Manufacturers wasting money on inadequate IT implementations

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Manufacturing businesses are wasting thousands of pounds on software implementations which do not deliver the promised benefits because they are not following best practice from the NHS and implementing Open Source.

That's the message from Ewan Davis, a key figure in the NHS England Open Source Team, and one of the major partners involved in the NHS' adoption of Open Source Electronic Health Records (EHR). He warns that manufacturing businesses could be wasting money struggling to use proprietary software to full capacity, when Open Source, as proven by the NHS, can provide just as much functionality with a much lower risk.

Ahead of his time as a keynote speaker in an event organised in Warwick by Open Source software specialist OpusVL later this month, Ewan commented: "If an organisation like the NHS can implement and benefit from Open Source software, then manufacturing businesses ought to be considering it too.

"Functionally, it's very similar. The NHS has inventory to manage, supply and demand to fulfil, and the organisation processes huge amounts of data every day. The NHS has viewed Open Source as a realistic alternative to proprietary software since 2013 and already there are a number of successful case studies. As a progressive industry, it's time manufacturing businesses also started to embrace Open Source."

Taunton and Somerset Foundation Trust, which runs a 700-bed hospital replaced its electronic patient records system with Open Source technology last year and Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in London has also created an open source electronic patient record system called OpenEyes, which has already been adopted by a handful of other trusts in England. OpenEyes has also been taken by Cardiff's NHS health board with an eye to adoption across Wales, demonstrating the widespread use of Open Source software in the NHS.

The most recent statistics from IDC Insights on ERP usage in manufacturing reveal that 45% of businesses are struggling to use their ERP system to full capacity, have a lack of back office and front office integration, and have rigid ERP systems that they have effectively become locked out of. Andy Dyson, a large systems implementation specialist, who will also be delivering a talk at OpusVL's event for manufacturers on May 12, said that Open Source places control in the hands of the user, ensuring they are never outgrown by their IT, and this has been key to the NHS' adoption of the cutting edge technology.

"It's frightening to consider how many manufacturing businesses are investing heavily in licenses for proprietary software and then never utilising it to its full potential. With Open Source, you are in control and can add additional modules and functionality on top of your base level system, as and when required. The code for Open Source software is not locked up, so systems can be adapted to suit the changing needs of a business, instead of a business adapting its processes to cater for its IT system. This has been key to the NHS' successful Open Source strategy and a key reason that the NHS is striving for 20% of its systems to be Open Source in the next few years. If it works for the NHS, it'll almost certainly work for manufacturing."

Stuart J Mackintosh, Director of Open Source specialist OpusVL, and a key figure across various community Open Source and Open Standards organisations, commented: "At a time when manufacturing is helping to lead the UK's economy, it doesn't seem right that some organisations in this sector are being held back by proprietary software because it's expensive to customise, difficult to utilise fully, or too obstructive to operational processes. If an organisation as wide and complex as the NHS can increase efficiency and save money by utilising Open Source software, then manufacturing businesses can certainly learn a lesson from their experience, and that's what our event will demonstrate to manufacturing businesses."

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