The “cloud” is still much discussed, and misunderstood, in manufacturing circles. My first conversation with a software supplier who used the cloud as a service delivery vehicle was probably ten years ago. The concept has been growing slowly, as software and networking concepts usually do in manufacturing and production applications.

I’m beginning to see more creativity in cloud applications. This is an encouraging sign. There are many benefits that go along with the drawbacks. One of the first benefits is cost. You are not maintaining your own servers. And you may see creative pricing models. Ideas about how to use the “community” of users are appearing.

Plex Systems is an ERP supplier (along with business intelligence, MES and other applications) that has tied its business to the cloud. I just checked out a white paper it offered on a community-driven approach to ERP. This idea
exploits another benefit accruing from the cloud–creativity in service delivery.

Quoting from the white paper:
Today’s winning manufacturers have discovered a new approach. They implement systems from developers who do not guess what a user needs related to enterprise software features and functions.

In this new approach, the developer seeks out and puts emphasis on partnering with users who want to move the product and the services forward. This “pull” delivery translates into less waiting time for features that are truly needed by the users and that are well grounded and have robust functionality.

Plex Online ERP, delivered as a Software as a Service (SaaS) solution, incorporates this new “community-driven” product enhancement model, and signals the end to the static development and version upgrade process.

When a user requests a new feature that cannot be met with existing settings or configuration, Plex Systems delivers it in a fraction of the time due to its Rapid Application Development capability. Plex Systems does not wait months to deliver product enhancements and performance improvements in a service pack, a feature pack, or a small release or major release. Features are developed using an iterative process and deployed when they are ready.


Plex has just appointed a new Chief Marketing Officer. This appointment is no doubt a direct result of additional venture capital funding and a new CEO. Heidi Melin agreed to talk with me on Day 6 on the job. Melin previously served as CMO at Eloqua, Taleo, Polycom and the Hyperion Corp.

Although she asked far more questions of me than I got in with her, she did discuss why she came to Plex. She’s a Bay Area native and familiar with other types of ERP. Plex is in the Detroit area and focuses on manufacturing customers–especially in discrete manufacturing.

“Plex is interesting,” she told me. “It is at the right place with products being built as native cloud. It’s also the right timeframe where the manufacturing industry is poised to grow and change. Adoption of cloud-based
ERP is the right application to help this process.”

I, of course, agree with the timing about the manufacturing industry. That’s why I’m starting The Manufacturing Connection soon. Sign up to be notified when we switch it over.

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