On Rootstock's low-code ERP and enabling the touchless factory

Profile picture for user pwainewright By Phil Wainewright August 6, 2020
Rootstock releases low-code capabilities in its cloud ERP, just in time to help manufacturers enable the touchless factory

Rootstock Cloud ERP configurable dashboard 740px.png
(via Rootstock)

Rootstock today unveiled a new release of its cloud ERP for manufacturers, which introduces the ability to create custom workflows, mobile apps and dashboards — and add AI-powered functions — using a low-code 'clicks not code' approach. Instead of depending on IT resources to customize the software to their needs, this means admins and business users can now make their own adjustments, says Rootstock CMO Tom Brennan:

ERP is not necessarily known as easy to use and easy to change ... We're calling it more business-driven ERP, as opposed to IT-driven ...

[Users] can build their own apps and roll them out with artificial intelligence and analytics embedded in them if they want. It's a big leap, in our view, for ERP.

These new capabilities arrive in the market at a time when manufacturers are having to adapt to massive change caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, including disruptions to supply and demand, switching office-based staff to working from home, and introducing new social distancing routines on the shop floor as they restart production. Rootstock sees this creating demand for its more adaptable, cloud-based ERP software, particularly in the midmarket, says Brennan.

A lot of our customers are midmarket companies without big IT staffs. So this is music to their ears ... doing things in a clicks-not-code way.

The new release implements low-code functionality in the underlying Salesforce platform on which Rootstock is built, along with Salesforce's Einstein analytics and AI capabilities and its Lightning user experience. Being part of the same platform, any low-code functionality continues to follow all the permissions and business rules implemented in the Rootstock system, adds Brennan.

Configurable ERP processes and dashboards

Rootstock provides a number of template applications and dashboards, delivered in both web and mobile formats, that customers can use as-is or adapt to their needs. They include business functions such as sales orders, work orders, purchasing, receiving, and inventory management. Users can easily edit their own dashboards to show the information that's most important to them, or add AI functions that suggest next best actions or recommend how to segment data analysis. Any adjustments are carried forward automatically during upgrades, says David Burton, Senior Solution Architect at Rootstock:

These things are all configurable but they don't limit your ability to upgrade the software twice a year as we come up with new releases ... They're not customizations that have to then be rolled back in once you do an upgrade to the software.

Orchestrated process flows, such as an order approval process, can be created in a visual builder that shows the steps and logic, while also documenting the process for auditors. Communities for suppliers, customers, distributors or other trading partners can be created to share targeted information and processes with selected stakeholders.

In one early use case, a customer created a simple application to check inventory on the shop floor and update stock counts on a mobile phone, says Burton. It's a typical example of a simple mobile app that guides factory staff through the steps in a process. Functions on the mobile device, such as barcode scanning through the camera or a bluetooth-connected barcode reader, are easy to add.

Cloud and mobile access

Being able to roll out cloud and mobile access to ERP has become a big priority in the wake of COVID-19, says Rootstock's Chief Revenue Officer David Stephans:

Companies [are] realizing these legacy systems really do hamper their ability to go remote and connect remote with no loss of productivity. They may be able to get connected. But many times, it's a hassle.

This concept of truly going next-generation cloud, so that as this pandemic continues to happen — and when nobody knows how long we'll be in this mode, or the next one happens — businesses are more prepared with the backbone of their ERP capabilities to have people working remote.

Access to up-to-date information has also become more of a priority, along with the ability to adapt to changing opportunities, adds Brennan.

They want to know how cash is, they want to know what's going on with supply chain, inventory, orders. With CRM and ERP in one platform, you've got this dashboard, you can see it all — just refresh, see where you're at.

The other need we've seen pop up is the flexibility to change product lines. How fast can you change your product lines, ramp up, roll out and all that. Everything you see today here, plus the way our product is built to begin with, helps people do that.

Social distancing on the shop floor

While office-based staff are able to switch to working from home in many cases, that's not an option for shop floor workers. As manufacturers open up production again, they are having to reconfigure working practices to respect social distancing guidelines. Stephans explains how this has affected Rootstock customers:

What we saw was a mix of customers who left their back-office staff at home, began moving their factory teams into the production facilities, but also following all the local regulatory regulations for social distancing. That drove, in certain cases, reduction in capacity because they couldn't use proximity machinery, they had to think for instance, if they had multiple machines, they had to space people out, as physically moving the machines wasn't a possibility.

One customer — who despite the disruption ended up having one of their best months ever — completely reconfigured their plant, says Stephans:

They put touchless entry on their factory shortly after this whole thing happened, so people could get in and out with a badge, swipe in touchless form, and not have to handle the doors and things like that ... They went through the whole factory and analyzed what they might have to touch, then spaced machinery out. They sent the back office team home, that's fewer people, and they can operate fine.

My take

In the same way that shopping at the supermarket has become a contactless experience for most of us, so factory work is going to have to become touchless. But the touchless factory is a huge undertaking. So many processes in manufacturing are still paper-based. Often the quality procedures will have signatures baked into it, with paper routinely handled and passed around.

Now all of that has to be replaced with a socially distanced process. That's going to be much more feasible if you're doing digital signing, touchless scanning and so on. Rootstock's low-code cloud ERP release with its ability to roll out touchless processes on mobile devices couldn't have come at a more propitious time.