Why the Connected Factory Isn’t Part of the Connected Enterprise
Manufacturers are very focused on the shop floor, and rightly so. They’ve been busy buying machines, automating with robotics, deploying sensors with the goal of moving into a future where more transactions are achieved with fewer people. A high level of automation, however, requires integrating different systems – and that’s where manufacturers have a problem.
Many companies in the connected factory, connected enterprise space promise their solutions offer true connectivity, but there isn’t a standard protocol. Different companies use different protocols to talk to various machines and the operational technology/information technology, or OT/IT, gap is still very wide, explains Mr. IIoT Founder Chris Misztur.
“Before manufacturing businesses can build a digital foundation, they need to understand where the industry is going, what they want to accomplish, and the skills they need to establish a standard of digital operation,” says Misztur.
Point Solutions are Ductape and Band-aids for a Connected Enterprise
ERP and MES are powerful solutions. They provide value in their ability to automate plant floor processes, monitor machines, manage production requirements and more. When enterprise software can’t automate a very specific task such as capturing RFID data and sending it to a printer, point solutions enter the picture. Unfortunately, point solutions, often referred to as bolt-ons, complicate the OT/IT landscape.
“They do a wonderful job at what they specifically do,” says MFGx Founder Craig Scott, “but they introduce more complexity to an enterprise. So much so that many of our customers, quite frankly, were ready to abandon their ERP solutions because it was just too expensive, too complicated and it would take too long to get anything done.”
“Cloud ERP and SaaS software aren’t highly configurable,” says Scott. “Manufacturers can choose from a set of options. This limits the flexibility of the enterprise solutions. There’s less personalization and this leads to workarounds and multiple point solutions.”
The manufacturing industry doesn’t need to give up on enterprise ERP and MES software, but it does need a better solution for integration and customization. That’s why more manufacturers are choosing iPaaS, also known as Integration Platform as a Service.
What iPaaS Is and How It can Enable a Connected Enterprise
Manufacturers have plenty of software and data, but they aren’t providing any value sitting in disconnected silos. iPaaS, which is part of an applications platform, is the enterprise glue. It connects multiple enterprise cloud software solutions, as well as on-premise applications. Payroll can access machine operator data to run an analysis of overtime hours; HR can see if operators have fulfilled required training tasks, and CRM can check on inventory availability for a customer. Think of iPaaS as the great connector of business and manufacturing software where the data that is being captured can be used.
“You’re probably familiar with SaaS software, right? Software as a subscription service. You log in, it’s online, it’s available through the cloud. You go to a URL. iPaaS is like that, except it’s a platform, it’s more of a virtual space. Especially within the context of an iPaaS and a digital applications platform combined,” explains Scott.
“The users who have subscribed to the platform are using it in its entirety. And this is what enables us to keep that data moving and flowing in between all of the different moving pieces of the business.”
Fuuz comes with a fully integrated iPaaS Integration Suite that eliminates the need to buy middleware to connect the other software and devices you already have. Fuuz from MFGx is a multi-tenant, no-code, low-code, pro-code applications development platform that can be used for software, device/PLC, shipping and EDI integrations, to name a few.
iPaaS is the New Home for SaaS
Digital transformation isn’t a technology project to be finished. It’s a state of perpetual agility that’s always ready to evolve for whatever customers want next. Manufacturers can’t buy a piece of software and simply implement it anymore, they need to think more holistically and iPaaS or an applications platform is central to that view.
“Manufacturers are looking for no-code, low-code solutions to drive their organization forward. They’re going to be leaving behind and abandoning point solutions, so why learn and maintain 15 or 20 different software applications when you could do with one,” asks Scott.
Learn More about iPaaS and Fuuz
iPaaS is well known in the manufacturing industry, but it’s still an emerging solution for companies of all sizes. If you’re wondering if iPaaS is right for your organization or would like to learn more about how an applications platform enables connectivity, the remainder of this conversation will be invaluable for you. Check it out.
The experts at MFGx are passionate about solving the most complex manufacturing challenges by unlocking the promise of Industry 4.0 connectivity and helping companies in every industry, from automotive and aerospace and defense to food and beverage and distribution.
Schedule an overview demonstration or request a deep dive into our best practices solutions which can be tailored to meet your exact requirements — without a large, expensive implementation.