The Internet of Things is rapidly changing the ways in which many kinds of companies do business, and manufacturers are no exception. As such, many are now considering a number of different avenues for their future spending as a means of boosting efficiency, and the good news is that a healthy portion of connected devices can now be outfitted to work with a firm's new or existing ERP platforms. As such, it's important to consider how to allocate resources.

Today, more than 90 percent of manufacturers say they use hand scanners on the factory floor as a means of keeping everything in as much order as possible, according to a new industry survey from Plex. That was by far the single most popular item used in the manufacturing field, ahead of consumer mobile devices like smartphones and tablets (just under 80 percent) and sensors (50 percent). Other items that were commonly used were "smart" tools or machines that connect to the internet, Bluetooth-enabled devices, quality scanners, and smart thermostats or lighting controls.

Other means of implementing ERP
Meanwhile, companies are also approaching their modern efficiency needs by turning to ERP systems to churn out large amounts of data on their operations, the report said. In all, about 40 percent of manufacturers are expected to use big data of some kind in the year ahead to get a better handle on their processes, or are planning to do so. In addition, many will turn to the cloud to achieve those ends, which makes sense given the number of connected devices manufacturers are now employing.

Today, nearly 3 in every 4 manufacturers say the cloud has already helped to improve their overall views of their operations, and 9 in 10 say they've seen their ability to access the necessary data improve as a result of cloud connectedness, the report said. Further, almost 2 in 3 say the cloud has allowed them to improve their communications not only with customers or clients, but with their suppliers.

Getting it to smaller businesses
In the past, use of ERP and associated connected devices was mainly seen as the provenance of larger manufacturers, and there has been a slow trickle-down effect to medium-sized industry firms as well, according to a report from SSD Technology Partners. But now industry experts say it would be wise for smaller companies to pick up the torch as well, because the burgeoning market for such software has led developers to focus on creating affordable options for smaller firms.

When manufacturers of any size are considering whether ERP adoption will be right for them, there are a number of things they must consider. But if cost is seen as the biggest impediment, it's worth noting that proper ERP implementation typically pays for itself over time, and can therefore be a benefit by streamlining supply chain processes including supply planning, and bringing an overall benefit to a company's bottom line.