For over two decades Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems have been the backbone of the digital infrastructures of modern industrial enterprises. Over the years, ERP systems have evolved in terms of functionality, versatility, and scalability, without however major changes in the nature of their operation. Nevertheless, during the last couple of years, we are witnessing a new shift of conventional ERP systems towards intelligent ERP (iERP) systems. This shift is characterized by the enhancement of ERPs with novel forms of data-driven intelligence. The latter is powered by unprecedented technology acceleration in areas like cloud computing, big data, machine learning, and the internet of things.
Traditionally, the role of ERPs is to provide integrated access to information about all the different business processes of an organization regardless of department or business unit. ERPs streamline and manage processes from all the business functions of an organization, including manufacturing and production, finance and accounting, sales and marketing, and human resources. This streamlining helps industrial enterprises to make their processes more automated and more consistent. At the same time, it facilitates the business management to make more educated decisions based on consolidated up-to-date reports. Nevertheless, ERP systems do not typically provide business insights and are not effective in extracting knowledge from the vast amounts of enterprise data that are increasingly produced and becoming available. Emerging iERP infrastructures aim at filling in this gap in ways that push the agility and intelligence of modern enterprises to new levels.
The concepts of business analytics and data-driven intelligence are not new. However, for many years business enterprises had no effective ways to take advantage of them and thus were not considering them as part of their ERP implementations. More recently, the wave of iERP deployments is motivated by the following factors:
From an implementation perspective, iERP systems leverage multiple cutting-edge digital technologies. Each of these technologies exhibits intelligence features, yet additional intelligence is produced based on their effective integration Specifically, iERP systems are based on the following digital pillars:
Overall, iERP enables novel forms of enterprise modeling and accelerates the process of transforming industrial enterprises to intelligent digital businesses. Leveraging advanced digital enablers like cloud computing, IoT, and machine learning, iERPs deliver much more than conventional reporting and deterministic data analytics. They provide unique insights on business processes, based on the discovery and presentation of hidden patterns of industrial knowledge. Likewise, they boost the automation and responsiveness of enterprise processes, through real-time data collection and analytics. Hence, iERP enables industrial enterprises to implement novel on-demand, data-intensive business models (e.g., data as a service and asset as a service), to build hyper-efficient industrial plants, and to improve the quality and competitiveness of their products. Overall, iERP provides a blueprint for a wave of new enterprise software solution that helps enterprises excel in the era of the fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0).
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