ERP and AI: A Deep Dive

By Erin Koss , CPA is an Andersen Business Consulting Alumni (1993-1999), and CEO of Syte Consulting Group, Inc.

With advanced technologies like ChatGPT and GPT-4 exploding onto the tech scene, artificial intelligence (AI) has really taken off worldwide over the past few months.

Now AI is the talk of the ERP market, too — and it's shaping the latest features of the big vendors.

The bottom line: AI is revolutionizing ERP, making it more intelligent, more efficient and simpler to use.

In this report, we’re taking a closer look at the current state of AI in ERP. We’ll also make some predictions about what the future of AI could hold for family-owned manufacturing and distribution companies, and talk about the challenges of AI-enabled ERP systems.

What Is AI in ERP?

When we pair ERP with AI, we get systems that can use and learn from information to make decisions, predictions and recommendations. For example, an AI-powered ERP system could predict when a piece of machinery is likely to fail, and could even schedule maintenance in advance.

In the past, many data-related tasks in ERP required human intelligence — but now manufacturing companies can use AI-enabled ERP systems to manage and report on business data without needing to perform repetitive manual analysis.

With the help of AI, it’s getting easier for family-owned manufacturing and distribution companies to perform many ERP tasks.

Adding AI to ERP can expand human capabilities and increase productivity. By automating routine tasks, AI can reduce the possibility of human error and cut operational costs — and we can already see AI’s impact on ERP systems across a wide array of business functions.

The Current State of AI in ERP

AI and ERP: A powerful pairing for efficient, data-driven manufacturing

Manufacturing is a highly data-intensive industry, and because ERP is deeply entwined with all aspects of your operation, it generates a sea of data about every element of your business.

AI can scrutinize larger datasets than ever before, giving you access to real-time, accurate insights. This abundant information — often referred to as “big data” — is a powerful tool for addressing common manufacturing problems.

And having access to real-time data and customizable reports from AI doesn’t just benefit top management. It can help decision-makers at all levels of your organization make quicker, smarter decisions.

Picture this: AI can analyze the purchasing patterns of your buyers, so you can adjust your inventory to meet your customers' needs. AI-enabled ERP systems can also explore historical data and extract lessons from past behavior patterns to help you generate faster, more accurate quotes and estimates.

AI also revolutionizes process automation within your ERP system. In areas like accounting and payroll, your team members will be able to automate many tasks so they only require a few clicks. Integrating AI into your ERP can also help you identify inefficiencies and find solutions to save money and make your organization run more smoothly.

Predictive diagnostics, another AI perk, can help minimize waste on the manufacturing floor and in warehouses.

AI is not just fitting into the manufacturing ERP equation — it's fundamentally reshaping it. Family-owned manufacturing businesses that embrace this transformation can expect increased efficiency and better decision-making, which can give them a competitive edge in the marketplace.

The evolving integration of AI in ERP

The biggest ERP vendors are moving fast to integrate AI into their functionality. Here's a rundown of where it’s currently adding value in ERP:

Intelligent data processing: With AI integration, ERP systems can now process data and generate detailed reports at unprecedented speeds, without the need for human intervention. With this help, companies can access real-time information from departments and make data-driven decisions.

Predictive analytics: Companies that leverage predictive analytics in AI-enabled ERP systems can use data to forecast future events, trends and behaviors. This can help you predict production demand, manage inventory and recognize upcoming equipment failures before they happen.

Increased automation: By merging AI with ERP, you can automate tedious tasks like manual data entry. This can save time and reduce the risk of human error.

Improved efficiency: AI integration with ERP systems helps you optimize business operations. AI uses past data to suggest the most productive processes or workflows, resulting in time savings and enhanced efficiency.

How the top ERP vendors are incorporating AI


Epicor released their Epicor Virtual Agent (EVA), an AI-based voice command interface, in 2019. This digital assistant has been designed to expedite business operations to help users work more efficiently.

EVA is accessible via text or voice, and can execute tasks, provide recommendations and make adjustments within set guidelines. EVA delivers relevant information to mobile users using natural language processing (NLP), so they can make fast, informed decisions. EVA can even proactively send alerts and perform tasks automatically by tapping into historical data and market trends.

Epicor’s FP&A tool also harnesses AI and machine learning to transform financial and operational data by automating complex tasks and reducing errors.


Microsoft, a key investor in OpenAI, is integrating AI into its suite of products, including ERP systems.

With the introduction of Microsoft Dynamics 365 Copilot, the company offers the first AI assistant for CRM and ERP. This sophisticated AI tool minimizes repetitive tasks, so you can increase the efficiency of your workforce across sales, service, marketing, operations and supply chain roles.

Copilot in Microsoft Supply Chain Center also anticipates external factors that might affect key supply chain processes — which helps you detect and mitigate problems early.


In many ways, NetSuite was ahead of the AI/ERP curve. The company launched its Intelligent Cloud Suite in 2018, which helps manufacturing businesses:

Generate real-time, role and industry-specific insights

Get alerts and recommendations about potential supply issues

Design and automate workflows based on previous decisions and situations

Automatically execute tasks or processes once workflows and insights are confirmed

NetSuite also recently released accounts payable automation (AP automation) technology that gives manufacturing companies a more efficient and accurate way to handle financial processes. AP departments can digitize incoming invoices using Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology, which scans and converts paper-based invoices into digital data.


SAP has enriched its S/4HANA cloud with AI capabilities that improve processes across a number of operational areas. SAP AI Business Services helps finance and sales teams control costs and streamline order processing.

For procurement professionals, SAP uses AI in its spend management software and Business Network to simplify processes and improve supplier engagement. Its Customer Experience software portfolio now features an AI application that elevates operational efficiency and conversion rates.

SAP SuccessFactors (under the company’s Human Experience Management software portfolio) leverages AI to analyze employee skills and implement continuous training and development programs.

Predictions for the Future of ERP and AI

Smarter ERP: Even more AI-driven features coming for family-owned manufacturing companies

In the future, AI-enabled features will become more common in the back office, on the floor and in the field for family-owned manufacturing and distribution companies.

Conversational AI bots — similar to consumer digital assistants like Siri or Alexa — will facilitate hands-free ERP operations. Sales reps will be able to use these bots to place orders while they’re in the field, and warehouse workers could use them to seamlessly reorder parts.

Autonomous mobile robots (AMRs), equipped with technologies used in driverless vehicles, can move around and perform automated tasks. These robots are becoming commonplace in manufacturing businesses of all sizes — not just in the automotive sector.

AI, coupled with IoT devices, will continue to enhance Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) by monitoring and modeling equipment behavior. Manufacturing companies will be able to get real-time insights into uptime, performance and product quality.

Marketing and sales departments are already using AI to optimize their processes. AI tools leverage historical data to set optimal product pricing, automate upselling and cross-selling, and craft personalized, data-driven messages — and these trends will continue in the future.

AI is already proving invaluable in warehouse planning too. AI-enabled ERP systems can analyze data from ordering, manufacturing and warehouse systems, then suggest optimal warehouse configurations to improve efficiency.

In production planning, AI helps companies predict how much product needs to be produced over a specific period of time, given all the factors that could influence purchasing behavior. Manufacturing companies can use predictive analytics to dynamically adjust ordering changes.

The AI, DOP and 5G ecosystem for ERP

Keep in mind that the future of ERP is intertwined with AI advancement — and it’s also connected with the rise of 5G and the advent of the Digital Operations Platform (DOP).

DOPs blend AI and machine learning with other digital tools to create flexible, interactive systems. AI not only integrates seamlessly into DOPs but expands their capabilities so companies can anticipate business needs, automate workflows and leverage operational analytics.

5G, with its fast data transfer and extensive device support, plays a crucial role in moving all kinds of tech advancements forward. In manufacturing, 5G equips IoT sensors and AI-driven processes to collect rich, real-time data from operations. This information integration leads to more precise inventory monitoring, predictive maintenance cycles and adaptable production lines.

However, even if a family-owned manufacturing company is not ready for a full-fledged DOP, they can use AI to optimize network management, improve security and personalize services. This, in turn, prepares the path for future DOP and 5G integration.

While 5G and DOPs will continue to have relevance, their capacity to leverage and be leveraged by AI is the key to realizing the full potential of ERP systems.

The Potential Pitfalls of AI-Enabled ERP

Incorporating AI into ERP systems is not without its challenges.

Even with AI's novelty and appeal, implementing it within ERP systems requires strict adherence to fundamental project management principles. Integration projects will need secure backing from sponsors, as well as adequate staffing and funding.

AI systems require monitoring, maintenance and ongoing adjustments — you can’t just “set it and forget it.” A dedicated, cross-functional team of experts is essential to oversee the consistent and efficient use of AI tools within your organization.

Using AI in ERP systems requires processing large volumes of data, so addressing data privacy and security is also a concern. Implementing and managing AI-enabled ERP systems require specific skills and resources, so companies will need to invest in training or hiring.

The Age of AI in ERP

As AI continues to disrupt the ERP landscape at an unprecedented pace, now is the time for family-owned manufacturing and distribution companies to adapt.

Expert guidance can help you make the most of these advancements, and having an advisor who knows the ropes can make all the difference for the successful implementation of your upgraded or new ERP solution.

The future is here, and the Syte team is ready to help you move forward with confidence. Schedule a conversation with us about what’s happening at the intersection of AI and ERP.