Welcome 2014

IQMS does not contract with third-party VARs or outside implementation consultants, but instead employs a large staff of in-house trainers, application specialists and sales team members. These IQMS “feet on the street” spend nearly every week of the year in manufacturing plants across the globe, listening and learning about developments in our industry. This constant pulse of what’s happening in the market has revealed a few common trends that we can expect in 2014. So before the shine of a new year begins to fade, let’s take a look at my predictions for the coming year:

Mobility Cements its Future on the Shop Floor and in the Field: Manufacturers are quickly realizing the benefits and flexibility that mobile applications can deliver. From using tablets to make quality inspections on the fly to checking the real-time progress of your 24/7 facility while at home on the weekend to pulling up complete customer records and history from CRM while in the field, mobility can now deliver all the information that you desire from anywhere. But with the advent of mobile access, and specifically the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) movement, security issues are on the rise. Manufacturers are going to have to establish mobile security policies in 2014 in order to safeguard proprietary data and critical company information.

Automation Isn’t Just for the Big Kids Anymore: When I say “automation,” I don’t mean just expensive robots and complete lights out manufacturing, but also small, smart innovations that are removing the element of human error, making tedious tasks easier and allowing manufacturers to do more with less. From automated warehouse picking systems to PLCs that connect directly to the machine and transmit detailed product information back to your ERP system, automation is becoming increasingly more accessible. I predict that we will see more manufacturers of every size embracing automation as a way to gather data, reduce the cost of labor and increase accuracy.

Welcome, Big Data: As a result of the advancements in automation, manufacturers will now be able to gather, collate and assemble more data than ever before from all aspects of their businesses. While an influx of big data at your fingertips can be helpful, data without interpretation is just numbers. To help make sense of the enormous new amounts of information, I predict that business intelligence tools (especially if they are part of a comprehensive ERP package) and alerts are going to be increasingly valuable in 2014 to help manufacturers make proactive, more timely and better business decisions.

Extended ERP Trumps Best of Breed: Regardless if you host your ERP and MES solution in the cloud or on-premise, one thing is clear: Manufacturers are tired of trying to interface disjointed, third-party systems in order to get the programs they need. As a result, 2014 will find manufacturers enthusiastically embracing the extended ERP system. But don’t be fooled. “Extended” does not mean a company that simply contracts (and cobbles together) a system behind the scenes for you. Extended ERP is most effective when one singular development team programs everything, from EDI and financial management to quality and MES, for an all-encompassing software solution. I predict that this year, we will see less of what we call the ERP Monster.

The Rise of Additive Manufacturing: 3D printing is currently all the rage and I predict that it will only continue to grow in popularity. This long-awaited printing boom will take hold in the manufacturing industry as better quality printers become more readily available and as the whole process becomes more affordable. From rapid prototyping to quicker design time and even possibly for short-run manufacturing jobs or service jobs, 3D printing is here to stay.

I have one more final prediction for 2014, but this one involves IQMS: 2013 was a record-breaking year for us and I expect 2014 to trend in a similar fashion. As the manufacturing market continues to strengthen, so does our grip on the ERP market.

Were there any predictions or trends that I missed? Any you would like to add?