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Understanding Lean ERP
Part 6 of 6


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Lean Manufacturing, Basics, Principles, Techniques

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THE FUTURE OF ERP AND "EXTENDED ENTERPRISE ARCHITECTURE"

No one needs to be reminded that computer and software technology is evolving so rapidly that any predictions regarding future trends are often stale as soon as they are made. On the other hand, certain busi­ness realities are driving developments in connectivity and business process tools that may revolutionize the way we view the work day. Two trends are likely to have a certain amount of longevity since they represent viable, durable, and cost-effective solutions.
Workflow Tools

The workflow concept is so simple and seemingly elegant that one wonders why it has been so long in the making. Fundamentally it is an extension of the early paperless-society vision wherein business transactions are completed without generating paper. It extends this vision since a single business transaction can move from workstation to workstation inside the software system. At the appropriate time, the people manning those stations can be notified that the transaction is ready for action. Furthermore, the transaction can be tracked throughout the process.

Tools for Management of Heterogeneous Systems

Today manufacturing firms are growing their businesses in various ways, including through mergers and acquisitions. These business com­binations often present unique challenges in that merged or acquired companies often have software systems installed that are based upon totally different technologies. Of course, cash-rich companies or those with a strong commitment to a particular technology or ERP solution may elect to replace these different systems. As an alternative, how­ever, many choose to maintain otherwise workable systems and tie them into a larger information systems infrastructure.

In order to accomplish the integration implied by option two above, tools have been created to link the disparate systems at certain key points and pass data back and forth as needed between the databases. Several software developers are now specializing in the marketing of packages (sometimes referred to as message-oriented middleware, or MOM) that make these interface points relatively seamless. In addi­tion, a number of very powerful executive information system (EIS) products have been developed that can select, assimilate, and report on data from a variety of source systems.

This development in technology makes good sense given that it allows companies to maintain and leverage otherwise viable, durable, and cost-effective systems and extend their usable life. Moreover, these tools allow these growing companies to use data collected by the merged or acquired entities and make them a part of the overall information bank. Since most agree that information is power, this is a worthy goal indeed.

SUMMARY

While not everyone needs to be a programmer or engineer, nearly ev­eryone in the business world today needs to understand something about the technologies that surround us and how they fit into the information systems infrastructure. Furthermore, it is important that those individu­als responsible for profit and productivity centers have the opportunity to help select new technologies rather than leave those decisions strictly to the technocrats whose view may be slightly tainted by the bells and whistles associated with shiny new technology.

While technological innovations can seem intimidating, most have been developed in response to well-defined business needs. The con­cepts upon which they are based are fundamental and easily under­stood once the jargon has been peeled away.

The objective of this presentation has been to provide you with a functional understanding of the ERP technology layers and to discuss the strategic qualifiers that must be considered at each layer to ensure viability, durability, and cost justification. We urge you to take a fresh look at your company's current and planned investment in systems technology with the goal of leveraging that technology to achieve com­petitive advantage.


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