An interview with SYSPRO at NMW 2019: Find out how SYSPRO can help with Industry 4.0 transformatio 


Picture: Mr. Rob Stummer, Syspro CEO

It was the third day into the National Manufacturing Week where I found a chance to meet with SYSPRO Australasia CEO, Rob Stummer and Chief Innovation Officer, Kevin Dherman. The atmosphere in the Melbourne Convention Centre was buzzing with the latest innovation in manufacturing and their stand was busy. They did however generously offer to have a casual chat with me along the banks of Yarra River, in the beaming afternoon sun and I was fortunate enough to be given a glimpse into one of the most successful global ERP companies: SYSPRO.

Can you tell me about SYSPRO and when did it start in Australia and New Zealand?

Kevin - SYSPRO is an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) provider which was founded in 1978 by the current CEO, Phil Duff in Johannesburg, South Africa. We are one of the oldest privately-owned ERP providers around. Personally, I have been with the company for 19 years, almost half of the company’s 40-year history. This experience has enabled me to truly get to know the team and understand the company’s history and future.

SYSPRO established its operation here in Australia 18 years ago. Since inception we've only had three CEOs lead the Australasia office which speaks to the stability of the organisation. Rob took up the CEO role in January this year.

What services does SYSPRO provide?

Kevin – SYSPRO has been providing services to the manufacturing industry for the last 40 years. We believe in working with our customers to develop the right solution for their organisation. When we meet with a customer, our first question is: "What is your current process and where would you like to be?” We then, together with our customer, map their current enterprise processes and evaluate what is needed to move their business forward. Based on this, we then propose a solution and following implementation we provide further support through our after-sales division.

We believe organisations are not buying an ERP solution for today, they buy it for the future. To this end we will look at ways that we could assist with digitising their business with technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and mobile applications.

Rob –We often find at the beginning of our engagement that our customers need our assistance to identify what they need from an ERP solution.  Our strategy is not about just selling SYSPRO. Instead, we are solution focused, we listen, learn about their pain points and then reverse engineer a possible solution.  We are focused on adding value and showing that there are significant benefits in productivity and efficiency gains in areas that they may not yet have even thought of yet.

What industry would benefit from your services?

Kevin – In the past we focused on a wide range of industries, however we recently took a strategic decision to narrow our focus to two main sectors: manufacturing and distribution.  We now successfully service twelve including metal fabrication, food and beverage and electronics. Many industries have sub verticals, for example the Food and Beverage consists of sub verticals including confectionery, meat processing and poultry processing.

In sub vertical industries such as electronic components and food and beverage we offer strong traceability solutions.

How can your organisation help our Plastics industry?

Kevin – Plastics and rubbers is one of our twelve industries in which we have a strong presence, especially within the plastic mould injection business.

Like many industries, our solutions are geared towards not only collecting relevant data but also ensuring that we can make sense of the data as it applies to the plastics industry. We are then able to provide actionable business insights to equip plastics and rubber manufacturers with information that will help then gain a competitive edge.

For example, if I'm operating in plastics manufacturing, I should be able to connect with a recycling organisation to gain some insight into their operation.

One of our services would be to go out to a recycling organisation to capture learnings from their experience with the aim of initiating a knowledge exchange dialogue between the recycling organisation and all our customers that are in the plastics and rubber industry.

How is SYSPRO different from its competitors?

Kevin - Firstly, our focus is on our customer and making sure that their success is at the heart of what we do as an organisation. I believe this sets SYSPRO apart from our competitors.

We also have a single DNA product. We didn't buy another piece here and there and try to bolt it on. We've been building the same product over several years and the functionality of our solutions have continued to improve. We haven't looked to writing it in another language or rewriting a new user interface. This enables us to keep adding value to our customers.

Rob - The customer has always been central to what we do. Their guidance shapes the direction that we take in our product development. We listen to what their needs are, and we also advise them on what we think the future's going to look like, as well. Having these 'ears and eyes' of the industry, specifically to assist shape our product over decades of evolution, is extremely powerful. Not many companies, particularly in ERP, can say that they only specialise in manufacturing and distribution. That has to be one of our key differentiators.

How long have you been involved with NMW and what do you hope to achieve from NMW?

Rob - Our objective is to help the companies operating in the manufacturing industry. This is certainly a good forum to get their attention on what we can offer and how we can help them We flew Kevin here to talk about some of the innovations we are currently working on. This has sparked some great interest and has also generated some excellent discussion regarding what is possible when you challenge the status quo.

As the incoming CEO, for me NMW is also about building brand awareness. It's important for me to get the SYSPRO name out there so people understand our 'why'. That is, why do we exist, what do we do and how we can bring benefit to their industry? A lot of people don't know SYSPRO but when they do, and they learn that we've been around for 40 years specialising in the manufacturing industry, and they understand that we can make a significant difference to their business. When they can see firsthand how innovative we are they are fascinated and want to understand how they can utilise our technology in their own businesses.

Are there any new innovations you would like to share with our audience?

Kevin – Our latest version (SYSPRO 8) released last year is packed full of innovation including manufacturing operations solutions, IoT and Machine Learning. Our innovation is geared to offering pragmatic solutions for our customers.

For example, the way we approach our customers is not to confuse them with technical jargon like Machine Learning, instead we ask: ‘How important it is to predict your cashflow?’

We use Machine Learning to help with fraud detection. We have computer vision we can plug into your existing cameras to assist with health and safety. We help our customer imagine this new way of reporting, where everything is pushed straight to them in real time. We call it Artificial Intelligence (AI) to the User Interface (UI). As our clients are engaging with our software, it can inform them that certain people who buy a specific product will also buy another specific product. Our system can also inform customers if we think an order will be late by five days, so it would be best to pick another supplier. We try to be proactive with our Machine Learning architecture so that it is creating immediate benefits in terms of the customer experience.

Finally, what advice do you have for companies planning to bring in new technology and innovation to their workplace?

Kevin – I think the first thing is, it must come from the CEO. It must come from top down. Any organisation considering a digital transformation journey must have the buy-in of their CEO. The CIO will implement this but would ultimately need the go-ahead from the CEO. Without the CEO championing digitalisation, the value promised of the emerging technology may be lost

Rob - You want to ensure that the staff are on board throughout the journey. It's critical that the change management aspect is a major consideration during the implementation process, as it is hugely important to get user buy-in during these types of transitions. With the CEO driving it from the top down, everyone will get engaged. Then it's about articulating the benefits of what the future looks like and bringing them along the ride, so that they have total buy in. Ongoing training is a key aspect of a successful implementation as well.

Kevin – I love coming to Australia because industries are trying to automate more because labour costs are so expensive. Businesses automate everything and they push the boundaries. I've never heard the Australians say, "oh no, they're taking away our jobs". Australians look for opportunities, not negativity.

Rob – Some jobs may go but I am also certain that even more jobs will be created than those that are lost So, there's more of an upside to innovating and brining in new technology. It may mean re-skilling yourself and this might be a huge opportunity for people to embrace this change. We need to look at what we are passionate about at work, and then talk to the management to understand what the possibilities are in the future. SYSPRO can certainly help you find out what those opportunities might be. Businesses must prepare themselves for this future. It is very important for both the company and the staff to plan ahead and succeed in this new age of digital disruption.

Author: Ken Chan

This interview is conducted with permission by SYSPRO and GrangeMedia21. No part of this interview can be used for any publication without the consent of Syspro or GrangeMedia21.


SYSPRO is a global, independent provider of industry-built ERP software designed to simplify business complexity for manufacturers and distributors. Focused on delivering optimized performance and complete business visibility, the SYSPRO solution is highly scalable, and can be deployed on-premise, in the cloud, or accessed via a mobile device. SYSPRO’s strengths lie in a simplified approach to technology, expertise in a range of industries, and a commitment to future-proofing customer and partner success.

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