Enterprise software solution provider IFS held its World Conference on May 1-May 3 in Atlanta, Ga. The Swedish-headquartered company provides ERP, EAM and ESM to many different businesses globally that are involved in many different industries.

Food and beverage is just one of the industries it serves, however, Rick Veague, CTO for IFS, thinks because the company started first in the nuclear and aerospace industries, its software offers an intrinsic benefit for food and beverage manufacturers needing to improve their traceability efforts.

“In nuclear and aerospace, everything has to be traced in terms of genealogy. And while that’s a different kind of traceability than food, it’s in the DNA of our software that we can track things from bulk quantities down to bin and lot locations down to lot numbers down to the individual quantities,” Veague says.

He says the company manages the receiving, the tracking and the input of all those materials during the manufacturing process to the intermediate goods to the final package goods produced. And this is all done automatically with IFS’ integrated document management.

“If you have material sheets or manufacturing work instructions, those are all revision controlled, and they become objects in our system that are connected to the manufacturing process,” he says. “So if I have a change in my work instructions or my procedures, I want to be able to deliver the right and correct version of that documentation matched to the lot number. And our software will make sure that happens.”

He adds that kind of structure supports food and beverage manufacturers’ food safety efforts as well as helps them with potential audits.

At the conference, IFS spokespeople, including new CEO Darren Roos, made it clear the company will be investing in three areas for its customers:

  1. Human machine interaction
  2. Predictive maintenance and service
  3. Automation

One particular tool that has been and will be further explored to fuel innovation in these three areas is artificial intelligence (AI).

“AI is an umbrella for a lot of different technologies and functionalities,” IFS Labs director Bas de Vos says.

For instance, IFS wants to improve user experience with its own products so the company is investing in chatbot development to enhance human machine interaction. The concept is similar to Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri, where a virtual assistant helps humans to perform tasks. In the area of predictive maintenance, de Vos says IFS Labs is using IOT data and machinery capabilities to more accurately predict maintenance needs.

“Predictive can mean a lot—with machine learning, with algorithms, with neural networks, you can predict a lot of stuff,” he says. “But we are focusing our efforts on predictive maintenance…because this is what benefits our customers the most today in the short term.”

Additionally, the company is looking at more ways manufacturing plants can be automated.

“In the ERP world, we still do a lot of things manually, and that’s fine, but there are cases where you can actually improve by extending it to business rules,” he says.

For instance, this can be done by automating purchasing orders that are under a certain amount and pass an intelligent anomaly-detection test.

Other announcements made at the conference were updates to IFS Customer Engagement capabilities and Field Service Management offerings as well as the launch of Applications 10, a new version of its enterprise applications suite.

For more information, www.ifsworld.com.