64 per cent of manufacturers rate their shop-floor IT capabilities as just average, weak or non-existent

64 per cent of manufacturers operating globally have expressed concerns about the maturity of their shop-floor IT capabilities, rating them as non-existent, weak or just average-at-best. Despite the manufacturing industry being in the midst of the fourth industrial revolution, this new data reveals that the sector isn’t actually ready to fully embrace digital transformation. Research conducted by InfinityQS, the global authority on data-driven enterprise Manufacturing and Quality Intelligence, surveyed over a hundred manufacturers to see how prepared they are for a digitised future.

The findings revealed that the shop floor – the area in a manufacturing facility where assembly or production is carried out – is still reliant on using outdated manual processes, such as relying on pen and paper to record critical data. In total only six per cent of manufacturers surveyed consider that the level of their IT capabilities to be at an optimal level, leaving much room for improvement.

Commenting on the survey findings, Jason Chester, Director of Channel Programs for InfinityQS stated that: “The findings are not surprising. We see on a daily basis that the IT capabilities in most manufacturing shop-floor environments are woefully inadequate. What is surprising is that so many manufacturers agree with this sentiment, which begs the question why is this not being addressed?

“Knowing the problem exists but not doing anything about it is not going to make it go away. Manufacturers must act. They need to understand what the barriers are and make strides at correcting it.  Whether that is creating a compelling business case, gaining executive sponsorship, putting the right skills and talent in place, developing a long-term strategy and roadmap, or procuring the right solutions.” Chester adds: “As digital natives enter the workforce, those moribund manufacturers are simply not going to be attractive workplaces for young professionals entering the workforce. This will cause talent to leech out to other more progressive manufacturers and once this happens, reversal becomes ever more challenging and risks putting the manufacturer into an almost terminal decline. “Nonetheless, it’s not too late for manufacturers to turn things around, get ahead of the competition and remain competitive. Initially, manufacturers should evaluate their existing operational processes and identify the critical areas by which to drive greater value from their supply chains, including the production environments. “However, to do this effectively, manufacturers need to invest in a robust shop-floor IT environment. Having real time visibility into their manufacturing operations will help them make well-informed decisions and ultimately improve productivity across the shop floor,” Chester concludes.

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AIT launches new trans-national project on photonic sensing for automated driving and industrial manufacturing

The benefits of harnessing light have been evidenced in numerous technological breakthroughs during the early 21st century, including global connectivity at an unprecedented speed, industrial manufacturing of extraordinary quality, and very sensitive and highly specific tools for sensing the environment.

The AIT Austrian Institute of Technology is now pushing the limits of sensor technology through its innovative trans-national research project “LIANDRI – Advancing time-of-flight technology for high performance light detection and ranging”. The goal is to bridge innovative yet application-driven research on photonic sensing with near-future exploitation in the fields of automated driving and industrial manufacturing. In the medium term, LIANDRI’s findings will enable cars to recognize and identify distant yet small obstacles along road infrastructure, while robots in future factories will be able to more efficiently perform manufacturing tasks that require precise alignment and tooling procedures.

Vienna, 08 August 2018 (AIT): Sensor technology is enriching our everyday lives and plays a vital role in a wide range of applications – spanning from daily appliances such as those used for temperature regulation to more sophisticated industrial environments where they are key in steering complex manufacturing process, plus quality inspection and mission-critical infrastructures where they form the baseline for most safety & security technologies. LIANDRI’s mission is to replace existing solutions through sophisticated photonic alternatives with special emphasis on two important application domains: automated driving and industrial manufacturing.

By introducing photonics – a key enabling technology defined by its developments in performance extending beyond those found in state-of-the-art technology, sensor systems are progressing in particular in terms of their range and resolution. The so-called LIDAR technology (which stands for light detection and ranging) will exploit time-of-flight measurements whereby a short light pulse is emitted and the round-trip time of its reflection from a remote target measured. Together with an electronic beam-steering mechanism, a 3D image of the scene is obtained in a short fraction of time, enhancing reliability and reducing size compared to traditional mechanical scanning approaches.

The advantages of LIDAR technology with respect to its radar counterpart are manifold. In the case of automated driving, the “digital horizon” will be enriched through a seamless acquisition of objects over a range exceeding 200 meters. The simultaneous provision of high resolution images will enable the identification of objects along the traffic infrastructure and will extend the skills of future driver assistance systems which could contribute to the widespread adoption of autonomous driving.

In terms of application in industrial manufacturing environments, the situation looks totally different and yet LIDAR will also be key: by being able to precisely locate objects and tools within a millimetre range due to the high resolution that photonic sensing offers, a higher degree of automation can be achieved, thus enhancing the overall efficiency of manufacturing plants.

LIANDRI is a 3-year project including 4 partners from Austria and Germany. It addresses a multi-disciplinary research agenda that targets innovations in photonics, microelectronics and signal processing and is jointly funded by the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG), the Association of German Engineers (VDI) and the European Commission within the ERA-NET Co-Fund. Research partners AIT and University of Siegen will work closely together with innovative industrial partners ams AG and Soft2Tec, which have a long product track record in the field of sensing and 3D camera technology.

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7 secrets to a successful multi-cloud strategy

For a growing number of enterprises, a migration to the cloud is not a simple matter of deploying an application or two onto Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, or some other hosted service. It’s a multi-cloud strategy that’s a key part of a digital transformation initiative aimed at modernizing business processes.

Deploying a multi-cloud strategy can lead to substantial benefits.

Using multiple cloud computing services such as infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), platform-as-a-service (PaaS), and software-as-a-service (SaaS) in a single heterogeneous architecture offers the ability to reduce dependence on any single vendor, says Brian Reynolds, principal with audit and advisory firm Grant Thornton.

It can also improve disaster recovery and data-loss resilience, make it easier to exploit pricing programs and consumption/loyalty promotions, help companies comply with data sovereignty and geopolitical barriers, and enable organizations to deliver the best available infrastructure, platform, and software services, Reynolds says.

“Cost optimization is a huge benefit,” says Glenn Pinnel, CIO at paint producer Benjamin Moore & Co., which moved to a cloud-first strategy several years ago and has never looked back. “It’s not so much that you are spending less by going multi-cloud, but rather you are managing risk far better.”

Having multiple clouds “makes you more flexible and agile, allows for the adoption of best-of-breed technologies, and provides far better disaster recovery,” Pinnel says. “By not being ‘locked in’ to one vendor, we have the flexibility to run certain applications in a private environment, and others in a public environment, while keeping everything connected. Our cloud service providers have the right skill sets to make this all happen so that we don’t have to maintain this expertise in house.”

Like any other major IT initiative, ensuring an effective multi-cloud strategy involves having the right people and tools in place, and taking the necessary steps to keep the effort aligned with business goals. Here are some best practices around this rising trend, according to IT executives and industry experts.

Perform due diligence

A multi-cloud deployment adds complexities that require organizations to develop a deep understanding of the services they’re buying and to perform due diligence before plunging ahead, says Donald Faatz, security solutions engineer in the CERT Division of the Software Engineering Institute at Carnegie Mellon University.

Due diligence includes planning. “Use a cloud adoption framework to provide a governing process for identifying applications, selecting cloud providers, and managing the ongoing operational tasks associated with public cloud services,” Faatz says. “Educate all staff on the cloud adoption framework and the details of using selected CSPs’ [cloud service providers] architecture, services, and tools available to assist in the deployment.”

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Article Credit: Network Asia

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How can businesses innovate in the cloud?

Five years ago, only the most open-minded companies would have used cloud to drive innovation as a core business strategy. Today, cloud is the mainstream choice for business-critical applications within the vast majority of enterprises, and the C-suite is certainly no stranger to the topic.

IT departments are now enjoying cheaper and more scalable services. While this is significant in its own right, importantly, it has set the stage for the cloud’s next phase as an enabler of business modernization. After all, the question now for many CIOs is not “should we move to the cloud?”, but “now that we’re in the cloud, how can we innovate?”

CIOs have a tall order ahead of them – under pressure to innovate at the same pace as industry disruption, all the while battling the complexities of hundreds of legacy applications, trying to keep the lights, and guaranteeing security and compliance. So what are the options available for CIOs innovating in the cloud, and moreover, how can they innovate efficiently?

Data on the cloud

Data is a good place to start. It’s at the heart of today’s business landscape – an ubiquitous resource that companies can leverage for innovations and insights. It’s all around us, and with the cloud, it can be mined very easily. Years ago, with highly structured data feeds, the process of collecting and analyzing data was laborious. Nowadays, provisioning is fast, and there’s a vast catalog of cloud services available to businesses which enables them to gain insights into data. These services, in turn, empower businesses to make smarter, faster, and more accurate decisions.

In the retail industry, for example, cloud is already a valuable instrument in determining event correlation. Businesses are able to feed in data relating to anything, from sales, to IoT devices, to the weather, to market sentiment – all of which can be aggregated and analyses in order to provide better understanding about customers and their needs.

When combined with machine learning and AI, further innovation is possible. AI, of course, has been around for a while, but it used to be expensive and complex if done on-premise. Now that barrier to entry has vanished, with out-of-the-box offerings from most public clouds, customers are able to attain quicker return on investments with this technology. This is shaping up to be the next battleground for public cloud providers and each are making significant investments in this space – all of which ends up benefiting customers. The technology is also becoming more simple meaning you no longer need PHD level data scientists to gain unique insights into your data.

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Article Credit: DCD

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The 5 Best Questions to Ask During an ERP Software Selection

Implementing an ERP system is no small task; it’s going to take a massive amount of time and resources and if you aren’t fully informed, the cost is going to be much higher. You’ve probably been told this a thousand times before, but if you want to learn, you need to ask questions. Because ERP systems are so expansive and their applications so far reaching, there are almost endless questions to ask. From implementation curiosities to questions about software evaluation, here are our top picks for the questions you should be asking during your ERP adventure.

ERP-Selection-

On-premise or in the cloud?

Ah, the great timeless question in IT. While cloud-based systems have become much more popular in recent years, there are a number of reasons why your business may choose to keep your files stored locally. For example: costs, security, and your company’s need for customization may all factor into your decision. On-premise file storage is often considered to be a capital expenditure. Cloud-based file storage is an operating expenditure giving you an additional expense the longer you keep you subscribe to the service. Many ERP solutions providers also offer a hybridization of the two to better accommodate the needs of their clients. Compare on-premise ERP vs. cloud ERP.

What type of support and training does the ERP provider offer?

ERP systems are incredibly complex, so you really don’t need to act like a know it all. You’re bound to run into some snags at some point with your system. We suggest asking what type of support and training the ERP provider can offer. You should make sure that the vendors’ consultants work with you from implementation, to the go-live, and for the following few months. You should also make sure that you have a range of options for accessing the consultant’s advice. Complete end-user training should be available through remote, on site, and classroom sessions to ensure that employees are fully confident using the system.

How can we ensure the implementation project doesn’t exceed the budget?

ERP projects are notorious for blowing past established budgets. In fact, Gartner has said that 57% of all ERP projects cost 189% of the original budget. Yikes. You should try to work with a firm that believes in a fixed-fee billing. This way you’ll know the exact price of the project before you start with the peace of mind of knowing that your system won’t put you in the poor house.

Does the software meet the needs of my business?

Probably the most important question on this list, and for obvious reasons. Most ERP systems worth their salt will be able to function at basic levels. The challenge for you is to find a system that works for your business. If your organization needs to comply with a number of governmental, you need to find a system that will address this. If you’re going to find the right ERP system, then you need to talk to a software vendor that will spend the time to understand your business.

What functionalities will my company actually use?

This question goes hand-in-hand with the question above. ERP solutions these days have the ability cover essentially every business process you can think of. The question for mid-market organizations is whether or not you need all of those capabilities. Often times, ERP functionalities may be too specialized to be very useful for a company or perhaps a company may have an existing or outsourced feature. The bottom line here is not to pay for features that you’re company doesn’t need or won’t use in the future.

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SMBs see vertical ERP technology vendors meeting specialty needs

The industry-specific ERP market is thriving, which is good news for SMBs looking to cost-effectively maintain their existing ERP systems with immediate specialty feature upgrades.

SMB ERP system users are constantly faced with difficult choices as technologies advance and pressures mount to be effective while being cost-effective. Stay on premises or migrate to the cloud? Keep the old system with occasional upgrades or go entirely in vogue? Rely on a large ERP vendor or a small specialty software maker?

Specialty ERP technology vendors don’t have the big marketing budgets, massive user bases and mindshare, but they meet a critical need for their users and continue to thrive. Outside their specific verticals, specialty ERP vendors may not be very well-known; their customers typically are SMBs. But these vendors employ multiple strategies such as satisfying specific feature requests and supporting new technologies to keep their customers happy.

Swedish-based ERP technology vendor IFS, for example, develops systems for manufacturing, distribution and asset management. For comparison’s sake, IFS has about 3,500 employees, compared to Oracle’s 138,000 and SAP’s 91,000-plus.

IFS customer Chief Industries is a manufacturing firm based in Grand Island, Neb., and comprises seven different divisions that serve several sectors, including agriculture and construction. The company has been using an IFS ERP system for many facets of its business — from back-office systems, accounting and HR to its shop floor processes for engineering services. IT is centralized to serve all seven divisions.

Vendor responsiveness is key

Chief Industries adopted its specialty ERP system back in 2007 because it believed IFS would “listen to what we need and what we’re looking for and that we could grow along with them,” IT Director Jay Gnuse explained. Through the years, he said, IFS has added about 40 features to its core systems; one of which, for example, consumes consignment inventory by serial number.

But not all companies see the need for a specialty ERP system. KIC Chemicals Inc., a distributor based in New Paltz, N.Y., migrated from an ERP technology focused on distributors to SAP Business One, according to IT Director Lou Paris, due to the SAP’s strong financial system capabilities. The migration took about 10 months and included weekly sessions at the company to examine how the old ERP system handled specific processes and whether SAP provided similar functionality. If not, KIC used a third-party module or developed a customization, Paris said.

The ERP system is running on premises, and Paris said he’s well aware that SAP wants its customers to move to the cloud. Paris isn’t necessarily against the cloud, but he’ll have to be convinced that a cloud-based approach will provide the needed security and redundancy.

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Article Credit: TechTarget

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Rethinking ERP cloud migrations in the age of AI and IoT

The flight path from your legacy ERP vendor’s on-premises software to a cloud version needn’t be linear. In fact, you may want to rethink the entire route.

Most companies stick with their ERP system longer than people stay with their first spouse, which statistics estimate to be about eight years. Given the commitment involved, a move to an ERP cloud platform needs to be carefully planned, based not only on what your company needs today, but on a vision for the future.

Brian Sommer, founder of technology advisory firm TechVentive in Carmel, Ind., pulls no punches when he talks about the problems with traditional ERP vendors’ cloud offerings. He urges his clients to rethink their use of legacy ERP vendors because modern adaptations born in the cloud integrate AI and IoT capabilities and provide what businesses will need to compete in the years ahead.

“Companies need to kick the tires on new vendors and think about how their competitors will use new technologies against their firm,” he said. “Your competitors will use IoT and AI to make sure their machines are always running, and they could kill you in the market if you don’t have the same advantages.”

The idea of ditching a highly integrated, customized ERP system is daunting, for sure. Business leaders view their ERP as the center of the universe. It’s where all of their transactional and operational data lives. But Sommer makes the point that business needs have changed, and data isn’t confined to the factory floor anymore.

“Roll the clock forward, and there is vast info that exists outside the four walls of the enterprise,” Sommer said. “You need systems that are designed for this new era, rather than systems designed for the old world. You need to be aware of what’s available. Look at the new vendors out there; don’t reward old vendors who continue to sell old, tired products.”

ERP cloud considerations

Indeed, organizations are questioning their allegiance to mega-ERP vendors due to high costs and frustration with those vendors and their inability to meet strategic needs as well as their lack of agility.

In TechTarget’s 2018 IT Priorities Survey of IT executives, managers, analysts, architects and engineers at North American companies, 39% said they’d planned to implement or upgrade their ERP systems, and from the looks of the survey data, most of those rollouts will take place in the cloud. In the survey, 29% of respondents said they planned to deploy ERP in the cloud, compared to just 10% who planned to implement business apps on premises.

From my years covering cloud computing, I’ve seen how SMBs view cloud as a fast way to launch business applications without investing in complex IT systems. Large companies using multiple, interconnected systems see a move to the cloud as a way to untangle them and cut costs. But none of those benefits really apply to ERP cloud migrations.

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Article Credit: TechTarget

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US Homeland Security warns of latest hacker craze – ERP pwnage

Attacks on SAP, Oracle platforms incoming

Hackers are increasingly looking to target enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems to disrupt and steal data from large companies.

This according to a report (PDF) from security companies Digital Shadows and Onapsis, who say that hacktivists and state-sponsored groups in particular have been looking to exploit flaws in Oracle and SAP platforms.

“ERP applications are being actively targeted by a variety of cyber-attackers across different geographies and industries,” the report reads.

“Traditional controls of ERP application security such as user identity management and segregation of duties are ineffective to prevent or detect the observed TTPs used by attackers.”

The report has received the endorsement of DHS, who recommended companies read and follow its findings.

Because ERP applications are so heavily relied upon by companies and because they are increasingly exposed to the public internet as cloud services, the platforms are very attractive as both targets for sabotage and as the entry point for larger data-theft operations.

Because of this, the study found, the number of public exploits for SAP HANA and Oracle ERP software has doubled over the last three years. The researchers also note that demand for stolen credentials has also gone up, with some hackers repurposing banking malware to lift ERP system logins.

CPU thieves get in on the act

Even cryptominers are looking to get in on the act, say researchers. The paper notes a 2017 incident where hackers used an exploit for WebLogic to plant mining code on servers and rack up around $226,000 worth of Monero coins.

“While it is hard to know how widespread this activity is, we have detected individuals discussing the potential of using SAP servers to mine Monero on Internet Relay Chat (IRC) channels,” the report says.

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Article Credit: The Register

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Altering workplace: How AI is changing ERP

Almost every industry is grappling with the question of how AI will change their work style. We all have realised that AI will change the way we work, but we all are yet to see how that change will occur. For ERP, it is still early to access how will AI supplement ERP systems? The very first use of AI in ERP space would be to help organisations to understand the plethora of information or data that they possess. That is only a start where AI will change ERP:

Chatbots 
Chatbots have been associated with social media or with marketing initiatives only. However, that is not the case, as AI-based chatbots can have much more extensive role in the business. Chatbots can act like a channel via which employees can access data, they can put in queries to chatbots and can count on AI to give them relevant information from ERP systems.

Dynamic Workflows
As happens with our devices or apps, AI technology learns how organization and individual interact with software, accordingly ERP systems start recommending different ways to optimize system.

For example, after learning repeated patterns of use, an ERP system could configure the software itself to minimize manual work, creating automatic actions or even reconfiguring the interface to better suit a given user’s usage pattern.

Augmented Field Service
An AI-powered digital assistant can help service technicians with the root cause analysis for corrective maintenance issues, for instance. By having a deep understanding of the technical structure, maintenance history and performance of a given piece of equipment from the ERP system, AI can give evidence-based recommendations and even use augmented reality and sensor-data to help field service teams perform their jobs better. 

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Article Credit: ET

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