One Smart Way to Tackle Three Industry 4.0 Challenges

Whether you call it "Industry 4.0" or "Digital Transformation," manufacturers are facing fundamental business changes. Everyone is trying to identify and take the right steps to survive, thrive, and grow during this revolution. Investment in the right enterprise resource planning (ERP) may be the solution to address the 3 major challenges of Industry 4.0.

Not long ago, Industry 4.0 and digital transformation were the domain of first movers only. Today they are high on the agenda for every manufacturing business.

Almost three-quarters of the respondents to a PwC survey on Industry 4 .0 were expecting to be at a high level of digitization and integration in 2020, compared with only a third reporting such a high level in 2015. This investment is being driven by the expectation of results. At the top end, around a third of the respondents expected Industry 4 .0 implementations to result in both cost savings and revenue gains of more than 20 percent within five years.

With ambitious competitors well on their way to building their factories of the future and seeing the results, how do you avoid being left behind?

One way is to learn from the first movers. Unsurprisingly, high-growth companies share many of their characteristics with Industry 4 .0 first movers. They are optimistic and ambitious for the future, willing to embrace change, customer-focused, and committed to investing in Industry 4 .0 technologies and business solutions that support digital transformation.

At Epicor, they call these high-growth companies -- and the leaders who drive them onwards and upwards -- Grow Getters.

Not all of these steps are about investing in or using the right technologies. Success hinges just as much on having the right culture -- which is greatly influenced by the company's leadership -- and the right skills, which depends on attracting, retaining, and training the right people.

While it's vital to take steps to establish the right culture and expertise, to be a Grow Getter you also need to move ahead with your first -- or next -- steps to invest in the right Industry 4 .0 technologies for your factory of the future . A major focus will typically be applications that use Internet of Things (IoT) technologies, and these bring technology challenges of their own.

Three of the most common are:

Many Grow Getters address these challenges by investing in key supporting business technology --specifically, the right kind of ERP software -- as one of the first steps on their transformation journey.

Challenge 1: Industry 4.0 Calls for Greater Integration

End-to-end integration of value chains is a central concept of Industry 4.0. Once a manufacturer wants to build a smart factory with equipment and systems that "talk" to one another and respond "intelligently," it's natural to want such smart capabilities to span across the entire business. This means previously siloed functions must be connected.

For example, you may want to integrate purchasing, planning, production, fulfilment, invoicing, and dispatch into one connected process. Ultimately, many manufacturers will want to integrate supplier, customer, and partner processes and systems as well.

This business integration is complex and costly if, at the IT level, it involves a multitude of different systems. This is why ERP software is a popular solution. By its very nature, a good ERP system is designed to manage multiple business functions, processes, and data flows in one place and in real time -- providing a single source of truth.

With ERP, therefore, integration is about sharing and using data that is held in one place, rather than the much harder job of transferring data from one system to another, with all the attendant complications of more complex data management and security .Not all ERP solutions are created equally, however . As a manufacturer, consider three things when looking for an ERP solution fit for Industry 4.0:

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