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Taking Human Error Out of the Hacker Equation

Think about the vast information you have stored on your phone; contacts, family pictures, passwords, emails, and your favorite apps. What would happen if that information was left vulnerable for hackers to obtain? What if the manufacturer sent out an update to protect your phone from potential hackers, but you did not to install it because your phone was turned off? All of your precious and personal information would be left vulnerable to hackers wanting to steal and use that data. This same scenario is what companies combat every day except on a larger scale.

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Social Media: Opportunity for engagement or cause for complaint?

Millions of people are using social media to network, sell products, to extend influence and inevitably, complain about poor service. A recent report on social media use reveals 1.59 billion people engaging with Facebook, 320 million with Twitter and over 100 million people on LinkedIn. Beyond these impressive numbers, do you really know the extent to which this activity impacts on your customer service?

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From Guessing to Measuring: Relating Physics to Your Factory

Recently, I came across a best-selling book on the history of physics and was intrigued by the many stories of discovery over the centuries, but equally interested in the challenges of what we have yet to understand. In the 4 th century B.C., ancient Greek philosopher Democritus postulated that the world is made up of atoms, particles too small to be seen, which are the building blocks of all matter. The next 2,300 years were filled with competing ideas about the nature of the universe, but it wasn’t until the 20 th century that this “Atomic Theory” was finally confirmed.

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Initiate Change, No Matter How Small

According to industry analysts, there are many facets of asset maintenance that can be articulated and quantified as characteristic of best-in-class companies. There are also many consulting companies who can help you achieve improvements in your business. However you can make progress yourself by applying just three elements – persistence, focus, and data. While this premise sounds simple, its execution is not; otherwise there would be no unplanned downtime in manufacturing operations. Imagine being a maintenance expert, working only 9 to 5, with no midnight calls that the equipment has shut down operations. While that scenario may not be realistic any time soon, there is no doubt that it can become more so with these three principles.

Remember that progress seldom is easy, though is certainly worthwhile. Persistence is the hardest of the three disciplines, yet the most important one. Focus allows you to avoid distractions that can allay your initiative. Good tools are essential in supporting your persistence, once you push your initiative uphill.

Your persistence and focus in executing depends on obtaining, analyzing, and acting on good data. Data, and its analysis with clear visualizations, is vital to supporting any initiative you undertake. Without it, you do not know where you are, where you are going, or where any improvements are being made. Without that information, your desire to persist will wane, and with it, your initiative. You will then be resigned to a tale of “well, we tried that once but…”

We all have so many initiatives that we wish we could tackle, but none will happen with just thoughts and wishes. You can only achieve success one step at a time. So consider your most important initiatives and apply these three disciplines to impact your current results. I suggest starting with an initiative that has a high impact, and a high chance of success, so that you can see positive results quickly and feel encouraged to tackle the next one. If one asset in your facility quickly comes to mind as one you would like to throw out of the window because it causes you so much trouble, then consider focusing on improvements to it. Just that one asset. Remember that a high-impact initiative does not have to be a broad one; it only has to positively affect your work environment in one small way. Once you see success there, you will be energized and more confident in tackling the next one.

Mark Twain said that “the secret to getting ahead is getting started.” Decide to tackle one asset. Decide to organize and control one small area of the storeroom. Own it. See results. Sell your success to your colleagues and management. And watch it grow. And then brag to me about your success, because I would truly enjoy hearing about it.

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April 27, 2017 Kay Jenkins Jump to Comments

Tags :EAM

Software Investment is Crucial as VAT Collection Enters New Era

The system for collecting value-added tax (VAT) in the European Union has always had its critics.  When the European Commission announced its VAT action plan in 2016, part of their stated ambition was to make the current EU VAT system simpler to use and, as a result, more business-friendly. 

The Spanish government is responding to the challenges of the Commission's action plan by further strengthening measures to reduce the VAT gap by applying a strategy to modernize VAT administration, through the introduction of a new system incorporating the "Immediate Supply of Information" (SII).  SII is another key step in the process of continuous improvement the Spanish authorities are undertaking.  The mission involves upgrading systems and creating the system of the future.  The government's intention is to improve the information they gather, both to gain more effective control of the system and to focus on generating more revenue.    

In this whitepaper, Jaume Carol, Senior Manager Customer Solutions, breaks down who will be affected and what needs to be considered when selecting a financial management solution.   

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April 11, 2017 Jennifer Stancil Jump to Comments

Tags :Ross

The Future of MES

Being a manufacturer is not easy these days. Margins continue to shrink, regulations are being tightened, and a considerable skills gap is taking hold. One of the many challenges the industry face is asking for better, more visible data, yet many manufacturers are still struggling to gather this information. There is a lack of visibility, a lack of usable metrics, and very little real-time information. And while enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems house some of the data, they lack the functionality to deliver information to the shop floor, which is necessary to address issues as they occur.

This is where MES makes the difference. It tracks and documents the entire production process from the raw material to the finished product. This data is then fed back into the production process.

The deployment of MES can help manufacturers to use capabilities they were not even aware they had, and to better allocate resources with great potential to become more efficient.

It pays to be picky

Although 2017 is a good a time as any to get into MES, many forward-thinking food and beverage manufacturers did so years ago, and a growing number of them have now reached a point with their MES solution where they are asking for add-on features and functions that further capture production process data, and using it in a way that expands the footprint of the MES solution. Making the MES data a visible part of the overall supply chain is also crucial, and key to ensuring the four walls of the factory do not represent a black hole of information. Manufacturer wish lists are expanding.

Having proven itself a very viable tool for improving efficiency in manufacturing, MES has reached a point where it is crucial not only that you deploy the system, but also how you do so.

For some manufacturers, deployment on their premises will work best, while others will receive greater benefits from a cloud-based solution. A combination of the two will be the way forward for many. Subscription-based models are prevalent now, making it possible for users to deploy MES quicker and with less effort.

Manufacturers have also started to ask for mobile features that allow the data that is collected by the MES solution to be displayed on tablets and other devices. This demand is also driving MES providers to advance app-based solutions.

It’s only data – unless you use it

Data collection is not the difficult part; organizing the data in a way that makes it useful to manufacturers is. There are two phases. This first is selection: what data can be used for which purpose? The second is intelligent presentation: how can this data be arranged so that it has real value for those looking at it?

MES solutions of the future will have to become better and better at getting the right kind of information to the right person at exactly the right time. There is no point in gathering huge amounts of data if people then have to go and dig for it. For MES solutions to be effective, what is being recorded needs to be automatically turned into targeted actionable intelligence, facilitating improvement, and a culture of action at all levels of the organization.

Industry 4.0 is coming – prepare yourself

Smart manufacturing is more than just a buzzword now: as machines acquire more and more intelligence, the idea of a so-called Industry 4.0 is starting to become a reality. Scenarios where machines order their own parts according to their needs are not pipe dreams. In less than ten years’ time, something close to full automation might be possible.

But although some manufacturers stand prepared to embrace such a future, others- the broad majority, in fact- will take time to adjust. Advanced MES solutions will help them along the way. Using the right kind of data in the right kind of way, manufacturers can make themselves more flexible and more efficient – steadily progressing to what the manufacturing industry will look like in a decade.

The future is tailor-made

Over the coming years, MES is only likely to grow: the global market for technology is projected to reach $7.4 billion by 2020. With users who are already deploying MES solutions becoming more demanding – and with new users joining their ranks – 2017 looks set to be a year where MES takes another step towards providing the tailor-made, purpose-built solutions that will help food and beverage manufacturers to be as efficient as they need to be in order to stay successful, and continue their drive towards lower cost producer status.

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March 22, 2017 James Wood Jump to Comments

CUR versus SAFER: Are they complementary or in conflict?

Both of the NHS England initiatives (Clinical Utilisation Review and SAFER) cite evidence that patients deteriorate physically and cognitively in direct proportion to their length of stay; and for elderly patients this has a significant impact on life-expectancy.  Their common goal is to minimise inappropriate delays to ensure Safe, Rapid Discharge or Transition of Patients and to avoid unnecessary hospital stays at an inappropriate level of care.  

In this whitepaper, Peter Ellis, Managing Director Medworxx UK, discusses how both Clinical Utilisation Review (CUR) and SAFER (RED2GREEN days) intend to provide transparency and rigour to managing the patient's journey to ensure, at a minimum, daily assessment of key activities and status.  These initiatives are interdependent and if appropriately integrated and harnessed, provide a comprehensive picture of the appropriateness of days of care across the organisation.   

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March 15, 2017 Jennifer Stancil Jump to Comments

Tags :Medworxx

Organize Around Customer Experience

Today’s competitive consumer market means that companies have to differentiate themselves in a number ways, not just on their product offerings. Consumers have a number of outlets to provide the goods and services they want, but they want more than just the product. They want a positive experience. My recent closet redesign experience is a great example of how one company exceeded expectations.

The first step in creating a great customer experience is providing a great product that brings value to the customer. Every bedroom has a closet, and every closet serves the same basic function. There are several stores that sell closet systems; most of them carry the same brands for approximately the same price. I chose a store that is well-known for its organization solutions. Because of this store’s specialized focus, I knew I would find exactly what I needed for my closet.

Aptean specializes in industry-focused enterprise solutions to support the evolving operational needs of our customers. Our software can be tailored to specific industries, ensuring that the functionality can meet each industry’s business requirements.

Having the right product does little good if consumers are not aware of it. Strong marketing is necessary to elevate awareness and drive demand. The specialty store knows its customer base and tailors its approach to this demographic. They also periodically advertise sales to drive traffic. The best marketing, however, is word of mouth. Most consumers will believe recommendations from family and friends over all other forms of advertising. In my case, a friend had recommended the product from this store, and a sale happened to be running at the same time.

Aptean strives to provide valuable insights to its customers and prospects through multiple channels. We offer a wide variety of educational content, such as case studies, webinars and whitepapers, to raise awareness of how our fit-for-purpose solutions can drive measurable value for our customers. Our product leaders are also industry experts, sharing their insight in a variety of trade publications. Aptean also works closely with industry analysts to refine our product strategies

Once the customer has chosen their product, offering expert guidance through the buying process often results in a bigger sale and a more positive customer experience. For my closet project, I worked with a store designer to select the right product and configure them to the necessary specifications. The designer suggested an experienced installer to make certain the final results would meet my expectations. This expert advice is another reason I chose this particular store.

Aptean knows that every company is different. We create integrated solutions to serve the complex needs of key market segments. Aptean has created a best-in-class solution for the Food and Beverage industry that integrates Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Manufacturing Execution System (MES), Enterprise Asset Management (EAM), and Warehouse Management (WMS). Our Metals industry solution boasts an ERP designed specifically for that industry, complemented by EAM, Business Intelligence to collect and organize data that can be turned into actionable insight, and Event Management Framework which helps automate alerting and complex workflow processes.

Perhaps one of the most important steps in creating a positive customer experience is setting expectations and following through with the promises made. Following my purchase, I received a detailed email containing the order information, the images of the new design, and instructions for picking up the materials. Before the installation, I received a phone call to confirm the appointment. On the day of my appointment, the installer showed up on time, was courteous, did great work, and cleaned up after he was finished. Shortly afterwards, another phone call was placed to make certain I was satisfied. All of these touchpoints showed the company appreciated me as a customer.

At Aptean, we foster an on-going relationship to ensure that our solutions continue to provide the value that our customers expect. Our user conferences and executive customer advisory boards allow our customers a platform to share best practices and give feedback that can help shape our product roadmaps. We also spotlight our customers’ successes through press releases and on social media.

This example from the retail world is relevant to the B2B world. A company needs to be focused on more than just the product its sells. The right product mix, combined with effective marketing, deep expertise, and quality service creates an experience that customers want, and one that they want to share. 

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March 08, 2017 Ed Stone Jump to Comments

The Importance of Customer Experience in Consumer Banking

Customer experience is an increasingly important task for any business, especially in retail banking. The sector is still working to repair its reputation in the wake of the financial crisis. New technology increases the avenues of engagement and customers are becoming more connected, more demanding and less forgiving. With new players entering the market, they are also faced with more choice. Banks need to place customer experience at the front and center of their operations to make sure their customers remain their customers, as well as to protect a reputation which can quickly become fragile, especially when exposed to online communities.

In this whitepaper, Imad Alabed, Aptean’s Senior Director of Pivotal CRM and Knova, discusses how the right Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software can be used to drive a better customer experience and maximize customer ROI. In this challenging and uncertain future, those institutions which adapt most successfully will have an edge.

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March 02, 2017 Imad Alabed Jump to Comments

Tags :CRM

Next Player Up

Another NFL season football has come and gone, and the big game did not disappoint. It was a game for the ages, among the most entertaining in our modern football era. However, I considered turning the game off after halftime as Atlanta appeared to be coasting to victory. Fortunately, I was steadfast and told myself to just watch one more series after another, hoping it would get better, until it became not only interesting, but captivating.

As I reflect back on the game and season, I am struck by several observations that are relevant to all of us who are focused on operating our businesses and positively affecting our areas of responsibility. Like in football where you strive to outscore your opponent, we are all laser focused on improving our bottom lines. How do we transform raw ingredients into the highest quality finished goods with less overhead, optimal material, and labor costs all the while maximizing the usage of our assets in the process? We not only have to compete with others in the open market, we have to continuously improve relative to our historical performance in order to position ourselves to be successful.

When I consider the reasons why the New England Patriots have been so dominant over the last decade, I am left with one conclusion. While the easiest assumption would be to attribute their success to having arguably the best quarterback to have ever played the game, I prefer to think it is more fundamental than simply one player. Like any organization, football is a team sport. While you need quality players, perhaps even a few stars, you need everyone working together as a unit, towards one goal: winning championships.

Legendary Green Bay Packers Coach, Vince Lombardi once said, “The achievements of an organization are the results of the combined effort of each individual.” Today’s successful teams preach a message of next player up, focusing on the philosophy that success is not solely about an individual, that it is really the team that is fundamental to winning. Players get injured, others are lost to free agency; however, the winning teams seem to doggedly focus on the process of developing, training, and maximizing the talents of each of their individual players to perform as a team. When unfavorable personnel events happen, these teams are positioned to continue winning in spite of the personnel challenges.

As in football, we often lose our “players” for one reason or another, and we must guard against losing the momentum we have worked so hard to achieve. Each successful organization has a goal and vision of where they want to be at the end of each quarter, each year, or even five years. A team approach is critical in meeting the challenges along the way. When an organization faces the inevitable turnover of seasoned workers, it must guard against losing its ability to compete and win. It really is next man up.

As you focus on equipping your team on driving the results that define wining for your organization, please keep in mind that you have a partner in Aptean. Factory MES is a powerful tool, providing the essential real time metrics needed to make intelligent decisions to improve your operational activities; however, due to turnover, your team may be faced with a gap in proficiency with the system. We want to work together with you to help you achieve your goals, and be best prepared when it becomes time to rely on the next man up, we want to help with any training needs you may have. Please reach out to us and we will work together to develop and deliver training that is specific and tailored to your needs. 

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