Skills shortage is top risk facing manufacturers, survey finds

New statistics, taken from a manufacturing industry survey by audit, tax and consulting firm RSM, show that recruiting and retaining talent is a top risk for the sector.

According to the results in RSM’s UK Manufacturing Monitor, almost half of the respondents confirmed people risks (49 per cent) and skills shortages (43 per cent) are a major challenge impacting manufacturers. All areas of the business are affected, particularly attracting the right production; sales and marketing; and research and development skills.

This issue is magnified due to the ageing workforce within the sector, with the majority (75 per cent) of respondents flagging this as a key concern. The average age of manufacturing staff has increased as many organisations struggle to recruit younger workers – highlighting a long-term challenge for manufacturers.

Despite the critical need to attract younger workers with future-fit skills, nearly two thirds (63 per cent) of manufacturers didn’t think the new Apprenticeship Levy, introduced by the government in April 2017, would have an impact on apprenticeship numbers.

Commenting on the findings, Mike Thornton, head of manufacturing at RSM, said: ‘The sector is in a perfect storm when it comes to skills. It has an ageing workforce of experienced workers who are vital to the ongoing success of each business but a difficultly attracting younger talent – highlighting a major gap in the transfer of knowledge. Unless action is taken now, the skills could effectively be lost.

‘In addition, Brexit will only increase recruitment and retention threats as any changes to freedom of movement rules following exit negotiations could reduce the supply of young, trained workers further. To tackle this issue head on, manufacturers need to be brave and adopt new ways to recruit top talent, whilst engaging their workforce to ensure they retain them.’

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£15.5bn invested in deals between manufacturing corporates and UK SMEs since 2013

Deals between large manufacturing companies and UK SMEs are widespread with more than 770 since April 2013, known to have exceeded £15.5bn.

This makes manufacturing the country’s second most collaborative sector, with 14% of deal volumes, after financial services (34%). The vast proportion (83%) of manufacturing deals were M&As.

Economic data, released today by national law firm Bond Dickinson, explores mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures and minority stake purchases in UK SMEs from both domestic and international corporates.

Across all sectors, between 2013/14 and 2016/17, large organisations are known to have invested over £102bn in 5,447 deals with UK SMEs. This exceeds the £62bn corporates invested in UK research and development between 2013 and 2016*, and represents more than a seventh of the £683bn total UK business investment.

Based on analysis of four tax years of deal data, the findings are detailed in Close Encounters: The power of collaborative innovation.

Peter Snaith, Head of Manufacturing at Bond Dickinson, comments: “Manufacturing companies are well-versed in how to work with SMEs. For example, major pharmaceutical companies have a long history of partnership with innovative contract research, manufacturing businesses and startups. Companies like Nissan and Dyson are also leading the way in creating innovation centres and placing collaboration at the heart of operations.

“The high percentage of M&A deals compared to minority stake purchases may reflect the tradition of top-down control cultures, as well as the standalone value of IP to the high-tech manufacturing which the UK specialises in.”

The research shows that the total number of manufacturing deals dropped by 27% in 2016/17. Deal volumes hit a high in the 2014/15 tax year, totalling 238, but fell to 187 in 2015/16 and 137 in 2016/17.

Peter Snaith adds: “This sudden drop in collaborative deals suggests that uncertainty over the outcome of the Brexit negotiations may be stalling decisions with deals now being postponed or cancelled – a worrying trend for a sector at the forefront of the UK’s international trade prospects.”

About the research

Understanding the importance of collaborative innovation to corporate strategy, Bond Dickinson commissioned independent economics and business research consultancy the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) to conduct the economic research outlined in this press release and the accompanying report Close Encounters: The Power of Collaboration. This study was conducted in April 2017 using four years of comprehensive quantitative information sourced from Bureau Van Dijk’s private company information database FAME and business deal database Zephyr.

The business collaborations quantified in this research relate to asymmetric deals which involve large businesses (of any nationality) and UK small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), in which the deal acquirer was the large business. Collaborations are defined as deals identified as mergers and acquisitions, corporate joint ventures which create a separate corporate entity, and minority stake purchases. This data excludes commercial joint ventures based purely on contractual arrangements.

Business size was defined by employee numbers in line with the BEIS Business Population Estimates (BPE), with less than 250 being classed as an SME, 250 employees or more being a large organisation.

To focus on collaborative deals between established businesses rather than traditional investment activity, deals which were financed through angel investment, development capital, crowdfunding, private equity or venture capital were excluded from the analysis.

Not all collaborative business deals identified in Bureau Van Dijk’s Zephyr database have associated deal values. For a deal to have a recorded value, the companies involved must formally announce the deal to their shareholders and the information must be disclosed in the public domain. Missing deal values are therefore typically present for deals involving private companies, where completion information on deals is more difficult to ascertain.

Deal volume and value is collected in financial years running from April 1st to March 31st. Trends by industrial sector were captured using 2007 Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) codes.

* R&D comparison

The total values of business collaborations in each year have been put in context by comparison to the Business Enterprise Research and Development (BERD) expenditures sourced from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) as part of the annual ONS Business Innovation coverage.

As the definition of business collaborations used in this study covers deals featuring UK SMEs as the target, where the large business acquirer can be of any domicile, the comparison used BERD expenditure taking place in the UK and undertaken by large businesses, regardless of whether their ownership was foreign or domestic.

The ONS produce BERD statistics on a calendar year rather than financial year basis, while business collaborations have been captured on a financial year basis. Direct comparisons should be therefore treated as indicative. While the ONS had not yet released their statistical estimate for the total value of large business R&D expenditure in 2016 at the time of analysis, Cebr have provided a forecast based on the historically stable ratio between business R&D expenditures and wider business investment using full data for 2016, which is now available for the latter.

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Users should stay grounded while ERP suppliers take to the cloud

User organisations are advised to keep their heads while suppliers show signs of cloud intoxication

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) suppliers are in a difficult position. They have two masters to please – their customers and their investors – and the tension between these parties goes some way to explain their approach to cloud computing in recent years.

Suppliers of ERP software have heavily promoted the benefits of moving to the cloud with more standardised systems, while their customers, by and large, live with complex software portfolios, often customised to perform specific business processes.

While there are advantages customers can gain from the cloud computing model, suppliers are keen on the model because it benefits them too, says Christian Hestermann, Gartner research director.

“Suppliers no longer have to support multiple versions of the software. It is easier to support and that lowers costs. Do they give that as cost benefit back to the users? No,” he says.

Moreover, the subscription model can favour suppliers when compared with client access licences used to buy on-premise software. “This means the revenue and the margin is higher for the supplier, so the bottom line is higher when you charge for cloud software on subscription than software on-premise,” says Hestermann.

“Together, these are some of the reasons the investment community is so interested in suppliers adopting the cloud model.”

Across the gamut of ERP technologies, some have been more inclined to move to the cloud than others. Human resources (HR), finance and procurement systems are among those that are being deployed in the cloud more quickly than operational ERP, which manages day-to-day resources, says Hestermann.

“With administrative ERP, there is often no differentiation: they are highly standardised and you cannot do anything special. However, companies differentiate with the processes managed by operational ERP,” he says.

“This is the way they move things around and produce things in the manufacturing environment. That is where the value lies.”

Hestermann says an existing application, which has been customised to manage these business processes, can be lifted to the cloud as it is and that offers some technical and support advantages. It is largely an IT decision, he adds.

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ERP in the cloud

However, some businesses are using the move to the cloud to completely remodel their ERP processes and data. For example, UK brewer and pub company Fuller’s has opted to adopt a suit of Infor’s applications in the cloud to standardise processes and improve data quality [see case study below].

Software suppliers argue the move to more modern, standardised applications, which are able to exploit the latest technologies more rapidly, present the most compelling reason to move ERP to the cloud.

Darren Roos, president for SAP’s S/4Hana Cloud systems, says this move is necessary because of the challenges businesses face, especially in digitising new interactions with customers and suppliers.

“Many customers are finding that the ERP they rolled out 10 years ago is no longer fit for purpose. Business models are changing, but the ERP systems were highly customised and therefore inflexible to adapt to change in the market,” he says.

“We find that our customers have quirky processes that have built up over time, not because they are best practice or the right way of doing things, but because they have been forced down that path through circumstances,” he says.

However, adopting new ERP systems in the cloud forces a certain amount of standardisation, he says.

According to Roos, any business choosing this option is not limited to one way of working as systems can be customised, but it still means the business can upgrade much more frequently than most on-premise applications.

He says businesses typically adopt cloud ERP by necessity – such as when they need a rapid roll-out to a particular geography or subsidiary – and the remainder of the business then takes up the advantages of rapid implementation and upgrades.

Meanwhile, cloud computing offers more rapid adoption of the latest technology, such as in-memory databases, advance analytics and artificial intelligence, which offer business advantages as they adopt new business models and compete in digitised markets, he says.

Adapting business to the cloud

“Moving to a modern business application could be cloud-based, but it does not have to be,” he says.

While suppliers argue the cloud model offers more rapid upgrade cycles, businesses could do the same on-premise, he says.

“If you have the same discipline to business apps as they have in the cloud, your upgrades would be just as easy. Most IT organisations got used to customising their ERP because they could and the users wanted the functionality. Then they find, five years later, it is difficult to upgrade,” he adds.

While many suppliers say upgrading to the cloud requires users to comply with – albeit configurable – standard processes, customisation is possible in the cloud if businesses make use of platform as a service (PaaS), Hestermann says.

However, if a business is moving to modernise its ERP application, and take advantage of technical advances such as in-memory computing, there may be some advantages to hosting the application in the cloud to avoid the IT department learning a raft of new technical skills.

Whether or not a business chooses to move to the cloud for its application upgrade, the major challenge will remain in adapting business processes to fit the new application, says Hestermann.

“The focus has to be on business side, not the technical side. The technical side is minimal compared with change management, training users and political discussions over how to standardise processes,” he says.

According to him, the cloud may come into play in a different way: as a tool to persuade users that they need to adopt more standardised processes across the business wherever possible.

Although ERP suppliers heavily promote the cloud model, users should understand the arguments are not as clear cut as they sometimes make out. In determining the real benefits to ERP in the cloud, users need to keep their feet on the ground.

Case study: Fuller’s Brewery moves business application to the cloud with Infor

Fuller’s, an independent British brewer with a portfolio of almost 400 pubs, was founded in 1845. Although its main enterprise applications do not date back quite that far, they were in need of modernisation, says Bronwen White, head of IT development for Fuller’s.

“We were using a mix from different suppliers, some best-of-breed. The main ERP system was installed in 1992 and, although it has been upgraded several times, it is fundamentally the same,” she says.

“The ERP system did the basic core financial functionality but it did not have manufacturing capability, so we interfaced a lot of other systems to it, creating a complex environment. It did not have the functionality that’s right for a modern business.”

To update this application, the company looked to the cloud. As part of a 15-year deal, Fuller’s will implement Infor CloudSuite Food & Beverage alongside Infor Enterprise Asset Management, Infor Contract Lifecycle Management, Infor Customer Relationship Management and Infor Dynamic Enterprise Performance Management (d/EPM).

The cloud applications will be deployed by Amazon Web Services (AWS) across Fuller’s Beer Company and Fuller’s Inns, which has an estate of 195 tenanted pubs and 197 managed pubs and hotels.

White says the application will cover much wider functionality than the previous ERP system, helping to overcome some of the pain of integrating a number of different applications. It will also give the business a “single version of the truth”.

“Business decision making was slower than it ought to be. People were spending time making sure they had the right information,” she says.

However, White says the business was not necessarily looking for a cloud system: “We did not specify on-premise or cloud in our request for information, we simply asked each supplier to tell us what it would look like and the price.”

She says Fuller’s chose Infor because it was impressed with its industry-specific food and beverage system. It was Infor that suggested that the fastest and most effective way to introduce the system would be by hosting it in the cloud.

But in doing so, the business would need to change its processes and adopt a more standardised approach. Part of the advantage of using the cloud model was that it would allow the business to focus on the importance of data and process change, rather than technical issues, says White.

“We recognised that the success of the project is dependent on getting people to change what they do. That is a big deal and we recognise that. We have built the involvement of many people into the selection of the product, asking them to help with requirements. They already feel involved,” she says.

In addition, the company has dedicated specific resources to change management, including internal secondment to the project from business teams.

White says the company is quite risk-averse, and was initially wary of moving such a vital application to the cloud. “We are very aware of risk and we’re working with Infor to learn about how they mitigate those risks,” she says.

The project is due to start and the application is expected to go live in 13 to 14 months. Aside from offering a more modern application with better data quality, the business expects the project to improve warehouse efficiency, stock level management and procurement.

By: Lindsay Clark

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PandaDoc Closes $15 Million Series B, backed by Rembrandt, Microsoft Ventures, HubSpot and Altos

SAN FRANCISCO, May 23, 2017 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — PandaDoc, the leading Digital Transactions Management (DTM) solution, announced that it has closed a $15 million Series B round of funding, led by Rembrandt Venture Partners. Microsoft Ventures, HubSpot, EBRD, via the EBRD Venture Capital Investment Programme, and Altos Ventures also participated in the funding round. To date, PandaDoc has secured $20 million in total funding from investors. Series A investors included Altos Ventures, TMT Investments, CEO of Quicken Eric Dunn, Kima Ventures and others. The Series B investment will help to accelerate the company’s growth.

“We invest in solid teams with proven solutions that have a clear roadmap for addressing large, well-defined market opportunities,” said Scott Irwin, General Partner at Rembrandt Venture Partners. “PandaDoc addresses a huge need in the B2B market by helping companies accelerate their transactions.”

PandaDoc helps accelerate the way organizations transact. It integrates with the world’s leading CRMs, as well as ERP, payment, cloud storage and other systems. PandaDoc has powerful features that enable businesses to easily generate, track and execute documents. Companies that run on PandaDoc are consistently reporting higher close rates, bigger deals, shorter sales cycles, full compliance and other improvements that relate to the final stages of the buying cycle.

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“We are very excited about this funding round, as we could not have asked for better partners,” stated PandaDoc CEO Mikita Mikado. “Closing our Series B is a testament to the work of our whole team, the quality of our customer service and our innovative software. Our business has grown immensely over the past two years, and the capital raised will allow us to serve even more customers.”

Mikita Mikado and his co-founder, Sergey Barysiuk, launched PandaDoc in 2013 as a free and premium SaaS platform. The founders wanted to consolidate multiple B2B software products into one efficient and scalable platform. Since then, the company has helped more than 6,000 businesses worldwide to streamline their work with documents and accelerate the way they transact.

“PandaDoc puts into action our desire to help organizations drive efficiency, reduce cost and improve productivity,” said Leo de Luna, managing director at Microsoft Ventures. “We see great value in the PandaDoc platform and believe the company’s technology will raise the industry standard for digital transformation.”

“Salespeople today spend hours each week on manual tasks like creating and delivering proposals. Over the past year and a half, PandaDoc’s integration with HubSpot CRM has streamlined that process and has delivered incredible value to our customers by helping them close deals even faster,” said Brad Coffey, Chief Strategy Officer at HubSpot. “We believe PandaDoc has a bright future, and we are excited to help them grow through this investment.”

Source: Nasdaq GlobeNewswire

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Blockchain and Artificial Intelligence: The Tech Trends at DES2017

400 international speakers, more than 180 talks, 12 vertical forums and 6 specialist seminars make up a focused and unmissable agenda for executives

Accenture, Amazon, IBM, Everis, T-Systems and more than 300 firms will present their most innovative technologies and solutions during the 3-day event, to be held from 23 to 25 May in Madrid

Madrid, 20 April 2017.- DES | Digital Business World Congress 2017, the biggest international meeting on digital transformation, which will be held in Madrid on 23, 24 and 25 May, has revealed the structure for the event. The second edition of the forum, which analyses the trends and challenges that digitisation presents to companies, proposes a comprehensive approach, covering issues from technology for facilitating the change in model to company culture.

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Talks from 180 outstanding international speakers aim to provide delegates with the necessary knowledge to deal with the transformation and development of new business models for their companies. “This year’s congress brings together the main trends currently setting the pace in the digital transformation. Well known concepts such as Cloud Computing, IoT and Cybersecurity are joined this year by others such as Robotics, Blockchain and Artificial Intelligence,” says Lluis Altes, Strategy Director at DES-Digital Business World Congress.

12 vertical forums and 6 seminars for different executive profiles

The 12 vertical forums will analyse the changes and challenges that each industry must face with regards to the digital transformation, looking at each one’s particular characteristics and providing the experiences of real companies that have successfully developed new models. The case studies come from industries that include banking, retail, automotive, public sector and smart cities, pharma, telecommunications, tourism and energy.

On 23 May, parallel forums will be held to discuss Industry 4.0, which is undergoing a revolution through Big Data, new technologies, artificial intelligence, automation and robotics. The industry’s short- and medium-terms changes will be discussed during the forum, along with the use of Big Data Analytics to optimise factory operations or issues relating to process, sales and production optimisation using new technologies. On the same day, the Banking and Insurance forums will be held as the two industries face the challenge of reinventing themselves, taking advantage of new technologies to redesign their traditional models and invent new products and services. Fintech models, Omnichannel strategies and customer experience will be some of the issues discussed during the forum. Health and Pharma completes the agenda, as a sector facing the challenge of maintaining a relationship with patients over time. IoT technologies relating to health, wearables, patient-centric technologies and Big Data are creating a range of added value services as a solution. Medicine is no longer just about drugs but also about preventive services, wellbeing programmes and the improved management of chronic illnesses.

On 24 May, the four vertical forums to be held are: Media and Entertainment, which is facing radical change in business models and the way in which content and advertising are presented. At a time when data is key to personalisation, Big Data is essential for reaching the consumer. The Logistics forum will focus the debate on operational excellence, process improvements and cost minimisation, as well as the new services emerging under the umbrella of tech innovations, such as drone use for just-in-time deliveries, IoT, Big Data, etc. Meanwhile, the Public Sector and Smart Cities forum will discuss the future of the provision of public services, affected by an ageing population and digital technologies. Public bodies need a digital strategy that will deal with the key elements of digital transformation to boost listening to the public, training for employees to strengthen innovation and partnership, etc. The agenda is completed with the forum on Telecommunications, which will discuss how to take advantage of digital trends or how to adapt to clients that are changing their behaviour increasingly quickly.

On 25 May, the last four vertical forums will focus on the Utilities sector, which will discuss energy analytics, how smart homes/cities are transforming customer expectations or network management. The Tourism and Hospitality forum will discuss an industry that has seen how clients have made the use of new digital channels compulsory, while organisations were searching for new ways of interacting with them. The lack of interactive digital technologies, the lack of knowledge about digital marketing and the lack of social presence are the challenges facing the industry, which, in trends such as Big Data and Customer Experience, can find allies for overcoming the issue. Meanwhile, the Automotive forum will feature connected cars and the new ‘Automobile as a Service’ and the Retail and FCMG forum will analyse the change in consumer habits and the supply chain, from product design to production.

DES-Digital Business World Congress offers CEOs, CIOs, CDOs, CMOs, political and public management leaders and HR chiefs 6 dedicated seminars for analysing and understanding the best executive practice for leading digital transformation processes. The event’s three days will include the Leadership Summit, dedicated to managing directors, and the CIO Summit for IT executives that will include the participation of CxO Talks founder Michael Krigsman, who will drive conversations on digital leadership, from IT streamlining to identifying new business models, how to deal with innovation and interruption, etc. The Digital Marketing Planet, aimed at marketing directors, will include a special programme over the congress’ three days; the HR Summit for human resources directors will discuss attracting and retaining talent in the digital era. Furthermore, this year, these seminars are joined by the CDOs Summit and the CFOs Summit discussing the specific issues faced by these roles within management committees when dealing with digital transformation processes.

The second edition of DES will provide a total of more than 1,200 hours of talks, in which technology and strategic transferring will be shared and undertaken with delegates in a space completely dedicated to knowledge, business and networking.

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How to Generate Fine Boring G76

The bore cycle in Creo Parametric 2.0 only seems to generate CYCLE / BORE which is G85. We need to bore, orient, back-off, and retract with G76. orient_angle and jog_dist doesn’t output. Any way other than an Auxiliary Sequence all with CL STATEMENTS?

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IoT vs. Industry 4.0 vs. Industrie 4.0 – What’s the Difference?

These terms aren’t interchangeable, but what do they mean?

The Internet of Things (IoT) is poised to fundamentally change the way a wide range of industries approach the procurement, processing, and distribution of raw materials and finished products.

New efficiencies based on the introduction of intelligent sensors, mission-critical communications, automation, and robotics will optimize industries ranging from mining and shipping to manufacturing verticals including electronics, automotive and petrochemical products. This emerging megatrend is alternatively called the Fourth Industrial Revolution and Industry 4.0, although these aren’t interchangeable terms. Let’s take a look at both.

History of the Industrial Revolution

The First Industrial Revolution, which started in Britain around 1760 and ran until between 1820 and 1840, saw the mechanization of the textile industry via a transition from hand tools to machine tools. The accompanying introduction of steam power and the factory system, in addition to machines, is marked by the centralization of production, division of labor, and the use of interchangeable parts. This was followed by mass production of steel, chemicals, and petroleum products.

The next big upheaval came out of the automotive industry in the early 20th century. The Second Industrial Revolution was driven (pun intended) by the moving assembly line method of production. While this is largely credited to Henry Ford and his Model T, which began rolling off the line in 1913, Ransom Olds, founder of the Olds Motor Vehicle Company, was using a similar method in 1901.

The Third Industrial Revolution, a more recent and somewhat nebulous term, comes from the title of economist Jeremy Rifkin’s 2011 book, “The Third Industrial Revolution: How Lateral Power is Transforming Energy, the Economy, and the World,” which considers how globalization, as a function of increasingly advanced telecommunications and a growing emphasis on renewable energy sources, will combine to impact a range of socioeconomic and political forces.

IoT and the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Now, with the booming growth of the Internet of Things, the advent of the Fourth Industrial Revolution is in sight. During a recent keynote presentation at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Wireless Communications and Networking Conference in San Francisco, California, Marcus Weldon, president of Bell Labs and Nokia chief technology officer, said:

“We’re on the verge of a new industrial revolution. But it’s not driven by consumers. It’s going to be around industrial transformation that consumers benefit from.” 

He gave the example of an advanced wearable device that could deliver “medically meaningful,” data.

“If that were possible, then, in fact, what I have is a healthcare service. I think of that as an industrial service, healthcare, leveraging a consumer device. We’re entering an era where industry is going drive and consumers benefit.”

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Industry 4.0

Global management consulting firm McKinsey and Company has written extensively about the impact Industry 4.0 will have on global commerce, but regards Industry 4.0 distinctly from the Fourth Industrial Revolution, although there are clear overlaps.

According to McKinsey, Industry 4.0 is “the next phase in the digitization of the manufacturing sector, driven by four disruptions: the astonishing rise in data volumes, computational power and connectivity, especially new low-power wide-area networks; the emergence of analytics and business-intelligence capabilities; new forms of human-machine interaction such as touch interfaces and augmented-reality systems; and improvements in transferring digital instructions to the physical world, such as advanced robotics and 3-D printing.”

So, if this is Industry 4.0, what were the three previous iterations? McKinsey says lean manufacturing, a system, mainstreamed by Toyota, that amounts to an almost philosophical study of removing waste in a manufacturing system. Next came the outsourcing of production to countries with increasingly inexpensive labor costs, then, the third step, the introduction of manufacturing automation process in the 2000s.

Industrie 4.0

The German government, as part of its High-Tech Strategy 2020 plan, is accelerating the adoption of IoT by manufacturers under the auspices of Industrie 4.0.

The government’s economic development agency Germany Trade and Invest describes it as a “strategic initiative to establish Germany as a lead market and provider of advanced manufacturing solutions. Industrie 4.0 represents a paradigm shift from centralized to decentralized smart manufacturing and production. Smart production becomes the norm in a world where intelligent ICT-based machines, systems and networks are capable of independently exchanging and responding to information to manage industrial production processes.”

The German government is investing hundreds of millions of dollars into Industrie 4.0-related activities including academic research and industrial trials.

Chancellor Angela Merkel told attendees to the 2015 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, “We must…deal quickly with the fusion of the online world and the world of industrial production. In Germany, we call it Industrie 4.0. Because otherwise, those who are the leaders in the digital domain will take the lead in industrial production. We enter this race with great confidence. But it’s a race we have not yet won.”

Last year, during a speech at the Hannover Messe industrial exposition, Merkel said, “We have reached a critical moment, a point where the digital agenda is fusing with industrial production. This period will determine the future strength of the world’s leading industrial centers.”

Given Germany’s long tradition of precision manufacturing, and the presence of leading global producers including Audi, Daimler, Bosch, Siemens, Bayer, ThyssenKrupp, Adidas and many others, Industrie 4.0 is a way to leverage existing expertise to ensure the manufacturing sector continues to be a national economic engine. And, beyond the major investment by the federal government and German manufacturers, Industrie 4.0 has also attracted the vanguard of technology companies.

In March, Microsoft announced that it would open a new IoT and AI Insider Lab in Munich, joining similar facilities in Redmond, Washington, and Shenzhen, China. Each of the labs are staffed by “resident experts,” according to a company blog post, who can help users “clean up hardware design, debug drivers, work on supporting applications, and demonstrate how to connect devices at scale…they can work with your technology to develop insights from data, and turn insights into action. The labs will even help manufacture small-scale hardware runs for devices designed and built by participating organizations.”

Similarly, Cisco operates one of its innovation centers, openBerlin, which focuses on “co-innovation [and] rapid prototyping” with a focus on manufacturing, logistics and transportation. The IoT research and development facilitated at openBerlin follows three guiding principles: “From years to weeks; from corporate driven to market driven; from closed to open.”

IBM, which uses its artificial intelligence platform Watson for a variety of machine-learning and IoT applications, has its IoT Headquarters in Munich. The $200 million “collaboratory” allows company partners to work side-by-side with more than 1,000 IoT-focused IBMers.

When the facility opened in February, IBM Watson General Manager Harriet Green said, “This is more than a ribbon cutting or a ceremony. It’s not even a trade show or a conference. This is an industry moment. We think it is a turning point because at IBM we have always believed that there is only one way to fill the potential of this truly transformational technology, and that is together.”

By: Brain Ray

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Latest Version of Epicor ERP Extends Manufacturing Leadership with Launch of Powerful Cloud-Based Analytics and Global Electronic Compliance

Unveiled at its Insights 2017 customer conference today, Epicor Software Corporation, a global provider of industry-specific enterprise software to promote business growth, introduced the latest version of Epicor ERP, the global enterprise resource planning solution in use today by thousands of customers in 150 countries worldwide.

Building on the strengths of its cloud-first architecture, the latest release provides powerful new capabilities to support operational excellence, improved visibility, and revenue expansion—critical to achieve sustained growth in the increasingly competitive and fast-paced global business arena, with new functionality to support top-line revenue growth while controlling bottom-line costs.

“With margins for products eroding, customer demands increasing, and an uncertain and somewhat unstable global economy, manufacturers must leverage technology to increase business agility, enable insightful decision-making, and achieve greater gains in rapid fashion,” said Scott Hays, senior vice president, product marketing, Epicor. “Designed to support how people work today, and ready to accommodate how people will work tomorrow, Epicor ERP provides a proven foundation with which to leverage new game-changing technologies such as the Internet of Things, big data and analytics, social collaboration, mobility and additive manufacturing. Mitigating technology, integration, and accessibility barriers that stifle productivity, Epicor ERP ushers in newfound levels of collaboration, visibility, and business outcomes.”

Epicor ERP now provides greater cloud deployment flexibility and new and enhanced business functionality out-of-the-box, including new capabilities to support global growth and expansion, business transformation, and efficiencies in mission-critical operations such as quality and compliance. The new release also features fully integrated enterprise content management capabilities from the January 2017 acquisition of DocStar. These new competencies support business transformation initiatives focused on improved customer-centricity, collaboration, efficiency and expansion to address new market opportunities.

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New Dedicated Tenancy Cloud Option
Expanding the company’s commitment to its cloud-first approach, the latest version of Epicor ERP is now available in a dedicated tenancy cloud deployment model, in addition to multi-tenancy and single-tenancy deployment options. Available for North American customers now, the new dedicated cloud option offers the benefits of greater flexibility and control, and can be ideal for organizations needing to adhere to specific regulatory compliance regulations. In contrast to the multi-tenant model, which achieves significant scale economies by deploying clients on the same application server and the same database, dedicated tenancy provides each client its own database, with the dynamic elasticity and cost benefits of shared application servers.

International Financial and Compliance Capabilities to Spur Global Growth
Doing business globally requires a robust and broad reaching tax accounting, international trade and regulatory compliance foundation. The latest version of Epicor ERP features expanded international financial applications and a new electronic compliance engine to ease complexity, improve visibility and controls to support strong financial operations and reduced risk while lowering the cost of compliance.

New functionality localized for specific geographic regions supports compliance and reporting, tax and payment processing, and international trade requirements. These capabilities pave the way for operational expansion into high-growth manufacturing markets—such as Vietnam and Thailand—growth economies that are rapidly expanding, and which are expected to be a significant driver of global Gross Domestic Product growth by 2021 (per the International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook).

New Data Analytics for Better Insights
Epicor ERP features enhanced, industry-focused Epicor Data Analytics (EDA), which offers flexible and easy-to-use analytics tightly integrated with Epicor ERP. A cloud data analytics solution requiring low upfront cost and quick implementation and can be accessed via desktop or any mobile device, EDA drives operational visibility for improved decision making via rich out-of-the-box dashboards that are configurable, and the ability to “drill-down” into supporting data for deeper insights. Modular, pre-built content packs for sales, financials, materials, and production empower organizations to ask and answer questions about their business to uncover new growth opportunities and efficiencies for improved performance.

New Tools for Greater Productivity in Front- and Back-End Processes
The latest version of Epicor ERP features enhancements to its configure-to-order design function with a 2D Design Visualization Tool, enabling easy viewing of models and drawings, markup in 2D, and real-time collaboration on design documents over a network.

Enhancements to Epicor Manifest automated shipping software streamline shipping processes via new powerful integrated shipping rates and parcel carrier options directly at the point of order quotation, order entry and/or shipping. Epicor Manifest also now integrates with Less than Load (LTL) regional carriers, opening up a wide range of new shipping options.

New Resources to Streamline Upgrades and Support Training
The new release also incorporates new tools to accelerate the upgrade process for customers transitioning from on premises to cloud deployment models. Epicor Site Analyzer analyzes existing software environments to identify changes and configuration needs in advance of migration to provide a “know before you go” visual representation impact assessment. A new rapid data migration process enables data to be migrated to a cloud environment in a safe and swift manner, significantly improving time-to-value.

Epicor University offers a mix of education and training option for the latest release of Epicor ERP. New Epicor Learning Center training offerings—including 40 self-paced on demand video courses on new ERP functionality and live virtual hands-on training sessions—ensure user skills proficiency and roll out success.

Customers Levelling Up for Growth with Epicor ERP
According to Daniel Sirow, vice president, Independent Components Corporation, a wholesale distributor of OEM quality aftermarket air compressor parts and accessories, upgrading to the latest version of Epicor ERP ensures his company is running the absolute best version of the software. “It also allows our business to take advantage of the latest features that enables us to grow our business—giving users the freedom to focus on core business responsibilities,” said Sirow.

Mexican company Isquisa SA de CV specializes in the comprehensive management of chemical inputs for the oil and gas industry, and offers the widest range of fertilizers and agrochemicals for the agriculture industry. “From the database to the server, Epicor ERP offers us a reliable business platform,” said Cristhian Jimenez Vargas, IT manager, Isquisa. “Staying up to date on the latest version also ensures we get the most return on investment from our system, and also gives us access to the latest features and trends in ERP.”

Availability and Compatibility
Epicor ERP is available now in 36 languages for upgrades and new cloud deployments worldwide. Epicor ERP is compatible with Microsoft Windows 10 and Internet Explorer 11.

Source: Epicor Software Corporation

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