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Smart Factory:
Digitization, networking and automation

Digitisation and worldwide networking of systems and processes along the value-added chain will not only present new challenges to IT and ERP systems but will also offer production companies considerable future potential and degrees of freedom.

Digitising production with the VlexPlus all-in-one ERP solution

Acting faster and better with no added cost, yet also supporting growth and retaining the flexibility required to align the own business with individual customer demands. These requirements these days are driving many production companies towards digitisation of their existing processing environments. What is perfectly clear is that ongoing digitisation is changing the parameters of our existing collaboration networks and thus also sustainably changing the role of ERP systems and their surrounding software landscape. Instead of simply processing data and representing processes, ERP systems must today also assist modern manufacturing companies as they focus on the future, exploit new potential and transform varying customer demands into future-proof business models.

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Customer centricity: Variant diversity increases as individual customer demands increase

Individualisation and personalisation of products is one of the most important trends in industry today. The economic success of manufacturing companies increasingly depends on their ability to tailor their products to satisfy the specific requirements of their target groups and their individual customers. Not only will this allow them to distinguish themselves from globally increasing competition, but production companies will also be in the position to effectively address new customer groups and sales potentials. This will generate consistent and significant competitive advantages.

The VlexPlus all-in-one ERP solution serves as the core digital system and data exchange – a central controlling business platform underlying all processes and interlinked with all other upstream and downstream systems. Open, adaptive and user-friendly business platforms like VlexPlus allow production companies to utilise data in collaborative networks and to integrate these in the form of automated processes in the production company’s business environment. By means of automated data and variant management across all configuration, pricing, procurement and manufacturing processes, variant manufacturers, contract manufacturers, made-to-order manufacturers, project manufacturers or small-lot manufacturers will create a foundation for the digitisation of their value added chain – thereby achieving the balancing act between process efficiency and flexibility of production management.

All-in-one ERP solution needs open linking to Cloud apps and data

Sounding simple but requiring many prerequisites in practice. Highly flexible and deeply integrated ERP systems will be required to represent cross-company and networked business processes in all their detail. Rigid ERP solutions with monolithic systems at the core will need to make way for platform systems using smart service modules based in own or external Clouds to create fully integrated and open all-in-one ERP solutions.

Identify potential and optimally align the service portfolio

ERP systems must here be able to communicate with smart devices (IoT integration), machines, apps and mobile terminals and to network with other systems via the Cloud in order to exchange and process data across systems. Modern big data and AI (Artificial Intelligence) approaches are also based on this principle, thereby to identify opportunities and business and market risks and to better align own portfolios to changing needs. As Cloud based solutions and services proliferate, the age of ERP systems with elaborate releases replacing outdated versions is increasingly drawing to a close.


Automation of industrial production and maintenance thanks to IoT and AI functions

AI functionality is increasingly used to collect, consolidate and evaluate data generated by sensors and machinery required in industrial production and for control of operational processes.

Machine learning algorithms will detect relationships and patterns by using all datasets to train AI models and thereby to allow real time analysis of data and make definitive prognoses regarding specific questions.

These AI systems have thus far been applied only occasionally, for instance for automated capturing and booking of incoming invoices by medium-sized businesses, they are now gaining in significance, especially in terms of predictive servicing in industrial production and in IoT networks.

AI and machine learning algorithms are also increasingly being applied in robotic process automation (RPA). Whilst RPA in recent years could be found mainly in major industrial companies, the intelligent software bots are these days suited for use by companies of all sizes and levels of development.

RPA will allow complex business processes, often comprising many individual processes, to be largely automated based on workflow engines and defined rules - no user intervention required. RPA fields of application are increasing as our process and system landscapes grow.

The system should once again be an all-in-one ERP solution since the analytical and controlling components must be bridged to enable the creation of a structure including business administration and process control.

All-in-one ERP solution for production companies requires high-performance BI and mobility

Especially business intelligence systems, mobile applications (business apps) and the integration of data Clouds will here be gaining in importance by opening up new opportunities for cooperation between business partners in industry along the entire value-adding chain.

Database technology capable of operation in real time will be required. The added value of modern, individually adaptable interfaces offering users advantages of increased productivity in their daily business should also not be underestimated – last not least in terms of flexible application on mobile terminals or mobile workplaces (keyword: digital workplace).

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Digitisation demands increased security of IT and data

As Web services are opening up to ERP systems and offering Cloud based functionality, ERP software and corporate data will also require protection from unauthorised access, manipulation and similar threats. In order to offer production companies increased corporate data protection levels as they head for digitisation, the VlexPlus all-in-one ERP solution employs state of the art technologies and maximum security standards in terms of data centre services and hardware. Production companies can also, based on their specific requirements for compliance and data control and for flexibility of access, decide which parts of their data to store and synchronise locally (on-premise) or in the Cloud (hybrid Cloud).

All-in-one ERP solution requires integrated collaboration tools for multichannel success

Production companies grasped the importance of mobility, digital document administration and communication/collaboration tools in running their businesses even before the Corona crisis hit us. Cloud-capable systems such as the VlexPlus all-in-one ERP solution, serving as the central business platform for digitisation of entire operational structures of production companies, here demonstrated their full potential. Especially the maximum possible compartmentalisation of products and processes constitutes a significant challenge to production companies offering highly diverse variants.

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The VlexPlus all-in-one ERP solution will now enable these companies to consistently digitise their variants and interrelated processes down to the tiniest screw. Many documents such as delivery notes, invoices, quotations, parts lists or work plans will be created digitally by the ERP system directly. The browser based all-in-one ERP solution will make the documents immediately available to authorised users, also at mobile terminals, including home office, and irrespective platform or location. Access will be via a secured VPN tunnel to ensure production companies of highly secure access and data. Integration of partners, suppliers, service providers and customers is a further important milestone en route to digitisation in production.  
The VlexPlus all-in-one ERP solution will ensure consistently digital processes between industry and trade. All details specific to a variant, such as master data, prices, pictures or descriptions will in this way be automatically generated from the catalogues of specialist retail partners, thereby obviating the need for elaborate ERP software administration. In support of multichannel strategies, the integrated graphic configuration routines will allow products and their available variants to be conveniently configured and visualised in 2D or 3D as needed - directly via linked Web shops. 

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Sandra Jungen
+49 92 21 – 691 7711
+49 173 464 3309