What Discrete Manufacturers Need to Know
Implementing an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system is a significant endeavor for any discrete manufacturing company. The right ERP software can streamline operations, improve efficiency, and drive growth for your company.
However, the wrong choice — or a poorly executed implementation — can lead to cost overruns and operational disruptions. To reduce uncertainty in this complex process, your project team must take a systematic approach. That means looking beyond the names you’ve heard of and closely examining what fits best with your needs. Only in this way can you make an informed decision.
Read on for the five areas to focus on in your search for the best ERP software for your manufacturing company.
1. Evaluate Different Systems
Define Your ERP Software Requirements
Before choosing an ERP system, it’s important to establish your business needs and goals. This initial step is the cornerstone of your ERP implementation success. As a discrete manufacturing company, you need a wide range of features. This can range from production planning and inventory management to quality control and supply chain integration.
Beyond the basics, consider what’s unique to your industry and operations. Many ERP solutions claim to work for all industries, but that may not be the most effective strategy. For example, Friedman Corporation’s Frontier ERP software has unique features developed for specific industries. In particular, Frontier’s product configurator makes it an ideal choice for complex manufacturing of custom or semi-custom products.
Frontier manufacturing ERP has features that support the specific needs of manufacturers of:
- Kitchen and bath cabinets
- Furniture and store fixtures
- Windows and glass
- Window fashions (shades, blinds, shutters, etc.)
- Other building products
- Promotional specialties and printed products
- Metal fabrications
- OEM and aftermarket motor vehicles and parts
The Compass Methodology, developed by Friedman Corp, is an invaluable resource for understanding and mapping out your specific requirements. Its structured approach helps you identify your business needs. Then you can more easily map these demands to the capabilities of an ERP system.
Conducting a Thorough Vendor Assessment
Selecting the right ERP software for manufacturing is a pivotal decision that can significantly impact your company’s future. It’s essential to conduct a comprehensive vendor assessment. Success will depend on whether your chosen system aligns with your company’s goals and operational structure.
When evaluating vendors, consider these critical factors:
Industry Expertise: Seek a vendor with a deep understanding of the discrete manufacturing industry. Beyond this, look for one that has specific expertise in your industry. Experience and knowledge of your industry’s unique challenges will be invaluable in tailoring the ERP software to your needs.
Scalability: Opt for an ERP system that can grow with your business. As your manufacturing company expands, your system should seamlessly accommodate increased demands without requiring a complete overhaul.
Technology: Ensure that the ERP system you choose is on a reliable and stable platform. Many companies now opt for cloud hosting, so the specific operating system is not as important. What is important is the stability of the servers. Your system should easily interface with tools directly or via EDI, API, or other data exchange methods.
User-Friendliness: The user interface of your chosen ERP software should be intuitive and user-friendly. This ease of use facilitates employee adoption and ensures that your team can maximize the system’s potential.
Ability to Customize: Can you modify the ERP system to suit your unique requirements, or would you need to change your business processes? Your manufacturing operations are distinct, and a one-size-fits-all solution may not suffice.
Once you have determined there may be a match between your needs and what the software can offer, it’s time to request a demo.
2. What to Expect in a Demo
The demo stage lets you see how the ERP software would work in your manufacturing environment. A well-executed demo can provide invaluable insights into the system’s capabilities, usability, and alignment with your business functions.
During a demo, you should expect:
Tailored Demonstrations: Vendors should customize their demos to showcase how the ERP system caters to your specific needs. It’s not about generic presentations but a personalized demonstration of how their manufacturing software can enhance your operations.
Real-World Scenarios: The demo should simulate your manufacturing scenarios. This can include processes like order processing, production planning, inventory management, quality control, and supply chain integration. The system should address the unique challenges of your industry.
User Experience: Pay close attention to the user interface and overall usability. The system’s design should be intuitive, and its features should enhance daily operations. ERP software that’s easy to navigate and operate will be more easily embraced by your users.
Data Integration: Ensure that the demo showcases how the ERP software seamlessly integrates with your existing data sources. This integration capability is vital in a manufacturing environment. Ask about integrating data from various sources, including CAD systems, your website, and machinery. An ERP system must bring all the data together for effective decision-making.
At this point, you have hopefully found one or two ERP software companies that look to be a good fit. Now is the time to check references.
3. Requesting and Verifying References
References are a crucial part of the ERP selection process. Speak with companies that have already implemented the ERP software you are considering. Your goal is to gain invaluable insights into the system’s performance, its potential challenges, and the tangible benefits it provides.
When talking to references, don’t just focus on their results. Delve into their experiences throughout the implementation process and after. A reference check should include:
Implementation Experience: Inquire about the reference’s journey during the implementation phase. What challenges did they face, and how were these addressed? Were there any unforeseen obstacles, and how were they handled?
Post-Installation Support: Understand how well the vendor supported the reference company after installation. Did they address issues promptly and effectively? Assess the level of customer support they provide.
Go back to the ERP software company with any questions that have arisen from the reference checks. Be sure you understand how the company’s implementation process works.
4. Approaching Implementation
Developing a Comprehensive Plan
Once you’ve selected the manufacturing ERP software that aligns with your company’s needs and goals, the next crucial step is to create a comprehensive implementation plan. The success of your ERP implementation hinges on a well-structured and meticulously executed plan. Here’s what this stage involves:
Clear Objectives: Define your objectives and desired outcomes. What are you aiming to achieve with the ERP system? Are you looking to enhance production efficiency, reduce costs, or improve quality control?
Timelines: Establish realistic timelines for the implementation process. Be mindful of any critical deadlines, and factor in a buffer for unforeseen challenges.
Roles and Responsibilities: Clearly define who within your organization is responsible for what during the implementation. Hopefully, your implementation team members were part of the selection process. Each team member should know their role. The entire company should prepare for the changes that implementing an ERP system will bring.
Data Migration and Integration
Discrete manufacturing relies on a plethora of data sources, from CAD drawings to production schedules and inventory records. To ensure a smooth transition to your new ERP system, data migration and integration are essential components.
The ERP software should handle historical data accurately and integrate seamlessly with existing applications and data sources. This is a vital step for maintaining continuity and preventing data silos.
ERP system implementation often brings significant changes to the way your company operates. Employee resistance to these changes can hinder the implementation process. Effective change management is crucial to help your team adapt to the new system. This includes:
Training: Provide comprehensive training to your employees so they can confidently use the new system. The training should cover both technical aspects and the benefits the system will bring to their daily work.
Communication: Clearly communicate the reasons for the change and the benefits it will bring. Address any concerns or misconceptions your employees may have.
Support: Ensure that there is ongoing support available to employees as they adapt to the new system. Encourage feedback and address any issues promptly to maintain morale and productivity.
5. Support After Installation
The journey of implementing ERP software doesn’t conclude with the successful installation of the system. Post-implementation support and continuous improvement are critical to maximizing the benefits of your new ERP system.
The ERP vendor’s commitment to support after installation is a vital consideration. The level of post-implementation support should encompass:
Regular Updates: Ensure that the provider makes regular updates to its ERP system. These updates should include bug fixes and improvements to enhance performance and security.
Look for a company that communicates regularly with its customers, with ongoing webinars, technical training, and in-person meetings.
Issue Resolution: Verify that the software company is responsive to any issues that may arise post-installation. The ability to resolve problems swiftly and effectively is paramount for a seamless transition to your new system.
Be sure to include questions about post-implementation support when checking references. Also, check the company’s website to see if they outline their service and support program.
Installing new ERP software is not a “once and done” activity. An ERP system is an evolving tool that should adapt to your business’s growth and changing needs. Regularly review and refine your ERP system to ensure it continues to meet your requirements and leverage new technologies.
Continuous improvement is the key to maintaining a competitive edge. Ensure your ERP system remains an asset for your discrete manufacturing company by updating it regularly.
In conclusion, reducing uncertainty in ERP implementation for discrete manufacturing companies involves:
- Thorough research
- Validation of results
- A systematic approach
- A commitment to post-implementation support
- Continuous improvement
Evaluate different systems, understand their implementation processes, and examine their post-installation support. This helps you make informed choices for a successful ERP software implementation that fits your company’s needs.
Remember, the right ERP system is not just a tool. ERP software is a catalyst for growth and operational excellence in the world of discrete manufacturing. For more information about Friedman’s Compass Methodology or to set up a demo, contact us today.