Over the last half-century, robots have been relied upon as an integral part of manufacturing. Their presence offers incredible benefits, including enhanced production speed, accuracy, and tireless labor. However, they can’t do it all. As a result, robots have been increasingly prevalent in the manufacturing environment year after year. Engineered to work collaboratively alongside their human counterparts, these smaller and agiler implements on the manufacturing floor are referred to as collaborative robotics.

Breaking Down Collaborative Robotics

Rather than replacing a worker in completing a specific task, collaborative robots, more colloquially referred to as cobots, are designed to enhance a production team’s capabilities on the shop floor. With modern, plug-and-play functionality, cobots shed their larger predecessors’ bulky protective cages and lend precision, power, and agility to their teams.

a picture of a single arm robot and manufacturing employee working simultaneously as an assembly station where collaborative robotics are in use

As innovations in robotics make these tools more user-friendly and affordable, smaller manufacturing operations will benefit from their integration.

Coming in at around 3-feet in height, these lightweight additions to the manufacturing process are quickly becoming fast friends with their increasingly specialized human coworkers. This is due in large part to the shedding of misguided anxieties that robots will replace workers outright, which is quite unlikely to take place within our lifetime. In fact, it is increasingly recognized that collaborative robots elevate human workers from positions of mundane and repetitive natures to more specialized roles, valued more highly by both companies and individual workers alike.

Primary Cobot Operations

While cobots can certainly be designed for specific purposes and roles according to customer specifications, by and large, they are intended for specific types of operation within the manufacturing environment.

The most common utilization of cobots emerges in power and force limiting roles, whereby robots are in close proximity to people and must remain continually aware of the power and force that humans can withstand at all times. This means the acceptable level of energy transferred through sudden impacts and collisions with people is maintained below a maximum threshold determined by the International Standards Organization (ISO).

A picture of a manufacturing floor robot arm where collaborative robotics are in use

By and large, collaborative robotics are intended for specific types of operation within the manufacturing environment.

Sensing and monitoring technologies come into play to enable safety monitored stop operation in cobots, where nearness to humans is the primary focus. In this case, the response to a human passing the proximity threshold is for the cobot to terminate motion. The same technology is used in speed and separation monitoring, whereby the speed and proximity of a human are tracked in relation to a cobot’s position. Preventative measures are taken, namely a reduction in the speed of operation, as the worker draws closer to the cobot in operation.

The final common collaborative cobot operation resides in hand-guiding, which is reserved primarily for delicate production processes. In such operations, pressure sensing arrays enable cobots to learn from operators the proper orientation and speeds at which objects can be manipulated without causing damage.

Where Cobots Lose Sight

With such great market potential, collaborative robotics will no doubt be increasingly adopted by manufacturing operations of every size. Small and medium businesses will benefit substantially from the drop in supplier prices as the technology becomes more readily available, as well.

A picture of a worker and cobot working in manufacturing facility where collaborative robotics are in use

For cobots, working alongside often spontaneous and unpredictable human colleagues poses the greatest opportunity for incidents to transpire

While all this is true, there is still plenty of room for improvement when it comes cobots. In particular, machine vision will make substantial headway for cobots in manufacturing, where working alongside often spontaneous and unpredictable human colleagues poses the greatest opportunity for incidents to transpire. Additionally, humans may complete tasks in a  number of different ways and place the tools they use in different locations for later use. What experts see as the zenith of collaborative robotics resides in the ability for cobots to one day anticipate their human colleagues’ needs and provide the necessary tools or support to complete tasks in real time. Machine vision is seen as the primary component in making this idea a reality. Those days are still a long way off, but the developments taking place now bring the possibility nearer with each passing day.

About Encompass Solutions

Encompass Solutions is a business and software consulting firm that specializes in ERP systems, EDI, and Managed Services support for Manufacturers and Distributors. Serving small and medium-sized businesses since 2001, Encompass modernizes operations and automates processes for hundreds of customers across the globe. Whether undertaking full-scale implementation, integration, and renovation of existing systems, Encompass provides a specialized approach to every client’s needs. By identifying customer requirements and addressing them with the right solutions, we ensure our clients are equipped to match the pace of Industry.


In the wake of the recent Uber autonomous vehicle collision, Uber Technologies Inc. has decided to halt its field testing of autonomous vehicles in cities like, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Toronto, and Phoenix after one of its autonomous vehicles struck and killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona. It has been reported that the pedestrian stepped in front of the autonomous vehicle suddenly, which will likely take focus as authorities continue investigating the incident that occurred Sunday night.

What is known at this point is that the woman had crossed the street outside of a crosswalk when she was struck. At the time of Uber autonomous vehicle collision, a human safety driver supervising inside the cabin of the vehicle, who said the incident occurred “like a flash”. The supervisor also reported their first indication of the collision was the sounds of the collision itself. Some experts following the industry closely expressed significant alarm when it was revealed no braking or swerving maneuvers were enacted to avoid the collision. The incident took place around 10 pm local time, at which point the pedestrian was taken by ambulance to a local hospital. She later succumbed to her injuries. According to local authorities, Uber is cooperating fully with the Tempe Police Department during the investigation.

Uber Autonomous Vehicle Collision Industry Effects

The incident has far-reaching implications for the highly-scrutinized societal integration of autonomous vehicles, which incorporate machine vision and AI in hopes of revolutionizing the auto industry, how we travel, and how urban population centers function. Already, tens of billions of dollars and years of research have been invested in the technology by companies like Alphabet Inc., General Motors Co., and Baidu Inc.

Despite what the news would have you believe in the wake of like the one used during the Uber autonomous vehicle collision, relatively great strides have been made in the last five years regarding autonomous vehicles. This is due largely in part to a rather relaxed regulatory system surrounding the technology. The Department of Transportation removed significant hurdles in autonomous vehicle testing just last year. Many experts fear the recent event will have a significant impact on the regulatory environment of autonomous vehicles moving forward. In contrast to DoT actions, The National Transportation Safety Board has begun its own investigation into the matter and sent a small team of investigators to Tempe for a closer look, in addition to advocating for stricter policies on autonomous vehicles.

Machine Vision Is The Foundation Of Autonomous Vehicles

Despite all the attention, autonomous vehicles have enjoyed in recent years, the concept is far from new and the vision technology that powers the concept has been in development since the 60’s. SRI’s Shakey was the first mobile robot to utilize a computer vision system for navigating terrain and obstacles. The JPL robot and the Stanford Cart followed as the technology became more refined, though none could compare with the level of machine vision and AI systems utilized by autonomous vehicles today.

More modern vision systems would emerge, such as the Ralph vision system, to help automobiles navigate using sampled images that assessed road curvature and determined the positioning of a vehicle relative to a roadway’s center. Today, LIDAR, a light-based radar vision, is the system of choice. By utilizing a series of “eyes” embedded within the autonomous vehicle’s body, it functions using sensors that send out pulses of invisible light from lasers and records how long it takes to receive a signal back from the surface of an object, in this case, the light’s reflection. Camera-based methods are also utilized as autonomous vehicle vision systems. These systems help create 2D and 3D images of objects just like a human eye would. In this case, multiple cameras are positioned around the vehicle to provide a full field of vision that mimics that of a real driver. Specialized software is then used to “learn” human behavior and model the objects adjacent to and within the roadway.

A third vision approach to autonomous vehicle systems emerged in late 2017 from Israeli start-up AdaSky. The AdaSky system utilizes Far Infrared (FIR) perception that the company has coined as Viper.

The technology is not new, but AdaSky CEO Avi Katz claims they are the first to apply the technology to autonomous vehicle vision systems in hopes of avoiding incidents like the Uber autonomous vehicle collision. The system is built to complement peripheral vision systems and sensing technology like LIDAR, radar, and cameras. According to Katz, the increased capacity for classification, identification, and detection of objects enables autonomous vehicles to better understand and interact with their surroundings, making them much safer as a result.

Machine Vision Beyond The Roadway

Machine vision systems have become incredibly advanced both on the road and on the assembly line. Powerful software and components identify these objects’ surroundings and enable them to more elaborately interact with their environments. The machine vision systems in use today largely govern image-based inspection, process control, and robot guidance. While autonomous vehicles and futuristic technologies garner the lion’s share of attention from the media and the general population, Machine vision already has an incredible impact on our daily lives. Indeed, machine vision influences many aspects of our daily lives, from the parts in our cars, the appearance and packaging of our food, the quality of our medical devices, and even lab specimens all pass through some sort of machine vision system before they reach their destination.

About Encompass Solutions

Encompass Solutions is a business and software consulting firm that specializes in ERP systems, EDI, and Managed Services support for Manufacturers and Distributors. Serving small and medium-sized businesses since 2001, Encompass modernizes operations and automates processes for hundreds of customers across the globe. Whether undertaking full-scale implementation, integration, and renovation of existing systems, Encompass provides a specialized approach to every client’s needs. By identifying customer requirements and addressing them with the right solutions, we ensure our clients are equipped to match the pace of Industry.


Small and medium enterprises (SMEs), also often referred to as small and midsize businesses (SMBs), have a tremendous advantage over larger enterprises and many don’t even know it. Because of SMEs’ energy and agility, they are more able to adapt to changes in the marketplace, adopting and implementing ERP solutions and emerging technologies to give them an operational advantage over larger enterprises.

SMEs are not subject to the same bureaucratic processes that corporations and other large enterprise have adopted over the years. Winning customers over with a more modern sensibility and customer-centric approach, SMEs can perform when they need to and turn on a dime when the market demands it. With larger enterprises, the adage of a big ship takes longer to steer fits appropriately alongside industry examples. Their size makes them far more able to weather storms, but less capable of maneuvering. Therefore, SMEs should be getting on board with ERP software platforms and modern automation tools to make their jobs easier now, before their current systems are outgrown at a time when operations can’t afford to be put on hold for an implementation.

an image of disorganized wooden drawers.

The Transition To Effective ERP Solutions Only Gets More Complicated And Costly As Your Enterprise Grows.

Implementing these time and resource saving tools enable SME’s to compete at an accelerated rate. Critical as they may be, the computer systems and software needed to run a successful enterprise of any size are often overlooked components. Amalgamated systems, pieced together from a large swath of vendors, may work for a business at one time and place, but eventually, a unified system is necessary to ensure productivity and survivability as an enterprise grows in tandem with its customer base. Employing these solutions will reduce wasted labor and streamline efforts, allowing departments to work together with the same data, rather than against each other in siloed systems.

Defining Processes With ERP Systems

There will come a time when the c-suite or upper-level management will identify the need to implement an ERP system. Initially serving enterprises as a financial visibility tool, ERP systems have grown to encompass so much more. Now businesses can implement systems that grow alongside their business with modular capabilities that allow them to implement beyond the core system functionalities. A good ERP system will provide data storage and visibility, manufacturing execution, supply chain management, human capital management, and a quote to cash process that takes minutes compared to the antiquated manual approach of the sales cycle. These are just a few of the core competencies of a modern ERP, add to that mobile capability and cloud agility and workforces can utilize these powerful systems remotely or on-site from the shop floor to the boardroom to ensure their operations are running as smoothly as they can.

Cleaning Up The Clutter

SMEs are known for being a medley of paper systems and software applications that allow them to operate with a separate solution for each need. As different departments operate within their own systems, they are missing out on the benefits of sharing data with other components of the business’ operations. Synchronized communication and data visibility cut down on operational lag that results from data being strewn about. Your company’s IT department probably knows the scope of servers, databases, and operating system hindrance as a result. By implementing an effective ERP solution, your business can more appropriately connect its people, processes, and systems to ensure vital data is stowed, prepared, and available in real-time.

an image of a cleaning crew sweeping into a dust pan.

Get Rid Of The Clutter. The New Broom Of ERP Sweeps Clean.

Managing Human Processes Using Automation And ERP

Like most SMEs, the workforce is one that is always pushed to perform on a lean pool of resources. It’s not inherently a bad way of operating, but when vital people fall ill, take their vacation time, or up and leave at a crucial time, it’s likely their work can’t be taken up quickly by someone else because of poorly organized systems that make their core processes and the associated data systems available. When these processes are confined to spreadsheets, the task of making sense of it all when critical personnel are absent becomes an even larger hurdle. Getting rid of the manual calculations associated with data input and output through the business’ many systems. ERP addresses this by taking over the mundane and repetitive calculations required, effectively ending the need for relying on less robust solutions, like Excel.

Man stacking a tower of wood blocks with human silhouettes, human resources and management concept.

Human Capital Management Is Much Easier With The Tools Provided By ERP Solutions.

The Data You Need, Now

With size comes a divide in how the way upper management interacts with the workforce. As the distance between management and day-to-day operations increases, ERP bridges the gap with increased visibility. Reposting becomes the window through which management sees the company’s performance. ERP systems are especially suited to deliver quality reporting for accurate performance data today and accurate forecasting tomorrow and beyond. Beyond boilerplate standards, ERP systems can deliver custom reports based on the data points managers want to see in any given instance. Consultants and developers can assist in further enhancing customizations within ERP systems.

a photo of charts and graphs on a tablet with printed data sheets on a table.

Get The Data You Need To Refine Processes And Increase Production In Real-Time With ERP.

Outpace The Race

With the time invested in reporting brought down significantly through effective ERP solutions, the error-prone and time-consuming task of data entry and location becomes a less obtrusive task. Businesses can more easily scale at pace with industry as a result. The dependable routine that effective ERP solutions provide offers financial reporting and processes that companies can rely on as they grow. dependable systems and accurate automation through ERP systems enable expansion and additional staff to be brought on and up to speed, faster.

About Encompass Solutions

Encompass Solutions is a business and software consulting firm that specializes in ERP systems, EDI, and Managed Services support for Manufacturers and Distributors. Serving small and medium-sized businesses since 2001, Encompass modernizes operations and automates processes for hundreds of customers across the globe. Whether undertaking full-scale implementation, integration, and renovation of existing systems, Encompass provides a specialized approach to every client’s needs. By identifying customer requirements and addressing them with the right solutions, we ensure our clients are equipped to match the pace of Industry.


Epicor Support Updates

We’ve been communicating with our customers over the past few months to inform them that some pretty big changes were coming their way. The changes concerned Epicor Support Updates to the company’s customer support policy. Those changes to Epicor customer support are now in effect. If you currently employ Epicor software in the operation of your enterprise, these changes could affect your level of support. Depending on your current version of ERP, you may find support considerably less comprehensive. This is a result of Epicor support rerouting resources to newer versions of ERP.

The purpose of the change is to establish support and planning for customers per release which will translate into better planning for updates, upgrades, and new releases into the future. This new path establishes a roadmap for growth and implementation of innovative tools toward for enterprises to employ alongside the developments released by Epicor.

a graphic of the Epicor Support Updates

Epicor Customer Support Changes Are Now Live.

The results are faster and easier integration with Epicor product advancement as well as service and development commitments emerging with specialization on the latest product releases.

Under the new system, two support profiles will exist:

Active Support – any release within 2 years of general availability

  • Optimum support experience
  • latest in tech & advancements
  • ongoing software updates
  • an innovative approach to support

Sustaining Support – 2 years or more after GA (no expiration)

  • ongoing experienced support
  • tech & advancements available through upgrade
  • access to existing updates
  • Stability approach to support (planning for next active release)

You can read more about what the changes mean for you and your enterprise, here.

Encompass Can Help

If you are a current Epicor customer feel the need to supplement your support following these changes from Epicor, Encompass Solutions is here to deliver support services you need. Whether you are on track to match the stride of Epicor or set your own pace for growth, we can support your enterprise with comprehensive and managed services with a pro-active approach to customer care.

About Encompass Solutions

Encompass Solutions is a business and software consulting firm that specializes in ERP systems, EDI, and Managed Services support for Manufacturers and Distributors. Serving small and medium-sized businesses since 2001, Encompass modernizes operations and automates processes for hundreds of customers across the globe. Whether undertaking full-scale implementation, integration, and renovation of existing systems, Encompass provides a specialized approach to every client’s needs. By identifying customer requirements and addressing them with the right solutions, we ensure our clients are equipped to match the pace of Industry.


Manufacturers are implementing technological advancements to enhance automation processes every day. We call this latest wave of rapid development Industry 4.0, the fourth industrial revolution. While modernization presents numerous opportunities for growth and process enhancement, experts are increasingly aware of their need for heightened security in an increasingly insecure digital landscape. Manufacturing and other industries are taking a closer look at cloud-based ERP and unified systems to address vulnerabilities.

IIoT Network Security Threats And How To Protect Operations

Over the last 10 years, system control integrators and industrial automation thought-leaders have sought to address what they’ve identified as the chief IIoT network security concerns. Manufacturing operations in the US and abroad have suffered a significant increase in disruption due to cyber threats and the trend appears to be steadily increasing. In 2013, of 257 total cybersecurity incidents, critical manufacturing comprised 15% of all attacks. That number rose by 12% in 2015, and another 6% to 33% of all incidents in 2015.

A picture of digital devices on a table connected through a chain of paper clips.

Manufacturing And Other Industries Are Taking A Closer Look At Cloud-Based ERP And Unified Systems To Address Vulnerabilities.

The proliferation of cyber-attacks, as evidenced in Triton, WannaCry, and Petya events, have left the executive suite on edge. According to a recent global survey, conducted as part of the Kroll Annual Global Fraud & Risk Report 2017/2018, 86% of executives put cybersecurity among their top anxieties, which the report refers to as a “new normal”. Seven in 10 of those surveyed in the manufacturing sector reported such an incident, either in the form of information/data theft, fraud, loss, or attack, has taken place within their operations over the last year. The report paid particular attention to organizations’ workforces, which routinely emerge as either paramount security assets or threats. This only highlights the importance of adopting comprehensive approaches to securing resources, equipment, and operational capabilities.

Cyber Arms Race: Cybersecurity IACS/IEC 62443-4-2 Certification

Among the reported incidents over the last 12 months, virus/worm infestations and email phishing scams topped the charts, at 36% and 33% of total incidents respectively. Examples of modern cyber threats, along with how they can be avoided, have been acknowledged by system integrators and cybersecurity professionals in a recent release of training resources from WoMaster, a networking and computing solution provider. Among the topics addressed are accidental unauthenticated access, common attacks experienced by system integrators, and intentional access by hackers who utilize specific skills and tools rank among the most critical concerns. Among these tools and skills are IP Source Guard, Dynamic ARP Inspection, DHCP Snooping, Denial of Service, and Distributed Denial Of Service exploits.

a picture of a hooded individual working at a desktop PC.

The Proliferation Of Cyber-Attacks, As Evidenced In Triton, Wannacry, And Petya Events, Have Left The Executive Suite On Edge.

The series seeks to educate critical manufacturing operators on the nuances of modern cybersecurity, the importance of adopting strict cybersecurity procedures, and conforming to the standards outlined in Cybersecurity IACS/IEC 62443-4-2 Certification. Such standards-based certifications offer economically efficient means of maintaining best practices when it comes to cybersecurity along with tangible benefits to operators and peace of mind for anyone whose data is stored in targeted digital systems.

How Cloud-based ERP Systems Address Security Expenses For SMEs

Cloud-based ERP systems are being relied upon by enterprises of every size more and more as time goes on.  Cloud-based security is perhaps one of the biggest topics surrounding the efficacy of modern ERP systems.

A picture of coworkers in a boardroom around a table.

SMEs Should Take Advantage Of This Highly-Secured Environment To Allow For More Focused Efforts On Growth.

Small and medium enterprises (SMEs), which may not have had much experience with cloud-based software, are typically the most skeptical. This is not to say that security risks don’t exist in the cloud. Security risks are always present. Handling security issues for cloud-based ERP is a challenging and complex process, not to mention costly. However, Cloud ERP providers, such as Epicor and NetSuite, spend hundreds of millions of dollars erecting formidable security apparatuses and maintaining and updating these safeguards regularly. That said, large, international manufacturers tend to keep their ERP systems on premises, despite ERP providers offering high-level security for their cloud solutions. Solutions that SMEs are generally unable to implement themselves. As a result, it is advisable SMEs to take advantage of this highly-secured environment to allow for more focused efforts on growth. This way, SMEs can more readily compete in a marketplace where they are still considered the underdog.

About Encompass Solutions

Encompass Solutions is a business and software consulting firm that specializes in ERP systems, EDI, and Managed Services support for Manufacturers and Distributors. Serving small and medium-sized businesses since 2001, Encompass modernizes operations and automates processes for hundreds of customers across the globe. Whether undertaking full-scale implementation, integration, and renovation of existing systems, Encompass provides a specialized approach to every client’s needs. By identifying customer requirements and addressing them with the right solutions, we ensure our clients are equipped to match the pace of Industry.


When it comes to directing the future of a company, CEOs have to understand the necessity and difficulty in choosing the right ERP solution for their business. Not only does the solution need to fit the industry, but it must be one that a workforce can adapt readily to avoid any lull in services being delivered to customers.

a photo of a checklist being marked with a red pen.

The Implementation Journey Is An Exhaustive One And The More Preparation In Place, The Better.

The journey is an exhaustive one and the more preparation that can be put in place prior to an implementation, the more likely your success. To help avoid banging your head against the office wall in frustration, here are a few suggestions that will help ensure you make the right decision when it’s time to upgrade to a quality ERP solution.

Understand The Problem And The Process

Being an executive in-the-know certifies that your positive influence regarding an implementation reaches every level of the organization. A CEO needs to be the first one who knows what the business needs and how the ERP solution addresses those needs. These details need to be clearly articulated to the upper-management, management, and ground-level employees to make certain everyone is on the same page.

Be Involved, Own The Effort

This really can’t be stated enough, as a leader in the company’s direction a forward-thinking CEO should be on board and support the project from day-one with regular check-ups on progression. This doesn’t just ensure your workforce and additional help are on task with implementation, but that the business is in the mindset that this change is happening, it’s good for the future of the company, and everyone is committed to its success. Whether you’re entrusting the stewardship of your implementation to vendors, VARs, consultants or none of these, ownership still needs to come from the heart of the organization.

Know ERP Is A Solution, Not A Magic Wand

While ERP systems can make running an enterprise infinitely easier, these solutions are not a magic wand. ERP systems require users to put in the effort to get the benefits. Realistic expectations are essential when faced with replacing fractured systems and poor data utilization. ERP can streamline your methods and make every process, from quote to cash, a breeze. However, this is true only so long as your enterprise puts the tools to work properly.

Maintain Focus

It may seem like a no-brainer, but ERP implementations are tricky things in that they can easily sprawl into larger projects as time goes on and needs are constantly added to the list of things to address. Being clear about what must happen from day one will ensure that only mission-critical components of an implementation consume your precious time, capital, and labor resources.

Partner With Experienced ERP Professionals

Partnering with a vendor, VAR or consultant can make the difference between a successful implementation and a failure, as they’ve directly participated in several implementation projects. An ERP professional can help guide your business to greater success than if you went alone into the implementation. That’s not to say it can’t be done. However, projects that don’t incorporate at least some level of experienced consultation into the process generally end up costing far more in the long term than they save upfront.

Know Your Partners

If you do choose to bring on outside help for the implementation process, it’s important to be realistic about the timeframe and how well your solution provider understands your goals. After all, the implementation process can span several months, depending on the size of an enterprise, and your organizations will be spending a lot of time working together. An implementation is more than a transaction, it’s a business relationship.

About Encompass Solutions

Encompass Solutions is a business and software consulting firm that specializes in ERP systems, EDI, and Managed Services support for Manufacturers and Distributors. Serving small and medium-sized businesses since 2001, Encompass modernizes operations and automates processes for hundreds of customers across the globe. Whether undertaking full-scale implementation, integration, and renovation of existing systems, Encompass provides a specialized approach to every client’s needs. By identifying customer requirements and addressing them with the right solutions, we ensure our clients are equipped to match the pace of Industry.


The Chief Robotics Officer

With the industrial robot population on course to reach 1.7 million by 2020, enterprises the world over are reevaluating how they approach managing a mechanized workforce. To address modern manufacturing operations’ increasing reliance on automation and robotics, the C-suite is preparing to welcome a new designation among its ranks: Chief Robotics Officer (CRO).

A photograph of a Chief Robotics Officer commanding a humanoid robot

Tthe C-Suite Is Preparing To Welcome A New Designation Among Its Ranks: Chief Robotics Officer.

Addressing An Increasingly Automated Workforce

While the concept may be a new one, a study conducted by Myria Research, a Massachusetts-based research and advisory services business, puts projections of the emerging Chief Robotics Officer position in 60% for Fortune 500 executive teams. Beyond that, the Chief Robotics Officer Research Scenario predicts the Robotics & Intelligent Operational Systems (RIOS) technologies market to reach $1.2 trillion globally by 2025. The figure is tremendous when compared to the firm’s $63 billion market valuation in 2015. However, companies cannot afford to discount the increasing prevalence of RIOS in their own daily operations as well as those of their competitors. The projections include full hardware, software, and services segmentation in the figure, which represents a 30% CAGR to 2020 and 40% from 2020 until 2025.

A photo of a robotic arm working on a factory floor.

the Chief Robotics Officer Research Scenario predicts the Robotics & Intelligent Operational Systems (RIOS) technologies market to reach $1.2 trillion globally by 2025.

The Chief Robotics Officer remains a conceptual position for the vast majority of enterprises. However, research suggests that as the prevalence of integrated robotics and intelligent systems increases, CROs will become equally important sources of vital information that lend insight into research, development, and innovation in the sector. Their duties can be likened to that of the Chief Information Officer during the influx of computers into businesses during the 1980’s. Already there is an abundance of seminars professing the need for CRO’s is enterprises want to remain competitive. In short, a company’s CRO will be responsible for implementing the latest robotics and automation technologies while increasing efficiency and through the productivity promised by robotics and AI. A hands-on component is also likely for the role, where managing these robotic and digital workforces on the floor as well as in the cloud will pose unique challenges that only a human component can address.

How RIOS Affects The Labor Market

While it is already painfully obvious that automation, robotics, and intelligent operational systems are positioned to hamstring low-skilled labor, the specialized staff required to maintain and interact with these systems is grown at a steady rate alongside implementation. This leaves a wealth of opportunity for those individuals being transitioned out of low-skill positions to take the reigns and receive the training to assume the role of technological overseers.

a photograph of factory workers and the production process.

Factory Workers Need To Be Prepared For The Shift From Low-Skilled To Specialized. Fortunately, Many Corporations Are Supporting Them Through The Transition.

Many companies are already supporting workforces keen on being promoted from within. The most prominent example comes from Amazon, which is offering sizable grants and educational opportunities in-house for any employee willing to beef up their background in robotics, automation, and IT.

Human-Robot Interaction In The Workplace And Beyond

Thanks to the stories spun in science fiction and technological horror films, humans have developed a healthy apprehension of integrating machinery too deeply into their lives. However, the buffer may be unfeasible as the efficiencies these machines and processes provide are simply too valuable to ignore.

a photo of a Chief Robotics Officer and a robot discussing information on a computer monitor

Advances in artificial intelligence bring machines to a higher level of competency regarding cooperation and collaboration with their human counterparts

The results? A new classification of workplace interaction. Questions are already emerging about human-robot interaction in the workplace and beyond. Coworkers want to know how they’ll split the workload, if their vacation time and salary will be affected, or if there will be robots on their departmental teams with a say in how projects are carried out. It may seem a silly distinction to make at this point in time but as advances in artificial intelligence bring machines to a higher level of competency regarding cooperation and collaboration with their human counterparts, these human anxieties may become increasingly more valid.

Robot Personhood And Emerging Legal Frameworks

At a higher level, governments are interested in how commerce is positioned to be improved and how administrations will have to adopt new legal frameworks to address things like liability and taxation. The EU is already considering granting personhood to robots. While corporate personhood in the US bestows certain rights and privileges to business entities, the proposed rules placed in front of EU legislators suggested by EU legislators are seeking to address these issues of liability, safety, and changes in the labor market. A study on the notion of the robot, its implications, and the question of consciousness, authored by Nathalie Nevejans, Université d’Artois, Centre de Recherche en Droit Ethique et Procédures, can be found here. Rapporteur Mady Delvaux’s (S&D, LU) EU Commission report on liability, social impact, and request for legislation can be found here.

About Encompass Solutions

Encompass Solutions is a business and software consulting firm that specializes in ERP systems, EDI, and Managed Services support for Manufacturers and Distributors. Serving small and medium-sized businesses since 2001, Encompass modernizes operations and automates processes for hundreds of customers across the globe. Whether undertaking full-scale implementation, integration, and renovation of existing systems, Encompass provides a specialized approach to every client’s needs. By identifying customer requirements and addressing them with the right solutions, we ensure our clients are equipped to match the pace of Industry.


The common misconception about automation is that in the long term it will cost more jobs than it creates. The fact of the matter is that this is simply not true. Automation, working alongside effective ERP systems, provides workforces the freedom to become more specialized and efficient. Automation works in tandem with ERP to conserve resources and take the mundane and repetitive tasks out of the picture.

As a result, the human component of businesses can take on more logical, critical thinking-oriented tasks. This adds value to the business by strengthening the quality of care customers receive and nurtures the satisfaction employees receive when they occupy more critical and appreciated roles in their careers.

Automation And Job Creation With ERP Systems

While the technology and machinery associated with automation and ERP systems assume easy roles it the workplace, the more agile and adaptable human is still required to run and maintain them.

A photograph of a specialized factory worker at an MES interface tied to ERP systems

A Specialized Worker Ensures That The Factory’s Automation Equipment Runs At Peak Performance.

Cotton mills are a prominent example of how technology replaced human labor in the textile industry. While unskilled labor, such as cotton picking was replaced by the cotton gin, the process of refining the picked cotton still required a human touch. Loom operators found their jobs replaced with automated machinery, but those machines too needed to be run and maintained by skilled labor. A loom couldn’t craft a shirt on its own but made the process infinitely more simple and the results were less cost prohibitive for the consumer. This translated into higher demand for cotton goods and more weavers were required to address the demand.

Over the past 150 years, the labor force has thrived alongside the implementation of automation technology, rather than having been hindered by it. The article Automation Technology and Anxiety, featured in Economist, focused on the example of cotton and detailed how the textile became easier by a factor of 50 to produce following the advent of automation technology in the industry. As a result, the cost of cotton plummeted, making goods derived from the textile easier to afford. This increased consumer demand led to a demand for more skilled labor. The article states, “In America during the 19th century the amount of coarse cloth a single weaver could produce in an hour increased by a factor of 50, and the amount of labor required per yard of cloth fell by 98%. This made cloth cheaper and increased demand for it, which in turn created more jobs for weavers: their numbers quadrupled between 1830 and 1900. In other words, technology gradually changed the nature of the weaver’s job, and the skills required to do it, rather than replacing it altogether.” The main takeaway from the passage should be that while the production of coarse cotton became radically easier to produce, job growth in the sector grew by 400 percent in a 70-year period as a result.

A more modern example can be found in Amazon’s headcount statistics. While the company’s fleet of robots has doubled over the last two years, the labor force has only increased over the same period.

Automation And ERP Systems

ERP Systems functions much in the same way, working alongside automated systems in manufacturing. In terms of data management, ERP systems take over repetitive processes and assume these otherwise mundane roles associated with enterprise data to reduce waste and free labor to take on more mission-critical tasks. These streamlined processes end up saving businesses substantial costs in the long term and facilitate growth that scales alongside the pace of Industry.

an image of food and beverage manufacturing controlled by erp systems

Automation Takes The Form Of Machine And Digital Processes.

Independent Labor Sources Develop

The independent workforce is another segment of global labor that shows increasing promise in the face of automation, with highly-skilled, highly-educated, and experienced professionals increasingly being sought after by companies that have adopted automation to a high degree. Software engineering, product management, and application development professionals are among the most sought-after independents. Automation plays together with the independent workforce as companies look to supplement their automated systems with independent workers to fulfill highly-specialized roles. Factories may not need the workers they once did thanks to robots and automated assembly, but the gaps in operations, maintenance, and planning leave more than enough room for a more specialized workforce to step in.

The Pains Of Transition

While it’s true the application of automation upsets work roles and employment demographics within the industries where they are applied, the real pains are felt in the short-term transition process. Bhagwan Chowdhry, professor of finance at the University of California, Los Angeles, details what he sees as a necessary shift in paradigm between learning and working to maintain a qualified workforce as automation assumes what has been traditionally referred to as blue-collar jobs.

A photo of a CNC machine cutting metal shapes and forms where data is fed from ERP systems.

Modern Automation And Processes Require The Transition Of Workforces from Un-Skilled or Low-Skilled to Highly-skilled.

In an interview with the BBC last year, he offered his thoughts on how to address the need for more specialized labor in the face of automation, “The distinction between work and learning might need to become more amorphous. We currently have a dichotomy where those who work not learn, and those who learn do not work. We need to think about getting away from the traditional five-day working week to one where I spend 60% of my time doing my job and 40% learning on a regular basis.” In short, automation and robots, particularly collaborative robots, are increasingly filling a complementary role alongside workers, rather than one of replacement. The safest route, in terms of ensuring humans have a future in the workforce, is to scale skillsets alongside the technology that enables them the increased time to learn about most technical concepts and roles.

About Encompass Solutions

Encompass Solutions is a business and software consulting firm that specializes in ERP systems, EDI, and Managed Services support for Manufacturers and Distributors. Serving small and medium-sized businesses since 2001, Encompass modernizes operations and automates processes for hundreds of customers across the globe. Whether undertaking full-scale implementation, integration, and renovation of existing systems, Encompass provides a specialized approach to every client’s needs. By identifying customer requirements and addressing them with the right solutions, we ensure our clients are equipped to match the pace of Industry.


Epicor Integrated Service Estimator Promotion

Epicor is happy to announce the winners of the January 2018 Epicor ISE drawing—an ongoing sweepstakes promotion for automotive service providers using the Epicor Integrated Service Estimator (ISE) solution. The contest is co-sponsored by Innova Electronics Corporation. The January first-place prize winner, Dan Pennington of Express Oil Change & Tire Engineers, Tampa, Fla., will receive an Innova 5160 CarScan PRO scan tool, and second-place prize winner Christopher Price of Flagship FastLube, Pearl City, Hawaii, will receive an Innova 5100 CarScan ABS/SRS tool.

“The Epicor Integrated Service Estimator sweepstakes is a great incentive for shops to take full advantage of the ISE solution for every mechanical repair and preventive maintenance job,” said Stephen Gannon, senior director, automotive product management and product development, Epicor. “ISE can help shops of all sizes increase revenue and business efficiency by eliminating time-intensive manual and phone-based estimating and sourcing processes. Congratulations to Dan and Christopher as our latest winners of professional-grade diagnostic tools from Innova.”

Through the promotion, which continues through May 31, 2018, businesses automatically earn one free sweepstakes entry with each order generated and completed through the ISE solution. Epicor will award a professional-grade Innova scan tool to each of two Epicor ISE customers per month. Visit www.epicor.com/ISEsweeps for program rules and alternative form of entry.

Used by thousands of tire dealerships, oil-and-lube facilities, transmission service business, tune-up specialists, and general repair shops, Epicor ISE supplies users with all the necessary information to identify, price, and source any of thousands of replacement parts and accurately estimate labor for virtually any repair or maintenance service job—all without picking up the telephone.

The Epicor ISE solution is powered by the Epicor industry-leading replacement parts database, as well as popular repair and maintenance packages, an aftermarket flat-rate labor guide, OEM-recommended vehicle service intervals information, a VIN decoder, cross-reference parts database, and more. In addition, an optional, mobile “Smart Inspection” feature is designed to improve service bay productivity by allowing technicians to record the condition of key vehicle systems and components during comprehensive, guided inspections. The solution can be used in conjunction with most leading shop management systems or as a standalone business-building tool.

To learn more about the ISE solution and the sweepstakes promotion, contact your Epicor representative or visit www.epicor.com/ISEsweeps.

Posted by the Epicor Social Media Team

About Encompass Solutions

Encompass Solutions is a business and software consulting firm that specializes in ERP systems, EDI, and Managed Services support for Manufacturers and Distributors. Serving small and medium-sized businesses since 2001, Encompass modernizes operations and automates processes for hundreds of customers across the globe. Whether undertaking full-scale implementation, integration, and renovation of existing systems, Encompass provides a specialized approach to every client’s needs. By identifying customer requirements and addressing them with the right solutions, we ensure our clients are equipped to match the pace of Industry.