Process of Elimination: Choosing Manufacturing ERP Software
December 13, 2017
With global commerce fiercely competitive, manufacturers need to select the right enterprise resource planning (ERP) software to improve their processes and service as much as possible.
Many companies still have departments using disparate technologies, which prevents them from looking holistically at clients and customers. ERP integrates that data — and this seamlessness improves many areas of business.
Choosing the right manufacturing ERP software doesn’t have to be difficult. You can make the selection process easier and more informative by narrowing the list of vendors before you start reviewing products.
Here are the eight most important factors to consider when searching for an ERP provider.
1. Know Your Needs
Before tire-kicking any technology, review your business processes and current system deficiencies. A technology divide between departments might be the real problem you’re trying to solve, and ERP is a great integrator.
Ask questions as you begin looking for software: Could automation not just improve internal manufacturing operations but also provide insight into your supply chain? Are there any processes that require manual or repeated entries? Is it challenging to meet industry compliance requirements?
Carefully shape the focus of your technology search to get an accurate list of needs to show vendors.
2. Build Your Budget Case
A detailed discussion of your needs with other executives will set budget expectations. It will also make them aware of hurdles previously confined to the knowledge of certain teams. Leadership could decide to put more money in the purse if the new technology is linked to gains, such as improved customer and employee satisfaction.
3. Work With an Analyst
Technology analysts know the pluses and minuses of manufacturing ERP software. While their advice isn’t free, analysts will think of advantages and limitations you will undoubtedly overlook. An analyst shouldn’t overtly push any particular vendor. He or she should instead match your needs as closely as possible with several technologies, then let you make the final choice.
4. Test Functionality and Mobility
Once you’re ready to shop, consider that ERP systems should support your supply chain, production and sales management, among other functions. You can choose other refined specialties, such as business intelligence capabilities. But any solution should perform the essential manufacturing ERP functions with ease.
Beyond your manufacturing operations, human resources ERP handles payroll, measures employee performance and offers metrics that shape long-term planning.
ERP also streamlines sales, which allows you to place and track orders efficiently. The data offer long-term views on customer habits and supply-chain capabilities, providing an informed road map for sales planning.
Mobility matters, too. ERP extends beyond the desktop, so learn how vendors allow users to stay on top of things while on the move.
5. Don’t Settle for Use Cases
Technology vendors will offer case studies to prove their ERP technology works best. While those written examples help, ask to speak with a company that’s in your specific niche. The story of a refrigerator manufacturer might be insightful — but if you’re a lighting manufacturer, you should see how the technology handles the nuances of your industry.
Some companies might not want to share operational details with a competitor, but it won’t hurt to ask big-picture questions that could shed light on how a specific technology works within your industry.
6. Scrutinize Integration
A technology is only as good as its compatibility with other systems and technologies. Learn if a vendor’s offering can integrate with your legacy systems. Customer relationship management (CRM) systems are often tied to ERP, meaning customer financial records and sales histories frequently overlap. Drill vendors about their specialties and ask to see a clear outline of how their offerings would connect with yours.
7. Prepare Implementation and Training
Learn who will be responsible for implementation: the vendor, your company or both. A comprehensive training program by the vendor will flatten the learning curve for employees. Specific and intensive training prepares your staff for the short and long term. Your IT team will also thank you if the vendor is by its side during implementation, training and beyond.
8. Question Longevity
An ERP offering might seem innovative now, but will it be flexible enough in the future? Ensure the technology can accept new functionality as manufacturing changes. Also, scalability is always critical. Be sure the software can expand as your business grows.
Knowing your company’s ERP specifications and how well vendors can satisfy them should narrow your choices to a few.
Don’t be wowed by snazzy features. If you adhere to your plan, ask detailed questions and expect detailed answers, choosing an ERP software will be a breeze and help you understand and improve your manufacturing process.
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