« Back

Getting the Most Out of Your ERP System

By: Gavin O'Heir

It is virtually impossible for any modern manufacturing operation to succeed without an appropriate Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system. It provides visibility to decision-makers, helps promote efficiency and collaboration, improves productivity, and streamlines overall operational processes.

Internally, perhaps the greatest challenge for getting the most out of your ERP software for manufacturing is ensuring that each user is satisfied with how the system addresses their specific needs. For example, accounting may have to be able to easily download data to Excel spreadsheets while management may want the ability to automate as many processes as possible. To be sure you’re meeting everyone’s needs you need to first determine how things are being done today and what end-state you hope to achieve. The answers to these two questions will tell you where you are right now, where you’d like to be with your manufacturing ERP system, and provide some clues as to how to get there. 

For companies buying a new ERP system, three broader questions should be asked:

  • Why are you buying technology?
  • How much is your current system costing you in terms of operational inefficiencies, lower productivity, and lost revenue?
  • How can you measure improvements over your old system using newer, more efficient ERP software for manufacturing?

The goal of any ERP system is to make sure every user is empowered to get timely, appropriate information in a format they need so they can do their job. Regardless of how and where an ERP system is used, that is its fundamental goal. Unfortunately, many companies don’t take the time to truly define and map out the current state of the user and his or her role and job and what it would take to optimize them. That exercise would reveal the functionality the ERP system needs to provide and help the company get the most out of it. 

Externally, it’s critical to carefully consider every aspect of your ERP software for manufacturing that’s customer-facing – this has a profound effect on your brand and its value. Ask yourself “what would I really like my ERP system to do for customers and suppliers and how would I like it to look when they interact with it?”

If you’re purchasing a turn-key ERP system, don’t just accept the pre-packaged quote forms, reports, labeling, checks, and other components that might be included with it. Most systems are reasonably easy to customize and it’s well worth modifying these things to ensure they meet your needs as precisely as possible and represent your brand well.

If you’re considering your first ERP system for manufacturing and are new to software-driven resource planning, your first consideration should be ”who’s going to take care of our system?” If your organization does not have a strong IT department or a datacenter, installing an on-premise ERP system may not be the best idea. Instead, a cloud-based subscription service may work better for you, with all the hardware, software, and maintenance handled in the cloud by a service provider who shoulders the burden of keeping your ERP system optimized, operational, and up-to-date.

Concerned about having your system and data somewhere out in the cloud where you don’t have physical control over it? A third option is using a managed services ERP system. In this case, a third-party service provider delivers a turn-key, on-premise system with all the software installed on the proper hardware, configured to run over your own network. You benefit from an entire on-premise ERP ecosystem that’s managed by an experienced managed service provider (MSP) who is responsible for maintaining and upgrading your system so that it is consistently optimized.

An added benefit of both the cloud approach and the on-premise managed service model is the enhanced risk management they provide. Your data is regularly backed up to provide redundancy and security for business continuity in case your system falls prey to cyberattack or physical damage from fire or flood.

Regardless of the ERP system and model you choose, the investment you make in it and the substantial effect it has on your operation means that chances are good you’ll be using it for years to come. ERP solutions typically have long lifecycles within organizations. As long as you or your managed services partner keep your ERP solution current, it’ll be a dependable tool that will help keep you on the path to greater success.