Enter the drones

epic ERP drone image

Whether it is showing customers how construction sites are progressing in India, helping utility companies spot faults in distribution lines across the United States, or assisting with stock take at warehouse operations in South Africa, drones have changed the way business works.

 

So, what began with aspirations of home pizza deliveries has grown into an industry that can add value to just about any sector of the market. Given how rapidly the technology has evolved, drones are sophisticated tools that can capture data accurately (think HD cameras, GPS locations and other embedded sensors), can access high-risk areas without compromising the safety of employees, and are secured using sophisticated algorithms.

 

Just consider trying to inspect the safety of a 60-floor skyscraper. In the past, this was a labour-intensive task often involving hiring an expensive helicopter. Today, this has largely been taken over by drones that can capture inspection information and measurements, as well as take marketing photographs.

 

It is estimated that there will be 600 000 drones operating commercially in the US by the end of this year. This reflects how pervasive these devices have become and the opportunities they provide business.

 

As mentioned, these units have become invaluable for inventory management and stock take. Even better, it can take place without requiring a business to shut down, as it is not as pervasive an activity as getting employees to manage the stock take process themselves.

 

Real-time delivery

So, whether it is stock taking, surveying, photography, security, emergency services, or any other application, drones do offer several use case scenarios. One of the most significant advantages the technology provides is the ability to transmit data in real-time. While much has been written about the pervasiveness of the Internet of Things (IoT), thoughts generally turn to land-based devices. However, the appeal of drones should not be neglected as it can provide a significantly different perspective as opposed to land-locked systems.

 

All this data being generated can feed directly into an integrated enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. On its own, the drone data is useful, but the real power of these devices lies in unlocking insights through the ERP of the business. With data being generated on a real-time basis, the business can also respond faster than before, thanks to the powerful analytical solutions at their disposal.

 

Business insights

Consider the impact this real-time response could have on security, for example. Being able to monitor securely from above, armed response companies can send additional support to crime zones as required. They are also able to view hotspots – for more accurate risk assessments – before dispatching units.

 

From a manufacturing industry perspective, we have touched on the positive impact on stock take. Building from here when it comes to inventory management, drones (when linked to ERP) empower decision-makers with insights necessary to meet customer needs more organically than previously.

 

Drones should therefore be viewed as an invaluable business tool especially when integrated with more dynamic ERP solutions. They provide decision-makers with an invaluable solution to deliver on customer expectations faster than before and help influence strategy in ways previously unimaginable. One day, drone pizza delivery will be ubiquitous, but there are already so many more things to be done with the technology.

ERP enabling more efficient warehouse automation

epic ERP warehouse automation

While machine-learning and artificial intelligence (AI) have gotten their share of the limelight recently, there is a third component that is becoming more prevalent in warehouses and manufacturing plants around the world; robots and process automation. Even though this is hardly new, the potential when paired with the previous two elements and enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions, is significant to enhance any shop floor environment.

Given how technology is evolving, today’s robots are significantly more intelligent than their predecessors. Even though cynics argue that this could negatively impact jobs, the reverse is true. Yes, the capabilities of robots on shop floors and in warehouses can easily reduce much of the human labour element, but they also provide manufacturers with the platform to upskill their workforce.

Being more productive

Like the efficiency improvements when businesses moved from fax machines to mobile phones, machine-learning and AI greatly enhance automation and provide the ability to react quicker, be more agile to market demands, and connect more easily to the Internet of Things (IoT) ecosystem.

And while robots certainly bring value for accountability, they must link to all facets of the digital and real world environments. This is where ERP becomes increasingly essential in any modern shop floor or manufacturing environment. Without having the ability to manage these components, link to the available data, and understand where efficiency gains are to be had, companies can easily lose traction to their competitors. ERP is an enabler that brings more dynamic integration from the shop floor and more effectively gives vital accountability (and traceability) for digitally-led businesses.

These efficiency improvements can also be felt in evolving into a more productive organisation. Thanks to IoT and the connectedness of manufacturing environments, employees, business partners, and suppliers can have real-time access to the shop floor through any device. This enables them to have access to stock levels, monitor deliveries, and other important elements like profitability, cash, and so on, directly from within the ERP system on their device.

Driving profits

In turn, this increased visibility to real-time data ensures a business can better manage operations across business units or locations, leading to improved profitability. Take the role of robots, machine-learning, and AI as an example. By freeing up employees from tasks, companies can upskill them to deliver more strategic value to the organisation. There will always be a need for the creative and strategic value workers can provide, and through training and other skills development initiatives, this can be focused with better service delivery, leading to a likely increase in profits.

In a digital environment, automation takes many different forms. Therefore, a robust ERP solution is needed to ensure that the organisation can more easily accommodate the myriad of open architectures and solutions out there driving machine-learning, AI, and the like. In many respects, this adds a degree of future-proofing to a digital organisation as it is more easily able to adapt to any new innovations.

Modern business leaders are achieving benefits using readily available technology, such as drones, to reduce laborious tasks such as manual stock takes. This is not the case of science fiction but rather science fact, as shop floors embrace a new level of sophistication thanks to the interoperability provided by modern ERP. All of this can easily be driven from the cloud and enable businesses to take advantage of IoT and shop floor automation to move their businesses forward.

All this requires an open mindset and willingness to embrace innovations, leverage ERP in different ways, and identify the new opportunities offered by a digital-driven warehouse.