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How AI and ERP Are Changing the Face of the Industry

Reading Time: 4 Minutes 12.11.2021 Currents & Trends

AI-based ERP systems pave the way for the future

If you ask a medium-sized production company why they invest in digitalization, you will most likely hear about the optimization of process chains and the increase of employee efficiency. High-performance ERP systems offer great potential here. And they offer even more: Modern ERP systems that can use AI technologies support manufacturers in developing innovative digitalized business models and platforms.

Digitalization is not just about reliably connecting human resources, machines and objects, and processing the resulting data. In fact, the intelligent evaluation and analysis of data is at the center of it all. The central platform for connecting and processing data is the ERP system that acts as the digital backbone of a company, combining the data flows of production, logistics, development, sales and corporate management.

A modern ERP system supports all processes within a company as a data and process integration platform. It thereby achieves a consistency of processes across all levels and ensures a uniform data basis as single source of truth. The ERP system improves the communication and interaction between departments, but also with suppliers and customers, making all processes more efficient. Together with business intelligence tools, it enables quick decisions at the C-level. In projects, ERP systems help to automate recurring tasks and systematically map value-added processes.

Data quality as Achilles' heel

The data basis ultimately determines how well a process makes out. Without the appropriate data quality, you won't be able to make valid statements or decisions. It's useless to prepare data in dashboards and provide analysis functionalities if the right data quality is not given. This is where small and mid-sized enterprises still have a lot of catching up to do. For this purpose, modern ERP systems provide automated tools for analyzing the quality of data.

The digitalization of factories – meaning the optimization of processes by means of digital technologies – has become known to SMEs as Industry 4.0 According to the market research institute teknowlogy | PAC, 71% of the IT and department heads have already started Industry 4.0 projects. So far, the focus of digitalization has been on securing the operating capability of a company, meaning the business continuity, and less on strengthening the innovativeness. However, successful digitalization is so much more than just employee efficiency and process optimization. It's also about the direct interaction with the market.

Artificial intelligence ante portas

Modern ERP systems combine all relevant commercial, logistics and production data, and act as an interface to third-party systems, platforms and services. They optimize business processes, roll up data to form KPIs and thus become the data and process center. But the vision of automated and optimized production processes only becomes reality with the extensive use of AI technologies. First practical AI solutions are currently gaining a foothold in the ERP world, for example in the service domain. Especially since business models are experiencing a noticeable transformation from product to service, it makes sense to equip service as smartly as possible, for example, with AI-based knowledge management.

Here's a practical example: for several years, we've been cooperating with Empolis, a provider of AI-based service solutions. This partnership aims at developing solutions that improve the decisions of employees in service and after-sales. AI shall help employees to search service documents or whole machine manuals for a service case in no time. The solution is currently being piloted by our customer Händle GmbH, one of the world's leading manufacturers of machines and plants for preparing and molding ceramic raw materials. Händle employees will use the application to access service documents in the ERP system and the entire service document pool directly in proALPHA. Händle uses this information to quickly provide their customers with the best solution for a service call.

Thanks to such innovation, producing SMEs stay on top of their sales options and remain fit for the future. Instead of leaving this business to other market players, the manufacturing industry focuses on establishing ecosystems that improve efficiency by means of customer-oriented quotes. And this is where intelligent ERP systems come into play as they strongly help with these transformation processes.


AI will change the industry in the medium term. It already plays a role in demand planning, IIoT projects and the digitalization of the supply chain. AI-based tools forecast the effects of supply bottlenecks in supply or price changes and compute alternative actions. In a successfully digitalized industry, an ERP system combines data from different AI-based units like self-controlled, self-optimized processes and digital assistants, RPA or a business analytics tool. The scope and quality of the available data determine the possibilities to develop new and profitable business models.

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