It’s that time of year when vendors like to predict the year ahead. This year, we decided to be a little more prescriptive. We sent some specific questions to 12 ERP vendors, only six of whom responded.
We received responses from Acumatica, IFS, Infor, Rambase, Rootstock Software, and SAP. The first question asked what technology would be most adopted in 2024. The responses varied, though intelligence or AI features in four of the answers.
Debbie Baldwin, director of product management and manufacturing, at Acumatica, sees AI-enabled automation as key in 2024. She noted, “There are several ways manufacturers can embrace AI to their advantage in 2024. For example:
- Utilizing sensor data for preventative maintenance, minimizing costly repairs.
- Leveraging data to optimize production schedules.
- Employing digital twins for thorough product development simulation.
“AI enhances overall operational efficiency, ensuring a seamless and quality-first manufacturing process. Embracing AI positions manufacturers at the forefront of innovation, transforming their business processes and securing a competitive edge in the industry’s evolving landscape.”
In 2023, Acumatica continued to embed AI technology into its ERP platform. The most recent release, 2023 R2, included a generative AI feature and multi-lingual support for multinational operations.
Baldwin then explained the Acumatica approach to help organisations deliver this. She said, “Acumatica will continue to offer manufacturers AI-enabled automation through its cloud-based ERP solution. Our business management solution is purposely engineered to prioritize customer-driven innovations that address real users’ needs.
“As Acumatica experiments with new features, it gathers feedback from customers and adapts the solutions as needed. By taking this pragmatic and practical approach, Acumatica ensures that manufacturing companies can navigate the evolving market with modern AI-enabled solutions made specifically for them. In 2024, Acumatica will continue empowering manufacturers to embrace AI on their terms to achieve their growth objectives.”
Bob De Caux, VP of Automation, IFS, believes, like many others, that 2024 is the year when AI will be widely adopted by manufacturers. He commented, “Manufacturing systems are becoming more complex, so AI-driven data pattern recognition is crucial for sharpening quality control, predicting equipment problems, and optimising production for fewer defects, higher overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), and significant cost savings. The mass of valuable data from Industry 4.0 and 5.0 will make AI indispensable.
“It will provide manufacturers with ongoing root cause analysis, streamlining operations and predicting potential product quality issues by comparing various data points. AI tools embedded in ERP systems will enable manufacturers to be far more responsive to constraints and opportunities, reducing lead time and minimising supply chain disruption.”
The most recent update from IFS included the first time that its recently launched IFS.ai is embedded into the IFS Cloud platform. Expect more to come in 2024 following the acquisition of Falkonry for its AI-based time series analytics suite in September
De Caux added, “IFS will break down traditional operational and data silos, driving automation and vastly superior manufacturing process optimisation. Embedding AI in ERP and EAM systems enables analysis of the mass of data from connected devices, the business and third parties, autonomously providing users with the insights they need to make improvements.
“By involving workers in the process – a concept also known as the “connected worker” – IFS enables manufacturers to improve the shop-floor experience, leading to major productivity boosts. But businesses need to move into AI one step at a time to avoid the risks of all-in-one approaches.”
Lewis commented, “Intelligent automation is comprised of RPA and AI. RPA has the potential to replace a great deal of manual, ruled-based, repetitive processes, bringing greater accuracy, faster, and freeing up time for teams to innovate and add value, and apply much needed skills to those areas where gaps exist.
“Ultimately, this means that production can be planned for with greater insight and accuracy, undertaken in the most efficient way, and with fewer errors to minimise waste and optimise fulfilment. AI complements RPA by executing tasks based on human intelligence. Together, these technologies expedite end-to-end business processes, generate insights and supercharge execution.”
The mention of RPA is not surprising, with Infor already having launched a new RPA solution as part of Infor Enterprise Automation. It also demonstrated that the investments it has made in Infor AI over the last few years are helping customers directly. Grosfillex, a global manufacturer, increased some revenues by 10% and its sales productivity by 83%.
There is more to come in 2024 from Infor, with Lewis adding, “The good news is that these technologies are now widely available, affordable, and come with a typically fast ROI. Infor can help manufacturers to capitalise on intelligent automation through ensuring tech stacks are robust enough to handle these new tools.
“Through helping companies to embrace automation, leverage big data and analytics, adopt sustainable practices, and harness emerging technologies businesses will be in the best shape to stay competitive. By embracing these trends, organisations can unlock new opportunities, enhance efficiency, and deliver exceptional customer experiences in 2024 and beyond.”
Rambase, whose Chief Sales Officer, Odd Magne Vea, responded to the questions and presented a very different, though valid, prediction around Cyber Resilience.
When asked how manufacturers will develop cyber resilience, he answered, “In the present era of smart factories and digital infrastructure, cyber resilience will become paramount for all manufacturing companies. Ever-increasing connectivity and AI automation expose these enterprises, large and small to heightened cyber threats. A breach can disrupt production, compromise sensitive data, and incur substantial financial losses.
“Robust cyber resilience strategies are essential to safeguard against evolving cyber threats, ensuring the uninterrupted operation of any organisation which distracts from their true objectives. By prioritizing cybersecurity measures, manufacturing companies can protect intellectual property, maintain customer trust, and fortify the foundation upon which they’ve built their businesses over difficult years and decades.”
Rambase, like many other ERP vendors, has a strategy to improve the cyber resilience of clients, especially as they are responsible for the cloud environments.
For Rambase, Magne Vae revealed: “The architecture that underpins RamBase Cloud ERP software allows users to focus on their business priorities, taking workload away by minimising the risk of increasingly sophisticated cyber-attacks by centralising data storage and employing advanced security measures.
“We invest heavily in cybersecurity, implementing encryption, authentication and monitoring tools; extending these safeguards to other corporate and financial institutions. Our offering includes built-in threat detection and response capabilities, reducing vulnerabilities associated with other solutions.
“Monitored 24x7x365 with regular updates and version releases to further fortify the software, ensures a more secure and resilient environment which allows the users, large or small, to keep safe and on-track.”
Raj Badarinath, Chief Product & Marketing Officer at Rootstock, believes AI Decisioning will be most adopted by Manufacturers in 2024. He noted, “Today, manufacturers are accumulating data at a fast and furious pace. The only way for them to steer through the volume and velocity of this information is with a decisioning platform powered by multi-model AI as their nav system.
“This new approach—which blends various forms of AI/ML, business intelligence, and predictive capabilities—allows manufacturers to interpret data as incoming signals of demand and supply so they can adjust production capacity for optimal margins. Manufacturers can essentially speed-read market conditions to reliably fulfill customer orders, rapidly convert data into insights and actions, and continually optimize for efficiency and growth.”
Badarinath was informed by a recent study conducted by Rootstock, The State of AI in Manufacturing report highlights that AI is a top priority across the boardrooms of manufacturers. 82% are planning to increase budgets for investment in the technology.
In 2024, Rootstock will reveal the investment it has made, helped by the enormous investment by Salesforce in an AI platform. Badarinath revealed, “Rootstock Software’s upcoming AI Decisioning Platform will help manufacturers optimize productivity, increase supply chain efficiencies, reduce costs, and boost profitability.
“Our Manufacturing Cloud ERP, built on the Salesforce Platform, forms the backbone of a Signal Chain that integrates sales, operations, financials, supply chain, inventory, production, and more. By layering decisioning capabilities over the Signal Chain, manufacturers will become truly AI-driven, leveraging their unique ERP data for predictive forecasting processes.”
Greg Moyle, Head of Energy & Discrete Industries, SAP UKI, was surprisingly conservative in his prediction, noting that “Cloud computing” will be the most adopted trend.
The prediction may be an indication of the fact that large enterprises are moving to the cloud compared to mid-market organisations. It also, perhaps, reflects the success that the RISE with SAP initiative has had over the last two years.
Moyle further explains, “2024 will see the manufacturing industry go ‘all in’ on industry 4.0 technologies. More and more manufacturers will transition to the cloud in order to scale up adoption of new and transformative technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things to manage project workloads and improve end-to-end business visibility.
“Ongoing disruption to global supply chains will accelerate adoption, with a growing number of manufacturers embarking on cloud transformations to forecast demand, improve production line efficiency and deliver better value for customers – helping to boost industry resiliency and continuity in the long-term.”
SAP continues to evolve S/4HANA, with Moyle adding, “We’ll continue to support manufacturers in their cloud transformation journey through the provision of our digital manufacturing solutions. This includes SAP Digital Manufacturing, which is enabling global businesses such as ZEISS to deliver real-time performance tracking, process monitoring and greater visibility into supply chains, alongside SAP S/4HANA Manufacturing for production engineering and operations.
“We will also continue to support businesses in crucial areas such as workplace safety, issue resolution and environmental impact. Through the provision of SAP S/4HANA for EHS workplace safety and environmental management, SAP will support the development of risk-resilient, sustainable manufacturing supply chains worldwide.”