Times are tough for manufacturers with global trends towards automation and mass customization placing increasing pressure on them to up their game. Coupled with this is the pressure from OEMs to meet ever more challenging KPIs relating to production turnaround times, quality standards or compliance. The implications of Industry 4.0 for manufacturers cannot be underestimated. If a business doesn’t invest in technology or see the potential of that technology to drive efficiency, they will at best stand still and at worst go backwards, losing any competitive edge they may once have enjoyed.
Some manufacturers will have recognized their inability to keep up with these trends without streamlining their processes, but may be struggling to understand what they need to do next. They’ve reached the stage where they need to implement ERP, or upgrade their legacy systems in order to survive and thrive.
Knowledge is Key
So, what should manufacturers who have reached this point do? First and foremost, they need to truly understand their business processes. And by that, I mean hard facts and data that can be relied upon – not the knowledge that is often found to be ‘siloed’ among a few key long-standing employees.
An in-depth knowledge of business processes is vital to an effective implementation of ERP. Automation will, of course, play a fundamental role in enabling businesses to grow and meet customer demand (and keep up with industry trends), but rather than rushing to invest in automation, a detailed understanding of the business processes must come first.
Some companies will be able to undertake this process internally, but others may be so caught up in trying to manage rapid growth that bringing in external consultants to guide them through the process, undertake a gap analysis and advise them on what steps to take to move the business forward is a logical choice.
A Partnership Approach
Identifying an ERP partner shouldn’t be a snap or function focused decision. Firstly, businesses need to identify a trusted partner – not just a technology supplier – who will work with them at all levels asking the difficult questions needed to get to the core of, and truly understand, their business and industry. This will ensure that the partner delivers a technology solution to improve and support their current and future business needs.
And despite what many may think, implementing an ERP solution isn’t just about the technology; it’s as much about the business processes, and how the manufacturing operations have been designed within the factory. Often this will have been an evolutionary process, with the business adding in technology as it grows, and which then ends up with fragmented systems.
In order to look at all these issues in context, businesses need to find a partner who will undertake a thorough review of the business to better understand what they do, how they do it and, often just as importantly, why they do it. Without an understanding of the what, how and why, the deployed technology solution won’t bring measurable benefits.
It’s all about understanding the manufacturing process and what each individual part of the business needs. That’s why for manufacturing businesses, I would always advocate choosing a partner who offers a product that has manufacturing in its DNA!
An effective ERP partner should be able to deliver an integrated solution that can evolve and change with the business and which can be scaled up if necessary. It must be capable of easily integrating with other internal and external systems and technology such as web, edi, 3PL, automated warehousing, shop floor machinery, weigh scales, freight carriers, IOT and other connected products etc. The product’s features and functions are obviously important, but it also needs to be easily tailored for use and growth.
A Future-Proof Solution
Ultimately, businesses need to choose an ERP partner which will deliver an integrated business system that provides the visibility and accuracy of data needed to aid its thought leaders in making qualified decisions on best practice and future direction. By doing this, they will be much better positioned to face whatever demands their customers place on them, both now and in the future.