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Imagine going forward in time 10 years. What will ERP 2028 be like?

When I was much younger, the idea of a door automatically opening was confined to TV with the likes of Star Trek. I can remember my first ever personal calculator (the Sinclair Cambridge) which could only add, subtract, divide and multiply. In the 90s, Microsoft released the first version of Windows and my first computer had only 1K of RAM. By the turn of the century, all of that was confined to history as we entered into the most explosive period of change in technology and communications.

In 2018, we have Quantum Computing, the Internet of Things (IoT, IIoT), Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Augmented Reality (AR) all pushing the boundaries of what is now possible. Individually, these solutions are groundbreaking but imagine when they are part of a coherent integrated solution, the future of process manufacturing and enterprise resource planning (ERP) will only be constrained by our imagination.

As Einstein once wrote, “Computers are incredibly fast, accurate and stupid. Human beings are incredibly slow, inaccurate and brilliant. Together they are powerful beyond imagination.

So, where will the combination of man and machine lead us in the world of manufacturing in another 10 years? What will ERP 2028 be like?

The following is number one in a series of imaginary anecdotal stories set in 2028. This is the story of Adam Levy, Head of New Product Development at Specialty Peppery Salads (SPS).

Adam Levy, Head of New Product Development at SPS

Adam Levy sat down, looked at his terminal screen and it automatically switched on, “Morning, Alice,” he spoke. “Morning, sir,” replied the terminal. “Anything new?” Adam asked. “Yes, sir. A new product request. A salad dressing specification from WESCO. It came in last night via secure network mail (SNM),” replied the terminal (public email was long dead and now all commercial traffic was encrypted by AI-derived algorithms and sent across multiple nodes in parallel blocks to avoid the all too common hacking gangs.).

The specification appeared on the screen together with the required nutrition, price-point target, health rating and Corporate Social Responsibility Index (CSRI). Adam stared at his screen for a while then spoke, “Do we have anything close?” he asked. Alice responded, “Searching now,” and a few seconds later replied, “From the 2,356 salad dressing variants, we have 11 matches within six percent and two within two percent, both with higher sugar profiles and low CSRI scores of only 67 and 63.”

“Ok, Alice, can you search for alternative sweetening ingredients with a sugar target of 1.07 percent and see if you can source it from suppliers with an 80+ CSRI?” asked Adam. “Addressing the global ingredient database now, sir,” said Alice. A few seconds passed and Alice replied, “I have only one match from a new organic supplier, Organo farms, which is located outside the GM11 restricted zone, and they have an 87 CSR Index,” replied Alice. “Good,” said Adam. “Restructure the formula using the Organo ingredient and pass to STAS” Synthesized Taste and Smell (STAS) was state of the art, an AI solution capable of synthesizing taste and smell from recipes then correlating the results to its database of human taste panel results. STAS was even capable of working out the demography of people who would like it.

A few moments later the results from STAS appeared on the screen. Adam studied them carefully then announced, “This looks good. Let’s go ahead and source a sample from Organo. How quickly can we get it?” Alice replied, “Organo have plenty of stock. Just checking the drone network for delivery now… drone A25674 is in that area tomorrow and has 3.2kg capacity still available. Shall I book it and inform Organo?” Adam agreed, “Yes, Alice, do that and schedule a production test slot for Thursday.” Confirming, Alice asked, “All done, sir. Anything else?” Replying with a smile, “No, I will call WESCO to tell them. It’s nice to keep up the personal contact,” said Adam.

Is this story far-fetched?

The simple answer is “no.” This is not far-fetched at all. In fact, most of the individual technologies exist or are developing rapidly. So, let’s look at the facts:

  • Face recognition for security – Already available on Apple’s iPhone X and ePassport gates at border control.
  • Social responsibility – Already evident with schemes like Fair Trade and Ethical Trading Initiative, and becoming ever more important in product choice, especially amongst the millennials and Generation Z.
  • Voice recognition – Chatbots are already taking over in the home with Alexa, Google Assistant, Cortana and SIRI leading the way. Why shouldn’t the workplace be the next candidate?
  • Cybersecurity – Cybersecurity is rapidly developing to defeat hackers and ensure cloud solutions are secure with advanced cryptography and data security techniques like crypto-shredding already available.
  • New communication techniques – Email is slowly being replaced in many companies by more collaborative tools such as Slack’s Symphony, Microsoft Teams, Facebook Workplace and, most recently, Atlassian’s Stride.
  • Big data – International ingredient lists and suppliers already exist, an example being the USDA Food Composition Database with over 234,000 ingredients.
  • Transport availability – Various apps are available to see where a plane or a ship is currently located using GPS. Uber has already delivered the driver-partners and riders capability. So, applying these to supply chain and distribution companies is simply the next step.
  • Delivery by drones – Amazon, amongst others, are already prototyping the use of drones for product delivery, supplement this ambition with advances in GPRS and anti-collision technology in cars. Why shouldn’t the postman of tomorrow be a drone?
  • AI capabilities for smell and tastee-Noses and e-Tongues already exist to identify specific compounds. Bringing AI together with these technologies may deliver the taste panel of the future.

So, having established that all the solutions in the story will ultimately be possible 10 years from now, I will end this blog with a quote from Elon Musk:

“The first step is to establish that something is possible; then probability will occur.”

If you enjoyed this blog, then please look out for others about ERP 2028.

I welcome comments on this or any other topic concerning process manufacturing. Connect, discuss and explore using any of the following means:

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3 Responses

  1. Avatar

    Rudyandi Praditya

    Hi Mr. Elkins,

    I like the idea of your anecdotal version of Specialty Peppery Salad .. it’s really fun and imaginary futuristic at the same time!.

    I’d like to ask your permission in using it as an adapted idea to our localized blog in Indonesian language.

    In Indonesia, we have a common food like salad called gado-gado (meaning: mix vegetables). So I can wait to mesh up on this.

    We are from IFS Solusi Integrasi, the Indonesia partner of IFS.

    Also your ending part of Elon Must I think highly related .. and give the audience even more the motivation to dig on the enabling technologies today.

    Looking forward to your future blog.

    Rudyandi Praditya
    Senior Business Development
    PT IFS Solusi Integrasi


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