Managing sophisticated manufacturing operations is not unlike coordinating the world’s air traffic. Consider the metaphor for a moment. Among the production lines, warehouses, and shipping docks of your company, your ERP system acts as the air traffic control tower—directing every operation, process and data point successfully from and to their destinations accurately and on time. Failure to plan for volume increases, react to unforeseen circumstances, or predict future capacity needs and your company may begin to resemble the delay-ridden airport terminals plaguing air travel recently.
It may be time for a system upgrade. Evaluating and integrating a modern ERP system becomes a strategic imperative to replace the limitations of traditional systems. In this post, we’ll help you assess your current capabilities, navigate the often-turbulent process of selecting a new ERP, and successfully land a future of manufacturing precision.
Consider this a 5-step preflight checklist:
Step 1. Assess Your Current Radar:
Knowing if it’s time to upgrade starts by surveying your airspace. What processes are you managing now? What new challenges are you confronting? What unforeseen risks are on the horizon?
Here are some questions to ask when evaluating your existing, or considering a new ERP platform:
- Is your existing software/ERP system scalable to be able to grow with your business?
- Is your existing software/ERP structure flexible and agile enough to seamlessly facilitate this growth?
- Can your existing software/ERP system integrate the manufacturing value chain, helping with functions from planning and sourcing, scheduling and shop-floor control, to quality inspection and maintenance?
- Can your existing software/ERP system automate all business processes across the business, connecting people with those processes to support business goals, and making sure company assets are being properly and efficiently used?
- How much choice and flexibility does your existing software/ERP system provide you with or is it a “one size fits all” system leaving you with a massive ERP platform that requires much more customization to be useful than you are prepared for?
- Does your existing software/ERP system have demand forecasting tools or data-analytics in the system?
Step 2. Define Flight Plans and Crew:
If you think it’s time to make a change, formally outline your business goals and requirements. Be sure to include a tight but flexible timeline for your decision-making. Ensure your ERP system aligns with the unique needs of your manufacturing operations. Then build a crew from ownership and key department stakeholders. Appoint internal sponsors from Sales, HR, Accounting, and Order Management, among others, to ensure their voices are heard throughout the process—rather than just at the end.
Step 3. Set a Clear-Course Budget:
Define a comprehensive budget for the ERP transition. Take into account the initial expenses, the execution process, possible adjustments, and continuous support. ERP should be considered a fundamental investment, yielding measurable returns through heightened efficiency and enhanced visibility. Searching solely by price may leave you well short of your destination.
Step 4. Navigate the ERP Market Skies:
Evaluate the features, functionalities, and pricing of various ERP systems to identify a shortlist of 2-3 that appear to best fit your industry and align with your business needs. While some clients prefer independent research, reaching out to a consulting firm specializing in the ERP software you’re eyeing can provide valuable hands-on assistance throughout your journey.
Generic ERP systems do have their advantages, but for mid-market manufacturers, there are a lot of good reasons to consider an industry-specific solution. To help you narrow your view, consider these questions:
- To what degree does your software/ERP system provider and implementation partner understand your business, and have experience and references in your industry with your specific type of manufacturing, distribution, or specialized business process?
- Does the provider or implementation partner have a tried and tested implementation process?
- Does your existing software/ERP system provide ongoing support, education and training?
Step 5. Conduct a Pilot Flight and Gather Feedback:
Before a full-scale deployment, conduct a pilot implementation to test the new ERP system in a controlled airspace. Gather feedback from key users to refine the system before the complete rollout.
Selecting the right, modern ERP is no small decision. But a solid plan, the right team, and a shared goal can minimize the stress. Ultimately, your comfort with the solution, the vendor behind it, and their proven implementation process will determine just how smooth your migration flight will be.