This past week LNS Research analysts were busy again, staying on top of the ERP and EQMS markets. Dan Jacob attended the Sparta Connect 2017 and Dan Miklovic (along with myself and Andrew Hughes) attend a virtual Infor briefing.
Sparta Connection 2017
by Dan Jacob
Sparta’s Connection 2017 user conference was hosted in balmy Scottsdale, AZ the week of June 5th. This year’s conference had several focal points, but Cloud, quality performance, and Industry 4.0 were front and center. CEO Eileen Martinson kicked off the conference with an appeal to quality leaders to shift from conformance to performance while weighing in on the importance of Digital Transformation in Quality Management. Martinson took the users through a history of Industry, from the first industrial revolution to the current, while highlighting the role of quality visionaries like Deming in delivering the promise of earlier industrial revolutions and reforming Japanese automakers as global leaders. Industry 4.0 provides the same promise for today’s quality leaders and manufacturers.
This was followed by a fast-paced overview of Sparta technology advancements over the past year. These included:
- A welcome refresh of TrackWise User Interface (UI) with the release of TrackWise 9.0 geared toward casual user adoption. TrackWise’s new start page reflects streamlined modern cues such as context-sensitive menus and ease of use enhancements like Views and Favorites.
- Significant advances in the maturity and process breadth of 123Compliance since its acquisition by Sparta in January 2016. The salesforce.com based platform has expanded from Complaints management to include EQMS (CAPA, Audit, Change Control), Document Management, Environmental Health & Compliance, Product Registration Tracking, and Training Management. The Document Management System has a solid integration with Box.comTM as a document repository. 123Compliance continues to provide browser-based mobile support.
- The Amazon Web Services (AWS)-based Stratas Cloud platform also saw substantial enhancements. Earlier releases of Stratas provided a solution for supplier collaboration, and over the past year solutions for Intake and Quality Management have been added. Sparta envisions Intake as a tool to capture quality inputs from across internal organizations separated from but integrated to TrackWise, fostering a culture of quality while avoiding audit complications. Quality Management is a preconfigured QMS that captures CAPA, Complaints, Incidents & Deviations, and Change. Document Control and Audits are expected in coming months.
- Sparta reviewed its automated validation approach, which includes IQ/OQ, as well as a services-led automated-test PQ. Finally, Sparta discussed its new Agile development environment. All three of Sparta’s platforms leverage the new Agile development process intended to better capture customer input and improve the quality of delivered code.
Sparta customers were aligned to Martinson’s themes. Several customers illustrated their interest in Industry 4.0, and many expressed plans to move to the Cloud, with several of those in attendance having demonstrated success on both Stratas and 123Compliance platforms.
LNS welcomes Sparta’s engagement in Industry 4.0. LNS’s has found that while some quality teams are embracing quality 4.0, quite a few are not actively seeking involvement in 4.0 initiatives; although many 4.0 initiatives target quality improvement. If quality teams take a back seat on meaningful quality improvement initiatives, are they truly focused on quality or compliance? More voices are welcome in this area. LNS is interested to see how Sparta’s initial commentary converts into solutions and partnerships over the coming year.
Interestingly, where Sparta had no Cloud platforms at the beginning of 2016, by mid-2017, it has two. On the one hand, this can be seen as a surplus of riches, and Sparta states that the multiple platforms were provided to support multiple customer platform preferences. However, there are functional differences, and some customers may need both. Some work needs to be done to eliminate confusion regarding the platforms, and to provide a path forward for TrackWise customers. LNS is also interested in seeing the continued evolution of Sparta’s mobile strategy.
Overall, the conference was a vibrant event with interesting perspectives and success stories from customers in life sciences, food and beverage, and discrete manufacturing. Sparta remains focused on quality leaders and demonstrated substantial progress year-over-year in ease of use and Cloud technology. LNS is interested to see how that continues to grow and mature over the coming year.
Infor Shows Steady Progress Towards the Cloud
by Dan Miklovic
Last week Infor briefed the Industrial Operations Analyst team on its offerings for manufacturing. This was so LNS Research’s MOM/MES, APM, and IIoT team could see the “big picture” of how Infor is going to market in both discrete and process manufacturing. Infor provided insight into current wins, recent product investments, and future direction across the manufacturing spectrum including MES/MOM, SCM, EAM, PLM, and ERP. The briefing helped level-set expectations for what the analyst community and the entire user base will see at Inforum in New York City in mid-July.
Infor has taken an approach that is different than almost all of the competition in the ERP and manufacturing applications space. Unlike its largest competitor, SAP, Infor has opted to have multiple solutions that are tailored to each market segment. It has LN, with its Baan lineage, for the larger and more complex discrete manufacturing sector. M3, with its Intentia Movex lineage, is for the batch and process sectors. S3, with its Lawson lineage, is for the government and services sector. Lastly, CloudSuite Industrial, with its SyteLine heritage, is for discrete manufacturers in the mid-market. In addition, it has Visual for small manufacturers and XA for those on the IBM Power ( or I Series or AS400) platform. While some competitors, like Oracle, also have multiple products, Infor has gone further to clearly define which products will be sold into which customer base. It has a very clear migration path for customers that want to move to more modern, expandable or richer solutions.
While Infor may have started out as a conglomeration of acquired companies with a hodge-podge of products, they have evolved to have a somewhat complex but defined product strategy under current leadership. The product strategy can meet the operational needs of most manufacturers with a rich solution set that can offer straight-forward deployment, due to the fit-for-purpose approach. Most importantly, Infor has opted to fully commit to the AWS Cloud infrastructure and can offer on-premise, Cloud or hybrid deployment for the mainstream product set. Some competitors have opted to provide their own Cloud infrastructure. By using AWS, Infor has freed its resources to focus on usability, IIoT integration, and functionality; relying on Amazon for the infrastructure. This may not be the lowest cost option, and some notable AWS outages may give some users second thoughts about this approach, but LNS sees it as a pragmatic approach and one that other Cloud-based ERP solutions, that don’t have their own hardware set, will ultimately migrate to over time.
Currently, most industries have their own CloudSuite footprint that includes not only the ERP functionality but also PLM, MES, or EAM as appropriate for that sector. In some cases, the solution is ‘private labeled” such as Infor’s use of ARAS’s PLM solution for discrete manufacturing. While in other cases, the solution leverages Infor technology such as its process PLM solution. Infor continues to invest in broadening its portfolio such as its recent acquisition of Birst, a Cloud BI solution, to enhance its analytics capabilities. LNS is looking forward to Inforum and meeting with Infor customers to gauge their satisfaction with Infor’s progress but we see the company as continuing to make steady progress in its efforts to become a dominant Cloud Manufacturing Solutions provider.
Tags: #MondayMusings, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Industrial Transformation / Digital Transformation, Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), Cloud, Enterprise Quality Management System (EQMS), Manufacturing Operations Management (MOM), Manufacturing Execution System (MES)