challenges and opportunities for business there are certain challenges that seem to have remained the same since the first incarnations of MRP. Attendees at ERP Connect agreed that foremost among these was the establishment of a constructive relationship between IT and the business. Within this relationship the need for a shared understanding of strategic priorities, KPIs and the impact of process change were identified as essential.
Delegates to the latest iteration of ERP Connect were drawn from a wide range of manufacturing sectors and represented both large enterprise and SME interest in the benefits of ERP capability.