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Epicor Uncovers the Most Common Pitfalls of Industry 4.0
October 17, 2023 News


Written by: Mohammad Al Amin Mohd Jahaya, Journalist, AOPG.

The accelerated digital transformation has sparked opportunities and profound changes in the manufacturing industry across the world. From having the opportunity to reduce manufacturing costs to improving manufacturing efficiency, rapid advances in technologies have led the manufacturing industry to undergo significant changes driven by the demands for more efficient, sustainable, and data-driven operations. This rapid digital transformation happening in the manufacturing industry has been dubbed Industry 4.0.

The news of many opportunities and benefits brought by the arrival of Industry 4.0, however, has caused many manufacturers to take a leap without looking into the nitty-gritty involved throughout the transformation journey, resulting in them falling into numerous pitfalls and stalling their Industry 4.0 journey.

Because of this, many manufacturers’ view of Industry 4.0 has been clouded by the stigma that it is not sustainable for many, especially the smaller and startup manufacturers. This perception has caused manufacturers to hold themselves back from making the transformation. So, in an effort to disperse the hanging dark clouds and shed light on Industry 4.0, Epicor’s Chief Executive Officer, Vincent Tang, and Malaysia Country Manager, Ben Lim, shared their thoughts and opinions on the matter.

Navigating the Fast-Paced Mid-Sized Market

Today, Epicor has successfully established 14 offices across the globe: 3 offices in the APAC region, and 11 offices in Asia. Tang then shared that Epicor just recently opened an office in Vietnam because Epicor sees great growth potential for the manufacturing industry there.

“Epicor started as an ERP vendor, but I think it is more appropriate to position Epicor as not just an ERP vendor but also as a provider of complete smart manufacturing solutions,” said Tang.

As far as intelligent manufacturing solutions go, Tang acknowledges that Epicor may not hold the top spot globally (yet). Nonetheless, he underscores the company’s determination to become the foremost choice for the mid-sized market.

This is because, according to Tang, most manufacturers in the mid-sized market don’t have robust on-premises equipment and facilities to immediately implement new operation systems.

For example, some manufacturers don’t have proper IT equipment and personnel and have limited ERP purchases, but they need fast implementations. However, the implementation might take days, even months before the new systems can operate fully and normally.

Manufacturers in the mid-sized market require immediate fully operational systems to maintain visibility and competitiveness because in the mid-sized market, everything moves fast, from the suppliers to clients.

This is where Epicor hopes to come into the fray. Instead of endeavouring to cover all grounds, Epicor helps manufacturers focus on discrete manufacturing; made-to-stock and made-to-order. He explained that this will enable manufacturers in the mid-sized market to be more agile and quickly meet supply and demand.

So, what Epicor does is provide everything for them [manufacturers]. But we don’t provide everything in one go. Because, depending on the size of their company and other factors, we help them to start step by step, for example, we start implementing ERP first. Then, follow-up by EMS solutions. After two or three months, we will implement AI solutions,” said Tang, suggesting that it’s one of the reasons clients stay loyal to the company.

Debunking Misconceptions in Industry 4.0

The Industry 4.0 revolution has ignited a race among manufacturers to lead in industrial innovation, leading to misconceptions about the technologies needed to initiate their Industry 4.0 journey.

One common misconception, as explained by Tang, is the belief that purchasing ERP solutions – simply because Fortune 500 companies use them – automatically transforms a manufacturer into a Fortune 500-level player in the digital transformation and Industry 4.0 landscape.

Influenced by favourable testimonials, reviews, or claims from renowned companies, many assume they will achieve similar immediate results without considering whether the ERP solution is a suitable match for their specific needs.

Therefore, prior to adopting an ERP solution, manufacturers should conduct a thorough assessment to determine if it can be effectively customised to address their current and future challenges.

Tang emphasises that, apart from a thorough understanding, manufacturers should also evaluate whether their IT team possesses the necessary expertise to implement and integrate new technology solutions. This IT team not only maintains the systems but also acts as a vital bridge within the company, ensuring seamless technology adoption and proficiency for all personnel.

Moving Forward With a Gradual Transformation Approach

Besides the common misconceptions, some manufacturers also overlook critical considerations as they embark on their Industry 4.0 journey. According to Tang, one of the most commonly overlooked aspects is the nature of the Industry 4.0 transformation itself.

“We need to help them [manufacturers] to understand what Industry 4.0 is all about and how can they prepare themselves for it.” Said Tang when he was explaining that some manufacturers overlooked the fact that it could take months and years before they can complete their company transition into Industry 4.0.

He then added besides overlooking the time required to complete the transition into Industry 4.0, many manufacturers overlooked the fact they can’t immediately jump into Industry 4.0 if their business is still at Industry 1.0.

Ben Lim, Epicor’s Country Manager for Malaysia, also shared his thoughts on the matter: “In the local context [Malaysia], a lot of manufacturers only see the big picture of Industry 4.0 and find it very attractive. Though the local government did put in some initiative to provide business assessments to help manufacturers know where they are currently.”

“But still a lot of local manufacturers have unrealistic expectations that when they buy new technology, they can straight away skip and jump to Industry 4.0. The reality is that it doesn’t work that way. There are a lot of elements to consider and stage by stage to follow — 2.0, 3.0, and then 4.0. Because digital transformation is a journey, it’s not a final stop. It means continuous improvements.”

According to Lim, Epicor’s approach in helping their clients’ digital transformation journey and transition into the next industry stage, is to educate them about the technologies they are about to implement and help them smoothly scale into the next industry stage.

Epicor is great at fitting in ERP solutions as a digital foundation. In addition to that, we [Epicor] can provide various plugins that are capable of helping manufacturers scale into 2.0, 3.0 and 4.0. That is how we help and advise them, allowing them to scale on one single platform. Avoiding them [manufacturers] from creating headaches for themselves,” explained Lim.

Identifying Key Components

Much like all other journeys and transformations, Tang and Lim shared that there are several key components that manufacturers should identify before kicking off their Industry 4.0 journey, as it will make their journey smoother and more efficient. This will help them avoid frequently encountering roadblocks and falling into pitfalls, which would otherwise significantly slow down their journey’s progress.

According to Tang, one of the key components for manufacturers is experience in ERP because it will be the core of every aspect of their Industry 4.0 journey. The second key component is that manufacturers need to understand the transition into Industry 4.0 happens in stages. This will help them to understand what needs to be prepared and what needs to be achieved before they begin their journey.

He also recommended businesses engage a consultant if they are not familiar with or do not have experience with ERP. This will help businesses to make evaluations and receive insightful recommendations for ERP solutions. Preventing businesses from making mistakes and having to restart all over again which can be very costly.

To reaffirm the importance of preparing before journeying into Industry 4.0, Lim also shared his advice on the matter:

Readiness assessment will help them [companies] understand where they stand. A lot of time, companies have this silly expectation where new technologies make their company fly up to the sky.”

By taking the readiness assessment, companies will be able to know where they currently stand, identify their starting point and which industry they should scale up first to (2.0, 3.0, 4.0).

Lim then added, that identifying key components before embarking on the Industry 4.0 journey will make the transition into the next industry stage smoother, educate companies, and help them realise, and set their goals. Echoing Lim’s opinion, Tang said that both the people and process are equally important to have a smooth and successful journey into Industry 4.0.

Finding a Suitable Solutions Vendor

When it comes to looking for ERP solutions, there is no “one-size-fits-all” type of solution. Companies need to be smart and know their needs when choosing ERP solution vendors for themselves. They should thoroughly research the potential vendors before deciding. This will allow them to make a more informed decision in choosing an ERP solution vendor.

According to Tang, if a company wants to engage a new ERP solution vendor, they should look at what other companies are saying about them by reading testimonials, and reviews or directly getting in touch with companies that have engaged with the new ERP solution vendor. Or if the vendor has the solutions their company needs.

We have the freedom of choice. So, the only thing we need to do is to be very smart in choosing. Get insights and feedback about the vendor before signing up.” Advised Tang to companies planning to engage ERP solution vendors.

Tang also added that when choosing a vendor, take into consideration how many partners a vendor has in their country or other countries. Because if a vendor has a good number of partners, companies can turn to the partners to resume implementation should things not go well with the vendor. Lim then clarified that this is for assurance investment and confidence in support rollout throughout their journey into the next stage.

By knowing the key components required, companies will be able to clear up the misconceptions and false expectations about Industry 4.0.

Vendor selection is also very important. For example, it is better to engage an experienced ERP solutions vendor like Epicor if it’s a company’s first time delving into ERP solutions and the first step in its digital transformation journey. Knowledge and awareness are the keys to a successful and sustainable digital transformation and industry evolution journey.