Activity Streams Meet the World of Manufacturing

 Guest Blogger

Derek Singleton, ERP Market Analyst

These days, activity streams seem to be popping up everywhere in enterprise tech as vendors rush to add social features to their software. Twitter and Facebook-like streams are even starting to gain traction in manufacturing software. Two of the most prominent examples of vendors incorporating activity stream data into their manufacturing user interface (UI) are cloud enterprise resource planning vendors: Kenandy and NetSuite.

Incorporating activity stream data into manufacturing software UIs has important  implications for collaboration manufacturing environments. For instance, it enables rapid information sharing between sales teams and production teams to provide instant updates on things like purchase orders. However, I think the impact that activity streams can have on manufacturing software UIs is potentially much more interesting. Activity streams represent a radically new take on ERP Uis and have the potential to change the way users interact with their systems.

Activity Streams Create More Social Manufacturing UIs

One of the things I find interesting about activity streams in manufacturing software is that it alters the dynamic of how users interact with their software. Historically, manufacturing software has been a place where transactional information is simply input and calculations are run. For example, the bill of materials had to be entered and stored so that the material requirements planning application could run and produce reports.

While this is still largely the function of all manufacturing software, activity streams add a twist to the mix. They allow employees and supervisors to share analysis on the reports that are generated and the transactional information that’s input into the MRP ERP system. This offers users an opportunity to look at data and create an interactive conversation about what the data means and what action should given the results. It’s a more human way of interacting with ERP.

Three Further Innovations Activity Streams Can Spur

Beyond allowing users to enrich transactional data, I think that activity streams carry three other important implications for manufacturing software UIs. If incorporated, these features could help to further improve the way that manufacturers operate their shop floors. Activity streams could be use to:

1. Automate reminders that keep projects flowing. A key benefit of an activity stream is that it automatically updates subscribed users with the latest action taken. An activity stream could be used to update every employee on their current and future tasks, directly from the system. This would keep projects flowing while enabling employees to plan ahead for future projects.

2. Stream educational reminders along with tasks. Activity streams allow employees to engage in a virtual conversation about a particular topic. Through these conversations, employees inevitably share educational information. Manufacturing UIs should aggregate this information and attach the bits of wisdom to tasks that employees routinely have to perform. While many systems have wikis built into their software, a stream with this information attached proactively delivers the right information at the right time to the right individuals.

3. Aggregate the most pressing tasks for immediate action. A final benefit I see in activity streams is that it keeps employees abreast of the highest-priority action items. Manufacturing UIs could create an automatically generated list of the most important tasks to accomplish on the shop floor. For instance, an order may need to be completed and rushed to an important client prior to starting on a new purchase order. A manufacturing UI that can order tasks by importance would help manufacturers become more efficient.

This article is adapted from an article that originally appeared on Software Advice – a resource for manufacturing software. You can find the original article at: The Benefits of Activity Streams in Manufacturing UIs.

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