IFS World Conference roundup

IFS World Conference Alive and kicking in Barcelona
IFS CTO Dan Matthews addresses delegates on day two of the company's World Conference in Barcelona.

James Pozzi rounds up the events at day two of the IFS World Conference in the Spanish city of Barcelona.

Alive and kicking by Simple Minds was the theme song for this year’s conference, and the song’s title is a fitting anthem for IFS in what has been a vibrant calendar year of activity.

Day two began with an energetic address by Ray Wang, renowned research analyst of San Francisco-based Constellation. His presentation had four key components:

  • Macro trends
  • Dynamic workforce
  • Disruptive tech adoption
  • New digital business models

Wang spoke of the pace of change in the world of industry and technology, using the example of the differing values of General Motors and Google. Pre-2008 crash, GM was worth £$4.6bn, while Google was worth $167bn; putting the latter in a situation where it could hypothetically buy GM and shut it down.

The tech boom that has so empowered the likes of Google? All from the explosion in mobile, social media, cloud, big data and video media, said Wang.

And this is the time to innovate. “Do you want to be one of those 52% of companies that disappeared from the Fortune 500 between now and the crash?”, he asked. He also offered the example of Sony – a company which saw its last piece of innovation as the Walkman nearly 30 years ago – against Apple, a company which got the consumer to pay for MP3’s in the age of piracy with the iPod and iTunes.

To fuel future innovation, businesses across all sectors need to work together with IT in order to achieve growth while enhancing business.

IFS touch app

Wang was followed by IFS chief technology officer Dan Matthews, who offered an update on the IFS touch app, designed to enhance user experience and interaction.

Aside from being designed to be both easy and agile, Matthews said 25% of IFS implementers have used IFS Apps. One of these is American company CDF, manufacturer of pail, drum, intermediate bulk container and bag in box liners and other value added products used in industrial storage and shipping containers and consumer packaging.

Since using the app, CDF has seen the following benefits:

  • Enterprise visibility
  • Integration with time clocks on the shop floor for enhanced labour accountability
  • Multi-mode manufacturing functionality
  • Reduction in manual data entry and re-work
  • Enhanced usability

Matthews concluded with announcing the company’s work with Samsung on the touch appa, which saw a second wave of products this year. Clearly, there is a convergence between casual and professional users, and this is only set to grow further.

As delegates filed out after the keynote speeches had concluded, I made my way around the vast conference centre to speak with a range of international companies big and small about how IFS software has impact their company.

One of these was Alex Ivkovic, IT manager of the aforementioned CDF corporation. He said adopting IFS software has been helpful in tracking orders across the supply chain.

Customisation will also be eliminated, something Ivkovic believes is a good thing for his company and wider industry.

It has also offered a chance for his company to innovate through software by employing Apple iPods as tools of engagement. Having previously used Radley Guns at a cost of around $1100, the company adopted iPods for a fraction of the price at $130. Should one break, the cost of replacement is minimal.

For a 24 hours, 365 day operation, the results have proved effective. 5-10 minute processes have now been cut to 30 seconds, with the average employee of adopter Chairpak has saved an hour a 30, amounting to around 30 a week.

Supply Chains

The afternoon gave me an opportunity to sit down with Antony Bourne, ‎global industry sales director at IFS and contributor to The Manufacturer.

Above all else, supply chains management will continue to get more complicated, and the culture has shifted towards businesses calling the shots and not IT.

This is because what were previously consumer devices are now work devices, with 56% of devices set to be tablets by 2017. But there are also challenges.

With an estimated $100bn lost per year in intellectual property, industry needs to work out how to embrace IT in order to utilise its own potential.

For supply chains, quality must come first. Globalisation and regulations are the primary drivers of the increasing complexity, and speed to react is also effective in achieving this.

Bourne cited the recent recalls from Johnson & Johnson and Toyota as examples of this, and the importance of getting audits right is essential. There are new methods for this now, including on phone devices with IFS making auditing part of its core releases.

A UK SME perspective

As delegates made their way into a variety of breakout sessions on the event’s final afternoon, I sat down with Tony Wilson, finance director of Worcestershire-based, family owned SME Kimal. The company, A manufacturer and supplier of customised procedure packs and vascular access devices for use across a range of clinical departments.

With margins increasingly shrinking against a backdrop of NHS shakeups, Kimal only recently updated to IFS’ 7.5 software, having used an earlier incarnation since 2001.

Due to the software encompassing multiple departments, Wilson stressed the need to have ‘super-users’ within organisations heading up these departments to recognise what is needed in terms of software utilisation.

Since upgrading, Wilson said: “The great feature of IFS is the culture of openness throughout the company.”

Wilson said the software has also helped as the current state of the market dictates medical device companies have to adopt a “lean and mean” approach towards operating. This is due to issues such as traceability and the increased length of supply chains.

But the choice of individual business improvement through the user interface is another advantage, and this has been aided by the removal of modifications in its manufacturing processes.

It has also given Kimal added flexibility, with its shop floor now reporting through mobile devices, where they use picture images to correspond with what they are making. Mobile devices also now play a role in the company CRM.

As the conference drew to a close, its scale and magnitude reflects where IFS are headed. Having recently been announced by Gartner as a leader in its Magic Quadrant for Single-Instance ERP for Product-Centric Midmarket Companies, its stock is high in an increasingly competitive market headed up by the likes of Epicor, Infor and SAP.