In the dynamic realm of modern manufacturing, maintaining competitive advantage requires streamlined processes and effective resource management. This is where an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system comes into play. For many small- and medium-sized manufacturing firms, harnessing the potential of an ERP can seem daunting, especially if you’re not well-versed in technology, or lack IT resource in-house. But fear not! In this guide, we’ll break down the essential steps to help you reap the benefits of a manufacturing ERP.
Evaluate your Current Processes First
Before embarking on an ERP project, take time to review and refine your existing processes. Implementing an ERP offers an excellent opportunity to streamline your workflows and eliminate inefficiencies. Look through all of your current processes and conduct a full review to see where problems might be, how your teams currently engage with the processes, and find out how an ERP could save time and money. Changing or introducing ERP software might happen every ten years so it presents an opportunity to overhaul your business’ processes to increase efficiency throughout your operation.
Engage with your department heads and staff throughout the business to pinpoint areas that could benefit from process enhancements and align them with your ERP’s capabilities. It’s worth conducting a full review of your current processes and working with the people that engage with them on a day-to-day basis to find the pain points in order to solve them.
Selecting the Appropriate ERP for Your Requirements
Choosing the right ERP solution can appear an overwhelming task, but a methodical approach can help simplify the process. Begin by identifying your company’s specific needs and pain points and then think about which ERP system could help you solve them: for instance, are you grappling with inventory management, order processing, or production scheduling? Opt for an ERP that tackles your most pressing challenges. Additionally, opt for a system that offers scalability, allowing your company to expand without outgrowing your ERP. Think about the processes that you can keep as you move forward and grow, and start to think about the things that can be adjusted as your operation scales.
At Sentis Managed Solutions, we offer ERP Spec & Select to make sure that you find the right option for your business – saving you money in the long run!
Think About Infrastructure
When it comes to ERP implementation, you’ve got a decision to make: do you choose an on-premise solution, or will a SaaS model work for your business? If a SaaS model is right for you, then the infrastructure is taken care of by an external party. You simply purchase the software on a subscription basis and then the service is delivered over the internet, without the need for a specialist IT department or a third-party IT team to deal with the ERP infrastructure.
However, many manufacturing companies find that an on-premise solution makes more sense given the security benefits offered by having the servers on your site. But to get the most out of your on-premise ERP software, you need to make sure that it’s supported by robust infrastructure. Larger organisations are more likely to have an IT specialist, or even a team in-house to deal with the infrastructure needed. But for smaller organisations, a managed services provider can support your internal IT resource and even manage the process entirely if that makes more sense for your business. Outdated hardware or inadequate network capabilities can impede your ERP’s performance, resulting in frustration, reduced productivity and most importantly, not getting the most out of your investment.
Integration: Unifying All Elements
An ERP brings your vital systems together, unifying the tasks of various departments and bringing different functions under one roof. It should also be able to “talk” with your existing applications whose functions aren’t offered by the ERP, offering a single source of truth that can be accessed by anyone in the business.
Proper integration ensures seamless collaboration between your finance, operations and production, customer service, and sales teams, minimising errors and enhancing efficiency. When selecting an ERP, give preference to one that offers uncomplicated integration with your existing systems which aren’t being replaced by the ERP. This will spare you the hassle of dealing with laborious and costly manual data transfers.
Training: Empowering Your Workforce
Introducing a new system necessitates adequate training for your team – and importantly, you need them to buy in! Although you might not be a tech guru, ensuring your staff receives comprehensive training is vital. Seek out an ERP provider offering user-friendly interfaces and comprehensive training sessions. Invest time in learning the basics yourself, so you can proficiently guide your team and troubleshoot minor issues. It’s helpful to lean on “super users” – those more heavily involved in the implementation process – to disseminate information about how to use the ERP throughout your teams more effectively.
Think About How to Implement ERP Software
There are two approaches to ERP implementation: a “Big Bang” – where everything goes live at once; and a phased approach – where you implement key features first. There are pros and cons to both approaches; the “Big Bang” style of all-at-once ERP implementation gives immediate access to all features, while a phased approach can yield results slower, but with more buy in from your teams.
The “Big Bang” ERP implementation requires a lot of planning to get right before the go-live date. This method of implementation introduces all features and modules at once, which is great if you’re ready to hit the ground running. However, if anything does go wrong on the go-live date, the impact could be enormous.
A phased approach can take longer and can cost more than a “Big Bang”, often utilising a temporary interface between the ERP and your existing systems before the ERP is fully implemented. This can also cause some confusion during the crossover period where there are two sources of data – your original system and the ERP. However, there is a reduced chance of the process going so badly wrong due to the phased implementation of modules.
Regular Software Updates and Additional Training
Technology is in a constant state of evolution, and you should be constantly evaluating the way that your ERP software is used. If you’re on a SaaS model, regular updates for your ERP software should help you to capitalise on the latest features and security enhancements, and if you use an on-premise solution, keeping up to date with patches that are released will help to keep your security effective.
Similarly, ongoing training for your team ensures they maximise the system’s capabilities. Many ERP providers offer support and training resources, so avail of these to keep your team’s skills sharp. It can be worth thinking about refresher training schedules from the outset, making sure that your team are consistently kept up to date with the latest features and to ensure that staff are using the ERP correctly.
Tapping into the potential of a manufacturing ERP can revolutionise your manufacturing firm, even if you’re not a tech maestro. By prioritising process review, meticulous ERP selection, infrastructure, integration, training, appropriate implementation and consistent training and updates, you can position your company for growth and triumph. Remember, technology is a tool that, when utilised strategically, can elevate your operations and pave the way for a more efficient and prosperous future.
For more information on how an ERP can change the way that you work – throughout your business – and for tips on preparing your company for ERP implementation, get in touch with the experts at Sentis Managed Solutions.