Trends come, and many go. While business trends aren’t as fickle as fashion, there are still many that don’t pass the test of time. When margins are slim, manufacturers don’t have the luxury of chasing a trend that doesn’t provide increased profits or create a competitive advantage.

Many of the trends have to do with software and the ability of machines to streamline processes, provide data for future predictions, and handle repetitive, manual tasks so that humans are freed up for more thought-based tasks. Manufacturing ERP systems are going to be at the center of it all in 2018. Here are some of the trends we think are going to stick around.

Can’t-Fail User Interfaces

We’re not very patient anymore. When Siri or Alexa can answer any question we ask and Amazon delivers in as little as one day—a few hours in some of the bigger cities—we have begun to expect and even demand the same of our manufacturing software. Software providers are already hard at work making significant improvements to their user interfaces. Sage 100 2018 is making waves with its new modern look that is more than just a pretty face: It makes information and tasks more accessible, too. Expect to see the same in other manufacturing ERPs releasing updates in 2018. Those that don’t risk being left behind.

Robots for Dangerous, Precise and Repetitive Tasks

Robotics is a hot topic everywhere, from the manufacturing floor to the home. In 2017, 46 percent of surveyed Americans said they use digital voice assistants such as Google Home or Amazon Echo, with 56.3 million more smart speakers predicted to ship in 2018. In manufacturing, machines have long been a part of the assembly line, handling dangerous, precise, and repetitive tasks for quality assurance or to protect the safety of human workers.

But, robotics are not poised to take jobs from humans. Rather, the manual tasks they perform will continue to free up production and engineering teams for the more cognitive tasks. As the more manual labor is allotted to machines, employees will be able to make greater contributions with insight and valuable thought leadership.

Data Analytics

Aside from performing manual, repetitive tasks, machines boast the added capability of creating, storing, and analyzing the data around everything they do. But just having data doesn’t do you any good. You need people who can make heads or tails of it. Traditional metrics are also transforming with new and unprecedented access to real-time monitoring and predictive analytics from your machines and your ERP software. The ability to interpret and plan, based on the data your machines and software are collecting, positions your business to nimbly react to every change, from the minute of a material shipment delay to the need to reroute entire shipments due to natural disasters.

Analysts and data engineers are going to be in high demand in 2018—and it may even become more difficult to find one when you need one. Start looking now to fill your team with those who can interpret the reams of operational data your machines and software are capable of producing and arranging.

ERP is Here to Stay

Manufacturing ERP systems are going to continue to play a big role in the future of the manufacturing world in 2018 and beyond. From the ability to choose between on-premises or cloud-based services—or a combination of the two! —your manufacturing software is a critical part of your future success. The ability to combine your ERP data with your manufacturing intelligence (MI) has the capability to revolutionize how your company works and drives its revenue growth, from real-time Overall Equipment Effectiveness to increased production capacity and lowered material consumption rates to process optimization.

If you would like to implement some of these manufacturing trends, ASI can be your partner, from offering advice to a full-system implementation. Contact us today!