Medical and life sciences manufacturer Invetech is transitioning to cloud ERP to take advantage of artificial intelligence.
Invetech is on a journey towards adopting more sophisticated technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), across its operations, supported by everything that SAP’s cloud enterprise resource planning (ERP) software has to offer.
The business, which specialises in product design, engineering and manufacturing services for the medical and life sciences industries, recently achieved a 26-week SAP S/4HANA transformation, with help from SAP’s partner Deloitte.
It had previously relied on a 20-year-old system as its tech backbone and urgently needed a new, public-cloud-based system to help run its global operations and take previously outsourced manufacturing in-house.
Shifting to a public cloud was important to Invetech, because it meant its underlying digital platform would be continually updated. The company would never again be concerned about whether it was running on outdated technology.
“We went live on 30 January this year and shipped our first product within the first month,” says Janet O’Meara, vice-president of finance at Invetech.
O’Meara says the switch to SAP’s cloud-based ERP platform will support the future growth of the business.
“We don’t want to rest on our laurels. So now it’s about using SAP S/4HANA to the best of its capabilities, then moving into improved reporting and analytics and harnessing automation and AI.”
The future of AI in business and society
SAP AI innovation principal Dr Kim Oosthuizen says AI is a technology that people have already used for many decades, but often take for granted.
It’s only recently that the broader population has been able to use AI’s power in a more active way, Oosthuizen says, with the rapid adoption of ChatGPT, an AI-based natural language model.
“ChatGPT can respond to any question we ask, which has prompted great public awareness,” she says. “This is compelling businesses to adopt it, with 75% of leaders saying they feel pressure to implement and incorporate AI into their business strategies. AI has also promoted some fear about how it will be used in the future, but the positive from that is it’s making us rethink how we need to use AI.”
AI is clearly here to stay. But with data showing that 68% of employees are using some form of AI in their work without informing their bosses, we may need to find ways to bring AI into the way we work in a more structured way.
Using AI to address current challenges
AI can be used to help us resolve many of our most pressing challenges, including falling productivity levels, Oosthuizen says.
“We have the opportunity to use AI to modernise business processes,” she says. “But it’s not technology we leave to someone else. To become AI-enabled, we need the entire organisation to work together. AI is for everyone and we need to include our business colleagues when we use it, because we will enjoy real benefits when we scale it.”
Oosthuizen says some businesses are using AI for small pilot projects, but the real opportunity lies in exploring its capacity to drive a business forward. It’s also important to understand AI is not a panacea, which is why it’s vital to assess how it’s currently being used in a business and to define clear problems that it can be used to resolve. It’s an obvious solution for automating highly repetitive and manual processes, for instance.
Against a backdrop in which AI is often misperceived by society, thanks to the way it’s represented in movies such as The Terminator and other popular culture, it’s essential to reframe AI for a business context, Oosthuizen says.
“That will help employees trust it, use it and scale it. It’s not a set-and-forget technology and it’s important to ensure it’s doing what it’s supposed to be doing and producing usable data.”
SAP can help businesses make the transition to AI across critical business processes for a range of functions, including finance and sales. For instance, AI can be used to identify customers who are more likely to pay their invoices late, and improve target marketing by pinpointing clients who are more likely to make a purchase. AI can also automate and document processes across the supply chain and create job descriptions for new roles.
AI is embedded across SAP’s cloud-based ERP platforms, underscored, SAP says, by a commitment to ethical and responsible practices. SAP is confident that AI can be a powerful tool for its customers – one that can help them unlock value and remain competitive in the long term.