Why an ERP and Business Intelligence Integration Is Crucial for Manufacturers

Posted by Ho Nguyen

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The amount of data generated throughout today’s manufacturing process – from product development to production and post-sales support – is astonishing. That said, the capabilities to utilise such data volume is not yet catching up. For instance, an oil-exploration company was able to collect more than 30,000 pieces of data from one single drilling rig. Most of that data, however, was wasted.

ERP and Business Intelligence integration is crucial for manufacturers

Data in manufacturing comes from many different systems. Typical examples include:

  • Shop floor system: workflow tracking, Lot / Serial Genealogy tracking data
  • Inventory management system: Work-in-progress inventory, materials, finished products
  • Asset management system: Equipment sensors data
  • Industrial control systems: data from SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition), DSC (Distributed Control systems)

Apart from data from the manufacturing side, manufacturers still have to deal with other aspects of a typical business such as marketing and sales, finance, and customer management. Therefore, they tend to have a lot more data compared to businesses in other sectors.

Because most data from the manufacturing process would flow through ERP, it is crucial that a next-generation ERP system comes with BI (Business Intelligence) and advanced analytics capabilities to make good use of such amount of data.

With advanced analytics, manufacturers will be able to identify both known and unknown problems, and discover hidden insights. From better understanding customer buying patterns to pinpointing root causes of yield drop, there is a multitude of ways manufacturers can capitalise on their data.    

You can deploy a stand-alone BI & analytics application and have it integrated with your ERP. Integration between two platforms from different vendors, however, is not always possible. And if it is, it may not facilitate real-time information sharing and processing. Thus, having a unified platform where you can analyse data, discover patterns and make decisions within your ERP system will deliver the full potential of your data.

Read more: Data Analytics for Manufacturing: the Tesla’s Case Study


The definition of Business Intelligence

BI integrates platforms and software solutions that allow users to view information related to their work in an up-to-date and timely manner. Moreover, advanced BI solutions can take care of predictions, trend analysis, and data mining depending on the needs of each specific situation.

In addition, data integration is also an important part of BI because many of the software systems (such as ERP, invoicing, payroll, inventory tracking, SCADA systems, etc.) can be integrated with BI solutions.

Read more: 9 Steps to a Successful ERP Implementation 

Data from integrated systems will be collected by BI in a storage centre, often called a data warehouse, and will play a key role in all future business plans. Another smart feature of BI is that it pre-calculates important data, sometimes drawn from different data sources in the enterprise. From there, executives can rely on this timely, accurate amount of data to make important decisions for their organisations.

What a BI function in an ERP system needs

An embedded BI and analytics function often comes with pre-built reports and role-based dashboards that automatically draw on data from your ERP system. It will help you gain instant insight into every aspect of your business like manufacturing, finance, sales, and procurement.

Recently, the priority has shifted to speeding up the decision-making process, improving access to real-time data, and leveraging transaction-based analysis.

Read more: APS - a key integration for modern manufacturing ERP

For Metcam, one of the largest metal fabricators in the Southeast with headquarters in Atlanta, GA, enterprise-wide data visibility and the ability to make more informed decisions with that data are among the major benefits the company has realised since their ERP solution went live in 2012.

Metcam chose Infor CloudSuite Industrial (Infor SyteLine) because it is an end-to-end solution, which includes powerful business intelligence features like role-based dashboards, contextual and predictive analytics, and financial and operational reporting. The solution has helped Metcam reduce their inventory by 50 per cent.

So, what are the top considerations for selecting modern ERP software with solid business intelligence capabilities?

1. Contextual information

As the amount of data in a modern ERP solution is getting so vast, users need role-based dashboards that can provide relevant content for decision-making.  

2. Drill-down capability

Users need to be able to deep dive into the background facts in order to make well-informed decisions.

3. Event triggers

A modern ERP solution should not wait for users to look for facts. When a certain condition is met, such as inventory falling below preset levels, relevant information should be pushed to the user’s screen. The information may include the optimal levels, suppliers, customer orders that will be impacted, or when the next delivery arrives. Alerts may also be sent out in the form of an email or an instant message.

4. Predictive analytics

It’s no longer enough for ERP software to tell users what is going on, aka descriptive analytics. Predictive models analyse historical trends and current data to predict possible future outcomes.

5. Automation of routine decisions

There are certain straightforward decisions that can be automated. For instance, when an account is over 90 days past due, all other future orders from that same customer can be placed on hold.

Read more: Achieving a Smoother Order-to-Delivery Process with CPQ

For more information about how a modern ERP solution can help manufacturers, please download our whitepaper.

Next Generation ERP software technologies

Topics: Business Intelligence, Analytics, Enterprise Resource Planning ERP

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