If you multi-million dollar Tier 1 ERP system is already showing its age, it may not be easily adaptable to environmental footprint management, especially if it had its origins before the current trend towards service oriented architecture (SOA). It probably will be more of a hindrance than a help when it comes to measuring an environmental footprint. Many very robust and popular enterprise software suites were not initially designed to track and manage environmental impacts, and are designed in such a way that it is difficult for the vendor to simply add a new layer of functionality that would accomplish this.
How Manufacturing ERP Can Shrink Your Environmental Footprint. (Part 4)
This is one reason that some enterprise software vendors have gone so far as to purchase companies that offer carbon footprint solutions. They are unable to simply add broad, environmental management capabilities to their existing ERP products, and are therefore opting to sell additional software packages that would require an expensive integration project to interact with the rest of their product portfolio. And even then, the resulting capability would be limited to carbon footprint measurement to the exclusion of other environmental impacts. As deeply entrenched Tier 1 vendors, one can forgive them this defensive, if not entirely efficacious strategy.
On the other hand, a truly modern ERP system, built from the ground up on SOA, is comprised not of a single block of code, but rather on thousands and thousands of small bits of functionality that interact with each other in a uniform, established fashion. This allows the system to mutate in new directions more quickly, and also allows companies using this software to reconfigure and change the way they are using the system more easily. In these modern enterprise suites, it is easy enough to simply add new software components that interact with the existing functionality in order to track environmental impact data, using in essence the same conduits or pipes for data that are typically used to track values like cost and revenue.
This SOA-enabled approach not only drastically reduces cost and complexity by an order of magnitude, but it allows for a more flexible, agile solution that can be configured to meet specific environmental measurement and management needs.
An integrated environmental footprint management tool ought to be configurable to track not just carbon emissions, but all environmental impacts a manufacturer may want to report on or manage. It also delivers a more usable solution because users are not forced to learn two separate software programs with separate and divergent interfaces and navigation conventions.
Flexible ERP software packages with embedded environmental management functionality will be particularly important for middle market companies, but as they increase in popularity, will become the preference of the largest enterprises as well. Why is this? Very large enterprises with several billion dollars in annual revenue or more often already have a myriad of enterprise systems running within their business, and they have become accustomed to building and maintaining numerous integrations. These large industries may even have a substantial IT department or a standing budget for a consultancy firm that integrates various software products for them and maintains those integrations.
Continued in Part 5