Cloud ERP and how they are more flexible than On-Premise

by cscott

A little bit about the product:

MFGx is a small software company, located in the heart, of the Automotive industry just outside of Detroit Michigan. Started as a concept to help clients augment their ERP systems with backend integrations, the platform has grown to include many additional features that some customers say they cannot live without. The platform is dubbed as the “Manufacturing Platform as a Service” and for good reason, its entire existence is a result of decades of manufacturing experience both on the plant floor and in the data.

The platform itself is cloud based and offered to its users as a subscription, with no commitments, just sign up and start using it. Relatively speaking, the costs associated with this platform are the lowest that the industry has ever seen, and they plan on keeping it that way. Affordability is one of the core beliefs of the creators of MFGx. The goal is to empower all manufacturers not just the big guys with deeper pockets, but even the smaller “mom and pops” that could truly benefit from the technology.

Some of the capabilities include but are not limited to: MES, Integrations, Mobile Apps, Inventory management, Receiving, Shipping, Order management, Supply chain management, Packaging management, reporting and documentation including barcode labeling, RFID scanning. What the system does not do and has no plans of doing, is the Accounting piece. There are too many systems available currently that do a really good job of accounting. But there’s nothing that handles the plant floor and connecting multiple systems the way MFGx does. This ideology will enable small to mid-size manufacturers to leverage high tech capabilities but continue to use their Quickbooks or whatever they are comfortable with. MFGx can support integrations to any Accounting package or ERP system with the integration module and connectors which can be pre-built to help the customer build these integrations and manage them quite easily.

Here’s the backstory and the emphasis of this case study:

Many companies are evaluating cloud-based ERP systems these days to help better optimize their businesses and processes. In several cases, there are evaluations being made that compare cloud-based ERPs to on-premise and often, the On-Premise vendors want to make the case that the cloud systems cannot be customized to meet the needs of every customer. We have seen this in many software demonstrations over the past decade and continues to be the primary driver for why many companies will opt into an on-premise solution.

As we all know, there are many pros and cons to Cloud and On-Premise, there are many ways to justify the cost / benefits of each of these systems. What we have come to understand is that by far, operating a cloud-based ERP system is the most cost effective solution long term due to the reduced infrastructure and development costs required for those on-premise competitors. Some people are shocked by the subscription costs of the cloud systems; however, they may be failing to recognize that typically this results in must lower hard costs with the IT department in house. Typically, you are not going to need in house developers to help keep the ERP running, that’s what you’re paying the Cloud vendor for. One other major issue that most companies fail to comprehend, is with the ever-growing concern over cyber security and data, when you go on-premise, you’re taking that risk into your own hands. With a major cloud ERP vendor like Plex Systems, SAP or NetSuite, they have teams of professionals trained in methods to thwart attacks. The datacenters that these products are housed in, are state of the art, most are built stronger than bank vaults and can withstand just about any natural disaster. Your data is backed up in real time, they have redundant internet connections and backup power supplies and the best of the best hardware to maintain un-heard of up-times.

Ask anyone with an on-premise application, how often in each month is their software not usable for one reason or another. Unless you invest in expensive backups of your hardware and software (typically doubling the initial investment) you will absolutely experience periods of downtime that will force you to run manually until the system is back up and running. This is typically not a concern with Cloud based ERP systems due to the exhaustive research that they have put into their datacenters to keep their customers up and running greater than 99.9% of the time.

You might be wondering, with all these great benefits of a Cloud system, why do organizations still choose to rely on the prehistoric on-premise applications. The answer is that they fear they will be limited by the software in some way. In the past, this was true, cloud ERP systems were limited in their capabilities for several reasons. Many of which are technical including bandwidth, server and hard drive inefficiencies, internet speeds and such. The other primary driver, however, is the lack of ability to customize the ERP system. Many Cloud systems are delivered to their users as a “configurable” product, meaning that they have settings which are on/off toggle switches to control functionality. If there’s no toggle for the thing you need, then the software cannot do it. Particularly for large or enterprise clients, who have very complicated operations, multiple plants, etc. this is a huge concern. They simply cannot comprehend leaving a system like SAP which can be 100% customized, for something that they would potentially need to deal with multiple work arounds.

Many mature ERP systems that are on-premise provide a lot of capability for customization, things like JDEdwards “Orchestration” module, or SAPs “BizDocs” allow you to integrate other systems and augment the business processes to do essentially whatever you need. These are tools that are not generally available in cloud-based systems.

Now comes MFGx to the scene, its ERP agnostic, well really its software agnostic, but this study is tailored to ERP systems so we will focus on how this tool has enabled us to provide our cloud ERP customers the ability to not only accomplish what the On-premise competitors can do, but even more. The platform is built upon the most robust event-based engine available; this provides the ability to do just about anything that can create an event. For those less tech savvy, think of any mouse click in your software system to be an “event”, for example navigating to a screen, clicking a button, changing a status, literally anything can be an “event”. Now that we’ve defined that, imagine that any of these events can be linked to a business process, or a “flow”. MFGx has a built-in flow processor with a GUI that allows the admins to define a process flow for each event. Remember these events can happen in our out of MFGx, they can be events from your ERP system, Online banking, Payroll system, HRM, TMS or whatever else you maybe using.

Screenshot “illustration of a button added to a cloud ERP system using MFGx”

Screenshot “Built in GUI Flow builder”

The power of the event driven system allows anyone to build workflows and integrations to satisfy the needs of any business process. This means that MFGx has now bridged the chasm between cloud and on-premise ERP systems. Not only can you manage workflows, but you can design your own documents and trigger them to be emailed or printed as part of your flows as well. Now you’re not stuck with the basic document types that your system offers, you can 100% customize them to meet your needs and enhance the customer facing image of your organization.

Screenshot “Document Designer”

There are other IPaaS software packages on the market, like Dellboomi or Tibco, even Zapier and Mulesoft. These packages have had a place in the industry by offering a way of integrating multiple systems together behind the scenes, they’re also very good at what they do. The unfortunate nature of these systems is that they’re not triggered by events in your native software system. Even though they are event / trigger driven, that is only internalized to themselves. What MFGx delivers is the ability to add buttons and triggers to your native software system so you’re not limited to running these integrations in the background on a schedule; like every 4 hours for example. Now you can create a real time, on-demand trigger. When you’re setting up a new employee in ADP, you can instantly have that new employee created in SAP within less than a second using MFGx, rather than the prehistoric methods of waiting until a certain time of the day when all the batch integrations run behind the scenes.

Other key benefits of a system like MFGx being connected, is that you gain access to the additional tools included in the platform. These tools include the document designer, which is a drag and drop tool for creating any type of report or printed documents. Connect to the database quickly with tools like PowerBI, Tableau, Cliq or others to create dashboards that your users are already familiar with. Use the MFGx backend, hosted on AWS, as your IoT platform, integrate your machines, RFID readers, mobile devices and more to MFGx and start collecting real time data that you can use to trigger a flow to do things like record production in your ERP, scrap, change status’, print barcodes, or just about anything else you can imagine. In addition to these features, the MFGx platform allows for schema augmentation, that’s something you’ll never hear with those other IPaaS solutions. Customer defined schema within MFGx that can be seamlessly integrated to your other software systems to provide context. For example, you need to add some fields to your Item Master or your Bill of Material master; easy enough to do with MFGx, just define the fields and use the extension to add them to your screens of choice. You can interact with this customer defined data in many ways, just as if it were native to your ERP system.

In conclusion, MFGx has been an invaluable tool that has been used to perform many integrations and customizations for our clients. This platform has enabled many cloud ERP users to extend their systems in ways that were previously not imaginable. You are no longer limited to seeking out industry specific ERPs that maybe severely lacking in certain modules; find the best of breed and augment what is specific to your industry with MFGx. You will still maintain all the great benefits of having a cloud ERP, not to mention MFGx is also 100% cloud based. MFGx runs on the AWS platform, so it can be custom tailored to your needs/requirements, whether you need an instance in China or EU for localization requirements; or you need your instance installed on the AWS Government cloud because you deal with sensitive information or ITAR requirements. No matter what the need, the MFGx platform was engineered to be flexible enough to solve the challenges we have experienced with our clients over the years.

MFGx is a customer driven platform, that means, they speak, and we listen. Much of the capability baked into the platform was driven by the needs of our customers. You too could be part of that exclusive club and benefit from the fact that dozens of companies are contributing to the success and capability of the platform daily. This system is not just for Automotive manufacturers, it fits within all manufacturing verticals including Aerospace, Defense, Food, Chemical, Electronics, Consumer goods, pharmaceutical, if you make something then MFGx will be a great addition to your application stack.

If you’re curious about other things you can leverage MFGx for, consider inquiring with our sales team to get an overview and see if the tool set is right for you.

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