If manufacturers have learned anything over the last couple of years, it’s that they need to be responsive to customer needs in order to stay competitive—and in business. At the heart of the modern manufacturing enterprise is their shop control software system. Going by the acronym, ERP, enterprise resource management software systems are supposed to open up a wealth of functionality, speed, and, most importantly, responsiveness in the satisfaction of customer needs.
However, what is often promised in the pitches for ERP systems often differs greatly from what is delivered, or even needed by the manufacturer purchasing it. It’s a “goldilocks” phenomenon where the notion of getting a system that’s just right is often elusive. In many instances, a bit more homework on the part of the buyer and less puffery by the provider would have solved in the beginning what ultimately turned into an implementation fiasco.
Questions of functionality, speed, and responsiveness are basic, though sometimes passed over for the attraction of bells and whistles. What is always needed prior to an ERP system selection is introspection on the part of the manufacturer or job shop. Whether you’re replacing an existing ERP system or installing one anew, deliberate approaches to what is actually needed for the present and for growth in the future should determine the sort of system that is pursued.
Of course, budget and cost are primary driving factors in ERP selection. Staffing, users, software, implementation, modifications, service levels, training, and interfaces are a few of the factors integral for determining the true cost of the sort of system that will be within your budget.
Related to this is, of course, the functionality of the system. You are looking for more sophisticated means to control your company—not more complicated or slower ones than what you already have as a system of management. Indeed, ease of use should be a major factor in determining ERP system selection, for if your staff cannot quickly learn the system then there is inevitably going to be unexpected in-direct costs associated both with training and wasted shop floor time when operators have to mull over such things as BOM drilldowns and time clock logins.
Then again, if you can never fully implement the system you purchase because your employees have not completely bought into the process/software, or the provider is not experienced in consistently smooth integrations, then progress is always going to be limited. An ERP system and its provider should be help—not hinder—the implementation process. This notion filters down to what is the ultimate need for the ERP system in the first place; that is, to make your operation more efficient and, therefore, more productive.
Choose an ERP system only after you have made strong and informed decisions about what it is you’re looking for in functionality, speed, and responsiveness. These three qualities should be evident not only in the software you choose, but also the provider of it.