The article “It’s 2020 — Should Business Owners Fear The Cloud?” was written by Epicor Software Corp. CEO Steve Murphy and published by Forbes on March 2, 2020. You can read the original article here.

The cloud. It’s a small word that packs a big punch. Defining what cloud is can cause confusion for some, while implementing it raises concerns for others.

We should consider three key factors as we continue into a new decade and business owners ask if they should fear the cloud: privacy, interoperability and cost.

But first, what is the cloud, and why are businesses migrating to this solution?

Essentially, the cloud is a delivery method for your software. It’s a network of servers that are linked together and operate as a single system. The cloud can perform a variety of functions (e.g., storing data, running applications, delivering content, etc.), and you can access it online. There are both public and private cloud options. The biggest difference with the cloud is what it doesn’t require. You don’t need any hardware or networking gear on-site – all you need is a tablet or a phone to run the software.

One of the major reasons I believe cloud adoption continues to grow is the flexibility and productivity enhancements it offers. As the CEO of a company that offers cloud platforms, I’ve found that these features are particularly attractive as business owners look to build resiliency in the face of unpredictable trade wars and other geopolitical changes. Business owners often look to business management software to provide stability. According to Goldman Sach’s 2020 review (via CNBC), 23% of IT workloads are now in public clouds.

So, should business owners fear the cloud when it comes to privacy, interoperability and cost?

Should I fear privacy in the cloud?

There is no denying privacy is a major concern when it comes to data. Data breaches continue to increase, as does the projected production of data. To keep pace, both software solutions and IT departments will have to up their game.

First, I’ll share the bad news. According to Hiscox’s 2019 Cyber Readiness Report, most businesses are unprepared for cyberthreats. In fact, in the U.S., 73% of businesses are “novices” at cyber readiness.

The good news, however, is that the public cloud has proven safer than on-premise data center environments. Specifically, Gartner found that “to date, there have been very few security breaches in the public cloud” and that “through 2020, public cloud Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) workloads will suffer at least 60% fewer security incidents than those in traditional data centers.”

If you decide to move to the cloud due to these safety findings, you should still be mindful of cloud vulnerabilities. Take stock of what kinds of sensitive information you are putting in the cloud, and ensure you understand how the cloud provider will protect that data. The time needed to safely migrate systems and data can be lengthy, but it shouldn’t be rushed at the expense of security infrastructure. Select a provider who prioritizes security during the migration process and who has a solid reputation for getting the configuration right, and communicate with your team so that they understand the migration timeline and can manage their expectations.

Regardless of your software solution, privacy issues will continue to be a concern. One of the most important things business leaders can do is ensure they have a crisis management protocol in place if and when a breach should occur.

Should I fear cloud interoperability challenges?

I have great news on this front. There have been major strides toward interoperability. In fact, multiple systems can exchange and use information easier than ever before. This is due to a variety of reasons: Many application programming interfaces (APIs) continue to get better, and standards continue to improve, and, notably, I see tech giants such as Google, Amazon, and Microsoft Azure frequently expand the universe of applications that can easily be put in their clouds. I believe their efforts have significantly moved the needle.

While interoperability isn’t perfect, there’s a lot of upward momentum. I expect that to progress.

Should I fear the cost of the cloud?

If you’re a business owner and you aren’t sure cloud makes sense for you from a cost perspective, ask yourself if you have a good grip on how much it costs to have your own data center in your business. Do you already have the IT skills in-house to run your own system? If so, the cloud may not make sense.

However, many business owners are surprised to find that their IT operations cost them a lot more than they think and that implementing cloud solutions can save them both time and money when it comes to issues such as automatic upgrades (which keep your company current and competitive), labor and maintenance costs, or increases in workforce productivity, to name a few.

Just remember that the decision between on-premise and cloud will be unique for each business. When you’re evaluating your IT operations cost, ask yourself how scalable you need your solution to be in the future. How adept is your IT department at staying up to date with evolving technology? Will you need additional data storage, and do you have the physical space to accommodate an expansion of your on-premise data center? Do you need access to data on the go? If a natural disaster hits your business, how will you back up your data?

What it comes down to is the total current cost of your on-premise data center versus a cloud solution. For business leaders who are still on the fence about expense, make sure you evaluate your options regularly. Cloud providers will have to continue to be cost-competitive, which could work in your favor.

Bottom line: Don’t fear the cloud. It could be a safer option than on-premise data. Its interoperability continues to improve. It can be highly effective at increasing productivity. It can save you money long-term. And the cloud will likely continue to improve over time. The year 2020 may be the one for you to move forward with implementation.

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 Industry 4.0 taking the lion’s share of headline space, smart manufacturing technologies are bigger than ever. For many manufacturers, these concepts can seem more than just a little intimidating, if not worthy of some cautious scepticism. Fortunately, there are manufacturing technologies that have been proven by years of practical application. Industry 4.0 concepts support them with more informed data and more efficient process improvements. We’re looking at you EDI. The concept of a digital twin is another one of these manufacturing technologies anyone can implement to improve operations.

What Is A Digital Twin?

The term “digital twin” refers to a digital replica of a physical asset. This asset can be any common hardware found on any factory floor. This includes heavy equipment, a smart machine, a robot, a work cell, an inspection station or a manufacturing line. These “Physical Twins” are anything that can provide data to the Digital Twin for interpretation. Connection bridges the physical and digital to create a cyber-physical system, whereby data flows through and informs a process.

The digital twin concept can be broken down into three distinct parts:

  • a physical product
  • a digital/virtual product
  • connections between the two products

Digital Twins birthed in the Apollo Missions

The digital twin is a true example of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) at work.however, the concept outdates the term Internet of Things by decades.  The term was coined by John Vickers of NASA in a 2010 Roadmap Report. however, the concept goes back even further in the NASA toolbox when the Apollo program utilized digital twins of the Command Module, Lunar Module and Lunar Rover to carry out maintenance, support, and troubleshooting activities.

How Are Digital Twins Used In Manufacturing?

As we stated before, the connection between physical and digital twin creates a cyber-physical system that feeds real-time performance data to operators, analysts, and managers.

Individuals and groups fulfilling these roles within an organization can leverage industry 4.0 concepts to analyze and interpret data to make sound predictions and carry out appropriate actions. Here, Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Machine Learning (ML) all come together to troubleshoot, raise alarms to identify potential problems, view maintenance conditions, support the various condition-based maintenance required to maintain seamless operations.

How Do The Components Of A Digitial Twin Work Together?

Analytics, Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Machine Learning (ML) technologies all have a  hand in making Digital Twins work for manufacturers. Here’s how they come together to deliver leaps in process and operational improvement:

  • Industrial Internet Of Things (IIoT): Connects the physical and digital systems to provide accurate data in real-time.
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI): Intelligent software analyzes the data, provides an interpretation of what is physically taking place, what outcomes or problems may arise, and what actions should be carried out to maximize performance.
  • Machine Learning (ML): Builds on scenarios, both experienced and potential, to execute analysis more quickly and orchestrate improvements for the physical counterpart, ideally, without human intervention.
  • Analytics: Additional tools that simplify the data to communicate, diagnose, predict and prescribe actions to optimize the operation of physical systems.

How Do Digital Twins Optimize Or Diagnose To Improve Operations?

By leveraging the data they receive, Digital Twins get a snapshot of how machinery or other physical systems operate throughout a process. The data serve to build a picture of what is good performance and what is bad or what is streamlined and what is bottlenecked.

Optimization comes into the picture when historical data can inform future operations to “say” this didn’t work well last time, let’s try something else. One example of how digital twins are used in optimizing machines emerges with the maintenance of power generation equipment such as power generation turbines, jet engines and locomotives. How can we make this piece of machinery more efficient? Let’s look at the historical data and improve on past performance by trying other tweaks our engineers and machinists can implement. Or, better yet, what hypothetical concepts can we experiment within the digital realm? The same is true for Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software. In enterprise architecture (EA), architects create EA blueprints as a digital twin for the organization.

A more relatable example may be found in autonomous vacuums. Many homes now employ robotic servants to clean while their owners are away. Digital twin technologies could effectively map the optimal vacuum path of a room and then employ that strategy to mitigate wasted energy and clean living spaces more quickly.

Diagnostics are another huge component of digital twins’ utility. By referencing historical data for machinery, a digital twin may be able to predict maintenance intervals, make service recommendations, and ensure downtime is kept to a minimum. In his case, the digital twin isn’t relegated to just one machine or just one plant. IIoT technology can connect like-machines across an organization or several organizations to show a more complete picture of how machines perform under an array of conditions. This includes when they are most likely to breakdown or characteristics that can indicate a serious issue is looming on the horizon.

Leveraging The Digital Twin

To be certain, a digital twin and the technological concepts it relies on are no substitute for a skilled workforce. Those autonomous vacuums don’t dust or polish just yet. However, digital twins can inform and supplement your skilled workers to better utilize their machinery and improve operations overall. By now, it should be clear that implementing the concept of a Digital Twin within your organization can yield real benefit. Consider adding this invaluable tool as a complement to your business operations and remain competitive.

Epicor ERP delivers this technology in the form of a production environment. This component of the solution allows users to map their entire production process or even back-office process for simulated activities. This way, any company using Epicor ERP can experiment with their mad scientist and what if we tried this ideas on how to improve operations without the hassle of interrupting day-to-day operations. The result is a fine-tuned approach to process improvement that can be utilized in real-time after pushing the changes into the live Epicor ERP environment.

About Encompass Solutions

Encompass Solutions, Inc. is an ERP consulting firm, NetSuite Solution Provider 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.


As I mentioned in the previous post, a bigger concern in 4G Versus 5G Wireless Technology is a physics problem – more specifically, an electromagnetic spectrum issue. If you’ll recall from your science class days, the electromagnetic spectrum is a collection of all known frequencies in the universe [reference image below]. Here in the United States, the spectrum is tightly regulated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and frequencies are auctioned off to the highest bidder. If you want to learn more about how this works, check out the FCC’s website.

4G Versus 5G Wireless Technology Wavelengths

Let’s dive in and hopefully, I won’t lose you in the physics behind this – it’s important and the reason why 5G is slow to make any kind of traction. 5G operates at a higher frequency range (called millimeter waves) than legacy technologies. This gives 5G the speed and low-latency capabilities advertised but with a trade-off. Here is where the crux of the problem lies, physics dictates the higher the frequency the shorter the wavelength – which, if you’re keeping up, means higher speeds over shorter distances.

An image of 4G Versus 5G Wireless Technology wavelengths

Well, how short of a distance are we talking about here? Currently, it is about 100 meters. No need to adjust your monitor you read that right, 100 meters or about 300 ft on a clear day with no obstructions. In order to make 5G a reality, we will need millions of “stations” set up all over the country ranging from our neighborhoods to our highways. That’s not all, the signal is so fragile and prone to interruptions that stations will likely be in our houses before too long. Because of its limited scope, fewer subscribers will be able to access from a single cell tower.

I am not one to end on a sour note, but in my opinion, there are too many unanswered questions as to whether or not 5G will ever be more than a pipe dream. Some cities, such as Charlotte, NC, are working with lawmakers to bring 5G to their city for testing autonomous vehicles and other such technologies. It is still in the early stages and it’s proving to be an expensive endeavor. Some telecom companies expect to invest $275 billion into 5G infrastructure by 2025. For now, this technologist is in a holding pattern.

About Encompass Solutions

Encompass Solutions, Inc. is an ERP consulting firm, NetSuite Solution Provider 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.


As with any next-generation technology, headwinds and setbacks are bound to occur. When I hear the word headwind, I immediately recall my days as a road-warrior consultant and the vast number of airline miles I’ve racked up through the years. On occasion, an airliner will encounter headwinds slowing it down, but it keeps flying and eventually arrives at its destination – maybe not as soon as you would have liked. So too is the road ahead for 5G. Let’s jump right into the third-installment of our 4G versus 5G wireless technology series.

4G Versus 5G Wireless: What’s Stopping Advancement

Over the next two posts, I will cover two of the concerns keeping 5G technology from really taking flight. Security and unauthorized access to private small-cell networks is the first concern. Fortunately, this is likely solvable given enough resources. The signalling protocols (SS7) developed for earlier generation cell technologies are inadequate to handle the demand being placed on 5G networks.

In Part 1, I mentioned 5G is 10x faster than 4G. As a result of these faster speeds, it will open up new avenues for cybersecurity threats. Much like your home or office networks now, you will do more of these functions over 5G cellular networks. Things like email, video conferences, streaming NetFlix, e-commerce, and online banking will all be new avenues for cybercriminals. By a show of hands, how many of you have antivirus on your cell phones or cellular-connected devices today? Not many, if any.

Despite this challenge, many security experts predict increasingly complex security measures will emerge in the next twelve to eighteen months. These security advancements will give peace of mind to companies looking to harness the power and speed of 5G technology.

In part 4, I will examine the second biggest headwind; you might want to brush up on your physics.

About Encompass Solutions

Encompass Solutions, Inc. is an ERP consulting firm, NetSuite Solution Provider 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.


NASA has been busy developing advanced manufacturing technologies at its research and development labs for decades. Recently, they announced 2019 advanced manufacturing technologies that have real viability in the public sector.

2019 Advanced Manufacturing Technologies Revealed By NASA

While their advanced manufacturing technologies are initially developed for use in aerospace applications, many are applicable to an array of commercial manufacturing industries. Here are 6 exciting 2019 advanced manufacturing technologies form NASA that manufacturers may be able to apply to their operations in the near future.

Interim, In Situ Additive Manufacturing Inspection

Additive manufacturing, more colloquially known as 3D printing, has developed quickly in recent years. an array of materials and mechanisms to improve the output and efficiency of additive manufacturing technologies have emerged, with few solutions to how defects can be detected and mitigated. NASA addressed this void by developing its own additive manufacturing inspection system. utilizing infrared cameras and sensing equipment, engineers can monitor the build process in real-time, addressing defects before materials are wasted and make corrections on-the-fly.

Apply to license this technology

Benefits:
  • A reduction in false-positive readings
  • Flexibility when incorporating into existing systems
  • Reduced time, energy, and material wasted in nonconforming parts leading to significant cost-savings
  • Leverages infrared and visual cameras for thermal and spatial accuracy
Industry Applications:
  • Aerospace – complex injectors, internal coolant passage components, heat exchangers
  • Automotive –  exhaust system components
  • Medical –  orthopaedic implants

Modular Fixturing for Assembly and Welding Applications

As commercial rocket and aerospace vessel manufacturing ramps up a renewed interest in space flight and exploration, NASA’s need for faster lead and design times necessitated a modular approach to assembly and welding. These new fixtures developed at Marshall make managing metal components during assembly much easier on teams. Fixtures are adjustable, facilitating use on rocket sections of varying heights and diameters. The result is rapid rocket assembly with applications in other aerospace, maritime, and other vessel manufacturing industries.

Apply to license this technology

Benefits:
  • Modular fixtures can be reused and repurposed for multiple projects of various sizes.
  • Tooling design and configuration time is reduced by half.
  • Project costs are reduced by as much as an order of magnitude.
  • Modular fixtures can enable the economical adoption of friction stir welding.
  • Modular fixtures enable large-scale rapid prototype development in a wide range of industries.
Industry Applications:
  • Maritime – Shipbuilding and assembly
  • Aerospace – Airframe assembly, commercial space launch vehicle assembly
  • Mining, Energy, Transportation/Logistics – Pressure vessel assembly

Use of Beam Deflection to Control Electron-Beam Wire Deposition

Researchers at NASA’s Langley Research Center have long been developing the 3D printing process known as EBF3, short for an electron-beam (e-beam) free-form fabrication technology. The process utilizes several mechanisms to manufacture metallic structures used in parts tooling. The process involves an electron beam gun, a dual wire feed, and computer controls that shrink the fabrication process from days or weeks, to hours. The innovation has drawn significant attention because until recently, working with printed metals was an exceedingly difficult task. This technology solves the problem of even material distribution during the printing process, satisfying NASA’s need for rapid prototyping of parts in space. The innovation has far-reaching utility in commercial industries, such as industrial welding scenarios and the fabrication of structures and components of virtually any scale.

Apply to license this technology

Benefits:
  • Stable, optimized, and uniform wire heating during the deposition process
  • Continuous and predictable deposition pattern
  • Simplifies deposition of complex geometries
  • Optimizes management of macro-level microstructural characteristics of deposited metal
  • improves the efficiency of power and feedstock used
  • Improves automated operation
Industry Applications:
  • Automotive, Aerospace, and other industrial and commercial manufacturing: Welding of metal structures
  • Automotive, Aerospace and Defense, Field-service, MRO: Free-form fabrication of complex metal components in remote locations
  • Near-net shape manufacturing and rapid prototyping
  • From Automotive and Aerospace to Sporting Goods and Medical Devices: Metal fabrication

Variable-Power Handheld Laser Torch

Just what it sounds like, this handheld laser torch helps to repair hard-to-reach engine nozzles on NASA’s space shuttles. Designed for welding and brazing metals, this variable power torch brings many unique advantages to the repair bench. for example, its power can be adjusted in real-time, at-will. Additionally, it’s unique and ergonomic design provides for enhanced precision, portability, maneuverability, and safety for the user. The tool has many potential applications in manufacturing processes for consumer items like eyeglasses frames to jewelry to more complicated structures, like medical hardware.

Apply to license this technology

Benefits:
  • Enhanced accuracy using variable lenses to adjust depending on circumstantial welding needs.
  • Increased portability and maneuverability when to brazing in small or hard-to-reach places.
  • Improved user safety with the addition of sensors and emergency switches.
  • Decreased heat affected zone by applied heat to a very localized working area, preventing damage to the welding surface.
Industry Applications:
  • Opportunities include various welding applications where real-time laser variation may be needed due to the spatial/accuracy constraints of traditional welding methods:
  • Aerospace engine repair
  • Medical hardware manufacturing
  • Plastic mold and die restoration
  • Jewelry manufacturing and repair
  • Eyeglass frame welding

High-Speed Smart Camera Detects Supersonic Inlet Shocks

Researchers at NASA’s Glenn Research Center have developed high-speed image processing technology to monitor airflow of an aircraft engine’s intake. It’s an important tool in developing technologies that make aircraft faster and more efficient. This highly-customizable camera is designed to quickly identify precise location data. Machine vision and sensing technologies are used in just about every vertical of assembly line manufacturing. This versatile edge technology has the ability to further drive efficiencies in these industries while providing greater visibility into part placement and position monitoring.

Apply to license this technology

Benefits:
  • Quickly captures and processes linear images at a rate of over 900 fps
  • Highly customizable in response to digital signal transitions from low to high (positive edges) or high to low (negative edges) and permits threshold sensitivity variations
  • Compact dimensions result in a reduced size and system complexity when compared to conventional edge detection systems
  • Reliable design that is both simple and affordable, requiring very few parts
  • Efficient power usage when compared to a typical smart camera
Industry Applications:
  • Aerospace – Supersonic jets
  • General Manufacturing (assembly lines, part placement, and position monitoring) – Machine vision for quality control and OEE
  • Lane line tracking for autonomous motor vehicle control
  • Bar code scanners
  • Digital photography

Thermal Stir Welding

Researchers at NASA’s Marshall research center are developing an improved joining technology called thermal stir welding. It improves on fusion welding and friction stir welding technologies to provide superior joining methods for dissimilar materials as well as improve welding rates for existing industrial applications. Thermal Stir Welding is a technology that can easily be adapted to almost any industry that uses other forms of welding. This includes automotive parts, shipbuilding, fuel tanks, and railway manufacturing.

Apply to license this technology

Benefits:
  • Unique advantages of this technology over fusion welding or friction stir welding include the following:
  • Totally independent heating and stirring functions
  • More degrees of freedom for greater process control and optimization
  • Easy assembly-line use
  • Improved surface finish results
  • High travel rates
  • Separate heating function for easier welding of alloys with higher melting temperatures, such as steel and inconel alloys
Industry Applications:
  • Aerospace
  • Automotive
  • Shipbuilding
  • Storage tank or cylinder manufacturing
  • Construction
  • Railway cars

About Encompass Solutions

Encompass Solutions, Inc. is a software company. As a NetSuite Solution Provider, Suite Success Partner, and Epicor Gold Partner we offer 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 deliver business systems to fit the build.


5G wireless technology has a lot of potential. In this post, I will explore several of the front-running industries setting themselves apart by taking advantage of 5G.

Ten years ago, autonomous vehicles were just getting started and were thought to be something out of “The Jetsons”. Fast-forward a few years and we finally have driverless cars being tested in some areas of the country. The backbone behind this? 5G technology. That’s right 5G is the mobile technology that will propel self-driving vehicles into large-scale adoption; you can read more about it here. Let’s continue the 5G vs 4G conversation taking place right now.

5G Wireless Technology In The Near Future

In the next few years, the healthcare industry is anticipating the use of 5G to quickly and reliably transmit large data files. MRI images, for example, currently take a long time to transfer over the network to other doctors or specialists. By using 5G technology, these transmissions will become quicker, more reliable and sent in a secure manner to protect patient privacy. Healthcare systems also will use 5G to stream real-time high-quality video for better doctor-patient interaction. By doing so providers will make tele-medicine an everyday occurrence. You can read a bit more about that, here.

an image of healthcare professionals and patients leveraging 5g wireless technology

How John Deere Plan To Leverage 5G Wireless Technology

When you hear the name John Deere, visions of tractors and Midwest America pop into your head, right? What if I told you this 180-year-old bellwether of a company is leading the charge in farming automation? You’d probably think I’m crazy – and you might be right – but not because of this. John Deere, with its acquisition of Blue River, is looking to advance farm equipment well beyond what most people thought possible. With their integration of automated driving technology, computer vision systems and applications, some experts believe farmers will be able to double or triple their annual yield. Learn about 5G and the future of farming here.

Up Next For 5G Wireless Technology

While 5G wireless technology promises huge disruption in just about every global industry, it is not without resistance. There are quite a few barriers for 5G to overcome before it’s ubiquitous and in part 3 of this series, I will discuss some of the headwinds 5G wireless technology faces in the coming years.

About Encompass Solutions

Encompass Solutions, Inc. is an ERP consulting firm, NetSuite Solution Provider 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.


Before talking about the future, we need to reminisce a bit. Remember when 4G technology was a pioneer in wireless networking? Remember when everyone wanted the latest smartphone so they could stream videos, check Facebook or be the first to tweet about something the Kardashian’s did? Remember when everyone was excited about the latest-n-greatest and we all rushed out to get on the 4G bandwidth wagon – if you didn’t you weren’t one of the “cool kids”. Remember your first analog cell phone or bag phone with a curly “Q” car antenna (fake or otherwise)? Don’t kid yourself, you know you do! Now, we sit on the precipice of a new technological breakthrough in the form of 5G wireless connectivity. Here’s a bit about the 5G vs 4G conversation taking place right now.

What Is 5G Wireless Technology?

With big cellular conglomerates launching 5G cellular networks this year, you might be asking yourself–What is 5G? The G stands for generation, as in the 5th generation of wireless network technology. 5G wireless tech promises faster transfer rates, lower latency, and bigger bandwidth by orders of magnitude. However, Don’t get too excited just yet. Full utilization of 5G wireless networks is still out of reach for the everyday consumer.

The actual 5G radio system, known as 5G New Radio (5G-NR), isn’t compatible with 4G. However, 5G enabled devices will rely on existing 4G infrastructure where applicable until a connection to a 5G wireless network is possible. This whole effort is part of ongoing wireless connectivity’s evolution and is currently on target to meet the usage requirements outlined in the International Mobile Telecommunications-2020 (IMT-2020). The requirements include such capabilities as a maximum achievable data rate of 20Gbit/s, 1ms Radio network contribution to packet travel time (read latency), and a total traffic coverage area of 1000 (Mbit/s)/m2.

How 5G Wireless Networks Will Impact Our Lives

Recently, I attended a seminar regarding the new 5G or “fifth generation” cell technology. It was an informative seminar shedding light on the future of 5G in the next five to ten years. As a primer to what’s ahead, 5G offers 10x the bandwidth and faster data transfers than current 4G technology (think wire speed through your cell phone)! Imagine streaming Netflix, Amazon or other online content with a fraction of the buffering time or downloads happening 10x faster. While something to certainly be excited about and cellular providers are licking their chops to charge you more money (for those of us still on a capped data plan), there are several hurdles and challenges to overcome before mainstream adoption takes place. Over the next few blog posts, I will outline areas where 5G technology will enter the market place and several of the biggest challenges facing world-wide adoption.

About Encompass Solutions

Encompass Solutions, Inc. is an ERP consulting firm, NetSuite Solution Provider 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.


Top 10 Benefits Of IoT For Manufacturers

Chances are you have come across the terms Internet of Things (IoT) or the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). These are networks of connected devices that communicate data to a central system in order to make sense of it all. These networks consist of connected edge devices, terminals, and machines in an enterprise. The data captured through this network provides an understanding of what is successful and what is not in terms of operations and processes. The system that helps you interpret the captured data is, more often than not, your company’s ERP system. Read on to learn how you can leverage the top 10 benefits of IoT for manufacturers in your facility.

Internet of Things (IoT)

When it comes to everyday devices capable of the connectivity we are talking about, the numbers are staggering. Billions of devices exist with this capability. In fact, it is estimated that there are roughly 7 such devices for each person on the planet, totaling roughly 50bn devices by 2020.

Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)

When it comes to IIoT devices, the vast majority reside in manufacturing, followed closely by healthcare and retail industries. 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.

an image of IIoT statistics top 10 benefits of iot for manufacturers

Source: Accenture

So, how can your organization stand to benefit from making the investment in IoT connectivity? Here are the top 10 benefits of IoT for manufacturers.

1. The Connected Factory – Blindspots Begone

IoT enabled machines and endpoints are capable of communicating operational information to personnel both inside and peripheral to your organization. That includes machine operators, managers, field service personnel and even partners like suppliers, subcontractors, and OEMs. This connectivity delivers mission-critical data and information to operation managers and factory leadership on-site and out-of-office. The power to control operations and manage factory activity on a remote level increases opportunities for process optimization and automation. view the Connected Factory In Action infographic at Manufacturing Tomorrow.

2. Production Visibility – Identifying Bottlenecks And Improve Processes

When it comes to production, the continuous monitoring of processes that IoT connectivity provides will enable improvements to be made on a rolling basis. Hangtime in assembly and manufacturing operations gain particular benefit when bottlenecks are identified and adjustments can be made in nearly real-time to realize better approaches to production management and the reduction of operational costs. Additionally, part waste is reduced alongside fewer resources tied up in inventory and better overall product delivery. For some organizations, IoT connectivity will lead to a 15 percent productivity increase in delivery and supply chain performance.

3. Better Inventory Management – Find It Fast, From Anywhere

With technologies like RFID and IoT connectivity, personnel tasked with managing inventory can leverage automated asset tracking and reporting through ERP to avoid the costly mistakes that come with working within antiquated inventory tracking systems. This connectivity allows items to be tracked and the data recorded to the ERP system automatically. These performance management capabilities made possible through IoT connectivity and ERP can help organizations reduce the number of working hours committed to inventory management each month and reduce the probability of human error. Track your stock from shop to dock with IoT technologies in your facility.

4. Build A Safer Work Environment

While there are no doubts that IoT connectivity and ERP improve production on the factory floor; these technologies can also help create a safer working environment for employees. This can be in the form of vision and spatial awareness systems for human-machine interactions or wearable safety technologies your staff keep on their person throughout the day. There are several safety concerns in any manufacturing facility. IoT connected devices can communicate to larger systems within the organization of aberrations, such as too much vibration or heat being exhibited from a machine or pressure loss within piping segments, and even gas leaks that might be otherwise undetectable to human perception. Staff moving through dangerous parts of your facility can signal to connected machines that a human is in close proximity and appropriate action can be taken automatically. An employee that sustains an injury in a remote location of the facility or even off-site can receive faster care with the inclusion of IoT-connected safety equipment. These are only a handful of examples of how IoT for manufacturers can improve safety in your facility.

5. Secure Your Facilities

With a growing number of bad actors participating in malicious attacks on manufacturers across the globe, manufacturing facility security is a topic of conversation every organization should be discussing. When it comes to security, IoT provides manufacturers with a way to monitor their data coming into the system as well as going out. Terminals and end-points can signal foreign devices being connected to infrastructure, large amounts of data being moved, and individuals accessing data they otherwise shouldn’t have access to. Leveraging IoT for manufacturers can help guard against security threats to vital hardware, software, and cloud-stored data. You can even manage devices and policies throughout an enterprise from a single point using IoT connectivity. For more information on Practical Security for the Internet of things – view the infographic from Entrust.

6.Predictive Maintenance – Minimize Machine Downtime

Predictive maintenance identifies the condition of equipment while it is in-service and determines the optimal service interval. It saves time and money by completing maintenance activity only when necessary. A special focus has been placed on predictive maintenance, as opposed to preventative maintenance, more recently. This is because it allows longer periods of operation between maintenance tasks, resulting in less downtime for essential machinery. When coupled with technologies like IoT for Manufacturers, everything from vibration, voltage, temperature, and other performance indicators feed into sensing tools attached to machines. This information is interpreted and visualized by intelligent software solutions, such as ERP platforms, into updates, warnings, and alerts. Your teams can use this information to evaluate the situation and take the most appropriate action. Intelligent and connected devices assist in setting data points that indicate when a part is reaching end-of-life, too.  Automated systems can be directed to order replacement parts if none are on-site and schedule the replacement or repair in such a way that minimizes unplanned production downtime, which can cost manufacturers as much as $300,000 an hour.

an image of iot for manufacturers and the tools predictive maintenance delivers to manufacturers

The Volvo group provides one real-world example of how an IoT-based predictive maintenance solution can predict damage to spindles, as well as identifies cracking and spalling of rotating equipment, gearing, and motor defects. The resulting improvements to OEE saw a 70 percent reduction in diagnostic time and a 25 percent reduction in repair times.

7. Predictive Forecasting – Real-Time vs. Historical Data

Today’s global economies move too quickly for manufacturers to rely on historical data to forecast demand. Weather events, materials shortages, and a host of other environmental factors can influence demand for any given product at any given time. Accurate forecasting is critical for manufacturers that want to sell as much of a product as possible without oversaturating their markets.

Take, for instance, a widget. A consumer buys a connected widget, which in turn collects data about usage, wear and tear, and overall performance. The relative data is then sent back to the manufacturer to determine what adjustments need to be made to the product for more predictable forecasts of future demand. If the product is satisfactory for customers across a wide range of environments and uses, then the average life-cycle can be taken into account and manufacturing volume can be adjusted to match. The result is more accurate demand forecasting, fewer wasted resources and stock tied up in inventory. What follows is an increase in overall customer satisfaction based on quality and deliverability when consumers return for a replacement part.

IoT for Manufacturers in this sense can go far beyond demand forecasting to include the entire supply chain with traditional forecasting, statistical bottom-up forecasting, and ship-to forecasting. Zara is one retailer using IoT to forecast demand and minimize waste.

8. Increased Energy Efficiency – A Smaller Footprint

If you didn’t already know, industries like discrete and process manufacturers are responsible for the majority of energy consumption worldwide. In fact, industrial manufacturing is responsible for consuming 54% globally delivered electricity. This leads to pretty sizable operating costs. fortunately, IoT for manufacturers can significantly increase energy efficiency in a number of ways.

initially, managers can easily identify hardware and devices that use the most energy. This information can be used in creating advanced operating profiles that tell machines when to power up and operate or power down and conserve energy. Systems draining too much power, or more than they should be, can be a sign of malfunction. IoT connectivity can highlight these abnormalities right away and address problems more immediately than if the power consumption of machinery were not being monitored. This capability keeps machines operating at peak efficiency and capacity without draining resources unnecessarily.

Beyond this, IoT connectivity can give you an energy profile of your entire facility, or many facilities. The data can then be used to create the most appropriate and efficient back-up systems to keep operations running smoothly despite adverse environmental factors. As a result, you can keep operating during tight deadlines and production schedules despite outages.

9. Improved Quality – IoT For Manufacturers’ Process Improvement

Quality can mean many things for manufacturers and their partners. Internally, improving processes through IoT devices can come from something as commonplace as alerting operators when there is too much material buildup on a machine’s end effectors or internal mechanisms. The addressing action would lead to improved machine performance, better output, and an improved process. in a temperature controlled facility, aberrant tempt reading could be the result of a door left open, poor insulation, or a faulty HVAC system component. All of which can be identified and addressed with the help of IoT connectivity.

Alternatively, connected products and goods used in the field can relay valuable data that might not have been previously tested. This can include machinery performance when used in a cold, dry climate versus the humid tropics. Even phones that fail in freezing or sweltering temperatures can tell designers and engineers what components are of substandard quality, leading to improvements in future products manufactured with those conditions taken into account.

10. Increase Operational Efficiency – Maneuver Like A Tesla, Not An Oil Tanker

IoT connected devices allow manufacturing operations and executives to utilize data flowing through their facilities to make smarter, more informed decisions. Using the information available enables the connected enterprise to undertake proactive, continuous improvement initiatives that create a more agile and stable future through both insight and action.

Truly, the benefits delivered by IoT-connected assets go beyond operational efficiency. The connected enterprise represents the next level of organizational maturity. It encapsulates predictive maintenance, higher quality products, more focused leadership, and overall organizational health. Overall, IoT for manufacturers allows staff throughout a company to work smarter, not harder, today. over the long term, cost benefits are realized many times over as upsets and disruptions in operations can be avoided entirely.

Epicor ERP IoT For Manufacturers – Workflow

Monitor equipment, assets, environmental factors, inventory locations, and their corresponding IoT data. Events and data—such as sensor and machine telemetry—flow into the Azure IoT Hub. From there, the data propagates to the IoT module of your Epicor ERP solution. Epicor IoT has an advanced rule-based engine that can detect patterns and raise alerts and notifications that propagate into Epicor ERP where they can be used to trigger business process changes like raising a maintenance suggestion when equipment degradation is detected.

Here are just some of the benefits realized when you implement Epicor ERP IoT for manufacturers:

  • Identify issues such as potential breakdowns before they happen
  • Optimize supply and reduce costs by monitoring events across your supply chain
  • Improve overall workers safety and security in the plant by monitoring the KPIs of health and safety
  • Improve decision-making by providing real-time, actionable information
  • Increase customer satisfaction and efficiencies and lower costs
  • Gain insights into the usage patterns and handling of product from customers
  • Predict issues and reduce inventory by tracking materials, equipment, and product as it moves through the supply chain

Contact Encompass Solutions, Inc. to learn more about implementing Epicor ERP IoT for manufacturers using the link below.

About Encompass Solutions

Encompass Solutions, Inc. is an ERP consulting firm, NetSuite Solution Provider 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.


The manufacturing industry has experienced a recent breakthrough in welding technology thanks to the efforts of scientists from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland. The new Heriot-Watt laser system facilitates the fusing of metal and glass together. These two materials are difficult to join due to their strikingly disparate thermal properties. The technology utilizes an ultra-fast laser system that is capable of joining materials that, until recently, had to be joined through the use of messy and unreliable adhesives.

How The Heriot-Watt Laser System Works

The new Heriot-Watt laser system uses light that is aimed at connection points in materials to fuse them together. The result is a more reliable connection than adhesives can provide. Traditional adhesives can be difficult to work with and lead to slippage or movement over time or in harsh environments. Outgassing is another issue manufacturers currently face when working with adhesives, especially in electronics and medical fields. This is a process by which the organic chemicals in these substances release gasses which can lead to a reduction in product integrity over time, as well as contamination of sterile environments. Materials that the system has been proven to join include optical materials, such as:

  • quartz
  • borosilicate glass
  • sapphire

which have been successfully welded to metals that include:

  • aluminum
  • titanium
  • stainless steel

through the use of picosecond (1012 or 1/1,000,000,000,000 of a second) pulses of infrared laser light. The new Heriot-Watt laser system uses light that is aimed at predefined tracks in materials to fuse them together. The result is a more reliable connection than adhesives can provide. These adhesives can be difficult to work with and lead to slippage or movement over time or in harsh environments. Outgassing is another issue manufacturers currently face when working with adhesives, especially in electronics and medical fields. This is a process by which the organic chemicals in these substances release gasses which can lead to a reduction in product integrity over time as well as contamination of sterile environments.

The Heriot-Watt Laser System Effects On Manufacturing

The newly proven process has significant implications for manufacturing industries that routinely require the union of these raw materials, including:

  • aerospace
  • defense
  • energy
  • electronics
  • optical technology
  • healthcare

The manufacturing and design flexibility the Heriot-Watt Laser System provides welds that have been tested to maintain their integrity between -50C to 90C.

Professor Duncan Hand, director of the five-university EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Laser-based Production Processes based at Heriot-Watt, said of the technology “Traditionally it has been very difficult to weld together dissimilar materials like glass and metal due to their different thermal properties—the high temperatures and highly different thermal expansions involved cause the glass to shatter.” When asked how the technology differs from methods currently used by manufacturers to join the two materials, he would go on to state,”The parts to be welded are placed in close contact, and the laser is focused through the optical material to provide a very small and highly intense spot at the interface between the two materials—we achieved megawatt peak power over an area just a few microns across. This creates a microplasma, like a tiny ball of lightning, inside the material, surrounded by a highly-confined melt region.”

Commercialization Of The Heriot-Watt Laser System

While the technology is not yet commercially available, Heriot-Watt scientists are working closely with a consortium, which includes laser firms Oxford Lasers and Coherent Scotland, as well as end-users Leonardo and Gooch & Housego. The partnership seeks to develop a prototype for the system that will bring it closer to commercialization. Glass Technology Services and the Centre for Process Innovation have geared their efforts towards another commercialization route with the packaging of OLED devices.

More information on the Heriot-Watt laser system can be found, Here.

About Encompass Solutions

Encompass Solutions, Inc. is an ERP consulting firm, NetSuite Solution Provider 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.


We’re happy to see our partners at Avalara delivering top tech solutions, like AI with their recent acquisition of Indix, to empower businesses of every size. These tools will be instrumental in enabling businesses to better address compliance and regulation issues surrounding their taxes. Avalara is one of the leading providers of tax compliance automation software for businesses of all sizes. They announced today in a press release that the company has acquired Indix’s AI technology and expertise. Avalara acquires Indix in an effort to offer the industry’s most accurate, up-to-date, and comprehensive source of global tax and product content.

Thoughts From CEOs As Avalara Acquires Indix

According to Sanjay Parthasarathy, CEO of Indix, “Avalara and Indix share a similar global vision. From day one, we built Indix to collect, organize, and structure the world’s product information using artificial intelligence. With the addition of the Indix expertise, Avalara will be able to efficiently and rapidly refine its content to meet the expanding and evolving needs of its customers.”

Scott McFarlane, co-founder and CEO of Avalara, added,”Global taxing authorities govern compliance through ever-changing rules and requirements, and the task of gathering and maintaining this data is core to the value Avalara provides. We believe the combination of deep product knowledge, broad product content, and artificial intelligence technology will allow us to provide our customers the information they want and need to factor compliance into their business decision-making, and for Avalara to address more compliance requirements to support their growth.”

Avalara Acquires Indix For Database Applications

As Avalara acquires Indix, the goal is to use AI as a tool in maintaining and expanding the company’s already substantial tax content database. The database includes international product codes and their classifications, taxability rules, exemption conditions, tax holidays, jurisdictions, boundaries, tax rates, thresholds, registration, compliance, and return preparation and filing requirements.

As a non-revenue generating activity, remaining compliant and up-to-date on tax regulations and laws can place a significant drain on business’ accounting departments. Maintaining knowledge is difficult and resource-intensive. The required technology, expertise, and human resources are not insignificant and by collecting new content and tracking changes through automated software, businesses can eliminate what is generally a highly manual process. Avalara acquires Indix to address this problem and automate the aggregation and accurate maintenance of its tax content.

About Avalara

Offering end-to-end tax compliance solutions to enterprises big and small, Avalara makes automated certificate validation, storage, and management easy. Avalara’s cloud-based sales tax automation software provides accuracy for all of the 12,000+ tax jurisdictions in the United States. Avalara ensures that automating sales, tax calculation, and maintaining compliance are all possible within your existing ERP, POS, or e-commerce system.

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.