Industrial automation is a topic of conversation that manufacturers all over the globe are discussing on the shop floors of production facilities and in board rooms. Industrial automation is no longer an optional component of manufacturing industries. In order to remain competitive, industrial automation must be considered to maintain a level of competitiveness in modern manufacturing scenarios.

What Is Industrial Automation?

As far as an Industrial automation definition is concerned, the concept can be defined as completing an operation or procedure without human assistance by utilizing control systems, such as computers or robots, and information technologies, like ERP platforms and EDI, for handling different processes and machinery.

Types of Industrial Automation

There are several types of industrial automation in use today. They can be broken down into four main categories:

  1. Fixed (Hard) Automation

  2. Programmable Automation

  3. Flexible (Soft) Automation

  4. Totally Integrated Automation (TIA)

These types of automation are leveraged in different scenarios, some data-driven and some production-driven. We’ll go into that a little later.

For now, it’s important to understand that industrial automation technologies and concepts can be applied most readily to data collection, data processing, and predictable physical work, such as welding, soldering, painting, food prep, packaging, and materials handling.

Fixed (Hard) Automation

Fixed automation refers to the use of special purpose equipment to automate a fixed sequence of processing or assembly operations.

an image of fixed (hard) automation in industrial automation

In this example, the application is usually simple and will involve a process or assembly that is dictated by programmed commands. It is relatively difficult to accommodate changes in the product design in a fixed automation process, which is set up with one purpose or process per application in mind.

Fixed (Hard) Automation Examples include:

  • Mechanized assembly
  • Machining transfer lines
  • Automated material handling

Fixed (Hard) Automation Advantages:

  • High production rates
  • Low unit cost

Fixed (Hard) Automation Disadvantages:

  • Relatively inflexible in accommodating product variety
  • High initial investment for custom-engineered equipment
  • High vulnerability to failure
  • Obsolescence

Programmable Automation

In programmable automation, the production equipment is designed with the capability to change the sequence of operations to accommodate different product configurations.

an image of programmable automation in industrial automation

Programmable automation is used most often when manufacturing products in batches. It allows for customization and frequent changes throughout the manufacturing process.

In this case, the operation is controlled by a program of instructions that are read and interpreted by the system. New programs can be prepared and entered into the hardware to produce new products at any time.

Programmable Automation Examples include:

  • Computer Numerical controlled (CNC) machine tools
  • Industrial robots
  • Programmable logic controllers (PLC)

Programmable Automation Advantages:

  • Flexible and able to deal with design variations
  • Suitable for batch production

Programmable Automation Disadvantages:

  • High investment in general purpose equipment
  • Lower production rate than fixed automation

Flexible (Soft) Automation

With flexible automation, several machine tools are linked together by a material-handling system, and all components of the system are controlled by a central computer. This configuration offers rapid and smooth changes to products and processes.

an example of soft (flexible) automation

Utilizing multiple tools that are linked by a material handling system, like this rotary indexer, a flexible approach to automation is capable of producing a variety of parts with virtually no time lost for changes in the configuration. The same is true when reprogramming the system or altering the physical set up.

Flexible (Soft) Automation Examples Include:

Robot arms that can be programmed to assume multiple tasks, such as insert screws, drill holes, sand, weld, insert rivets, and spray paint objects on an assembly line.

Flexible (Soft) Automation Advantages:

  • Continuous production of variable mixtures of products
  • Flexible to deal with product design variation
  • Offers Medium production rate

Flexible (Soft) Automation Disadvantages:

  • Requires High amount of investment
  • High unit cost relative to fixed automation

Totally-Integrated Automation (TIA)

More of a philosophy pioneered by Siemens Automation and Drives than a tangible system, TIA includes several core concepts:

  • A common software environment
  • A common data management system
  • A common communication method

 TIA implementation is ideal for many industries, including:

  • Automotive
  • General machine construction
  • Special-purpose machine manufacturing
  • Standard mechanical equipment manufacturer, OEMs
  • Plastics processing
  • The packaging industry
  • Food, beverages and tobacco industries

Totally-Integrated Automation (TIA) Defining Characteristics:

  • Facilitates shorter time-to-market
  • Higher productivity
  • Lower life-cycle costs
  • Reduced complexity
  • Greater security of investment

Industrial Automation With ERP And EDI

In the past, ERP software has served, in large part, to automate traditional business functions and record-keeping activities. Today, IIoT technologies extend those automation capabilities to the production floor. Taking into account the vast amounts of data production processes, robotics, and edge devices provide to centralized ERP systems, maintenance schedules, demand planning, and reporting can all be completed without the need for human intervention. By setting conditions and responses within the ERP system, users can monitor facility operations to expend energy or resources only when conditions warrant. The results are a more connected, streamlined business from the shop floor to the top floor with less waste at every level.

EDI further optimizes operations by eliminating manual communications between trading partners that used to take the form of faxes, phone calls, and emails. Electronic Data Interchange is an ERP agnostic technology that communicates critical order and shipping details instantaneously between digital devices. Standardized document formats, ensure that your logistics are in sync. Data exchanged through EDI is kept secure end-to-end and remains easy to interpret for both active orders and historical records.

About Encompass Solutions

Encompass Solutions, Inc. is an ERP consulting firm and Epicor Gold Partner that offers professional services in business consulting, project management, and software implementation. Whether undertaking full-scale implementation, integration, and renovation of existing systems or addressing the emerging challenges in corporate and operational growth, Encompass provides a specialized approach to every client’s needs. As experts in identifying customer requirements and addressing them with the right solutions, we ensure our clients are equipped to match the pace of Industry.


Traditionally, the procurement process requires a great deal of manual effort as businesses commit resources to find and acquire goods, services, or work from external sources. These agreements require further attention as contracts need to be drawn, terms agreed to, and those agreements managed throughout the life of the manufacturer/supplier relationship. This often extends far beyond one source to incorporate many external suppliers who can fulfill needs when another supplier cannot or for materials of varying quality and composition. The process is one that has been most often achieved through a tendering or competitive bidding process. Fortunately, modern procurement automation solutions have enabled manufacturers to hand off many of their manual tasks to self-guided systems. The resulting procurement process improvement frees valuable internal resources for business-critical decision-making and strategizing efforts. Our partners at SourceDay have developed these industry-leading procurement automation solutions for use in an array of manufacturing and supply chain scenarios.

an image of the sourceday procurement automation solutions on a laptop

SourceDay Procurement Automation Solutions

SourceDay Procurement Automation Solutions For Buyers And Suppliers

For suppliers, Managing customers’ needs can be a daunting task. SourceDay allows you to handle it all in one convenient place. Purchase order management and buyer/supplier collaboration solutions work together to eliminate headaches that come with managing an extensive list of customers. What’s even more attractive is the fact that SourceDay’s procurement automation solutions are free for suppliers.

For buyers, maintaining an effective and intuitive collaboration process with suppliers brings many challenges. when parts are being ordered in vast quantities the sheer volume of parts being ordered and so much relying on those parts arriving perfectly, supplier relationships are critical. A delay, an error, poor quality materials or miscommunication can have detrimental implications with ripple effects that impact the end customer.

ERP systems, like Infor, SAP, NetSuite and Epicor, help companies manage their businesses from financial operations to inventory management, production and customer fulfillment. As good as ERP systems are, they all have feature gaps in functionality. Today’s ERP systems lack effective tools for managing purchase orders and suppliers. Once the ERP establishes requirements and the POs are generated, most buyers leave their ERP systems and rely on static, manual spreadsheets, emails, phone calls and faxes to handle the rest. This equates to data in the ERP system being out of sync and creates aggravation, mistakes while making it impossible for manufacturing and distribution companies to schedule production runs and forecast deliveries to their customers.

SourceDay ERP Integrations

SourceDay has developed seamless integrations alongside the most widely used ERP systems. This extends manufacturers investments in technology, amplifies the power in controlling internal and external processes, as well as boosts the functionality of existing ERP systems. By digitizing and automating supplier purchase order updates into existing ERP systems, customers receive a complete data transfer that eliminates errors and wasted time that results from manual-entry tasks, all while maintaining up-to-date data in your ERP system. Implementing SourceDay, further increases the return on existing ERP system investments.

SourceDay is able to integrate into nearly any ERP:

  • Epicor
  • Epicor Eclipse
  • Epicor Prophet 21
  • SAP
  • NetSuite
  • ECI M1
  • Exact Macola
  • Infor
  • Infor CloudSuite Industrial
  • Infor-SyteLine
  • Infor Visual
  • Microsoft Dynamics AX
  • Microsoft Dynamics NAV
  • Plex
  • QAD
  • Shoptech E2

If you don’t see your current ERP system in the list below, you can reach out using the contact us link below to confirm that your system is eligible for SourceDay ERP Integration.

Mobile SourceDay Procurement Automation Solutions

SourceDay is the only procurement management software specifically made to solve the most common challenges manufacturing and distribution companies face in managing their direct spend. Now, with the SourceDay Mobile, procurement leaders and their teams have the ability to manage procurement from anywhere at any time from their smartphones. Users will have quicker access to view, acknowledge and communicate on procurement data, where the data is being consumed, for endless collaboration. No other solution brings greater execution and visibility into the procurement and PO lifecycle while reducing risk, costs, and delays.

The benefits of mobility are felt several times over with SourceDay procurement automation solutions, including:

  • Manufacturing and distribution business flexibility that delivers agility in decision-making processes anywhere, regardless of location, country or time zones
  • Stronger and more easily managed buyer/supplier partnerships with collaboration tools that can be leveraged anytime, anywhere
  • More efficient and proactive customer support to drive supply chain performance
  • Real-time notifications delivered to your mobile devices provide the framework for immediate action and quick decision-making

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.


Traditionally, the procurement process requires a great deal of manual effort as businesses commit resources to find and acquire goods, services, or work from external sources. These agreements require further attention as contracts need to be drawn, terms agreed to, and those agreements managed throughout the life of the manufacturer/supplier relationship. This often extends far beyond one source to incorporate many external suppliers who can fulfill needs when another supplier cannot or for materials of varying quality and composition. The process is one that has been most often achieved through a tendering or competitive bidding process. Fortunately, modern tools have enabled manufacturers to hand off many of these manual tasks to procurement automation solutions. The resulting procurement process improvement frees valuable internal resources for business-critical decision-making and strategizing efforts. Here are our top 10 procurement automation use cases to help start automating the procurement process in your organization.

1. Direct Procurement Tasks: Minimizing The Manual

Spreadsheets, faxes, and emails have long been staples of direct procurement processes. unfortunately, the variability of the results can lead to an unreliable supply chain. There is simply too much opportunity for data entry errors, lost communications, and missed deadlines. This poor visibility in your supply chain and the procurement process can prove to be a significant hurdle to overcome and even potentially cause a halt in manufacturing and machinery. Production stoppages can cost millions in labor, expedited shipping costs, and poor customer satisfaction. By minimizing the manual entry of data and other associated tasks, procurement automation improves your business performance from the inside out.

2. Procurement Automation Elevates Supplier Performance

The benefits of working with a quality supplier cannot be overstated. suppliers are often overlooked as a critical business component as they can impact the functions of your entire organization. Unfortunately,  the manual nature of most procurement management makes it difficult to stay on top of past-due or poor-quality materials.

By operating with outdated and disparate tools, there is no visibility into supplier on-time performance and responsiveness to PO acknowledgments and confirmations. Communication between buyers, suppliers, and stakeholders turns into a moving target when what you really need is a predictable performer. Automation tools built specifically for the procurement process bring clear and reliable communication channels to the forefront while helping to reduce errors, missed deadlines, and unhappy customers.

3. Supplier Accountability Improves

Procurement automation solutions hold historical data for you to use when evaluating which suppliers are keeping in line with the standards you have set for your relationship. Scorecards keep track of what matters most, including:

  • Supplier price variance
  • On-time delivery
  • Quality
  • Responsiveness

These scorecards ensure that ISO-certified companies maintain adherence to an in-depth supplier scoring system in order to remain ISO compliant. If your suppliers are delivering below your expectations, you can see a complete history of events leading to a downgrading of their rating. This makes having conversations about delivery easy, thanks to concrete historical data you can access from anywhere.

4. Procurement Automation Improves Collaboration

The simplicity and clarity of purpose-built procurement automation tools represent a monumental shift in supplier performance and supply chain efficiency. These systems are designed to integrate seamlessly with your ERP system. They deliver the ability to see and react to changes in real-time from a single source of data. By automating your needs, from manual buying processes to performance analytics, business becomes streamlined at every level. You’ll find tremendous benefit through procurement automation in:

  • Collaboration – Increase collaboration between the buyer and supplier.
  • Visibility – Update data automatically in the ERP and view the information in real-time.
  • Performance – Enhance performance with more accurate information and consistent communication and alerts.
  • Transformation – Improve productivity and supplier performance with better internal resource allocation and more accurate data.

5. Purchase Order Systems Become Streamlined

Automated purchase order management systems extend the power of your ERP. This provides you with the ability to more effectively manage direct spend and buyer-supplier relationships. when purchase orders are created these systems expedite purchase order acknowledgments, track due dates, status changes, and alert your suppliers to important PO changes. All purchase order details and buyer/supplier communications can be tracked directly with each purchase order. Just like with EDI, updates are sent in real-time and immediately sync to your ERP.

6. Better Document Management

As operations expand, more trading partners and suppliers are brought into the fold. Communications, contracts, purchase orders, invoices, and a host of other documents are being routed back and forth between internal and external resources every day. Procurement automation tools will make sharing and managing all types of documents with your suppliers a hassle-free endeavor. By ensuring your suppliers automatically receive the latest revisions of manuals, prints, bill-of-materials, and specifications, they are better able to meet your needs and deliver on their obligations. Uploading your documents into these procurement automation tools will share the latest version of existing documents with your supplier automatically. NEw documents being uploaded need an initial permissions and routing protocol set up, but it’s on autopilot after that, in most cases. You can even require a supplier confirms receipt of your document and easily send reminders to suppliers who are slow to accept, further aiding in accountability and supplier performance.

7. Advance Shipment Notifications, Simplified

Completing detailed Advance Shipment Notification (ASN) documents, saving them to a given platform, and automatically sending them to buyers prior to shipment is made easy with procurement automation. The tools help buyers and receiving departments improve performance as it pertains to incoming supplier shipments with standardized barcodes and shipping labels. A quick scan of a barcode and receivers instantly know the contents of any box.

8. Superior Quality Control

Procurement automation tools track the incoming inspection of materials, placing parts in a quality queue and flagging them for review in order to simplify your quality control processes. If the item(s) fails inspection, the reviewer inputs the reasons into the tool and collaborates with the supplier to disposition the material.

9. Easy Request For Quote (RFQ) Management

Spreadsheets only slow things down when you want RFQ’s in a timely manner and intuitive layout. With procurement automation, you can send a request for quote to your suppliers to track every step of the way, automatically. A comprehensive view of every supplier on your list will allow you to make an informed decision without having to jump between multiple sheets. Tracking responses that align with best pricing and scorecard rating make it easy to compare offers and choose the suppliers who best fit your requirements.

10. Mobile Utilization Of Procurement Automation

Mobility is key for any modern organization. If you can’t make decisions on the move, you are essentially desk-bound. That means, if you’re not in the office, chances are you’re not taking action. Today, procurement automation solutions place simple and intuitive smartphone apps in your hands. These native-developed applications assist in managing procurement and purchase orders from anywhere, at any time. Leveraging quicker access to view, acknowledge, and communicate on procurement data where the data is being consumed allows you to make smarter business decisions, faster.

Want to know more about procurement automation? Get in touch with the experts at Encompass Solutions using the contact us link below. We’ll help you identify the ideal procurement automation solution for your business’ unique needs.

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 era of Industry 4.0, automation has been one of the most effective apparatuses driving efficiency for manufacturers. Leveraging automation in manufacturing and advanced technologies, like robotics and ERP solutions, are enabling even greater gains in productivity to be made each day. In this article, we focus on the physical components of automation present on the factory floor.

Modern Manufacturing

Since the industrial revolution,manufacturing has been a notoriously dirty, dull, and dangerous business. However, with each new leap in advancement, the associated processes become more refined, the work becomes less dangerous, and the competition drives improvements in quality. At a high level, modern manufacturing’s goals can be summarized as:

  • Attempt to achieve sustained growth and earnings through building customer loyalty
  • Create high-value products
  • Weather disruption in very dynamic global markets

These are not listed in order of importance, nor are they easy business components to juggle all at once. This is where automation can deliver significant ROI. By offloading repetitive and manual tasks to automation, skilled employees can dedicate more time to higher-value and revenue-generating operations. Imagine making fewer mistakes, adding value to customer relationships, and innovating at every opportunity. Automation is making that a reality for businesses every day.

In some cases, automation takes the form of physical robots and machinery on production floors. In others, “robots” is a term that can assigned to the software processes that can complete data entry and conditional logic in administrative and business management software. The two work together in tandem to make the physical parts of managing a manufacturing business safer, more productive, and more valuable to customers.

Industry 1.0 to Industry 4.0

To talk about automation and modern manufacturing. It’s important to understand how the concepts and practical applications of automation have evolved over time.

Industry 1.0 introduced mechanization. Also known as the first industrial revolution, Industry 1.0 consisted of water-, steam-, and fossil fuel-powered systems that replaced animal power with machine power.

Industry 2.0 introduced mass production. The second Industrial revolution saw the arrival of Aviation, Radio, and Assembly-line manufacturing, with electricity powering it all.

Industry 3.0 introduced digitization. Industry 3.0 was a massive accomplishment in how productivity was achieved. This was due largely to the invention and adoption of such technologies as computers, the internet, and Information Technology. These tools provided the framework required for modern automation, mass production, and robotics.

Industry 4.0, where we are now, features cyber-physical systems (CPS) in the manufacturing environment. These systems consist of machines, their computer-controlled protocols, and their users working together in unison.

a conceptual graphic representing industry 4.0

Keep in mind that Industry 5.0 is not far off and modern manufacturers can expect exciting new technologies and process improvements to emerge in the coming years.

Connectivity With The IoT And IIoT

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a network of connected devices that communicate data to a central system that makes sense of it all.

This network consists of an enterprise’s connected edge devices, terminals, and input/output points. The data captured through this network provides an understanding of what is successful and what is not in terms of operations and processes.

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) puts a focus on this interconnectivity and data provided by the terminals, sensors, and other systems on the factory floor.

These data-fueled factories become “intelligent” environments, which are capable of informing enterprises from the top down. They provide visibility regarding the efficiency of factory processes and performance both in real-time and over time.  In short, the data enables manufacturers to refine and improve operations with relevant and up-to-date data.

Types of Automation On The Factory Floor

Automation can be thought of as the mechanization of processes in such a way that procedures can be followed and products can be created without human involvement.

There are several types of automation used on the factory floor. The type of automation utilized by a manufacturing operation will be implemented considering the products being produced, the machines required, and the resources available.

In the case of industrial automation, control systems, like computers or robots, and information technologies are utilized to handle different processes and pieces of machinery to complete a task. It can be applied most readily to data collection, data processing, and performing predictable physical work. This includes tasks like welding, soldering, painting, food prep, and packaging.

Fixed (Hard) Automation

In this example, the application is usually simple and will involve a process or assembly that is dictated by programmed commands. It is relatively difficult to accommodate changes in the product design in a fixed automation process, which is set up with one purpose or process per application in mind.

an image of fixed (hard) automation in manufacturing on the factory floor

Examples include:

  • Mechanized assembly
  • Machining transfer lines
  • Automated material handling

Advantages:

  • High production rates
  • Low unit cost

Disadvantages:

  • Relatively inflexible in accommodating product variety
  • High initial investment for custom-engineered equipment
  • High vulnerability to failure
  • Obsolescence

Programmable Automation

Programmable automation is used most often when manufacturing products in batches. It allows for customization and frequent changes throughout the manufacturing process. In this case, the operation is controlled by a program of instructions that are read and interpreted by the system. New programs can be prepared and entered into the hardware to produce new products at any time.

an image of programmable automation in manufacturing on the factory floor

Examples include:

  • Computer Numerical controlled (CNC) machine tools
  • Industrial robots
  • Programmable logic controllers (PLC)

Advantages:

  • Flexible and able to deal with design variations
  • Suitable for batch production

Disadvantages:

  • High investment in general purpose equipment
  • Lower production rate than fixed automation

Flexible (Soft) Automation

Utilizing multiple tools that are linked by a material handling system, A flexible automation system is capable of producing a variety of parts with virtually no time lost for changeovers from any one part style to the next. The same is true when reprogramming the system or altering the physical set up.

an image of flexible (soft) automation in manufacturing on the factory floor

Examples Include:

Robot arms that can be programmed to assume multiple tasks, such as insert screws, drill holes, sand, weld, insert rivets, and spray paint objects on an assembly line.

Advantages:

  • Continuous production of variable mixtures of products
  • Flexible to deal with product design variation
  • Offers Medium production rate

Disadvantages:

  • Requires High amount of investment
  • High unit cost relative to fixed automation

Totally-Integrated Automation (TIA)

A philosophy pioneered by Siemens Automation and Drives, rather than a concrete system of machinery and components, TIA includes three core concepts:

  • A common software environment
  • A common data management system
  • A common communication method

TIA implementation is ideal for many industries, including:

  • Automotive
  • General machine construction
  • Special-purpose machine manufacturing
  • Standard mechanical equipment manufacture, OEMs
  • Plastics processing
  • The packaging industry
  • Food, beverages and tobacco industries

Defining Characteristics:

  • Facilitates shorter time-to-market
  • Higher productivity
  • Lower life-cycle costs
  • Reduced complexity
  • Greater security of investment

Preventative Maintenance (PM) Versus Predictive Maintenance (PdM)

In Preventive Maintenance, tasks are completed when the machines are shut down. Predictive Maintenance activities are carried out as the machines are running in their normal production modes. Both are essential in saving manufacturers money and maintaining production quality.

More recently, special focus has been placed on Predictive Maintenance. Qualities like real-time condition monitoring allow longer periods of operation between preventative maintenance tasks, resulting in less downtime for essential machinery.

Mobile Control Of Automation in Manufacturing

Mobility is the future of your workforce.

This is visible in the increased interconnectivity between applications and hardware we use in our daily lives. Mobile control is flexible, intuitive, and powerful. The concept has taken a prominent focus within manufacturing and a call for new industry-wide standards to be adopted has come from automation’s research and engineering professionals all over the world.

Mobile apps are already being relied on as fast and user-friendly means of accessing plant information with a tap of the finger or swipe of the hand. Mobile-access can save substantially on costs, time, labor, and maintenance. The practice also enables operational problems to be identified and addressed remotely.

The Growing Pains Of Automation In Manufacturing

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.

“The distinction between work and learning might need to become more amorphous. We currently have a dichotomy where those who work need 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.”

– Bhagwan Chowdhry, professor of finance at the University of California, Los Angeles

In the quote, Bhagwan Chowdhry, a noted professor of finance at the University of California, Los Angeles, explains his reasoning for the necessary shift in thinking when it comes to working and learning.

Basically, it’s understood that, while robots and automation are being used to scale operations, your workforce and their skill sets need to be scaled alongside to maintain these processes and equipment.

This enables workers to learn about and take ownership of the most technical concepts and roles within a given manufacturing operation.

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.


With discrete and batch process manufacturers already taking full advantage of advancements in robotics and machine vision technology to improve operations, winemakers and agricultural industries are increasingly leveraging robots and machine vision to improve processes in the vineyard. Coupled with modern ERP systems, these manufacturers are better equipped to weather disruption and establish their foothold in a competitive marketplace.

Manufacturing, packaging, and production are already quite familiar with automation, vision systems, and collaborative robotics. Now, the more traditionally manual and complex areas of agriculture are beginning to feel the influence of these powerful technologies.

Robots And Automation In Agriculture

For example, Researchers at the Agriculture and Biological Engineering Group at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign are making big pushes for robotics and automation proliferation into agriculture, forestry, and fisheries. The group has outlined their vision for the influx of robots, machine vision and AI in three levels. Initially, robots will utilize machine vision technology to survey and collect data that provide insight into a variety of environmental factors. A follow-up with more specialized robots will prepare and maintain sites, performing field operations such as weeding, picking, and pruning. Once a suitable location has been established and the land prepared for operations, third-generation robots and autonomous systems will emerge to automate the complete process from seeding to packing. The vision may still be years from coming to fruition, but examples of second-generation robots are already in the works. Take the California wine industry for example, where robots and irrigation technology are working in tandem to make more efficient use of watering practices in the drought-stricken state.

A Robot Workforce Uprooting Global Wine Industries

The vineyard might be one of the last places people imagine the latest advancements in technology are being utilized. However, the applications of machine vision, AI, and robots are disrupting the winemaking industry to such an extent that the benefits of their incorporation are too great to ignore.

Take California’s wine country for example. In a state with one of the most sizable wine industries in the world, while at the same time plagued with drought, innovators have answered the call with Robot-Assisted Precision Irrigation Delivery (RAPID). RAPID uses precision monitoring technology to deliver water through specialized emitters attached to irrigation lines laid throughout a vineyard.

Winemakers And Agricultural Industries Leverage Robots

This prototype robot is part of the RAPID system. It will adjust plastic water emitters that are being designed for existing drip irrigation lines in an effort to save water. Photo: Thomas Thayer

The project was funded with a $1 million grant from the Department of Agriculture and headed by UC Merced professor Stefano Carpin. The unmanned ground vehicle, equipped with GPS can map routes throughout vineyards.  Relying on drone and satellite images, the vehicle will have a continuous view of weather conditions in real-time. Additionally, the robot will utilize a “grasping hand” to turn the water emitters in such a way that increases or decreases the flow of water. This system improves on current irrigation setup considerably, since the irrigation watering systems currently in use deliver a constant flow of water across the entire system. With the more efficient use of water in the drought-stricken region, RAPID can improve vineyard yield, reduce waste, and even customize the watering process dependent on a vineyard’s variety of grape.  Carpin hopes to have a fully functional test system available by 2020.

Pruning With Precision Machine Vision Systems

Wall-Ye V.I.N is France’s answer to one of the most labor-intensive components of running a vineyard, vine maintenance. Pruning, de-suckering, and clipping fruitless shoots, to be more precise. Understanding which vines need to be pruned and to what extent is considered a sacred charge in many winemaking circles. Nevertheless, tremendous advancements are being made to automate these laborious and time-consuming tasks. The creation of Burgundy-based inventor Christophe Millot, Wall-Ye V.I.N. has even the most scrupulous winemakers nodding in approval as the economic value the robot presents is undeniable. Take for instance the human component of pruning. It takes somewhere near three years to fully train a pruner to man the vines, whereas Wall-Ye V.I.N. promises to be ready to prune in a fraction of the time. Still, the robot will not be capable of taking on all the associated tasks its human counterparts are responsible and instead take on a collaborative role within the industry.

Meanwhile, across the globe, California-based Vision Robotics is hard at work creating a system considerably larger than Wall-Ye V.I.N. to tackle pruning tasks. Canterbury University’s Australia campus is developing a similar pruning robot as well. All three projects have a common imaging system that feeds into an AI focused on 3D modeling to determine which vines make the cut.

Robotics Helping Harvest

Once the cluster-heavy vines are ready for harvest, machine vision and robotics come into play in a big way. Identifying which grapes are going to produce the best wine is an arduous task made easy with the incorporation of modern technology. Take for instance the robots in place at the Hall Vineyards in Napa Valley, California. Once grape clusters have been harvested, the robots on location are fed the clusters to identify which make the cut and which do not. Taking more than 10,000 photos a second, the robot is capable of conducting an analysis of each photograph virtually instantly.

The operator inputs what parameters the robot uses to identify what is acceptable and what is not. All acceptable specimens proceed to a “good fruit” bin at the end of a conveyor, while the rejected fruit is blasted off the line with a precision burst of air. This is just one way that robots improve the efficiency of vineyard operations and enable winemakers to create even more satisfying beverages.

Another example emerges in the EU project, VineRobot, that uses color cameras, Infrared thermography, and GPS techniques to obtain agronomical and physiological data from the vineyard in real-time. By combining all the necessary data to reach a conclusion, VineRobot is able to alert operators and other staff of nutrient deficiencies in plants and ready for harvest fruits based on pigmentation. Throughout the process, Vine Robot is actually creating a complete representation of the vineyard’s crop-quality as a result of the data gleaned from its sophisticated vision sensors and systems.

VineRobot uses color cameras, Infrared thermography, and GPS techniques to obtain agronomical and physiological data from the vineyard in real-time.

About Encompass Solutions

Encompass Solutions, Inc. is an ERP consulting firm and Epicor Platinum Partner that offers professional services in business consulting, project management, and software implementation. Whether undertaking full-scale implementation, integration, and renovation of existing systems or addressing the emerging challenges in corporate and operational growth, Encompass provides a specialized approach to every client’s needs. As experts in 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.


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.


The latest component of Industry 4.0, Robotic Process Automation (RPA), maybe be an unfamiliar concept now, but soon these three words will be on the lips of operators big and small all over the world. RPA is already generating substantial revenue savings for businesses, with $50 million recovered in 2017, with a projected compound annual growth rate of more than 60% through 2026. Coupling this emerging technology with a business-centric solution like ERP systems will ensure your workforce is free to engage in the more demanding aspects of your operations, all while automation handles the rest.

What Is RPA?

When it comes to robots, we tend to think of the latest development from research labs like KUKA-style assembly line robots and the agile creations emerging from the labs of Boston Dynamics. RPA is quite a bit different. It refers to automation technology; more specifically RPA is a technology designed to handle clerical process automation based on the concept of Artificial Intelligence (AI) workers. These digital entities are also referred to as software robots.

a picture of a virtual worker representing robotic process automation.

RPA Is A Technology Designed To Handle Clerical Process Automation Based On The Concept Of Artificial Intelligence (AI) workers.

ERP serves as the backbone of your IT infrastructure by acting as a single source of information for your business. RPA automates several processes traditionally involving human interaction with the ERP system by entering transactions, executing programs, and extracting reports automatically, in a fraction of the time. These robots are taking the lead when it comes to back-office tasks that are repetitive and uninteresting to their human counterparts. Due to the repetitive nature of these tasks, robots are prime candidates to take over in completing the tasks with speed and efficiency. This gives the human capital component of your business more freedom to approach tasks that require reasoning, judgment, and critical thinking.

Robotic Process Automation Benefits For ERP-Equipped Businesses

Coupled with the right ERP, Robotic Process Automation is primed to deliver substantial benefits to small and medium businesses looking to leverage technology for a leg up on the competition in keeping operations lean.

Savings in costs is one of the most immediate benefits of RPA. Completing work faster and with higher accuracy than traditional data entry and management methods, RPA outputs more with fewer inputs and when tasks are completed for a fraction of the cost the result is in an improved ROI for your business.

Even the most diligent and experienced professionals make data entry and filing mistakes, with fatigue being one of the main culprits. RPA Delivers higher quality results within a fully-automated process. You’ll find data entry errors quickly falling out of the equation and you’ll enjoy higher satisfaction both internally and externally when the mundane is managed by RPA.

A picture of a robot interacting with a touchscreen in augmented reality.

Data Entry Errors Exit The Equation And You Enjoy Higher Satisfaction Both Internally And Externally When The Mundane Is Managed By Robotic Process Automation.

Stemming directly from the relief of having to complete fewer mundane tasks, your employees will enjoy newfound job satisfaction by being able to engage in tasks that require talent, intelligence, and problem-solving.

Another benefit realized as a result of fewer errors and omissions in documentation is a higher standard of compliance. By maintaining standards and practices within the operations of your organization, compliance is more readily assured and employees have a firmer grasp of overall operations, explore their roles, and invest in the growth of the organization.

Your Competitive Advantage With ERP And Robotic Process Automation

The business world is a competitive one, and you’ll need every advantage at your disposal to ensure you’re operating at peak performance. A powerful ERP system and incorporating powerful technologies like robotic process automation are an exceptional way to ensure your competitiveness. Consulting with professionals is the best way to get an idea of how relevant these powerful tools are to you and your business, as well as how they can be leveraged to great effect. Consider working with implementation and consulting professionals to more effectively outline and execute the future of your business’ digital operations strategy.

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.


Automation trends have experienced a substantial boom over the past several years and things are only gaining momentum. We couldn’t possibly cover all the latest updates and emerging automation trends, so here are the 10 we believe to be the most exciting emerging trends in automation for 2018.

1. Industrial Internet Of Things (IIoT) Technology Bringing Down Overhead

Lower cost and higher-value products with the capability of connecting to existing infrastructure and relaying relevant performance data in real-time will continue to cut automation costs for operations, at scale. Higher-performance processors, detailed sensor equipment, more robust analytics software, ultra-precise vision systems, and cloud computing are only a few examples of IIoT tech that are shaking up automation in Industry 4.0.

a grphics of a series of interconnected devices and how they impact eachother

The Industrial Internet of Things is an interconnected web of devices and processes that help to create the modern “smart factory” in the latest industrial revolution, referred to as Industry 4.0.

2. Automation Architecture Reorganized

The automation industry’s traditionally hierarchal architecture has commonly been represented by a pecking order that consists of several levels, most often referred to using the Purdue Reference Model (PRM) of control hierarchy.

A graphic of The Purdue reference model (PRM) of control hierarchy.

The Purdue reference model (PRM) of control hierarchy.

However, technology has advanced to a degree that operations have permitted the architecture to circumvent entire levels altogether and enable more efficient and streamlined architecture. Using WEB services, among other protocols, controllers can communicate data from levels 0/1 directly to levels 4/5. The result is a leaner, more efficient, and more capable approach to automation, where concrete computing takes place in the cloud to provide power where it’s needed, at the edge. As a result, Operational and Information technologies are growing increasingly intertwined. Machine to machine communication protocols, like OPC Unified Architecture, B2MML, and PLCopen OPC UA, are feeding into the business intelligence loop which could significantly impact Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) in the future.

A graphic of a Manufacturing Execution System (MES) and associated functionalities.

Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) control or influence a selection of enterprise-critical functionalities.

3. Edge Devices On The Rise

Improving performance and efficiency at network entry points, edge devices are the synapses of the IIoT. Including monitors and sensors, as well as a host of other intelligent technologies, these instruments communicate vital information between servers, enterprise systems, and other devices to tackle plant-level analytics, application virtualization, environmental data, and more to deploy services effectively and adjust operations in real-time.

an image of the flow of information though edge gateways to the cloud and enterprise systems.

Edge devices are the synapses of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).

4. Open-Source Architectures Will Improve Systems Integration

Adopting an open-source approach to the protocols through which systems intermingle will provide coordinated data exchange between manufacturing I/O, enterprise systems, and robotics to drive performance and improve operational autonomy. Open-source architectures will endeavor to diminish competition between vendors, as well as the use of the term incompatibility, and instead encourage vendors to distinguish themselves in the marketplace by offering the best value to the open-source community.

A picture of two puzzle-pieces made of circuits being connected in a complimentary position.

Open-source architecture improves systems integration.

5. Portable Applications, Mobile Apps, And Multi-Touch Technology

Non-portable applications are a dying paradigm and are most effective at stifling innovation when it comes to automation. The interconnectivity between applications and hardware will take a prominent focus within the industry over the coming years with the call for new standards to be adopted coming from the automation’s research and engineering elites.
Mobility has increasingly become a defining trait of automation applications across industries. Mobile apps are already being relied on as fast and user-friendly means of accessing plant information with the push of a button. Mobile insights can save big on costs in time, labor, and maintenance as well when problems can be identified and addressed remotely.

An image of a manufacturing employee interacting with a multi-touch display at an assembly station.

Multi-touch devices are increasingly being integrated into manufacturing operations with great success. Image: Kistler Group

Beyond interconnectivity between applications and robust programs through which humans interact with automation systems, touch-capable devices add another dimension to industry 4.0. Offering speed and versatility to a workforce’s capability on and off the factory floor, modern touch displays, like those found on smartphones and tablets, are the new norm by which workers interact with machinery.

6. Proliferation Of Intelligent Control Devices

By providing copious amounts of contextual automation data, smart control devices and sensors communicate with enterprise systems in a way that is both enlightening and cost-effective. The intelligence provided will serve an increasingly mobile and remote workforce in identifying inefficiencies, resolving issues before they become problems, and avoiding downtime events. Improved reliability and affordability of wireless network sensors will set a new standard for smart device interconnectivity while remaining largely untethered.

a picture of a tablet display providing essential data to a technician.

The proliferation of intelligent control devices is gaining momentum in manufacturing and other industries. Image: AG Silicon Germany

7. Collaborative, Affordable Robots

Cobots, collaborative, lightweight, and affordable robots, have become increasingly available to manufacturing sectors across a range of industries. With lower costs and more varied applications, these robots are following in the footsteps of the personal computer to bring size, power, and convenience to a broader community of small manufacturers.

a picture of a single arm KUKA-made robot and manufacturing employee working simultaneously as an assembly station.

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

Gone are the days when reps had to make a trip to the manufacturing facility and display the latest brochures and pricing for robotics and automation products. Access to the latest innovations in these sectors are increasingly available online, where users of every background can conduct research, compare, and purchase equipment the same as they would a plane ticket.

8. Virtualization

Increased functionality is allowing software-centric operations to be executed on fewer machines. As devices are progressively capable of running multiple operating systems and consolidating functions within one virtual architecture, overhead for manufacturing operations is reduced. Cheaper, more all-encompassing functionality will allow these operators to do more with less at every level of an enterprise.

An visual representation of traditional architecture and modern virtualization.

Virtualization offers cheaper, more comprehensive architectures that allow manufacturing operators to do more with less.

9. Industrial Cybersecurity Management

As manufacturing operations increasingly become targets for cybercriminals and economic terrorists, enterprises of every size will need to take a much closer look at their established security protocols. Advances in cybersecurity are emerging to address industry-specific vulnerabilities and ensure at-risk operations receive the safeguards they require without impacting control system operations.

A graphic of a padlock between two avenues in a virtual space.

As manufacturing operations increasingly become targets for cybercriminals and economic terrorists, cybersecurity will demand more focused attention.

10. The Open Process Automation Forum

A consensus-based group of end-users, suppliers, system integrators, standards organizations, and academia, the Open Process Automation Forum was established by The Open Group to develop a standards-based, open, secure, and interoperable process control architecture. With recent additions of end-users and suppliers, the forum is gaining significant traction as a source of insight into the biggest challenges of process industries, including food and beverage, mining and metals, oil and gas, petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals, and many others.

a picture of the Open Process Automation Forum logo.

Established by The Open Group as a standards-based, open, secure, and interoperable process control architecture, the Open Process Automation Forum is increasingly being relied upon by industry researchers, academics, and professionals.

One More For Good Measure: Integration Of AR/VR Into The Physical World

As Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality make significant strides in quality, user-experience, and affordability, the systems will be further integrated into the physical realm. By supplementing products with digital services, manufacturers are reshaping business models to incorporate these new applications. Virtual representations of physical products give end users a virtual twin with which simulation and predictive analytics can be leveraged to provide valuable and cost-saving insights. These simulated and augmented realities will offer new opportunities for training, maintenance, and problem scenarios to be explored without the physical event needing to take place.

An image of a tablet camera filming a shop floor machine with additional diagrams added via Augmented Reality software.

AR and VR environments are opening up new possibilities in operations for manufacturers to explore.

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.


Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul (MRO) costs can cripple a manufacturer’s bottom line, especially when the required work compounds problems by impacting production to a significant degree. Implementing a dynamic ERP solution, like Epicor ERP, can address the issue before it becomes a problem. Through an effective mix of Quality Assurance and Asset Management modules, Epicor has built a powerful solution to specifically tackle the tasks associated with maintenance management, from Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) to multinational corporations.

Industry 4.0 – Machine Learning As An Essential Tool

By leveraging the Industrial Internet of Things and modern data analytics, manufacturers are finding that machine learning is the next essential tool in keeping their operations running at peak performance. These tools provide manufacturers with more and better data to ensure impacts that are detrimental to business are circumvented even before becoming roadblocks.

a representation of machine learning using a digital intelligence spreading through circuits a the push of a button.

Manufacturers Are Finding That Machine Learning Is The Next Essential Tool In Keeping Their Operations Running At Peak Performance.

According to John Fryer, senior director of industry solutions at fault-tolerant computer servers and software company Stratus, on his partnership with TransCanada, “data is now being collected from every turbine, pump and compression station, and fed back to a centralized control room. The data is then integrated and analyzed…to identify trends and enable predictive maintenance to be carried out.”

Stratus is currently working in tandem with TransCanada to maintain the operation of the gas company’s 57,000 miles of pipelines. The network often stretches into in rural and remote regions, which makes monitoring and predictive maintenance even more essential.

ROI With ERP Solutions

Because of improved monitoring, quality assurance, and asset management, manufacturers receive significant savings when it comes to MRO costs. By providing a comprehensive and fully-integrated approach to the calibration and upkeep of systems and equipment, manufacturers employing ERP solutions in their facilities can operate at maximum runtime to secure an optimum return on their total costs.

an image of factory automation equipment breaking

Improved Monitoring, Quality Assurance, And Asset Management Allow Manufacturers To Realize Significant Savings When It Comes To MRO Costs.

In the case of TransCanada, savings between $16m and $17m were measured in the first year following implementation alone. That’s just one success story. When an entire industry employs such advancements in how operations are maintained, the savings can compound by an order of magnitude.

How Epicor ERP Addresses Predictive Maintenance

Through the Maintenance Management module of Epicor’s ERP solution, manufacturers gain extensive support for maintenance request processing, planned preventive maintenance (according to predefined schedules), and improvised break/fix maintenance processing for a single piece of equipment. When it comes to the facilities themselves and production equipment housed within, maintenance can be scheduled according to a pre-defined service interval, usage, time or through manual requests. Once these work orders have been identified in the system, the upkeep planner can schedule equipment downtime and exchange resources or materials on the fly. The complete history of these machines, materials, and work orders are tracked using many metrics, including the in-service date, equipment location, warrant expiration date, and preventative maintenance plans based on either time or meter frequencies.

 a picture of factory equipment, technicians, and c-level executives working together.

Epicor ERP Helps Manufacturers Keep Operations Running Smoothly With Predictive Maintenance Tools.

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.