ABM Advisor: The ABM Blog

  • Apr 2 2018

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    How is machine learning changing manufacturing?

    Machine learning techniques have the capability to revolutionise manufacturing in the years to come. As the techniques become more advanced, their capacities will improve and their price of implementation will drop.Any effective manufacturing management solution in the 21st century needs to take advantage of the latest technology. So, how is manufacturing being changed by machine learning and other AI technologies?The state of the market todayMachine learning is still in its infancy, having burst onto the scene in 2012 and grown steadily since. Trendforce predicts the market for 'smart manufacturing solutions' will grow to nearly AUD $420 billion by 2020.How is machine learning changing manufacturing?Machine learning, however difficult to develop, is fairly easy to explain. Instead of programming computers in a linear fashion with a set of rules that guide its operation, machine learning algorithms learn from data that they're fed, without being told exactly what to do.A commonly application of machine learning, for example, is in computer vision or perception. As Michael Mendelson of the NVIDIA Deep Learning Institute told Redshift, "without flexible algorithms, computers can only do what we tell them. Many tasks, especially those involving perception, can't be translated into rule-based instructions. In a manufacturing context, some of the more immediately interesting applications will involve perception." Elements such as quality control, where a product needs to be checked for defects, may well become the common providence of machine learning algorithms in the future.Although the future is where we'll likely see machine learning applied more often, some companies are already employing it extensively. Siemens is a conglomerate that's been using machine learning techniques to monitor their factories for several years now. GE is another company that heavily utilises machine learning. Their system "Predix" takes the data generated from its factories and uses its deep learning capacities to spot potential issues and provide solutions.What's stopping more companies adopting machine learning techniques?A study by Infosys asked manufacturers what the hurdles were in their drive towards digital transformation. They cited a lack of:Data-led insights on demand (67 per cent),Collaboration among teams (51 per cent),Time (40 per cent).When asked specifically what stood in the way of adopting more AI-supported elements as part of their digital transformation strategies, they said they lacked:In-house knowledge and skills around the technology (58 per cent),Clarity around the AI value proposition (57 per cent),Financial resources (54 per cent).While it's clear machine learning has a lot of potential in the manufacturing space, there are still many hurdles standing in the way of companies adopting it. For more information on how Advanced Business Manager's software solutions can take your manufacturing operation to the next level, contact us today.

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  • Mar 29 2018

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    How will changes in supermarkets impact food manufacturers?

    Unless you're a food manufacturer that sells direct-to-consumer, the health of your business may well be heavily tied to the fortunes of the retailers that sell your food. The first quarter of the year has delivered a fair amount of news on this topic, signalling changes that will affect Australian food manufacturers.Aussie Farmers Direct goes into administrationFirst was the news that direct-to-door grocery subscription service offered by Aussie Farmers Direct (AFD) would be ending, as the company was going into administration.AFD said in a statement that they can no longer compete with the two major supermarkets and the mass of cheap imported produce. Some former franchisees, however, dispute this explanation, telling news.com.au that ill-considered expansion plans into non-perishables, among other things, contributing more to the company's downfall.

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  • Mar 23 2018

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    Why your business needs to have an e-commerce division

    The mid-1990s saw e-commerce explode into the consumer consciousness. At the time, it seemed an unassailable truth that the internet would transform the way business is done - an idea the subsequent bursting of the dot-com bubble seemed to rapidly deflate.But almost 20 years have passed since that low, and now more than ever does the internet seem to embody the lofty expectations those early pioneers expected it would. E-commerce is a huge part of the Australian economy, and it's only going to grow further.In 2018, your business needs an e-commerce division. Here's why.The state of the e-commerce marketUnlike those early days, online shopping is no longer something only the savviest of computer users engage in. Australians spent roughly $24.7 billion on online sales over the twelve months to January 2018, according to the latest NAB Online Retail Sales Index (ORSI) report. This, the report explains further, is equivalent to 7.9 per cent of the spending at bricks-and-mortar retailers in the twelve months to December 2017.

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  • Feb 23 2018

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    Australian manufacturing maintains its momentum to kick off 2018

    Few industries in the world have come close to the success that Australian manufacturing has had over the last year.The sector recently hit its 16th straight month of improvement, the longest stretch it has had since 2005, Business Insider reported. With all the prosperity comes a tall task for organisations, though: Staving off competitors and supporting greater capacity for work. With business management software, that's easier than ever.A look at the numbersThe Ai Group's Performance of Manufacturing Index (PMI) tracks the sector's growth rate. Any score over 50 shows improvement, and the distance that figure is away from 50 suggests the speed with which it's happening at. In the first month of 2018 the PMI rose 2.5 points, signifying that it's not only expanding but doing so quickly as well, according to Business Insider.

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  • Feb 19 2018

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    Why is the future of the food manufacturing supply chain bright?

    Eating food is an age-old concept; the way it's being delivered is refreshingly modern.Where innovation has automated the warehouse floor, digital transformation has given the food manufacturing supply chain a brand new mode of operation. Technologies like blockchain, the Internet of Things (IoT) and business intelligence platforms are all set to have a drastic impact on the way organisations of all sizes approach it.Fuel behind the changeBefore diving into the digital revolution and what it has to offer, it's important to understand where the headwinds are coming from. For the food manufacturing in particular, one key driver is the modern consumer and client: They both require increased visibility and traceability into the supply chain.Customers, clients and technology are at the heart of it all.The former is growing more conscientious of what they're eating, in part because of a change in dietary restrictions. Nearly 12 per cent of Australians are now vegetarians, according to a study from Roy Morgan. But they're not the only segment that could be concerned with how food was processed or transported with. The organic movement is growing, and society at large is more interested in learning what goes into the products that they're eating.On the other side, clients are expecting more from vendors than ever before. Customer service is turning into a competitive advantage as rising energy prices and the consolidation of the sector are supporting slimming profit margins. Being able to deliver a wide variety of information on the supply chain - and improving its efficiency - has become a key selling point for many companies.The other component driving this digital transformation is the development of technology itself. Organisations are simply able to do more than ever before thanks to platforms like business management software, which integrates a suite of applications to create a fully connected workforce. It's helping to break down silos previously marred by disconnected legacy equipment.From Bitcoin to bananasBlockchain technology is a hot topic across every industry, but its usefulness is heralded in markets like finance and manufacturing. Blockchain is under a decade old and was created in 2009 as a way to securely record Bitcoin transactions, Food Processing magazine reported. Blockchain first appeared to support Bitcoin, but soon it'll help manufacturing companies. It serves as a foundation for transcribing trades in a fashion that's unchangeable and completely reliable. Each interaction is bound to a theoretical block, and all subsequent transactions are ascribed to the previous one. It creates a reliable history of product movement without the need for human input.What type of value does this bring to manufacturing? If customer service is a driving component of success, being able to produce verifiable information that inventory was delivered on time and without damage is one foundation of an effective strategy. Since data recorded on blockchain cannot be altered after the fact, this type of transparency is miles ahead of the industry average, according to Food Processing magazine.This technology is still in its relative infancy, so don't expect it to be a widely available option just yet. But organisations should keep an eye on how it's developed and rolled out, and should look to stay ahead of competitors by integrating it into their supply chain as soon as possible.IoT is allowing organisations to gather vast sums of data.All-knowing sensorsIf we see blockchain as a way to safely store and view information, then IoT is the cog behind collecting it. By leveraging wireless sensors, organisations create unparalleled insight into previously manual tasks; collecting temperatures within the cold chain and tracking delivery routes are just two of their many uses.IoT isn't anything new - it has been...

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  • Feb 13 2018

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    Is it time to transition to information-driven manufacturing?

    Big data runs the world, and companies are scrambling to gather as much of it as possible.It's because information is power, and that couldn't ring more true than in the manufacturing industry. Organisations are leveraging their existing assets in a variety of innovative ways to improve their processes. Information-driven manufacturing is one strategy that's benefiting enterprises that have undergone a digital transformation, and there's no end of it in sight.On a need-to-know basisThe Internet of Things (IoT) and platforms like business management software are making it simple to collect data on areas such as the production floor or the supply chain, and spin it into tangible insights. This is the fundamental understanding of information-driven manufacturing: Enhancing best practices by making assets more intelligent.Information-driven manufacturing relies on intelligent assets.But the new strategy doesn't simply apply to automation or predictive maintenance. Organisations are taking a unified approach to the supply chain by connecting a variety of databases and creating a unified network that supports information sharing. With structured stock software, the customer relationship management (CRM) application and the general ledger all communicating with each other, administrators gain real-time access to figures and metrics that can support better decision-making.In turn, this is making it easier for employees to retain customers or make quick changes in support of better quality control on the warehouse floor. Companies aren't blindly following a set blueprint because it worked in the past; they're continuously questioning it.  Information-driven manufacturing is powered by a web of digital applications. Where to beginThe first step to incorporating the strategy is in the name itself: information-driven manufacturing. Unfettered access to data makes it easier for personnel to adapt their approaches and gain an all-encompassing view of operations. This wasn't possible through legacy systems like spreadsheets or even pencil and paper bookkeeping.Trying to connect the dots by piecing together siloed systems can be time-intensive and a huge investment of capital. Instead, companies are integrating platforms like business management software that provide a full suite of interconnected applications. By doing so they're able to keep the programs that employees have come to rely on, like digital accounting or project invoicing, while ushering in innovations like business intelligence or a mobile CRM.An information-driven manufacturing strategy is only as effective as the platform powering it. Talk to an Advanced Business Manager representative today to learn more.

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  • Jan 31 2018

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    Why it's time to upgrade your customer retention strategy

    With profit margins slimming by the hour, customer retention can make the difference between success and failure.It's no secret that keeping a client happy is more affordable than trying to win one over, and it's time your company's plans reflect this. With a customer relationship management (CRM) tool built into a business management software platform, keeping customers happy becomes a whole lot easier.No task too tallThe challenges posed to manufacturers are the driving force behind the need for a better CRM solution. Although prices are always taken into consideration, purchasers have far higher expectations than ever before. They want to be included in the design process for proprietary products, expect order and activity history at a moment's notice and have come to rely on after-market servicing to meet a variety of needs, Infor reported.

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  • Jan 19 2018

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    Food manufacturing companies are going digital in 2018

    Food manufacturing companies all over the world are digitising operations in 2018, but what exactly does that look like?This type of transformation manifests itself in a variety of ways, and it largely depends on the needs of specific companies. Here are a few ways your business can get started this year to get a leg up on the competition.1. Automated bookkeepingThe days of using pencil and paper, or even an excel spreadsheet, to maintain the financial side of a business are gone. Organisations can start their digitisation efforts with accounting software, which can bring a variety of benefits to the table.Incorporate accounting software as you digitise the business.Real-time access to financial reports, streamlined job and project costing, integrated stock control and an array of customisation options are just a few of the features businesses get to take advantage of. As enterprises scale, so too does the demand put on financial staff to ensure the general ledger is kept updated. Using a program to manage this cuts out the potential of human error from the equation and makes like a little easier for everyone involved.2. Inventory oversightThe average warehouse has to deal with distribution through retail brick-and-mortar, handle imports and attend to other obligations. In simpler terms, it can be difficult to get a clear picture of what products are available and the associated details.Leveraging structured stock software is a way organisations can cope with increased activity without having to expend an exorbitant amount of resources on the task. Through digitising this process, companies get access to real-time reports that can help curb overstock. Structured stock control makes inventory management simple. 3. Connected ecosystemThe goal of every company investing in digital transformation should be to deploy business management software that can bridge the gap between previously incommunicable aspects of operation. This would be, for example, capturing data on inventory levels to develop insights as to how you can optimise purchasing patterns to support the best profit margins without hurting performance.Programs on their own can be helpful and intuitive, but if they can't effectively transfer data between one another to support analytics, organisations will have a tough time keeping up with competitors that can. Before integrating a new application, evaluate how it fits in with your future plans. Ideally, everything you need should be on one platform. Contact an Advanced Business Manager representative today to learn more.

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  • Jan 5 2018

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    What does 2018 hold for Australia's food manufacturing sector?

    Australia is coming off a record year of growth in its manufacturing sector, but will 2018 bring more of the same?Continued growth is often unsustainable for the entire market without investing in innovative solutions. But with a few adjustments based on potential problems that could crop up, organisations can stay a step ahead of any detrimental disruptions and avoid a slip into regression.Challenges for Australian businessesOperational uncertainty isn't limited to the manufacturing industry; corporations of all types across the country will face many of the same issues in 2018. The first is the arrival of Amazon. This will have far-reaching effects that include controlling consumer shares, purchasing warehouse space and presenting more complex logistical dilemmas.Companies across Australia will face similar issues.It's estimated that the company's revenue will be more than double that of Cole's and Woolworth's beyond this year, according to News.com.au. The troubling part is that it's also cutting operating costs already with the construction of its new plants."The fulfilment centres … with the robotics technology tend to be more capital intensive than prior versions of warehouses and they generally have much better operating efficiencies," Brian Oslavsky, chief financial officer at Amazon, said.Other challenges affecting the vast majority of Australian organisations include the administrative difficulties associated with the switch to single touch payroll, the new roll out of the National Broadband Network and poor financing. The latter may prove to be a major roadblock, as just half of all Australian small enterprises have reported positive cash flow, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.If you add all these problems up it's clear that greater visibility throughout the organisation, a better handle on inventory and corresponding logistics, as well as exceptional control over accounting and the budget will be key to maintaining success. Profitable cash flow has been an issue for smaller Australian enterprises. Specific concerns for food manufacturingOf course, each industry has specific dilemmas it will face over the course of 2018 and food manufacturing is no different. The Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) recently released its ninth analysis of the market, and here are some key takeaways:Worth $127.4 billion, largest manufacturing sector in the country.Over 320,000 employed through 2017 and created 3,700 new jobs in 2016.The 4.7 per cent increase in foreign investment reversed the three-year decline it had previously been on.Real value of food, grocery and beverage exports saw a 15.4 per cent drop, but volume rose by 3.6 per cent.Although there was mostly growth across the board besides the real value of exports, the figures themselves could be cause for alarm given the minor improvement they represent. This is because input costs are expected to continue to rise in 2018, which starts the clock on how quickly organisations can boost profit margins that were already slim to begin with."We are expecting these pressures to only increase as energy, especially gas, has seen a doubling and in some cases a tripling of price that is likely to have dire consequence for Australian jobs and investment, with some companies re-assessing their long term future in Australia," Tanya Barden, chief executive officer of the AFGC, said.This could spawn a ripple effect that can send foreign investment back into a downward spiral if it gets out of hand.The AFGC predicts energy costs will be a major factor in 2018."Continuing to stimulate investment in site modernisation is critical particularly in light of mounting input cost pressures. We are now in danger of drifting into a low investment trap, where uncertainty about return on investment flowing from retail price deflation and rising costs is seeing investment decisions deferred or dumped," Barden said.Another important aspect...

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  • Dec 19 2017

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    Maintain control while scaling your manufacturing company

    Success comes with a price, and sometimes it's having to scale to meet customer demand.It's strange to think of opening a new location as having a negative impact on your company, but there are a number of hidden dangers in doing so. For instance, businesses can see quality drop given the lack of oversight. Adopting business management software with a branch management program is the key to overcoming this obstacle.Common issuesEffectively scaling a manufacturing company relies on resolving potential problems before they have a chance to crop up. Here are a few that persistently plague growing companies:

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