Earlier this year, Epicor Software Corporation introduced to the world EVA, its virtual agent designed to help users work smarter and accelerate the pace of operations. Developed using AI services from Microsoft Azure, EVA can be added to all sizes and types of Epicor ERP implementations—on-premise as well as in the cloud.
During its recent user conference, Insights 2019, Epicor showcased several industry-specific use cases for EVA.
• Manufacturing—Using EVA to detect an anomaly early in a production machine that, if left untouched, could lead to unplanned downtime and sub-standard product quality. Data from machines and IoT sensors, combined with Epicor ERP, provides a virtual nervous system that delivers AI-driven alerts from EVA to a mobile device. With just a few clicks on the device,The production manager can confirm suggestions from EVA to schedule preventive maintenance for a machine and shift production to other available machines.
• Distribution—Enabling outside sales representatives to obtain instant and easy access to product, price and availability information, and create a quote on a mobile device while meeting with a customer. This time-saving process is made possible by EVA’s conversational user interface (UI), based on natural language processing.
• Retail—Making cross-sell and up-sell recommendations in real-time while helping a retail customer in the aisles to make a purchase decision, thanks to an AI-powered recommendation engine based on market basket analysis.
• Automotive Aftermarket—Using AI to evaluate a massive dataset of vehicle registrations and parts failure trends by region, EVA is able to notify an auto parts distributor of specific parts that need an immediate increase in stock levels for selected regions due to a projected increase in demand, according to Epicor.
We wanted to learn more, so we connected with Elizabeth Cain, Epicor senior product marketing manager, who provided us some human perspective on their new virtual agent.
Smart Industry: In your words, what is a virtual agent?
Elizabeth: The virtual agent comes across as a conversation UI, but there is so much more going on behind the scenes. The virtual agent accelerates the pace of business, creates the quickest way for a manufacturing company to get from Point A to Point B, delivers targeted information to the customer. The virtual agent eliminates the mundane task of navigating through information menus; it is proactive in providing information that the user can act on. The virtual agent can present targeted, next-best actions that make it easy for the user to make a decision.
Smart Industry: What does this virtual agent do that a human can’t?
Elizabeth: The virtual agent is an aid to the human. It can sift through data faster. It is an augmenter of the human that can speak to the human and understand using natural language processing. Conversations can be had via smartphone, kicked off with voice or text.
Smart Industry: Provide examples of EVA applications in the manufacturing space.
Elizabeth: Detecting anomalies on the assembly line using IIoT sensor data, then predictively/proactively sending the right alert to the production manager’s mobile device, with an offer to schedule a maintenance action. The virtual agent will use machine learning to predict solutions and make suggestions for inventory optimizations via alerts to managers.
Smart Industry: How will this affect worker shortages?
Elizabeth: There are two levels to this. The first is with the skills gap—it makes the workforce that we do have more efficient and able to increase the pace of operations...getting them the information they need more quickly. Then, for incoming workforces, it is attractive. The most common adjective I heard to describe it at a recent event was “Cool!” Incoming workers know how to use these devices, so this speeds training. They don’t have to navigate through menus—they can just talk to their devices.