The ERP market is going through radical changes. Megatrends like digitalisation, Industry 4.0 and the smart factory have led to calls for far more openness, flexibility and agility in ERP solutions. This higher level of adaptability and speed is exactly what Asseco Solutions is delivering with its new version, APplus 6.3, which has been designed to make factories, processes and users smarter. The most important new features include a business integration framework that enables customers to connect APplus to third-party systems with no need for programming. The new version also provides for the addition of dynamic attributes to business objects, such as article master data and orders, as well as an innovative container management function. The latter enhances the traceability of production and batch information on the container level. Asseco Solutions will be showcasing these and additional new features on stand C31 in the L-Bank Forum (Hall 1) at the IT & Business 2016 show, which takes place in Stuttgart on 4-6 October.
A key part of digitalisation is end-to-end, integrated processes – across departments, companies and value chains. Today, these processes need to be modified dynamically to keep pace with market requirements. In addition, machines involved in the manufacturing process generate increasing volumes of data and status signals. This information, which can be transmitted by the products being manufactured, triggers the next production step and ensures it is carried out correctly. Product features change more frequently today, so business users need more options for modifying processes. For example, they should be able to add fields themselves in article master data lists or orders, without having to rely on the programming knowledge of their colleagues in the IT department. These changes must be easily transferable – both to other business objects and to new ERP versions. Users should be able to add business logic to them, such as a simple price calculation, without needing to alter the ERP solution’s source code.
“In the manufacturing industry, digitalisation doesn’t only require smart factories, but also smart processes and smart users. This is the goal of the new features we’re delivering in APplus version 6.3, as well as in upcoming releases. We call it ERP 4.0, encompassing less complexity, less time needed for administration, and higher speed. These characteristics are often associated with the IT of the future and must apply to ERP solutions too – not in the future but today. That’s the only way companies can progress with their digitalisation initiatives, instead of trying to play catch-up.”
Christian LeopoldsederVice President Operations at Asseco Solutions
The key new features of APplus 6.3 include:
Universal Business Integration Framework (BIF) to facilitate connections to external systemsAPplus 6.3 enables customers to connect third-party solutions to it without programming. This eliminates the need to develop an interface for every external system. A special communicator converts the information to be transmitted by the source system into an adaptive data structure suited to the target system and its native data format. The BIF sends and receives the adaptive information to and from the target system. This approach also reduces maintenance effort, as changes to one of the systems can be mirrored in a new version of the adaptive data structure.
This function also gives users better performance and more flexibility within the company. In the same way as it allows the connection of external systems, the BIF also enables users to interconnect several APplus installations. Where different departments have their own standalone ERP system, the BIF can be used to interconnect all these systems to reflect an entire business process from start to finish. In addition, this allows companies to optimise data distribution, keeping frequently-used data locally, such as orders, and storing information elsewhere that is used less often. The result is a more efficient system and network infrastructure, which benefits from reduced data traffic.
Business users can add dynamic attributes to ERP data without programmingThis is useful when a new product is part of an order and has features for which there are no fields in the article master data list. For example, the product may be available in steel or stainless steel versions with a range of different galvanised surface coatings. These features are all priced differently. Another example is a production plant or machine that needs to be delivered with different documentation or certifications, such as the German TÜV, depending on the destination country. These factors may also affect pricing. It would make life much easier for business users if they could make field changes for these variables themselves, directly within the user interface.
The new APplus version 6.3 lets them do exactly that. The attributes they add are automatically transferred to other business objects, such as proposals or orders. If additional business logic is required, such as a price calculation, a simple Java script program is sufficient – no changes are needed to the ERP source code. The program is then executed on the APplus application server. As well as significantly reducing the IT department’s change request workload, this also ensures unlimited release compatibility for the changes and extensions. There is no quicker and easier way to adapt an ERP system to users’ needs.
New container management function enables the traceability of production and batch information on the container levelIn many industries – particularly the automotive and car parts segments, as well as in batch production and machine building – containers are an important part of the manufacturing process. The various product parts and semi-finished products are transported from one production line to the next in containers. They are inspected at each stage by smart machines that collect production data and transmit it directly to the product parts, which send it onward to the next machine in the manufacturing process. This helps companies increase the level of automation in production processes while ensuring that the product parts and semi-finished products are processed correctly in the following production step.
This new function in APplus 6.3, providing seamless traceability for production and batch information for goods and parts on the container level, is rare in the manufacturing industry. Asseco developed the new container management function together with its partner N+P Informationssysteme.