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“Businesses that recognize and move to leverage millennial talent can gain significant competitive advantage in today’s age of digital disruption,” according to Celia Fleischaker, Epicor SVP/CMO.

Recognizing and Overcoming the Data Barrier

May 9, 2016
ERP developers are emphasizing the value and necessity of ‘mobility’, which may solve another lingering problem for manufacturers Who can, who will, do the analysis The modern user experience ‘Digitally literate’ workers

Undoubtedly many manufacturers think – and hope – that by choosing an enterprise software platform they are settling some of their biggest problems, and in a way that’s true. ERP captures and organizes critical data, and presents information that can be analyzed or acted upon effectively. Data that’s unavailable, incomprehensible, or unmanageable, acts as a barrier between a metalcaster or other manufacturer, and the vast universe of customers, suppliers, and other resources ready to business – to say nothing of the consumers, technology developers, or other nascent commercial opportunities that may yet develop. Removing the barrier has been possible because various developers have assembled ERP platforms that collect and manage the data that is specific to a particular process or industry — coremaking or melt production in a foundry, for example. The availability of several metalcasting-specific ERPs has given foundries and diecasters the means to overcome the data barrier.    

But, now that manufacturers have recognized the barrier, and acknowledged the necessity to capture and evaluate data, and even have adopted ERP — the objective is shifting toward who can, or will, do the data analysis. According to one ERP developer, this is exposing generational differences in manufacturing organizations

Epicor Software recently released a new version of its ERP (it’s 10.1, though the developer reportedly is de-emphasizing numerical descriptions of its technology) available as a Cloud-based, hosted, or on-premises platform that it promises will support business growth objectives, reduce complexity, and streamline interactions. It has more than 300 new or enhanced features for manufacturing and supply chain functionality, including inventory and material management, purchasing, shipping and receiving, quality assurance, project management and job scheduling, sales and CRM, quoting and order management, among others. Highlighted among the updated features are its global compliance capabilities, like country-specific functionality so manufacturers’ information can be accessible and manageable without regard to geography. 

But, what gains even more emphasis in the Epicor update is mobility. This developer wants its customers to recognize its investment in “a new mobile framework that supports responsive design and a modern user experience on virtually any mobile device,” anytime, anywhere information access.

“The new mobile framework is the foundation for delivering the completely redesigned mobile dashboard application,” it noted. With this platform, and presumably eventually with all manufacturing ERPs, users will have “the same rich visual and navigational user experience” that they have with any smartphone or tablet, connecting them to the “right slices of ERP data from anywhere on any device.”

The vision of mobility is a challenge for many manufacturers, meaning many organizations as well as their decision-makers. The technology may be too far ahead of the users, for now, but Epicor apparently addressed the separation with a subsequent research study linking the parallel importance of human capital with data-management technology.

Epicor’s study emphasizes the rising importance of the millennial generation in the global workforce, and the need for managers cater to millennials’ interests and skills in order to grow their businesses. For example, it estimates that nearly 3.5 million U.S. manufacturing jobs will need to be filled over the next decade, and skilled millennial workers will be a needed to staff, oversee, and manage those businesses.

However, just 39% of business execs surveyed in the study said recruiting millennials was a “fairly significant” or “major” focus for their organizations, even though the respondents also identified “technology leadership” and a “skilled workforce” as factors that would stimulate their businesses’ growth.

“Businesses that recognize and move to leverage millennial talent can gain significant competitive advantage in today’s age of digital disruption,” quoted Celia Fleischaker, Epicor’s senior v.p. and chief marketing officer.

She continued: “Our research reveals many human resource challenges stand in the way of business growth that technology can help address. Organizations must re-think their relationship with ‘digitally literate’ workers and retool their organizations to attract, connect, and empower this next-generation workforce via cloud, mobile, analytics, and other enabling technologies.”

The research also found that organizations are working to develop a “technology infrastructure” that would be attractive to a more skilled workforce: 79% of executives surveyed claimed they have invested (or are investing) in “integrated IT,” described as an intersection of workers and systems united by information and execution, so that technology reduces complexity, improves the quality of work life, and enhances productivity.

Is mobility the way to draw in new skills, new human resources, to manufacturing organizations? Or, like the earliest proposals for ERP to manage the barrier presented by data, is it a solution that sets up the next objective?