Long-term viable ERP systems need a service-oriented architecture (SOA). According to experts it must be flexible, accessible and intuitive.
"When selecting an ERP system, it’s understandable that companies have high demands since the investment needs to pay off," says Frank Termer, software expert at Bitkom, Germany’s digital association. On the one hand, the system needs to be tailored to specific business processes, and on the other it should be flexible and process-oriented, and also be able to respond to any changes the company may undergo in the future.
These customer specifications and needs can be met by individually configuring ERP systems that are based on service-oriented architecture (SOA). A major advantage here is the modular configuration. The individual services form independent subsystems and every service fulfills a specific purpose. This allows any number of services to be added or removed from the SOA. In principle, any service can be a part of the SOA. The advantage here is that individual services can be used again if needed and redundancies avoided.
SOA gives manufacturers of ERP systems instruments that allow them to be scalable, adapt more flexibly and be expanded at will – no matter where the company is located or what industry they are in. "When customers invest in an ERP system with SOA, they pay for software that is customized to their specific, individual needs," says Frank Termer. When the company and its structure grow, the system grows along with it. "This leads to significant savings, so that from a customer point of view the purchase always pays off," says the Bitkom expert.
Another keyword in the current ERP scene is mobility. "There are employees who only use mobile devices occasionally at work – to carry out simple tasks while waiting, for example," explains Annett Obermeyer, Marketing Manager at IFS, a business software specialist in Erlangen. "And then there are users who have to be mobile because their jobs require it, such as service technicians and warehouse personnel. A third group consists of the power users, who want to switch back and forth between all imaginable devices as a matter of course depending on the situation," says Obermeyer.
This is why IFS sees a need for different mobile applications – from the simplest business apps to special solutions for service and warehouse employees, and applications that are available without restrictions for all end devices. In order to cover as many mobile devices as possible – including employees’ private devices if necessary – these applications need to be able to run on all the popular mobile platforms such as Android, iOS and Windows.
ERP developers place great value on "user experience". Their objective is to make sure that the processes run as simply and intuitively as the apps that users run on their private devices do. "When it comes to mobility and user-friendliness our approach is practical and holistic," explains Annett Obermeyer. IFS’s latest business software Applications 9 has been developed from the bottom up for mobile applications; it emphasizes simple operation and supports all the major operating systems with native smartphone apps.
IFS can be found at CeBIT 2016 with its latest version IFS Applications 9. At the company’s stand in Hall 5 visitors can see for themselves how individual configuration possibilities enable the software to adapt to the needs of users to greatly improve their business’ agility.
"Nowadays, users are used to receiving real-time notifications from their private apps, services and social media platforms regarding important world events or happenings in their private life," says IFS. The best way to transfer real-time messaging to the working world is business software like IFS Streams™. It sends automatic notifications on smartphones, tablets or smart watches using a special messaging system to inform users immediately if there are any important changes or if they need to do something urgently.
"Our most important requirement is flexibility," says Michael Rundshagen, Head of IT at Greif-Velox, a bottling plant constructor in Lübeck. All plants are constructed individually according to customer request. "Our average bill of material per plant is 180 to 200 – most ERP systems can’t handle it," says Rundshagen. According to the IT manager, the PSIpenta system employed by Greif-Velox can do the job. "It controls all aspects of assembly from scheduling, work plans, bill of material explosion, capacity, etc."
At Greif-Velox, PSIpenta needs to work closely with two systems in particular: The 3D CAD program SOLIDWORKS from Solidpro helps construct subassemblies and modules. The product data and document management system PRO.FILE from PSI partners PROCAD manages drawings and bills of materials, thereby connecting CAD and ERP. All systems are seamlessly integrated – another essential factor for modern ERP systems. Changes on the part of construction or in materials are automatically adopted in PSIpenta and vice versa. If the customer requests another part to be included, the user only needs to change it in the corresponding bill of materials in PSIpenta; it is synchronized automatically in PRO FILE and Solidworks.
Efficient project management is indispensible. This is where the latest version of PSIprofessional comes into operation. It schedules and monitors capacity and time needed and ensures realistic prognoses and adherence to delivery dates.