The Internet of Things (IoT) exists, and it is likely you use an IoT device. IoT, to put simply, is a network of physical objects, connected to computers. Typical IoT devices include smart home assistants, smart appliances, and connected cars.
Here, we will address IoT and its impact on enterprise resource planning (ERP) software. ERP, in a nutshell, is a software solution that glues together every aspect of a business. ERP includes back-office functions such as finance and human resources, and front-office functions such as production and sales. So, it is not hard to see how both concepts will merge. When IoT and ERP systems are combined, business processes become more streamlined, efficient, and technologically advanced.
How are ERP and IoT already working together?
We are on the cusp of seeing the impact of IoT on industries. In manufacturing, companies are embracing this new wave of technology. With almost no human intervention, computers communicate by sending alerts, ordering parts (or 3D printing them), and assigning technicians. This reduces the time spent sourcing and fixing problems—and greatly improves business efficiencies.
Another example looks to cloud technology in distribution. Cloud computing has revolutionized business: it has reshaped the way suppliers deliver products and services, and how customers consume them. This computerized, paperless world stores data in seconds.
IoT Features and Functions That Impact ERP
ERP systems provide a number of features and functions that can be applied to IoT devices. IoT-integrated machines can lend capabilities to ERP systems. IoT devices essentially become upgrades to an ERP system, strengthening the link between machines on the shop floor or in the field and the company’s business processes. Listed in this section are some of the specific ways that IoT can extend the functions of ERP systems.
Web Portals & CRM Systems
Web portals connect with ERP systems to handle customer communication, manage inventory and address employee needs. They empower end users with data and options that make for more efficient workflows. An example of a customer web portal can be found on an ecommerce website where customers can access their account information, order history, shipping addresses, billing, and much more. The web portal removes the need of human interaction – empowering end users with sourcing the information themselves, in an instant.
IoT systems mediate the connection between several different types of capabilities. They connect customer relationship management (CRM) with product lifestyle management (PLM) and manufacturing execution system (MES) tools. The combination of the three processes, creates an autonomous smart factory.
A smart factory is considered the ‘factory of the future’. Used mostly in manufacturing, a smart factory connects machines and systems together, using IoT sensors and devices.
This level of automation means little human intervention is needed. A smart factory produces real-time data, enabling companies to make rapid business decisions. It also frees up their time by automatically making corrections and sending alerts (for when human intervention is inevitable).
Chips, or ‘microchips’, are an affordable solution. These nuggets of technology when linked to a product are able to store, analyze, and manage the data arising from the use of that product. One of the benefits of these chips is the facilitating of large-scale monitoring and management of machines, products, and devices by ERP systems. For example, chips monitor inventory on a minute scale, digging deep and providing a very granular level of detail in the data. So, rather than treating stock as an entity, each piece of inventory is treated as an individual item, with its own unique identifier and of course collected information. Being able to collect, analyze, and report on such detailed information on each item enhances inventory management and improves business processes.
Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are businesses whose products are used by another company in the production of a final product. They can best be considered as a “middle man” in manufacturing. The use of IoP-based ERP systems will enable OEM businesses to become far more efficient in the manufacturing and distribution of their products. For example, an IoT system will send automated alerts to suppliers when inventory is low, empowering OEMs with information on exactly when to prepare and ship their products. This automated analysis means businesses operate at maximal efficiency.
The Future of ERP in an IoT World
ERP systems will need to include key features, such as those discussed above, to keep up with rapidly advancing IoT technology and remain relevant for manufacturers, distributors, and other businesses. For ERP and IoT to coexist, the ERP system must update in real time—in keeping with the alerts and messages of any connected device. The ERP system will also allow user access for multiple devices such as smartphones, wearable technologies, laptops, and tablets.
With a marriage between ERP and IoT, future systems will have the ability to enhance business processes and data collection and analysis, helping enterprises make better, well-informed decisions. They will connect people to businesses in deeper, more intelligent ways that transforms overall human experience and that maximizes business efficiencies and enhances the bottom line.
The Future of Business in an IoT World
For companies to keep pace with the evolving digital world, they will mostly need to update their business models. A fresh methodology will look to improving business performance, developing IT architectures to support the integration of IoT and enterprise systems, and providing data and its analysis throughout the company for more insightful decision-making at all levels of the organization. ERP systems usually have a substantial impact on businesses, and with their association with IoT technologies, it is more important than ever that a company brace for the change and take full advantage of the latest technologies for maximal gain.
Business & Technology Writer at Technology Evaluation Centers
Areas of Expertise: Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) | Customer Relationship Management (CRM) | Business Intelligence (BI)
Deeana Radley is a business and technology writer with over 5 years of industry insight. She has written extensively on technology trends, software solutions and market developments, and particularly enjoys rendering complex topics accessible to beginners.