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.

 

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About Encompass Solutions

Encompass Solutions is a business and software consulting firm that specializes in ERP systems, EDI, and Managed Services support for Manufacturers. 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 confluence of an improved market outlook, the shift to the cloud, the pressure of digital transformation and replacement cycle dynamics has created one of the biggest growth opportunities for enterprise resource planning (ERP) refreshes. New cloud deployments provide a catalyst for improving and automating back-office processes like never before.

This Market Overview examines the wide range of cloud ERP solutions on the basis of product- versus services-centric offerings and unregulated versus regulated solutions. While the number of vendors in the market has diminished due to mergers and acquisitions, the consolidation has led to concentrated platform investments in the cloud and exponential technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), big data, augmented reality, the Internet of Things, 5G, and blockchain.

Successful deployments will achieve the elusive goal of improving efficiencies and preparing for exponential growth. The use of AI in the back office will power the next wave of post-digital ERP advancements.

 

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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.


Key themes woven into our worldwide manufacturing top 10 predictions for 2021 include the focus on the ecosystems, supply chain management, product and service innovation, quality, technology consolidation, and AI. These predictions span the manufacturing value chain, as DX continues to be embraced by all parts of the business. This IDC study provides manufacturers with the top 10 predictions and underlying drivers that we expect to impact manufacturers’ IT investments in 2021 and beyond. Technology leaders and their counterparts in the line-of-business (LOB) operations can use this document to guide their IT strategic planning efforts.

IDC provides its top 10 predictions for the manufacturing industry with analysis that covers a five-year period. The predictions are designed to provide organizational decision makers with a call-to-action investment plan with respect to these technologies

 

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About Encompass Solutions

Encompass Solutions is a business and software consulting firm that specializes in ERP systems, EDI, and Managed Services support for Manufacturers. 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.


You have likely experienced the interminable hourglass spin while trying to open a large spreadsheet, or have spent multiple hours manually typing handwritten information into a system. In our data-driven world, it is safe to say that troubled encounters with large quantities of data are becoming the norm. Our data footprint has increased considerably over the past 15 years, jumping from 130 billion to 40 trillion gigabytes between 2005 and 2021. The data revolution opened up opportunities for organizations to analyze human behavior more deeply and develop more refined business strategies.

 

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About Encompass Solutions

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


Epicor Virtual Agent (EVA) is intelligence personified. An artificial intelligence (AI) tool for your ERP system, its context-aware, natural language processing (NLP) allows users to interact with EVA just like they would with any other colleague—either by talking or texting. This makes the breadth and depth of the industry-specific functionality and information available inside the system directly accessible to a larger audience—boosting productivity and efficiency and giving your company an improved return on ERP investment. But that is just one aspect of EVA. More than just a chatbot, EVA returns richly formatted information with multiple button choices for suggested next actions.

 

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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.


Recent technologies including artificial intelligence (AI), analytics, the cloud, the Internet of Things (IoT), machine learning, mobility, and robotics have the potential to connect billions of transactions to and from disparate systems, to smart machines, and to unimaginable amounts of data.

To remain competitive, manufacturers must deliver high quality, innovative products and get them to market faster. By making better use of data, manufacturers can better predict customer demand, quickly adjust to changes in the marketplace, accelerate the engineer-to-order process, and communicate more efficiently within an optimized value chain.

 

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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.


Defining Industrial Transformation (IX), measuring companies’ progress along the journey, and identifying the best practices of leaders ― that’s been the focus of LNS Research for several years. A wide range of emerging technologies power industrial companies’ transformation efforts, and they’re changing the way organizations run operations. Chief
among them are:

  • Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) technologies, designed to make sense of the incredible stream of data generated in plants and factories; and
  • Artificial intelligence (AI), which monitors and analyzes that data and seeks ways to improve operations through digital insights.

After an extensive period of testing and pilot projects, these rapidly evolving technologies and use cases are having a real-world impact on industrial operations and production today ― in some surprising ways.

 

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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.


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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.


Interactive interfaces are the next stage in workforce agility, providing more visibility into data and processes while enabling faster reaction times. Epicor Virtual Agent (EVA) is Epicor Software Corp.’s answer to manufacturers’ desire to extract more value from their current assets and investments without incurring higher costs or sacrificing product quality. The Epicor Virtual Agent, aptly named EVA, is a cutting-edge digital assistant designed to help users work more intelligently.

Epicor Virtual Agent (EVA) At Work

With built-in artificial intelligence, EVA is able to simplify user interactions with the ERP system and automate manual tasks to speed up operations. Text and voice cognitive skills enable EVA to transform data into visual representations. The result is an intuitive experience that allows users to complete actions on native devices with ease. The technology is powered by Natural Language Processing (NLP), a human-computer interactive technology that users can leverage from mobile devices with requests and tasks that will be addressed by the Epicor Virtual Agent. Targeted information and data to enable faster, better decision making is then delivered in real-time.

An image of the Epicor Virtual Assistant, EVA, being used on a mobile device

According to Scott Hays, Epicor senior vice president of product marketing, “When EVA responds within the Epicor solution, she does so with more visuals,” offering the example, “If I ask for a typical part, I’ll get back an image of the part with the key information I need to know right away. And, she’ll have a ‘next best action’ button.” Users can also request more information, including part price or quantity on hand, which will be provided by the Epicor Virtual Agent via the request and response interface.

Taking The Epicor Virtual Agent Beyond Conversation

While the request/response conversational experience may be what most users are familiar with when it comes to virtual agents, the Epicor Virtual Agent extends functionality into proactive suggestion based on best practices. The proactive decision-making process takes into account combinations of events, market statistics and historical data. Designed to extend and support the workforce, EVA can provide insights teams can easily overlook to improve accuracy, problem-spotting, and can even forecast or adjust production or distribution levels according to customer demand.

When conversation falls short, actional insights reinforce the agent’s effectiveness according to Hayes, who elaborated on what it means to be an effective virtual agent, stating “The second capability is taking action. If EVA has noticed something going on, she may say that based on what she’s seeing happening on the factory floor that I should schedule maintenance on a machine.” The data described includes that from shop floor machines and IoT sensors. These devices, coupled with Epicor ERP, create a virtual nervous system that enables seamless and informed communications between EVA and users’ mobile devices.

The Epicor Virtual Agent In Action

By utilizing the EVA via an interface device, management can confirm or deny suggestions from the Epicor Virtual Agent with just a few clicks or taps. Production managers can schedule maintenance for a machine, shift production to other machines, and carry out an array of other actions with ease.

The Epicor Virtual Agent goes beyond traditional manufacturing scenarios, too. Other applications and industry-specific use cases include:

  • Distribution — EVA can provide outside sales and field service representatives with the instant and easy access to information they need, such as product details, price, and availability information, as well as the ability to create a quote on their mobile devices while meeting with customers face-to-face.
  • Retail — EVA utilizes an AI-powered recommendation engine based on market basket analysis to suggest relevant cross-sell or up-sell recommendations in real-time. This can take place in the aisle, in real-time, where purchase decisions are made.
  • Automotive Aftermarket — By using AI to evaluate huge datasets that include vehicle registrations and parts failure rates by region, EVA can communicate to auto parts distributors that specific parts are in high demand and stock levels of specific parts need to be replenished or increased to meet that projected demand.

Leveraging The Epicor Virtual Agent Alongside Epicor ERP

Developed using AI services from Microsoft Azure AI services are an integral part of EVA’s development. As such, the Epicor Virtual Agent can accompany any size and type of Epicor implementation, be it on-premise or in the cloud. By delivering the power of EVA to customers of every size, even small and medium-sized companies can leverage innovative tech the biggest enterprises use to grow their businesses.

Hays emphasizes EVA’s machine learning component and how extended use will make the tool even more ubiquitous, “With EVA, you interact naturally with your ERP system. It’s as easy as just talking or typing to a colleague. This makes the breadth and depth of the industry-specific functionality and information available inside the system directly accessible to a larger audience, boosting productivity and efficiency, and giving the company an improved return on their ERP investment.”

EVA will be available as part of the latest releases of Epicor ERP and Prophet 21, which are planned for general availability in May 2019.

About Encompass Solutions

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


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.