Manufacturers are quite familiar with feeling the squeeze of constrained talent pools. This can be said for just about every department of a business. When it comes to ERP staff, qualified individuals can be tough to come by even in healthy job markets. This becomes even more apparent when seeking ERP staff with backgrounds that align with the unique needs of manufacturing businesses. Remote Staff Augmentation, also known as Virtual Staff Augmentation, for manufacturers is one answer to the problem of finding qualified staff to keep your manufacturing business running at peak performance.

Whether you’re working on the road, at home, or onsite, Encompass has the capacity to supplement ERP staff remotely with remote workforce augmentation.

What is Remote Workforce Augmentation?

Remote Workforce Augmentation is the ability to supplement your internal staffing needs with employees, contracted or otherwise, that operate remotely and generally interact with a business by virtual means.

Why use Remote Workforce Augmentation?

There are many reasons why a company would choose to leverage Remote Workforce Augmentation for their ERP needs. This includes everything from simple system checks and reviews to advanced projects and ongoing support.

Some of the most common pain points for manufacturers that lead to leveraging remote workforce augmentation include:

  • Being overburdened with incoming orders or outgoing purchase orders
  • Achieving business goals
  • Running regular reports
  • Adding ERP coverage without bringing on new employees
  • Bridging gaps between office staff and departments

If you are experiencing any of these pain points or have a few that you think may qualify for remote workforce augmentation and IT support, Encompass has the right person for you.

How Encompass Provides Remote Workforce Augmentation

Companies that cannot afford or do not have a need for fulltime ERP staff will want to consider Remote Workforce Augmentation. This arrangement is one where the company will contract their ERP work and support requirements out to a third party, in this case Encompass Solutions, Inc. (ESI).

ESI will provide several levels of support for a business to evaluate when considering remote workforce augmentation, which includes:

  • Supplementing your ERP staff
  • Bridging gaps during personnel turnover
  • Supporting teams with those on Maternity/Paternity leave
  • Quote/Order Entry
  • Job Creation/Closing
  • Purchase Order Entry
  • AR Invoicing
  • Shipping Notifications
  • Manual EDI processing
  • Transitioning back to your team if needed

Depending on your level of requirements, you may choose a basic or more comprehensive offering. Use your procedures – we’ll do the work!

Get started with Encompass Remote Workforce Augmentation

If you are ready to supplement internal operations with ESI staff or would like a review of your internal processes to find the best solution to your needs, we can help you get started.

It all starts with an informal review of your current process, which includes:

  • Order Entry
  • Purchase Order Entry
  • Customer Statements
  • and more

As part of the process, your business will provide Encompass with your procedures and our team will execute this according to your business processes and requirements.

Following that, ESI will document our progress throughout the day, providing regular reports and communications to your team or “next in line” person to make sure you are always kept up to date.

If you are ready to have the conversation around your IT support and remote workforce augmentation needs, contact Encompass today.

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.


Encompass Solutions has been named as one of the top project management companies in NC by Welp Magazine. To be recognized alongside 27 other great North Carolina companies was a pleasant surprise to start off the new year.

the logo for welp magazine named encompass solutions as one of the top project management companies in NC

‍Coincidentally, this event arrives alongside the milestone of our 20th Anniversary providing and array of professional and technology services to business in manufacturing industries.

We’re thankful to have received the distinction and the encouragement that comes with our recognition as a great company. If you’d like to read the article and see who else shared the distinction, article can be found here.

Thank you to Welp Magazine for the support – we appreciate the recognition as one of the top project management companies in NC!

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.


Now that she’s been with the company for the better part of a year, we asked Vee for her thoughts on her experience at Encompass. Here’s what she had to say.

First Impressions

From the moment I stepped into Encompass to interview for the Documentation Specialist position on January 28, 2020 until now, I’ve been exceptionally pleased.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I walked in, especially since I was about to be interviewed by a Managing Partner. I knew that I had to shake off my nerves and be the only person I knew how to be… me.

Upon arrival, I initially spoke with a lady who ended up sitting with me on the couch to chat. She learned a little more about me and not only what I can do for the company.

Many questions can be answered simply by engaging and not going straight for the jugular. Being grilled with those cookie cutter questions in the past made me wonder if I was a Miss America contestant or a key suspect in a criminal case who was subpoenaed for court. After getting acquainted for a bit, it was time for my interview.

Another engaging conversation… I was still a little nervous, but at ease. It was finally refreshing to have dialogue that showcased my personality and talents to determine if both were suitable within the Encompass environment. I was introduced to my future co-workers. First impression? Friendly and genuine.

The managing partners have an open-door policy. Doesn’t that sound familiar? The difference here is that you’re heard. They listen to understand before responding, instead of listening solely to respond. If there are any concerns, work-related or personal, they’re addressed and not left floating in limbo.

Part of the Team

Regardless of our individual specialties, we work as a team. We’re there if our clients are in a pinch, needing immediate assistance on projects that require ‘all hands on deck’. Prepare a quick training to get us up to speed to comprehend your needs and we’ll keep the ball rolling until it’s time for it to stop.

This is the truest definition of a team that I’ve ever been a part of in my corporate career of 22 years. Solid foundations are built upon communication and trust, which leads to long-lasting relationships.

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 free sales tax risk assessment is a self-serve online resource that helps companies determine where they have triggered economic nexus. Companies answer three questions and receive a PDF report that provides a map and details regarding where they have triggered sales tax obligations and which states they need to watch.

Know Where You’re On The Hook With Our Free Sales Tax Risk Assessment Tool

Get a breakdown of states where you may be obligated to collect sales tax. The free Avalara Sales Tax Risk Assessment can help you determine where your sales have created a need to register to collect and remit sales tax — and guide you on a cost-effective automation solution.

Still Need Convincing To Use This Free Sales Tax Risk Assessment Tool?

Has your company triggered economic nexus, or do you want to find out if it has? Try our tax expert partner’s free online sales tax risk assessment today – Avalara will give you your own report.

Selling into states where you’re not physically located? You might be on the hook for sales tax if you’ve sold a certain dollar amount or volume.

Give our tax expert partner Avalara some of your time, and they’ll give you a customized PDF featuring each state where your sales have likely triggered a sales tax obligation and suggestions on an automation solution with strong ROI.

Get a breakdown of states where you may be obligated to collect sales tax. The free Avalara Sales Tax Risk Assessment can help you determine where your sales have created a need to register to collect and remit sales tax — and why.

43 states tax remote sales so it’s hard for businesses with national (or international) sales to know where they’re required to register to collect tax. Avalara’s new tool provides that clarity. Check it out and let’s talk about automating that knowledge.

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.


Sudden and abrupt change can interrupt anyone’s mode of operation. This couldn’t be truer than in manufacturing and distribution industries. When that change affects supply chains, livelihoods, and communities, anxieties are compounded. In these situations, people look for business leadership as a source of answers to the unknowns that are feeding their anxiety. Here are 3 ways to lead your organization through a crisis and towards a better outcome.

Business Leadership – Success From Uncertainty

There are many qualities that make a great leader, such as passion, delegating, owning responsibility, honesty, and active listening. However, not all leadership qualities are created equal when it relates to business. This is punctuated when situations are considered critical. Our current business and economic climate qualify soundly for this designation. From this point of view, below are three of the most effective and essential business leadership qualities that will help your organization endure a tough situation and lead to overall business success.

1. Give Clear Direction

A light in the dark can be more than a means of finding your way around after the power goes out. A clear path delivers comfort and confidence to move forward. In the dark, your teams may stumble over their anxiety of what may or may not come next. Direction delivers many essential signals to your organization, here are four among the most effective:

Be Calm – “Calm is Contagious” I’m not sure if its an idiom, but it should be. People react to the signals they are given every day. The most primal of which is behavior. Your calm and reassuring body language, sincerity, and timeliness reinforce the reassuring effect that essential to every level of your organization. Understanding you’ve provided a behavior to emulate every member of your organization can move forward with focused and unencumbered with anxiety.

Communicate Openly – By maintaining direct and open communication, you negate the inherent anxiety that comes with moving through the dark. Whether delivering good or bad news, your communications need to come when they are needed and provide details that lead forward. You don’t have to have all the answers, but you must let your teams know the one’s you do have.

Be Precise – Clarity is an important part of giving direction. Don’t leave room for misinterpretation. Keep your workplaces free of inefficient language and processes. By communicating in clean, clear, crisp directives, everyone remains on the same page and works towards the common goal.

Maintain Your Connection – Your organization may have been founded by an individual, but I guarantee it was built by people. Some of them may be senior members of your organization, some of them may have joined you days before any significant change upended your day-to-day. It’s important to remember that they are all invested in your continued success. If you don’t treat them as though they have a stake in the game, you may be compounding the problems you are already facing.

By giving your teams a clear direction moving forward, you enable them to keep their focus and put the unanswered questions out of their path. This leaves them free from distractions to continue towards their goal. This leads us to the next point.

2. Outline achievable goals

One of the biggest components of business leadership is to include yourself as part of the solution. Having a goal in mind helps to maintain focus. To that effect, the notion of “here’s what I, you, and we can do now…” can be real foundational support for those who can let their minds wander into the great expanse of what comes next.

By ensuring everyone has a goal, is on task, and maintains accountability throughout your organizational structure, your place in the supply chains remain uninterrupted, your products reach their destinations, and your relationships remain in good standing.

3. Identify Opportunity And Implement

This is where you show your organization that you are in control of the situation. You’ve given everyone the rundown on what’s happening form an operational standpoint and measures being taken to alleviate constraints. With the staff at ease, they can go about achieving goals and completing tasks in their “new now” modes of operation.

By identifying key opportunities that you can take advantage of during this change of pace, you communicate to everyone that growth is still happening, even if it may not be apparent on the surface. Big ships take time to steer and those efficiency projects that kept being pushed onto the back burner due to high volume orders fulfillment or staff shortages are now primed and ready to be implemented. At the very least, you can outline your strategy to achieve the implementation of new ideas and projects so that you can hit the ground running when the conditions permit.

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.


If you’re like many manufacturers in the US and around the world, COVID-19 has disrupted your supply chain significantly. Many of our partners have spent the recent weeks evaluating which of their Suppliers in China and other parts of Asia have stopped shipments. Evaluating how this will affect your manufacturing operations in the US and other facilities around the world can be a cumbersome task. The impact on the delivery of products that this global pandemic has produced cannot be understated. By proactively leveraging these COVID-19 resources, your business can be better prepared than businesses reacting to the latest industry disruption.

Discounted Consulting

In an effort to address the increasing call for our services and the remote requirements businesses currently need to adopt, we’ve expanded our emphasis on remote consulting and implementation services. This slower time could be an opportunity, while people have the bandwidth, to prepare to scale up for future growth.

You can tailor these combined training seminars and implementation services to topics specific to projects currently underway or planned in your organization. The benefit of combining these two services remotely results in better use of your time and money.

We are also offering discounted consulting blocks to make these services more easily available to businesses.

Cycle Count Workshops

Streamlining inventory management through effective cycle counting can do away with show-stopping inventory activities at the end of the year when flu-season and holiday social gatherings are in full effect.

Work smarter, not harder, and instate a policy that ensures your organization is prepared throughout the year with accurate and effective inventory management.

Production And Delivery Analysis

Our consultants increasingly hear from the board room regarding how outside vendors, salespeople on the road, and visiting customers could potentially bring nasty bugs into their facilities. It’s a legitimate concern and carrying out predictive analytics is an undertaking where Encompass Solutions is happy to lend a hand. Together, we can sit down and take the time to figure out how you can stay in business during an uncertain time, remain profitable, and protect your staff.

Want help creating your own alternate production and sales plan for the next 90 to 180 days? You’ve likely got many questions revolving around how operations and production will change moving forward. We can help you answer and develop plans in regard to the following questions:

  • What products were imported in the last 90 or 180 days?
  • How will limited supplies impact their production?
  • How will this impact open sales orders and forecasted sales?
  • Which customer accounts will be hit the hardest?
  • How will this affect revenue?

Leveraging Remote Meetings

For many, remote work is a concept that difficult to manage within the current structure of their organization. We’ve mastered the art of remote work with our partners and can help your organization get a handle on the most efficient ways to leverage remote resources and staff.

Encompass offers remote support via Zoom on a daily basis to organizations across the globe. Let us lend a hand in helping you set up and manage your workforce remotely when needed. We’ll assist you to manage your data in such a way that facilitates lag-free, streaming audio and video sharing, suggest the best situations when staff should stay at their desks vs a group in the conference room, how to manage audio if there are multiple users on laptops in the same room, downloading recorded Zoom sessions, and more.

Ultimately, in a worst-case scenario, you may decide that your teams should work remotely for a period of time. We’ll help you develop and implement the Zoom and Webex best practices that fit your organization’s structure. You can maintain that framework and adjust it as time goes on.

Alternate Plans For Production And Sales

Ensure your production floor and sales activities remain in operation, regardless of the current climate, through the development of alternatives based on projected 90-day and 180-day forecasts.

  • How will limited supplies impact their production?
  • How will this impact open sales orders and forecasted sales?
  • Which customer accounts will be hit the hardest?
  • How will this affect revenue?

If you have asked yourself any of the following questions over the last few weeks, it may be worthwhile to formulate alternatives in the event your trading partners cannot fulfill their obligations for one reason or another. Reach out to Encompass today and we’ll work with you to ensure you have an effective plan in place prior to the next big disruption.

Encompass Small Business COVID-19 Resources

Encompass Small Business COVID-19 Resources can assist in completing projects, evaluating and renovating new or existing systems, as well as providing managed services to supplement limited workforce scenarios.

US Small Business Administration Guidance & Loan Information

Emergency Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Program

Small businesses and private nonprofits are now eligible to apply for the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. The working capital loans of up to $2 million can provide vital economic support to small businesses and nonprofits to help overcome the temporary loss of revenue they are experiencing.

CARES Act

Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act

Payroll Protection Program (PPP) Loans

Payroll Protection Program Loans were put into effect April 3, 2020, to provide small businesses with loan funds to maintain their workforce and keep their employees paid. You can read more about the program Here.

Employment Law Changes

Effective April 2, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act mandates paid sick leave, paid family and medical leave and enhanced unemployment compensation benefits.

Click Here for downloadable workplace posters from the U.S. Department of Labor.

Council of Development Finance Agencies Weekly Briefing

Fridays, at 1 p.m. — These one-hour phone calls will feature legislative updates, news from our members, state and local financing strategies, and lessons learned from previous development finance responses to disasters.

Click Here for more information.

Taxes

Federal: The IRS has automatically extended payment deadlines until July 15, 2020, with some exceptions. The filing deadline is still April 15.

US Chamber of Commerce Coronavirus Response Toolkit

Click Here to access guides for employment law changes, workplace safety information and other resources.

US Chamber Coronavirus Emergency Loans Small Business Guide and Checklist

Ready.Gov Disaster and Emergency Resources Businesses

Click Here for disaster planning for businesses.

COVID-19 Resources For Control And Prevention

It should be noted that first and foremost, you and your staff should be taking all available precautions to minimize the spread of infectious disease in and out of the workplace. While we are adopting our own standards for the health and safety of our staff at Encompass, we don’t feel it is prudent to make suggestions to our partners and other businesses. Join us in following the suggestions of the professionals and research the best practices.

United States Department Of Labor – Occupational Health And Safety Administration

Centers For Disease Control And Prevention

The United States Food and Drug Administration

World Health Organization

We hope you will continue to remain safe and take the necessary precautions to ensure the safety of your families, friends, colleagues, and communities.

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.


Doxsteel Fasteners recently achieved a significant milestone in bringing its Mexico-based operations up to speed with a complete implementation of Epicor version 10 software and user training for their Mexico-based teams. Skilled consulting, implementation, and training services provided by Encompass Solutions, Inc. ensured the project was a success.

The Project For DoxSteel Fasteners

Up to the point of implementation, Doxsteel Fasteners had been utilizing Microsoft Excel to manage their business. Because of the technological limitations of their current system and the company’s rapid growth, Doxsteel Fasteners had outgrown the capacity and functionality of the software.

Doxsteel Fasteners had spent the previous 9-10 months unsuccessfully implementing another ERP solution due to challenges related to the inexperience of internal resources with ERP functionality and understanding business requirements, as well as the level of support from the assigned consulting team.

Taking these specific details into consideration, Encompass Solutions, Inc. was tasked with performing an effective business process review, recommending the best course of action, and executing the implementation and training necessary to achieve Doxsteel’s desired outcome.

The Details

  • 30 Concurrent Office Users
  • 20 Concurrent Data Collection Users
  • Multi-tenant SaaS
  • Implemented in approximately 4 months

The Challenge For DoxSteel Fasteners

The challenge this project posed was introducing an ERP system in a very manual environment that used handheld hardware and FTP for export invoice approval by authorities. A bilingual Operations Manager would need to facilitate training while new processes would need to be learned by rote on the plant floor. Forms, reports, and labels would need to be created separately for each language, as well.

The Goals For DoxSteel Fasteners

Doxsteel Fasteners implemented their Epicor ERP solution with the primary goals of:

  • Automating costly manual processes to eliminate inefficient processes.
  • Improving project planning, forecasting and customer sales management.
  • Providing better information to make more informed decisions.
  • Providing visibility to manage and track costs to measure and improve profitability.
  • Growing revenue and profitability.

The Results For DoxSteel Fasteners

Training was conducted with bilingual ESI consultants, both in Financial and Operations segments, side-by-side with the client’s Subject Matter Experts who were familiar with Epicor and US operations. On-site support both for Go Live and afterward was critical to the success of the project, which finished on time and under budget.

The Next Steps For DoxSteel Fasteners

The Doxsteel Fasteners’ team will be taking advantage of this project to review and update business processes, while leveraging standard software capabilities whenever possible.  The recommended business process workshops will address some of the additional challenges facing them today with visibility of data, consistent and accurate information, and a reduction in redundancy of data entry.

About Doxsteel Fasteners

Doxsteel Fasteners, a company consisting of two legal entities under one ownership with facilities in Toluca, Mexico and The Woodlands, Texas, provides scientifically-proven safer and cost-effective fasteners resulting from rigorous research and development efforts. Doxsteel Fasteners’ mission is to revolutionize bolt theory and practice in the fastener industry. It is the company’s goal to consistently conceptualize and deliver safer, less expensive, and more scientifically sound bolts to the industry.

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.


Picking and sorting of objects is an activity few humans look forward to with great elation. However, the tedious nature of the task is a prime candidate for automation using robotics. Beyond the obvious hardware that it takes for a robot to operate within the confines of a designated task, a less obvious one, machine vision, acts as a critical component of efficient robotic sorting. The technologies involved with machine vision, sensing, and object interaction are already being used by robots with great success on the International Space Station in completing even complex tasks, semi-autonomously.

Robotics labs around the world are hard at work refining the technology for applications in factories, warehouses, and even relief efforts in disaster areas. The environment in each example is likely one with an abundance of clutter as well as rife with objects of varying size, weight, and orientation. This is a perfect setting to test and apply the advancements of machine vision and object interaction.

a picture of machine vision in action on an assembly line.

Machine Vision Is Increasingly Relied Upon In Automation To Drive Quality And ROI. The Market Is Expected To Reach $18.7 Billion By 2022.

Components of Machine Vision

Machine vision has significant capabilities on factory floors and production lines. As systems acquire product images and extract the relevant information, the information is analyzed and communicated to the outside world. A lot goes into the technology behind machine vision, which can be broken down into five essential components: lighting, lenses, vision processing, image sensing, and communications.

Machine Vision Lighting

Lighting is essential to the success of machine vision results. By capturing images through analysis of reflected light, machine vision systems can effectively identify objects as well as their orientation in an environment. Several lighting techniques can be utilized by machine vision systems, including backlighting to measure external and edge measurements, structured lightning patterns to interpret angles on an object’s surface, and strobe lighting to freeze moving objects for examination or aid in countering blurring. These are only a few examples of the lighting techniques utilized in machine vision systems, which can also incorporate diffuse dome, bright-field, dark-field, and axial diffuse lighting. A more comprehensive guide to machine vision lighting can be found in this whitepaper from National Instruments.

Machine Vision Lenses

Just as in conventional cameras, lenses capture an image and deliver it to sensors within the camera. One can also think of this in terms of our eyes delivering the images we see to our brains for interpretation. Fixed and interchangeable lenses are the most common types of lenses in machine vision systems. Lenses of varying sizes and shapes are used to capture the most precise image for the system’s intended use. Fixed lenses are typically standalone components and can autofocus based on mechanical adjustment or as a fluid lens that automatically adjusts to deliver the highest quality. These lenses have a fixed field of view from a certain distance. On the other hand, interchangeable lenses are typically equipped with C-mounts or CS-mounts that allow them to be removed or attached at will to the systems they are enhancing. Vision Systems Design does an excellent job detailing the fundamentals of machine vision lenses in this article.

Machine Vision Image Sensors

An essential component of image capture, image sensors utilize a charged couple device (CCD) or a complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) to interpret light as electrical signals. In more easily digestible language, image sensors capture the reflected light from an image and make sense of the object, interpreting it as a digital image with precise details that aid in accurate measurements by processing software. A more comprehensive article on image sensors from Coventor can be found here.

Vision Processing Units

A Vision Processing Unit (VPU) is another component of machine vision that serves to extract information from the digital images captured by the cameras being used. The processing undertaken by these microprocessors can be completed externally or internally on a standalone system. A process completed over the course of several steps, images will first be acquired from the sensor and software will identify specific features of an image, including measurements and comparisons to reach a decision based on the result. The results are then communicated to the system to complete additional actions. While it is true that the physical components of machine vision are integral to the overall function of these systems, the processing algorithms that evaluate and compare results are the most influential. Processing software is responsible for configuring camera parameters, pass-fail detection, communicating information to factory floors, and supporting Human Machine Interface (HMI) development.

Machine Vision System Communications

As one might conclude from this brief overview of machine vision, these systems are an amalgamation of parts and components that must all work in unison to deliver accurate results consistently and in real-time. Add to this the fact that environments can change dynamically and at a moment’s notice raises necessity to realign vision on the fly. Communications are an essential component of machine vision systems and are typically executed through discrete I/O signals or via data delivered through a serial connection to a connected device, i.e. Ethernet or RS-232 output. Programmable logic controllers (PLC) are the favored connection made to discrete I/O points, which can control stack lights, solenoids or other indicators to trigger reject responses from the system.

Machine Vision Applications In Production Processes

As mentioned above, machine vision is already hard at work on the ISS. However, more candid applications exist right here on Earth. Industrial inspection is among the largest industries utilizing machine vision. However, many applications, such medical imaging, remote sensing, and autonomous vehicles use machine vision on a continuous basis.

Sorting

Machine vision applications in warehouse and factory conditions are exceptional at mitigating the amount of human error that can affect repetitive processes, such as bin-picking and sorting tasks. The technology allows for robots to make sense of a cluttered workspace or full bin and extract the relevant objects appropriately.

Assembly Verification

When quality is of the utmost importance, consistent outputs on the assembly line are necessary to a company’s bottom line. Inspection operations in assembly verification are completed in milliseconds to ensure that every item is up to spec and incomplete products don’t make it past the check.

Automation

Automating production is an essential function of manufacturing operations. Machine vision can assist in detecting system abnormalities, jams, and other hiccups that can affect the production process. Improving the consistency of operations ensures little interruption and a reduction in production costs that result from downtime.

Removing Defects

Automation demands two things: consistency and simplicity. When things get complicated they tend to also get expensive. Machine vision systems are capable of inspecting hundreds of items per minute to a high degree of accuracy, thus ensuring that defective items are removed from the equation before they can affect a business’ bottom line, without the need for complex systems of checks throughout the production process.

Identification

The ability to scan barcodes and other identifying under several difficult conditions, be it lighting, texture, or packaging, is essential to keep operations running smoothly. Machine vision systems help achieve optimum efficiency in quickly reading necessary labeling information on the production line and in distribution centers.

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.


Encompass Solutions’ Greensboro office had a great time last night meeting with Avalara, the makers of an amazing automated tax compliance integration, to reconnect after the new year and discuss integration opportunities with clients in need of automated tax compliance in the form of an end-to-end solution.

Update 10/23/2018: We’re hosting a special webinar next week with our partners at Avalara. The South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc. Supreme Court ruling includes the biggest internet sales tax changes since 1992 and the impacts are being felt by businesses all over the United States. You can find the recording here.

Benefits of Automated Tax Compliance Software

The benefits of automated tax compliance are numerous for businesses across the globe. Encompass and Avalara help integrate this valuable service into business systems of every size that deliver advantages and peace of mind to small and medium businesses every day.

simply put, automating tax compliance and tax processes is essential for increasing accuracy and driving efficiency in today’s competitive marketplace. By incorporating automated tax compliance, your business can improve the level of transparency and conformity to the constantly changing tax laws of your country, state, region, and locality. automated tax compliance will also enable your business to minimize the burdens placed on personnel to keep up with these changing tax rules as well as the labor involved in meeting those requirements for reporting on a rolling basis. This lifted burden frees your teams up to capitalize on improved collaboration and greater creativity in solving more pressing challenges as your business grows and expands.

The savings and extra time provided by implementing automated tax compliance solutions, like those provided by Encompass and Avalara, can link your financial components to the rest of your business in ways that lend greater flexibility, visibility, and accuracy when considering new initiatives and development plans. Get in touch with us to learn more about what this invaluable technology can do for your business.

Automated Tax Compliance Software Meet-up

We make it a point to meet with our partners at least once a year and this time around Melt Kitchen and Bar was the hosting venue, which served up some exceptional appetizers and beverages throughout the evening. The restaurant is known for their crispy Brussels sprouts and decadent hot sandwiches. After ordering a few plates for our own research purposes we can definitely agree they are a must for anyone visiting. Sampling the craft brews on tap alongside good conversation kept the night’s event flowing smoothly at this local hot spot many of us will be revisiting in the future.

A picture of the Encompass Solutions team and Avalara reps sitting down for drinks and food at melt kitchen and bar in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Encompass And Avalara Get Together To Share Drinks And Appetizers While Talking Taxes.

All-around the evening was a success with some great plans discussed on how to further streamline automated tax compliance for mixed mode and make to order manufacturers. Both companies are looking forward to another year of productive collaboration. Cheers to a new year with Avalara!

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.


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

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

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

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

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

2. Automation Architecture Reorganized

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

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

The Purdue reference model (PRM) of control hierarchy.

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

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

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

3. Edge Devices On The Rise

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

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

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

4. Open-Source Architectures Will Improve Systems Integration

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

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

Open-source architecture improves systems integration.

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

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

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

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

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

6. Proliferation Of Intelligent Control Devices

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

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

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

7. Collaborative, Affordable Robots

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

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

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

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

8. Virtualization

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

An visual representation of traditional architecture and modern virtualization.

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

9. Industrial Cybersecurity Management

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

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

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

10. The Open Process Automation Forum

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

a picture of the Open Process Automation Forum logo.

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

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

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

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

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

About Encompass Solutions

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