One of the biggest trends in the technology world right now is the Internet of Things, or the IoT. It’s hard for IT professionals to read anything at the moment that doesn’t relate back to the technology in some way, as the expectation is that IoT will revolutionise the way companies across all sectors operate in the coming years.
As the number of IoT devices goes through the roof, it will be something every firm – large or small – will have to react to if they’re to remain competitive and keep their productivity high. But what will this trend mean for your business?
How the IoT impacts on ERP
Opinions differ on exactly how many IoT devices will be in use in the near future. On the low end, market research firm Gartner estimates there will be a total of 8.4 billion connected ‘things’ in use by the end of 2017. On the other hand, forecasts from IHS Markit suggests the figure could be closer to 20 billion.
Even if the more conservative estimates are correct, this is still a huge increase on a couple of years ago, and will have a profound impact on how businesses generate, store and use data. Whether it is smart energy meters, connected cars, medical devices, manufacturing sensors or intelligent lighting systems, IoT covers a huge range of devices, which will all be creating useful information, ready for companies to turn into insight.
This is where it stands to transform enterprise resource planning (ERP) tools. High-quality data is the lifeblood of these systems, and the huge volume and variety of data that companies can gain access to as a result of integrating IoT devices into their network offers a world of potential.
Taking the guesswork out of forecasting
One key use case for this data could be to vastly improve how businesses go about forecasting activities. This is something that’s essential for any enterprise, but is often an operation that’s fraught with guesswork and inaccuracies.
But with IoT devices, this does not have to be the case. With careful use of sensors, firms can monitor demand and react accordingly, whether this is to ramp up manufacturing at key times, proactively reorder inventory or send the most appropriate marketing messaging to customers based on their location.
Real-time business insight
Instant access to this data also gives companies real-time visibility into everything that is going on across every part of their operations, which can transform their business intelligence activities.
Inputting parameters from IoT devices into an ERP system in real-time can help you make decisions based on what your customers, employees or assets are actually doing. For example, retailers can use IoT data to identify when specific customers enter the store, and connect this with the CRM and marketing tools elements of an ERP package to push out relevant messaging.
Equipping employees with sensors that can monitor them in the field can help create more efficient schedules and routing plans, based on where they are, how long they expect jobs to take, and where they need to be next.
Taking the stress out of day-to-day work
A key factor in a successful implementation of IoT into any business will be how it allows companies to automate activities to ensure human intervention is no longer necessary – freeing up employees’ time for more productive activities.
On a very basic level, this can be seen in items such as smart printers that can automatically reorder ink or toner when they detect supplies are running low – taking a mundane job out of the hands of an office manager. Now imagine this principle spread out across all parts of a business’ inventory and warehouse management tools and it’s easy to see how IoT can make life much simpler.