Is IoT able to eliminate the need for ERP/MES in manufacturing?


A simple understanding of the workings of systems can lead to IoT success and manufacturing success.

The Internet of Things, also known as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, is a key driver of Manufacturing 4.0. It was launched in Germany in 2015. Since then thousands of sensors, robots, and automated projects have been implemented in manufacturing and warehousing. Manufacturers are excited by the ability to get real-time information on an imminent failure of a production line or to use robots instead of humans to cut metal, plastic, or granite to size.

IoT, unlike ERP and MES, can be connected to every manufacturing or warehouse operation and report on all real-time events. It can send alerts to machines and alter machine-to-machine communication to enable production line automation. If IoT is capable of doing all these things in real-time, then why still use legacy systems?

The combination of ERP, MES, and IoT

IoT was first envisioned as a way to replace ERP and MES systems. Shop floor workers were the ones who became excited about the potential for real-time automation and reporting that IoT systems offered. Naturally, IoT was able to do more.

IoT will be able to do more in the future than it can do today. However, it won't replace ERP and MES as these systems are designed to do other things.

An ERP system, also known as the "drive-chain" of companies, is comprehensive. ERP software modules can be used to support engineering, planning, and purchasing as well as accounting, service, human resources, and other functions. ERP's strength lies in its ability to integrate enterprise information processing across all departments. ERP systems are extremely secure. ERP has excellent reporting and analytics capabilities. Many ERP systems have middleware that allows ERP to integrate with IoT.

MES also consists of several software modules that are tightly linked to each other. MES focuses on manufacturing and shop floor operations. MES systems, like ERP, have strong security and extensive reporting capabilities. They can also communicate to IoT devices.

IoT offers many advantages over ERP and MES, including the ability to communicate with edge sensors, services, capture unstructured data, trigger events, and communicate between devices and networks on a manufacturing floor.

ERP and MES offer many advantages over IoT, including better security and large data repositories that can manage a variety of queries, analytics, and the ability to interface with myriad business processes throughout the company (e.g. manufacturing, planning finance, service marketing, and HR).

IoT, at its core, is a more specialized technology that automates business processes using robotics. It can also deliver real-time results, but ERP and MES remain the mainstay systems of organizations. IoT, however, is a crucial real-time data "feeder network" into larger systems.

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Why system explanations are important

IT leaders must explain how IoT works and why they are necessary. If this is not done, people may expect more from IoT than what it can deliver.

If IT can give executive management and business users a better understanding of overall IT architecture and its different system components--including IoT--these plain-English explanations will go a long way in furthering general understanding of systems and paving the way for IoT projects success.