We are entering the age of Industry 4.0, thanks to the rise of the industrial Internet of Things and the maturity of today’s social, mobile, analytics and cloud (SMAC) technology. This age of digital change offers African manufacturers opportunities to grow revenues and profits by becoming more competitive, agile and efficient, writes Keith Fenner, vice-president: Sage Enterprise Africa & Middle East.
Industry 4.0 is enabled by technology advances such as cloud computing power on tap, the falling prices of sensors and connected devices, and smarter artificial intelligence. It is also built on the next-generation of business management solutions, which offers a more flexible and modular alternative to the rigid, monolithic enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems of the past.
On the other side, many organisations have not yet invested in a Business Management Solution (BMS) that is fit for a world of rapid change, big data and collaborative supply chains.
Here are a few questions you can ask to determine whether your current or proposed enterprise applications suite is ready for Industry 4.0 and the world of SMAC:
• Can you scale to cater for big data from thousands, or even millions of devices and sensors? One of the most important qualities of a good business solution for the digital era is the ability to manage a deluge of real-time and near real-time information. You’ll need to be able to leverage data from millions of devices and users on the Internet to drive better decision-making. You can use this data to understand consumer behaviour, perform financial investigations, carry out predictive maintenance or drive sales optimisation.
• Does your business solution cater for the needs of a mobile workforce? In an Industry 4.0 world, people across the supply chain (including partners and customers) need access to easy to use solution that is accessible everywhere and built for collaboration. Your software needs to be ready for a workforce reared on mobile apps and social media platforms. It must be attractive and intuitive; it must also provide information, services and apps to employees, customers, and other stakeholders wherever they are.
• Is your software modular and flexible? The world is changing at a rapid pace, with the introduction of the Internet of Things, smarter robotics, machine learning and other disruptive technologies in the manufacturing world. To keep up, you need a stable and solid yet adaptable business management solution that can accommodate new technology trends as well as new business models. Does your solution make it easy to introduce new supply chain partnerships? Does it make it relatively simple to add new technologies to your environment?
• Accelerating into the next generation – To take advantage of Industry 4.0, manufacturers that currently have legacy systems in place need to accelerate implementation of modern IT applications. Solutions such as Sage’s Enterprise Cloud to enable them to do so.
Enterprise Cloud is an open and modular cloud solution for companies who want to move away from maintaining their own data centres. It fast-tracks the deployment of a solid, integrated enterprise backbone based on the Sage X3 platform and gives you the freedom to plug in modules for extra functionality later – as and when you need them. There are no hidden costs because it is priced per user per month and includes upgrades and maintenance.
Sage X3 is designed to deliver faster, simpler and flexible business management solutions, without the complexity that typically comes with old-fashioned ERP systems. In a time of where disruptive technology is expected as well as digital invention, our smart people use the smartest technology to reinvent and simplify business processes. We enable our customers to focus on their business and help them to leapfrog to the future.
Richard Hurst, director: enterprise research at Africa Analysis, says: “The concept of Industry 4.0 offers African enterprises an opportunity to gain a competitive edge in their own local markets and the ability to compete on a global footing. Already we are seeing the impact of services such as mobile and cloud on African businesses as these technologies have become integrated in almost every facet of business from supplier through to customers.”
An important element to consider is that ultimately all enterprises will be touched by digitalisation in some form. In some instances, this will fundamentally transform the businesses, such as photography and image capturing, in others, such as mining and resource extraction it will serve to enhance and improve the delivery of the end product.