Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems have been widely used in manufacturing over the last decade, but more recently as front offices have become more connected with the manufacturing shop floors, EPRs have been implemented as a way to better monitor business operations as a whole.

[A]s ERP systems became more affordable and expanded throughout much of the manufacturing industry, an interesting thing happened. The factory floor and the front office became directly connected. This happened largely so that front office systems like ERP could access shop floor data to deliver greater levels of business intelligence and enable better decision-making throughout the company. Beyond the software and operational implications of this trend, the conversion to Ethernet as the de facto factory floor networking option was another huge result of the manufacturing industry’s adoption of ERP.

Now, as more companies look to invest in technologies after sitting on the sidelines during the recession, a new trend appears to be developing that could have just as big an impact on factory floor engineers and operators as the initial wave of enterprise systems did nearly 20 years ago.

With the increased interconnectedness of manufacturing businesses, the use of ERPs could extend to the entire supply chain, increasing efficiency in manufacturing.

By democratizing access to information across all levels of a company, cloud technologies are already changing manufacturing. It looks like the biggest changes will come as the cloud enables more players in the supply chain to take part in optimizing the manufacturing process.

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