This marriage has been a long time in coming, but finally we’re here.
Enterprise resource planning has always been about managing a large set of variables and using the data for better forecasting, resource allocation and efficiencies. The problem with ERP has been complexity and fully utilizing the data, however. But now we have artificial intelligence, or the first budding of the technology at least.
AI addresses two of the biggest challenges present with ERP: collecting data and making use of it.
“Companies should consider using AI anywhere they find themselves drowning in data with too many variables to understand using traditional tools,” says Erik Johnson, chief software architect for ERP developer, Epicor.
ERP vendors are still working AI into their systems, and nobody expects the marriage of AI and ERP to reach its full potential right away. But business already can start making use of AI, whether utilizing the AI features currently built into their ERP systems or connecting standalone AI solutions to their ERP of choice.
Here are five places to start.
1. Efficient Data Entry
One way that AI can be used for improved ERP performance today is through better data entry. Manually-intensive data entry can be replaced by cognitive services such as vision and speech that automate or improve upon the process of getting data into the ERP system.
Businesses can exploit of advances in facial recognition to use their CCD vision system for inventory purposes as well, for instance. Where CCD vision systems used to just monitor manufacturing quality, they now can also record inventory transactions by a user holding up a box of parts to a camera; with AI, the camera can recognize the parts and also the employee.
With speech and intelligent personal assistants such as Microsoft Cortana, Amazon Echo and Apple Siri, businesses also can leverage AI for verbal data input from employees. Line employees or others who work with their hands can enter quality information, maintenance notes and other data as they work by taking advantage of speech recognition technology now on the market.
2. Improved Data Access
ERP doesn’t have the best reputation for user interface and ease of use. AI can help.
One way that businesses are marrying AI with their ERP system is through a change in data access from navigation to searching for answers. You can call this the Googling of ERP systems. This, coupled with context-aware notifications, can make ERP data more widely useful and available to employees with a wide range of needs and responsibilities.
“These approaches make it easier for users to instantly tell the ERP system what exactly is in context—is it a customer, an order, a troublesome manufactured part, an international supplier,” says Johnson at Epicor. “Once the context is established, the analytics features kick-in to bring what’s likely relevant to the user’s fingertips.”
Self-service analytics and user experience are getting a lot of investment right now from vendors and businesses so employees can get more from ERP systems without a reliance on the IT department.
3. Guided Information Retrieval
Along similar lines, AI can be used today as a tool for guiding users through ERP data and suggesting uses for the data in the system.
Big data helps the enterprise make sense of vast data streams, but there’s still the issue of knowing what is useful and how to use data. AI can play a significant role in finding new ways to bring together data in ERP systems, and offering new insights from this data that employees and executives might not have considered.
There probably always will be a role for human creativity in pulling together data, but AI can help draw connections among various data sets available in a company’s ERP system.
4. Better Modeling and Forecasting
It is no secret that businesses must adjust faster than in the past. A fourth way that AI can improve ERP is by assisting with modeling and forecasting.
Instead of an annual planning process, businesses can use AI for faster aggregation and analysis of changing conditions for ongoing adjustments and more complex forecasting. AI can tackle complex industry and environmental variables in highly competitive markets where changes happen frequently, far beyond what was previously possible. This can be a game-changer for business agility when AI is properly tied with ERP data.
5. More Accurate Auditing
“Auditing has worked traditionally by statistical sampling, but the sample size and the breadth of scenarios studied in the audit process is limited by the ability of humans to collect data, understand its accuracy, and make defensible conclusions,” notes Johnson.
Modern analytics and big data have only increased the data volume and scope of audits, making the process even more complex.
AI offers a way out, according to Johnson. By coupling analytics and big data with AI, businesses can greatly improve the accuracy of their audits by using machine learning to help recognize patterns and interpret the data.
“AI allows for greatly improved accuracy,” he says.
There’s a reason that AI is grabbing headlines right now. The technology has not yet reached the point of an Isaac Asimov novel, but we’ve passed the point of proof of concept and have now moved into actual production use. That’s a good thing for ERP—and the companies that use them.
About the Author
Peter Kowalke is journalist and editor who has been covering business, technology and lifestyle trends for more than 20 years. When not writing, he runs Kowalke Relationship Coaching.
Source: SANS ISC SecNewsFeed @ February 22, 2017 at 06:12PM