Keywords: IFS, ERP, EAM, FSM, Supply Chain.
Located in historic Barcelona, Spain, the 2013 IFS World Conference attracted roughly 1,000 attendees. Here, IFS provided insights into the full range of capabilities for the software in project-based and asset-intensive industries. The company has made several investments in both product development and acquisitions for field service management (FSM) that, combined with existing capabilities, have gelled into a comprehensive suite of applications for managing field service resources.
IFS Invests to Meet Current and Emerging Needs
In his keynote address, Alastair Sorbie, President and CEO, highlighted IFS's strategy and key recent accomplishments. The company acquired 80 new customers since the last conference a year ago. Also, customers with a total of 150,000 users have upgraded to IFS Applications 8 – the latest version of the software. With this success, IFS will continue to invest in its core strengths represented by its "triangle." The three points of the triangle signify the capabilities of projects, manufacturing, and service & assets. In the middle, "supply chain" represents a common need.
According to Mr. Sorbie, a key benefit of IFS Applications software involves the ability for global execution with planning, managing, implementation, and financial accounting across a range of geographies, languages, and currencies. Sorbie made the point that the ease of modify IFS Applications 8 provides the agility needed for customers to adapt as business conditions change and new opportunities arise. This agility provides a core theme for IFS' culture, the software development, and the application software itself.
Mr. Sorbie explained IFS' strength in the aerospace and defense industry. Some have forecast a decline based on government austerity programs. But, IFS understands that the world will continue to be a dangerous place, with many current and emerging areas of conflict. Perhaps there will be fewer new expensive defense programs, but governments will continue to invest to maintain their existing weapons systems. The company will continue to invest in solutions for this industry; particularly for managing the supply chain, logistics, and enterprise asset management.
Sorbie sees a growing need for flexibility in manufacturing and the associated supply chain. As 3D printing gains capability and moves beyond prototyping and into production, this technology enables smaller lot sizes, lower inventory, leaner operations, and higher demands for flexible enterprise software like IFS Applications 8. Also, the Internet of Things (IoT) provides a huge change agent for field service and related business models. Having identified these trends, the company is investing to meet the emerging needs of its customers.
Thomas Säld, VP, R&D at IFS outlined the product strategy and roadmap with a focus on enhancing the user experience and productivity. Mr. Säld started with IFS' recent successes. These include a major win at NEC in Japan, and leadership ranking (based on revenues) in Defense & Aerospace for EAM in recent ARC Market Outlook Study. He mentioned that the company has added 200+ new functions to IFS Applications 8 since the last IFS World Conference, and then focused on the new "Manufacturing Visualizer."
Manufacturing Visualizer applies to visualizing, planning, and optimizing manufacturing processes, including material availability and machine capacity. The graphical, real-time view comes with filtering, grouping, drill-down, and end-user configuration capabilities. In essence, IFS Manufacturing Visualizer converts the current operational situation into easily understood graphics. Live, on-stage demos always involve an element of risk, but these worked well with impressive charts.
IFS continues to make investments in field service – one corner of its application triangle. For field service management (FSM), the IFS Metrix Service Management software provides functions for both technicians in the field and mangers in the office. The functions now cover the field service lifecycle and the range of functions need to plan, manage, deploy, and optimize resources including:
Mr. Säld provided a demo of the company's "What If Scenario Explorer" (WISE) for field service planning. WISE works within the 360 Scheduling Workbench, using a variety of customer-configurable parameters to optimize work order scheduling for field technicians. When deployed with the mobility solution, technician and work order completion status can be automatically updated. It gives the planner or dispatcher a schedule that is updated in real time and re-optimized based on changing conditions.
IFS Applications 8 supported on Windows Azure: IFS Applications 8 has been tested and certified for deployment on Microsoft's Windows Azure cloud. The certification also enables deployment of IFS Applications in a private cloud using Microsoft's Windows Server Hyper-V. Certification and support for Windows Azure covers the full core IFS Applications 8 suite. IFS has verified IFS Applications performance on Windows Azure to be on par with the performance on corresponding on-premises servers and storage solutions.
IFS Notify Me on Samsung KNOX: IFS released this smartphone app on Samsung KNOX - an enterprise mobile solution that addresses the mobile security needs of enterprise IT, without invading the privacy of its employees. IFS Notify Me enables managers to approve and authorize purchase requisitions and orders, supplier invoices, and travel expenses. Starting with Notify Me, IFS intends to make the entire family of IFS Touch Apps available on Samsung KNOX.
IFS Warehouse Data Collection solution offers configurable, out-of-the-box functions for automated data capture and business process execution. This software supports high-volume distribution and manufacturing, lower-volume spare parts management, or project on-site materials management, all with materials traceability. The software supports mobile devices using Android, Windows Mobile/CE, and Windows.
IFS Corporate Performance Management (CPM) offers operational intelligence to enable managers to make better decisions. IFS CPM consolidates transactional data and event streams into a single management layer across the enterprise. The solution provides "cockpits" intended to deliver visibility, analytics, and business intelligence. It prioritizes and delivers alerts on what needs attention for management activities ranging from strategic planning to executing daily operations.
ARC's research indicates that Field Service Management provides a particularly high-growth market segment within the enterprise software domain areas. Technologies like mobility, cloud, analytics, and collaboration fuel this growth. IFS has leveraged these technologies and investment in both product development and acquisitions to provide a comprehensive set of FSM applications.
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