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.


The article “How Smart Factories Drive Remote Work Capabilities” by Poornima Apte, Contributor was previously published on the Epicor Shop Floor on May 21, 2020. You can read the original article on smart factory technologies, here.

At a time when China was going through a sudden economic disruption due to COVID-19, Hytera, a manufacturer of private communication devices, managed to do what many other manufacturers could not: It continued production in its Shenzhen facility. Hytera responded quickly to changing market demand and reassigned a few of its 10 production lines to produce disposable face masks.

Similarly, Baoshan Iron and Steel kept its facility in Shanghai running around the clock with automated production. The factory met new health guidelines with its existing operation. According to a news report, “The two 200-meter-long major production lines in Baoshan are fully unmanned, and each line needs just two to three workers for inspections.”

State of the art manufacturers like Hytera and Baoshan are likely the envy of companies that weathered a significant dip in production due to COVID-19. Close to 80% of U.S. companies surveyed by the National Association of Manufacturers in late February to early March said they anticipated a financial impact. More than half anticipated a change in operations.

Shift to the Smart Factory

That “change in operations” could be for the better. Manufacturers can follow the lead of other manufacturers like Hytera and Baoshan. To get there, they need to embrace the principles of Industry 4.0 for adaptability now—and for greater resilience in the future.

As Hytera and Baoshan show, human workers are still required to supervise operations and troubleshoot if needed, but these manufacturers were able to continue mostly autonomous production because of one important reason:  The factories are smart.

While manufacturing is no stranger to automation, a smart factory goes beyond compartmentalized automated processes. As Deloitte defines it, a smart factory is a “fully connected and flexible system—one that can use a constant stream of data from connected operations and production systems to learn and adapt to new demands.”

The smart factory anchors Industry 4.0, the next Industrial Revolution. This time around, the revolution is fed by data that can be aggregated and analyzed.

A smart factory that uses data is:

  • Connected: Data flows across all aspects of manufacturing from the supply chain down to production, distribution, and beyond.
  • Optimized: Machines that are idle can take on new work loads and that saves downtime and increases productivity.
  • Transparent: All stakeholders can access real-time data.
  • Proactive: Problems are spotted using data analytics and solved before they cascade into larger bottlenecks.
  • Agile: Can shift production according to market demands.

Studying the outcomes from simulations allows management to evaluate the risk of change and move forward (or not) accordingly.

What does a smart factory look like? The Nokia production facility in Oulu, Finland, which is 99% automated, is one fine example. If management wants to change any aspect of production, they conduct a dry run using a “digital twin,” that highlights how a change affects production and other processes. Studying the outcomes from simulations allows management to evaluate the risk of change and move forward (or not) accordingly. The plant developed a private wireless network to help speed up reconfiguration of production lines through data. And they use cloud technology to keep an eye on processes in real-time with automated internal logistics via connected mobile robots.

Nokia adopted the principles of Industry 4.0 so effectively that the World Economic Forum designated it as an “Advanced Fourth Industrial Revolution Lighthouse.” A “lighthouse” is a manufacturing facility that has integrated principles of Industry 4.0 to its entire operation, moving beyond the pilot stage. As of 2020, there are 44 lighthouses in manufacturing. The Nokia site goes one step further as an end-to-end lighthouse, meaning its smart principles go beyond the manufacturing site and up and down its supply chain, automating inventory management so vendors know when to ship new materials.

Lessons for All

While not all manufacturers need the scale of Nokia, the key takeaway is that the principles of a smart factory can apply to all businesses large and small. The journey to near-total automation comprises many incremental steps.

The first step starts with digitization. Since the smart factory runs on data that is easily available, aggregated, and analyzed, pen-and-paper processes no longer work. Petrosea Mining, a company in Kalimantan, Indonesia, suffered from a lack of data from all processes. Even when data was available, it was not easily aggregated.

Helping digitize all processes helped the company realize efficiencies in many areas including worker training. Where earlier, workers had to comb through long pages of standard operating procedures on the company intranet, they now access training through a proprietary mobile app on their phones. The company also “gamified” training, which led to more employee engagement. The app uses animation and visuals to make learning more fun. Employees compete to advance from a “soldier” to a “general” on a leaderboard by answering more than 3,000 training-related questions.

The Building Blocks of a Smart Factory

If data lays the foundation for a smart factory, a few technologies comprise the building blocks. Following are examples of how smart factories use these technologies.

IIoT

Schneider Electric, a lighthouse smart factory, uses IIoT to monitor production processes and relay information about production variations in real time. Vendors that access this data can adjust their inventory accordingly and ship supplies proactively.

Cloud Technology

In the case of a sudden disruption of labor, it would be ideal to move production to another location. Or to have plant managers monitor production from a remote location. Cloud technology provides those capabilities.

Volkswagen is investing in a proprietary cloud platform that will not just facilitate production, but also transmit data to their fleet of vehicles for enhanced customer experiences such as custom media streaming. With data from constant machine monitoring fed into the Manufacturing Execution System, cloud technology helps offsite plant managers view real-time data through mobile devices or computers. The technology enables remote access for oversight into the production line and bottlenecks.

3D Printing

This is a manufacturing process that deposits materials layer by layer. A computer file stores information for the design, which is fed into a 3D printer. This kind of manufacturing is especially useful for precision parts with complicated designs. GE 3D prints a specialty fuel nozzle they developed. One of the biggest advantages of 3D printing is that it stores production information on an easily accessible data file. If the worst were to happen and production shut down in one facility, it could be kickstarted in another location with the file as input.

Robotics

Robots moved beyond the caged giants seen in automotive manufacturing. While large robots still perform welding, gluing, and fastening operations from cages so they don’t inadvertently harm their human coworkers, today’s robots are collaborative (cobots) working alongside humans. A vision-guided cobot, The Hulk, helps with order fulfillment at the Johnson & Johnson facility in Jacksonville, Florida. It helps humans by lifting heavy loads. Robots can also be used for visual inspection of goods and pick-and-place operations leaving humans to attend to less repetitive tasks.

Augmented Reality

Parts break. When they do and experts are not available onsite, augmented reality (AR) helps workers access remote help. The expert can remotely overlay a model of the broken part against the real-life equivalent and guide the worker with fixes in real time. This saves precious downtime. AR can also help with worker training. A worker who needs to run a machine but has no prior training can pull up a mobile device located at the station and run through an AR-driven process to complete a self-guided tutorial. This is particularly useful in training new hires.

Working Alone—or in Tandem

While the list of technologies driving smart factories might be long, companies can choose which ones to implement first, depending on the key performance indicators they want to realize first.

Almost all manufacturers can integrate these technologies into their practices and realize efficiencies.

KPIs that measure adaptability to change might include shortening change-over times (to accommodate production of new, in-demand items) and productivity increase.

The lesson here is that almost all manufacturers, no matter where they are on the path to digital maturity, can integrate these technologies into their practices and realize efficiencies. Many technologies depend on others, however, so it sometimes becomes difficult to implement just one in isolation. For example, effective predictive maintenance needs both IIoT and cloud technology to forecast machine failure.

Another lighthouse facility, Haier air-conditioning in China, uses an interactive platform where customers can design and order custom products. A performance monitor allows the product to be closely evaluated so the company can detect problems. Customer service calls retrieve performance data from a particular unit so problems are resolved faster. Customer-centric manufacturing allowing for customization at scale is another advantage of smart manufacturing.

What’s Next?

To adapt to new realities, many manufacturers could be managing non-essential staff offline and rotating necessary workers in staggered shifts to adhere to strict CDC protocols.

Digitizing data and understanding how to integrate new technologies with existing legacy systems is the next step. Sharing data intelligence can deliver efficiencies in inventory management and make for a more resilient supply chain.

One of the biggest advantages of Industry 4.0 is that it gives manufacturers the ability to adapt to change faster. For example, Hytera easily reassigned one of its production lines to manufacture disposable face masks, a product outside of its usual wheelhouse. A system that could react to real-time data from changing markets facilitated the pivot.

Prior to COVID-19 economic challenges, Industry 4.0 was expected to create nearly $3.7 trillion in value by 2025. Manufacturers looking to keep production moving despite the pandemic might find that they can learn and implement many lessons from smart manufacturing. Weaving these technologies gradually into the fabric of processes can increase adaptability now—and build a more resilient future.

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 Article “How to Develop a Hybrid Cloud Migration Strategy” By Poornima Apte, Contributor was previously published on the Epicor Shop Floor on March 19, 2020. You can read the original article, here.

Developing Your Hybrid Cloud Migration Strategy

In today’s high-stakes digital landscape, companies can’t afford to depend solely on in-house (on-prem) servers, storage, and networking to run the applications they depend on. While running your own on-prem infrastructure gives you complete control, it takes time to make changes to address your business needs. Plus, staffing the infrastructure properly with scarce talent can become expensive.

Cloud-based computing offers an elegant alternative to on-prem strategies. Cloud service providers deliver infrastructure as a service (IaaS). This allows enterprises to be more flexible. With the cloud, you can quickly scale up in response to spikes in demand, deploying additional servers, storage and networking resources when needed. To respond to business changes quickly and more economically, companies need to adopt cloud servers as part of their tech stack.

A primer on hybrid cloud strategy

When deploying tech in the cloud, you still have to figure out how to integrate cloud resources with on-prem systems, storage, and networking. As long as you’re running some portion of your applications on-prem and some in the cloud, your strategy is called “hybrid computing.”

The hybrid computing approach is the way of the future. That’s because it is, by its very definition, flexible, customizable, and capable of meeting innovation needs. Hybrid computing is a sensible approach because it borrows advantages from each pool: the security and control that on-prem computing delivers with the scalability and room for innovation of the public cloud. Also, with hybrid computing, you pay only for the services you use so you don’t have to be permanently tied to resources you might no longer need.

Demand for hybrid computing is expected to grow at an impressive compounded annual growth rate of 21%. The forecast calls for the global market to reach $172 million by 2025. The slice of the market for the U.S. government alone is pegged to hit $4.5 billion by then.

Six steps to a seamless cloud migration strategy

While hybrid computing is the way of the future, migration to the cloud takes a focused strategy—one that you can customize to your enterprise’s specific needs. The hybrid approach is usually the best for most businesses with an existing on-prem infrastructure. Realistically, taking hybrid steps is often the only way you can take a large existing on-prem estate and gradually move it to the cloud. You know the riddle: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

Every company travels a different route on the road to hybrid cloud migrations. If your enterprise wants to migrate to a hybrid model or has not yet realized the full potential of hybrid computing, following these steps can make for a less bumpy on-ramp.

1. Survey the landscape

Using cloud-based applications for your business is not an all-or-nothing deal. You’re probably running many applications, perhaps hundreds of them, for different purposes. Each of these applications has its own criticality and service level needed for your business, and when it comes to deciding whether it should run on the cloud, different criteria might apply to different applications.

Besides IaaS, some cloud providers also offer complete applications as a service. If what they offer is suitable for you, then you have the option of migrating away from your existing similar application and moving the users to the cloud. Other applications might be suitable for “lift-and-shift,” i.e., a straightforward migration to run on virtual servers in the cloud instead of on prem. Something in the middle is also possible, where an application’s back-end database might continue to run on your infrastructure, while only its front-end web servers run in the cloud, for example. The particular mix needed in your case depends on the needs of your business and the ease of migrating each application.

2. Locate the low-hanging fruit

How comfortable are you with moving your most precious intellectual property and details about your customer relationships to a computing infrastructure that you don’t own? This is a business question. Does your infrastructure handle secret engineering designs or customer contracts? If you handle medical data for patients, for example, then do you even have the option of saving it in the cloud? For many businesses, strict privacy protocols such as HIPAA patient confidentiality mandate rigid security, something the cloud might not easily provide. If that’s the case, the decision is made for some of your applications, and you can remove these from cloud consideration. Other low-hanging fruit such as processing of machine learning algorithms might be easier to move to the cloud.

3. Figure out dependencies

Often, multiple applications share modules like back-end databases. It might not be possible to move one of these applications to the cloud without also moving the common dependencies. This kind of situation could constrain your migration strategy and make decisions easier. Then again, it might be possible to take this opportunity to break those dependencies if you need to. You need to involve those who understand the application and its dependencies intimately, and also take your key stakeholders into confidence before you make changes.

4. Consider open source

If you are considering changing to a different application or to a different module, library, or database infrastructure, then you owe it to yourself to evaluate open-source alternatives. Open-source software has come a long way in terms of quality and is now ubiquitous, particularly in leading-edge cloud environments. With a large and active user base, the most popular open-source software, like Linux (operating system), Python (programming language), and Postgres (database server) are stable and well supported. If it’s suitable for your needs, there’s no reason not to use it. Saving on license costs is the last reason to do so, but it sure doesn’t hurt.

5. Focus on people and processes

Before you start anywhere, remember that great technology is the sum of talented people and efficient processes. Use both as a backdrop to frame your roadmap and chart progress.

Take your staff into confidence. The choices you make when migrating your applications will change daily workflows and affect your IT staff. People are resistant to change and it’s important to share your plans and give them some ownership. It might be a good time to have frank conversations and build trust. Some employees may be reluctant to give up control over an application and user base they developed over the years because it’s tied to their identity and expertise.

Moving to the brave new world of cloud is also an opportunity for older hands to pick up new tricks, especially if a cloud service provider reduces daily drudgery. Resetting somebody’s forgotten password for the umpteenth time gets old, and mundane tasks won’t be missed if a cloud provider automates it. Remember: Migrating to the cloud is not a sales job, but a partnership where both sides need to be heard. Just like any significant IT project, cloud migration can fail if your crew isn’t on board, even if you do everything else right.

6. Rinse and repeat

Once your migration is complete, it’s also a good idea to periodically assess the state of your hybrid cloud tech stack and to see if it’s best serving your needs.

If your tech stack includes many legacy on-prem systems and your integration strategy worked initially, but it’s stalling, it might be time to look at your ecosystem and employ data integration vendors.  They may be able to customize a plan that works more smoothly in your favor.

Following and recalibrating a hybrid cloud strategy to your specific enterprise needs is important to a successful cloud migration. The future lies in an ability to be agile and responsive. The explosive growth of big data—the market is expected to hit $103 billion by 2023—mandates powerful and easily scalable computing on-demand. The kind that hybrid computing delivers. Embracing the hybrid model can help companies leverage the power of digital transformation to their advantage — now and into the future.

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 article “How Blockchain in Manufacturing can Transform Business” By Sadashiva Ramakrishna, Marketing Research Lead, APAC | Epicor Software was previously published on the Epicor Shop Floor on March 11, 2020. You can read the original article on blockchain technology, here.

Blockchain Technology

In finance, “blockchain” emerged as a recordkeeping technology used by Bitcoin. It’s digital information (the “block”) stored in a public database (the “chain”).1 It’s also often referred to as a distributed ledger, which helps record and share financial transactions in multiple systems in a complex way that’s more secure and can’t be altered.

With authentication and security challenges for the finance industry in a digital world, this technology shows promise by delivering a fast and secure way to authenticate transactions. Now, the focus is shifting to other industries. The expansion of trials is proving that blockchain in manufacturing industries has the potential to be endless with the ability to create new business models. The major use cases so far come from tracking movement of assets, trade finance, and transaction settlements.

Opportunities in Manufacturing

Blockchain technology has yet to enter the digital transformation plans of many manufacturers. Research firm Gartner predicts that 80% of the supply chain blockchain initiatives will remain at proof of concept (POC), or pilot stage, through 2022. 2

The firm also says that blockchain will support the global movement and tracking of $2 trillion in goods and services globally. 3 Blockchain has all the potential to change the way supply chain functions in a manufacturing ecosystem. Though it’s often reported that large enterprises are leading blockchain-powered initiatives, it’s small and mid-size firms that are most likely to take the lead in the long run.

While the potential of blockchain isn’t fully realized, firms across industries are keen to invest in the technology realizing the benefits it can bring to process efficiency. Current use cases and POCs show how it will most likely make a difference in various manufacturing industry segments.

The expansion of trials is proving that blockchain in manufacturing industries has the potential to be endless with the ability to create new business models.

Aerospace and Defense

This is a highly regulated industry with superior compliance standards where a complex ecosystem and deep supply chain poses everyday challenges to industry players. A blockchain can make tracking transactions across global suppliers easy, thus paving the way for easier regulatory compliance and a better- managed supply chain. It can also be used to gain insights on real-time inventory at supplier sites to avoid out of stock situations.

Automotive

Auto is one of the most well-matched industries and is expected to get a major boost from blockchain technologies. Major automakers like General Motors, BMW, Ford, Honda, Jaguar, Land Rover, and others are in the process of piloting this technology for various purposes including vehicle identification, vehicle ownership, and service history. Blockchain will have a material impact on every aspect of this industry. This extends from procurement to manufacturing, distribution, and service functions. At this time, it’s being widely tested to track auto parts and suppliers in case of product recalls, which cause billions in losses every year.

Food Manufacturing

Blockchain in food manufacturing is seen as a solution that could eliminate or avoid contaminated food entering the supply chain. Most of the initiatives in this domain are aimed at generating trust among consumers by providing guarantees on origin, quality, and raw materials. One such project is IBM Food Trust Initiative, which along with its more than 200 members harvests data from food growers, manufacturers, and sellers to help consumers trace the origin of it. 4

Pharma and Medical Devices

Blockchain makes it possible for medical devices or machines to securely share data with concerned parties without violating privacy and compliance. Today, connected health devices generate loads of sensitive data and blockchain takes care of all the major concerns surrounding it. It can securely store, record, access, and share data. The technology can also play a key role in simplifying compliance processes for pharma and medical devices, where supply chain traceability takes an enormous amount of time and resources.

Small and Midsize Manufacturers

These companies are the backbone of the global economy, and they contribute to the major share of economic growth. However, the majority are financially constrained. They generally struggle to access credit based on their movable assets as collateral, and a sizable chunk of new businesses cease to exist in the first three years due to lack of financing.

This is where blockchain can help by transforming the way trade finance works. The system records and verifies every step in the supply chain, making it verifiable for all involved parties. This level of verifiability and accuracy can significantly improve invoice financing options for this well-deserved segment.

Another function that blockchain can help is smart contracts. It can do away with expensive business documentation practices with automatic execution and enforcement of agreements. In a way, it can reduce the benefit gap between large enterprises and pave the way to more competitive trade.

These are just a few examples. There are many startups that are venturing into the market to expand the scope of blockchain to every possible industry. It’s not only these companies, but also governments that are beginning to recognize how they can benefit the economy. The expectations from the stakeholders are clear—simplify the existing complex production/trade processes and make them more efficient.

TradeLens

This story is incomplete without mentioning TradeLens, a blockchain-enabled digital shipping platform. It has major shipping players signed up for it, and they’re sharing data for easy flow of information between various trading hubs. The platform covers more than half the world’s shipping container cargo, and even customs agencies started using this system to verify and clear goods in a faster and digitalized manner.

Its Fit and Future

Blockchain is suitable for every industry that’s high value, high risk, and highly regulated. Its list of benefits is long—from preventing tampering and counterfeiting, to preventive maintenance by identifying when, where, and how failures occur.

Blockchain is a good fit for manufacturers who deal with complex supply chains and need systems to monitor the components from the original source to the final product for authenticity and safety. It’s maturing slowly, and it may be five years from now before we see the POCs evolving into real-world use cases. Manufacturers need to keep an eye on developments and POCs that may be applicable to their segments. Watch for blockchain opportunities in your business.

  1. Investopedia, Blockchain Explained
  2. Gartner Press Release, Gartner Says 80% of Supply Chain Blockchain Initiatives Will Remain at a Pilot Stage Through 2022
  3. Gartner Insights, Blockchain: What’s Ahead?
  4. IBM, The Food on Your Holiday Table May Have Been Verified by Blockchain

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 Article “4 Technologies Driving Digital Transformation in the Next Five Years” By Greg Sandler, Contributor was previously published on the Epicor Shop Floor on April 07, 2020. you can read the original article, here.

4 Technologies Driving Digital Transformation

Four key technologies promise to drive digital transformation over the next five years. They are expected to shape small- and medium-sized business investment strategies and priorities across industry sectors.

In fact, technology is driving digital transformation and creating a futurescape where artificial intelligence (AI), the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), automation, and blockchain are converging in what some futurists call the fourth industrial revolution or Industry 4.0.

Digital transformation marks a radical rethinking of how organizations use technology, people, and processes to fundamentally change business performance. In the next five years, key technologies—including AI, IoT, automation and blockchain—promise to better enable how companies use data-driven insights to improve operations and boost ROI.

1. Artificial Intelligence

Accenture defines AI as “a constellation of technologies—from machine learning to natural language processing—that allows machines to sense, comprehend, act, and learn.”

Enterprises of all sizes can benefit from AI applications that optimize cloud processing, enable the deployment of faster computers, and boost operational efficiency. “AI is no longer a ‘nice to have’ or a set of cool tools to impress management,” notes the Accenture report. “AI and data strategies are becoming the very core of business.”

“AI is no longer a ‘nice to have’ or a set of cool tools to impress management”

As AI becomes mainstream, companies need to develop strategic roadmaps for implementation over the next five years to ensure they have the right talent to integrate and scale new technology.

In fact, three out of four C-suite executives surveyed by Accenture believe that if they don’t scale AI in the next five years, they risk going out of business entirely. One area where the use of AI and machine learning is expected to grow over the next five years is the global manufacturing sector.

An early adopter in the use of AI for production is Midea Group, a Chinese electrical appliance manufacturer. Midea is implementing digital tools and deploying robotics as part of a strategic transformation of its production processes. For example, the Chinese company worked with Intel to build an AI-based cloud platform to increase the accuracy and efficiency of its product inspection processes. The use of AI is also helping Midea launch edge computing solutions that improve production efficiency, while reducing system load and operating costs.

Midea uses AI for optimizing the machine vision capabilities of robots used in production processes. Machine learning algorithms and powerful computing processing capabilities also are the foundation of the company’s industrial visual inspection cloud platform. Midea’s AI platform provides end-to-end algorithm training and computing capabilities for its cloud platforms.

2. The Internet of Things (IoT) and 5G

As the new 5G wireless standard is deployed worldwide, it promises to accelerate IoT solutions—with speeds as much as 100 times faster than 4G. 5G will also “allow next-generation networks to compete head-on with wired broadband systems, including those built with today’s fastest fiber-optic technology,” notes a Harvard Business Review (HBR) report.

A more connected economy will be fueled by the evolution of IoT over the next five years. “Few emerging technologies offer more transformative potential for forward-thinking companies than the IoT,” says another HBR report. “The reason: It combines sensors and sophisticated software analytics to process large volumes of operational data.”

One innovative example of how IoT connectivity can transform the retail landscape is Memomi’s digital mirror. The “Memory Mirror,” already in use by retailers like Nieman Marcus and Luxottica, a luxury eyewear seller, creates an augmented reality experience by connecting devices such as an in-store mirror with web and mobile platforms.

In addition to providing immersive in-store experiences, the Memory Mirror connects more than just devices, it connects and engages shoppers. “For brands, we’re actually solving a bigger problem than we are for customers, says Salvador Nissi Vilcovsky, CEO of Memomi Labs. “The problem for stores has been they can’t tell what’s happening in their stores. We’re actually bringing to the table a new generation of in-store analytics, which enhances the relationship between brands and their customers.”

Retail is just one example of how 5G and IOT solutions are impacting the global economy. As the Harvard Business Review notes, “digital transformation is spurring innovation and new business models across virtually all industrial and commercial sectors.”

3. Automation

Automation is a cornerstone of digital transformation technology. Gartner defines automation as the way organizations use technology to accomplish tasks that once required human judgment or action. Now, a new era of what Gartner calls “hyperautomation” will feature advanced computing technology—including AI and machine learning—to rapidly identify and automate all possible business processes.

As the Gartner report notes, hyperautomation extends across a range of tools that can be automated, but also refers to the use of technology to discover, analyze, design, automate, measure, monitor, and reassess business processes and data.

Lamborghini is already using hyperautomation to improve production efficiency on its new Urus SUV. The automaker worked with KPMG to develop an Industry 4.0 IT platform that uses the industrial IoT to configure assembly processes. The factory features an unprecedented modular design, using digital sensors and robots in a collaborative and connected environment.

Each vehicle moves through Lamborghini’s production floor via automatic guided vehicles that autonomously transport the car to the appropriate work island. Electronic monitoring of the production process provides data insights that are available instantly, giving workers control over every aspect of production, on site or remotely.

“Boasting the most-advanced Industry 4.0 standards, the futuristic facility merges virtual worlds and live production by integrating robotics and machine-to-machine collaboration with Lamborghini’s skilled production workers,” KPMG reports. “Electronic monitoring, data collection and reporting from every corner of the shop floor are available instantly, and workers can control every aspect of production on site—or remotely from any location—using tablets that fully eliminate reliance on paper documents.”

4. Blockchain

The fourth technology poised to impact digital disruption over the next five years is blockchain technology. Blockchain, which is evolving beyond crytocurrenices like Bitcoin, will give companies across industry sectors the ability to use a secure distributed ledger for everything from contracts and transactions to financing and recordkeeping. A distributed ledger is a secure database that is shared by multiple consenting parties, and synchronized across multiple sites, companies and/or locations. Blockchain provides an open, distributed ledger that can record transactions between multiple parties in a verifiable and permanent way.

One area where blockchain is already proving its worth is in global supply chains. Shipping giant Maersk and IBM, for example, developed TradeLens, a blockchain solution that helps all the stakeholders in the supply chain—from shipper to recipient—to collaborate as cargo moves around the world. Blockchain provides a transparent, secured, immutable record of transactions.

Using IBM blockchain, financial institutions can settle cross-border payments in a matter of seconds. The way it works is that two financial institutions transacting business together agree to use a digital asset that facilitates the trade, supplies important settlement instructions and, ultimately, records the details into an immutable blockchain for clearing.

The Digital Future

The convergence of AI, IoT, automation, and blockchain means that business leaders need to think about how these technologies can be integrated into their day-to-day operations.

“An organization has a far better chance at succeeding when its operating model—or how the organization creates value—is aligned to its strategy,” concludes a report in the HBR. “The good news for companies born before the digital era is that they often quickly understand the value in transforming to agile, adaptive, and responsive enterprises because they already have the other intangibles in place: Strong brands, an entrenched customer base, established sales methods, and partners—suppliers, distributors, and technology.”

Looking ahead, companies of all shapes and sizes—from start-ups to centuries-old brands—must understand how to use new technology to effectively achieve meaningful digital transformation in their corner of the global business ecosystem.

Companies that integrate digital technologies could reap a savings of more than $85,000 per employee, according to an Accenture report. Schneider Electric, a French energy-management company, for example, is using AI to help its equipment automatically adapt to changing environmental conditions—reducing overall downtime and improving asset utilization for its clients.

Leveraging combinations of advanced digital technologies, concludes Accenture, helps businesses “continuously create new, hyper-personalized experiences in both a business-to-consumer and business-to-business context.”

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.


“Decoding AI For Business Leaders”, an article on the effects of artificial intelligence in businesses, was previously published on the Epicor shopfloor – here.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is at peak hype, which means there’s an overwhelming amount of sales, marketing, and highly technical information about how it can purportedly benefit your business. Sifting through this information to cull fact from fiction, understanding what’s practical vs. theoretical, can be a daunting task.

To help decode AI for business leaders, here are some definitions, concepts, and real-world examples and recommendations for how your company can explore and leverage Artificial Intelligence.

1. What Exactly is Artificial Intelligence?

Essentially, Artificial Intelligence is a computer system that mimics human intelligence. It can make decisions and perform constructive tasks after “reading,” “seeing,” or “hearing something.”

2. What’s a Real-World Example of AI?

Pretty much everyone has interacted with voice assistants like Amazon Alexa. These assistants listen to your question, and then (hopefully) provide an accurate answer. Another example is a lane departure warning feature built into semi-autonomous cars. The car recognizes a lane marker and notifies the driver when the car is about to drift over it.

3. How Mature is AI?

As groundbreaking as voice assistants are, they’re a long way from the sentient robots that AI futurists predict. While Alexa, for example, is very capable of answering routine questions, managing calendars, and supporting home automation (e.g., turning lights on and off), she often responds to more complicated questions with nonsensical replies or states, “Sorry, I don’t know that one.” And while billions of dollars are being invested to develop truly autonomous cars, we’re many years away from drivers being able to doze off while their cars drive them safely to work.

4. Are There AI Capabilities I Should Leverage in My Business?

AI is in its infancy. Robots that are ready to competently run your manufacturing facility or staff your customer service center are in the distant future. So, while you may need to set your sights a little lower than a Jetsons-style home, exploring how AI has the potential to help your company operate more efficiently or gain a competitive edge is time well spent.

Ask yourself, “Are there repetitive actions my team takes after reading, seeing, or hearing something? Is there a finite number of constructive follow-up actions that must be cataloged?” If so, could a voice assistant be used to listen for input, make decisions, and free your team to focus on higher value work? By scrutinizing your company’s operations, you stand a good chance of identifying processes that can be automated with AI.

5. How Do I Explore Potential AI Solutions?

As a peak-hype technology, vendors that design, build, and support AI solutions are abundant. But for most leaders exploring the potential of AI, I recommend taking advantage of solutions that are integrated into platforms your company already owns.

As an example, one of the most ubiquitous productivity solutions in use, Microsoft Office 365, has a feature called MyAnalytics. It’s an AI tool that reads your emails, calendars, and tasks, and provides recommendations on how to better manage your time and activities. Most enterprise-class software and cloud providers are incorporating AI into their platforms, and it’s worth exploring what your respective vendors offer.

6. How Does Machine Learning Relate to AI?

AI often gets referenced alongside related technologies like machine learning (ML), big data, and predictive analytics, which can further complicate a complex topic. To keep things simple, think of ML as simply another flavor of AI—one that learns things by reading, seeing, or hearing patterns in large volumes of data.

If that sounds very similar to AI, it’s because they’re related! So, what’s the difference? AI is the broader concept of machines carrying out tasks in a “smart” way, while ML is an application within AI that allows the computer system to “learn” from past experiences or historical data.

Let’s expand on our earlier AI example of voice assistants like Alexa. If you shop for groceries with Alexa, she gathers data from your purchase history and “learns” from it. When you ask Alexa to add paper towels to your cart, she responds asking if you want to add spray cleaner, an item you purchased with paper towels in the past. Alexa is the AI—the data application within Alexa that draws on your purchase history is ML.

7. So, How Do I Get Started?

AI is beginning to open the door to solving old business challenges in new ways, and innovative and creative thinking is called for to match AI solutions to opportunities. If you’re new to AI, start small—potentially by examining a few high-transaction business processes—and give thought to how AI can be used to improve efficiency and accuracy. Next, find a trusted vendor that can insulate you from the underlying technology so you can maintain focus on the opportunity and desired outcomes.

While the presence of AI in the workplace will continue to grow, there are two important things to remember. First, people are, and will remain, an integral part of your business. Second, if you have questions, ask them. Any vendor worth their salt should be able to clearly address questions and concerns about AI solutions and connect the dots so you understand how it solves your particular business pain points.

Amazon Alexa and all related logos and motion marks are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates. All product and company names are trademarks™ or registered® trademarks of their respective holders. Use of them does not imply any affiliation with or endorsement by them. All specifications are subject to change without notice.

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 Article “What You Need to Know About Cloud Computing” was previously published on the Epicor Shop Floor, Here.

New technology can be scary. Not Terminator scary (not yet, at least), but it has the power to completely transform the way we all do business.

The rate at which it’s changing and evolving can be overwhelming, and it won’t stop anytime soon. Especially when it comes to cloud technology.

According to one recent IBM study, businesses plan to move 75% of their non-cloud applications to the cloud within three years.

So, what is cloud computing exactly?

In a Nutshell: What Is Cloud?

From storage to software, if you’re getting/using it over the Internet, it’s cloud computing. “Cloud” is the delivery of on-demand computing resources over the Internet.

When you take a picture on an iPhone, it gets backed up and stored in the cloud. When you stream a movie on Netflix or a song on Spotify, you’re accessing it from the cloud. Banking apps, social media, and even Fortnite all rely on cloud servers.

In professional settings, organizations often deploy their business systems in the cloud. Before, these systems were hosted on servers physically located at the business (“on-premises”). But now, everything from enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions, to inventory management applications, to point of sale software, and more runs in the cloud.

What It Can Do: Benefits of Cloud

Greater Innovation
Did we mention technology is changing quickly? Rather than racing to catch up, cloud allows you to compete at the forefront of your industry.

Because cloud deployments let you pay over time and as needed, the latest innovations are now just as accessible to smaller businesses as the larger enterprises.

Lower Total Cost
Cloud transforms your IT resources from a cost center to a profit center. Hosting software on-premises racks up a huge amount of cost and risk—buying servers, powering them, maintaining them.

When you outsource that computing power to the cloud, someone else gets to deal with it, while you get to focus on growing your business through strategic initiatives.

Increased Flexibility
Also known as “scalability.” The cloud enables you to customize IT resources to your specific business needs—both now and in the future. Add users, increase bandwidth, boost storage capacity, and more. Whatever you want, whenever you want.

Being able to scale up or down ensures users always have what they need to be productive.

Improved Performance
Cloud providers regularly update server hardware to the latest and greatest. Plus, customers get the most up-to-date software delivered automatically.

Rest easy knowing that you always have the most powerful, current software available. You don’t have to burden IT staff with time-consuming updates and upgrades.

More Security
This is probably what keeps you up at night. Data hosted on-premises is vulnerable to break-ins or even natural disasters. Without a proper backup, you could lose that data forever.

While it’s true that no data is 100% safe, data stored in the cloud is much more secure. Cloud providers continuously update their servers to combat the newest threats. Plus, your data is consistently backed up in separate servers, often thousands of miles apart.

How It Works: Different Types of Cloud

While there are many different types of cloud services available, each one offers unique benefits that enhance a business’ operations in a number of ways.

Software as a Service (SaaS)

Examples: Salesforce, Microsoft Office 365 apps, MailChimp, Epicor ERP Cloud

Most commonly used for: Out-of-the-box solutions

The most common type of cloud service, SaaS is software that users can access over the Internet.

SaaS may require a subscription fee to access the app from any compatible device over the Internet. Sometimes, you can even download the software directly to your computer.

Platform as a Service (PaaS)

Examples: Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services (AWS)

Most commonly used for: Database management, development tools, operating systems

PaaS is a big one for developers. A PaaS business rents out its technology library.

You can use it for developing, testing, delivering, and managing software applications. No need to buy underlying hardware or software. Instead, you can focus on developing and managing apps.

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

Examples: Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud

Most commonly used for: servers, networking, storage, and more

IaaS companies rent out an entire IT infrastructure. You can pay to use theirs rather than hosting everything yourself. Servers, storage, networks, operating systems, you name it. All available on a pay-as-you-go basis.

Because this model is so broad, it also allows for the most flexibility and customization.

The Verdict: Cloud is the New Norm

Cloud computing continues to grow year over year. Moving your business systems to the cloud can be a large, overwhelming change. But there are definitely some obvious cloud computing benefits.

Cloud is a tool that empowers business owners. And it can be a foundational piece to any digital transformation journey. It’s worth it to evaluate your business to see if the cloud is right for you.

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.


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.