Thirty years ago nobody would have imagined that one day production workers in a manufacturing company would be able to get a holistic view of the business and manage every order from a telephone. Remote working meant making a conference call on your mobile – if you were lucky enough to have one, and an integrated system meant a mountain of paperwork manually connecting data from your ERP system to your HR software. How times have changed.
Today, ERP has evolved to become a critical part of any manufacturing business operation, providing an integrated view of core business processes in real time, empowering you to make better business decisions and deliver even greater customer service. But how did one of the most important manufacturing technologies in the world begin? What are the key events that have helped shape ERP and made it easier to use, more convenient, reliable and even more valuable to a business?
ERP dates as far back as the late 1970s and early 1980s as Materials Requirements Planning (MRP) – the planning system that first allowed businesses to translate gross requirements into net requirements for components and raw materials for manufactured or purchased parts. It grew quite slowly during this decade and actually contained a number of modules that some computers weren’t able to cope with. But those who could use it benefitted from bills of materials (BOM) information, lead time data and required lot sizes and quantities. From MRP came MRP II – also known as Manufacturing Resource Planning, which introduced greater planning and scheduling capabilities, order entry and inventory management.
It wasn’t until the 1990s that MRP II became known as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and from there it really began to accelerate. Firms began demanding more of a customer focus from their ERP systems and wanted to integrate business processes throughout every functional area of their business. Rather than focusing on automating back office functions of a business, ERP grew and developed to provide more front office solutions. Additions such as Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Supplier Relationship Management (SRM) and e-telecom and e-finance started to become familiar features of ERP. These covered the collaborative, fluid processes that ERP was previously unable to cover. As businesses identified another link within their supply chain that needed automating, so demand grew to have this covered by ERP and the traditional components of ERP grew threefold.
During the 1990s, ERP really became a fast selling business application, not just for the manufacturing firms it was designed for, but for other industry sectors too. The decade saw many smaller ERP developers and vendors enter the market but it was those previous MRP vendors and core ERP developers that continued to innovate and influence the market.
In the noughties, the methods behind hosting and accessing ERP changed quite drastically and rather than worrying about what was involved in the basic ERP package, businesses began to consider the impact of ERP on their business: whether they needed to store huge servers on site, whether there was an easier and quicker adoption route and whether it could be accessed away from the typical business environment. In the noughties, ERP offered such rich functionality that it became almost a menu of sorts. Applications were built for businesses to flexibly fit in with their existing processes, rather than coming as a rigid standalone package that required businesses to alter their processes to suit their solution, as it did back in the days of MRP.
As the advent of mobile technologies grew, so too did the methods through which people wanted to access their ERP systems. With cloud computing came cloud deployment of ERP and, suddenly, users no longer had to install lots of space-consuming hardware in order to run ERP applications, but could instead pay a hosting company to host, deploy and protect their business critical data. As flexi-time working grew in popularity, and work was increasingly taken out of office hours, so businesses needed to access their ERP systems from anywhere. and at any time, resulting in many vendors responding by launching their own ERP apps.
We recently introduced our ground-breaking Espresso mobile solution which is included in SYSPRO 7. SYSPRO Espresso is a new mobile platform which allows users of SYSPRO ERP to access their vital business data in any location at any time for device agnostic data collection and transaction processing. It is one of the first platforms of its kind to use a single source codebase to create native applications for any mobile device, with built-in powerful customisation capabilities for both the end-user and developers to engage.
At NexSys, we are fortunate to be working with an ERP application that has 35 years of experience and innovative development behind it. It has come through the age of MRP, enjoyed rapid acceleration and growth throughout the nineties and is continuing to evolve today in order to meet the ever growing needs of manufacturers and distributors all over the world.
But what’s next for ERP and where can the industry possibly go from here? The need for social ERP is growing. A more social ERP application can track real and potential connections for users and automatically connect them when collaboration is needed. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus are constantly becoming part of everyday business, taking business connections away from the office and helping to sustain longer term relationships. Social ERP can help make enterprise connections between everyone inside and outside of a business, building partnerships and collaborations throughout the supply chain.
As Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) grows in popularity, so too will the need for cloud or hybrid deployment of ERP. While there will always be a place for on premise deployment of ERP in certain circumstances, a hybrid approach allows companies to have the best of both worlds and maintain the control over ERP they require while also having the flexible and mobile access of cloud ERP.
ERP is also becoming more customisable and new features like the SYSPRO App Store are encouraging users to develop and share customised solutions with other ERP users. This is helping businesses to further tailor their own ERP applications to their own specific business needs and get the most out of their ERP investments.
ERP has come a long way over the past few decades and has significantly grown and scaled up in order to continue to meet the ever growing demands of businesses, and it shows no signs of slowing down as we look to the future. What you can be sure of is that vendors will continue to evolve their services in order to provide the very best service to ERP buyers and developers will continue to add in as many modules to ERP as is required in order to fulfil the need for a single business solution. With 35 years history behind it, wherever the future of ERP takes us, you can be sure that SYSPRO will remain at the forefront of this rapidly moving market.