Master Supply Chain Optimization with ERP

supply chain optimization

Mastering the intricacies of supply chain optimization is no longer an advantage—it’s essential. In this era of heightened demand for customization, the challenges of supply chain management are more complex than ever, and optimization is crucial. For custom manufacturers, the journey toward streamlined operations and enhanced competitiveness demands a powerful ally.

Enter Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems. Manufacturing ERPs are the cornerstone of operational excellence in today’s dynamic business environment. In this post, we’ll explore common issues in manufacturing supply chains and how an ERP system can help optimize them.

What is Supply Chain Optimization?

Supply chain optimization means ensuring that every part of your supply chain operates smoothly and efficiently. It includes more than getting raw materials, manufacturing orders, and delivering finished products – typical supply chain management functions. Optimization reduces costs, improves customer satisfaction, and gives your business a competitive edge.

However, supply chain optimization for custom manufacturing can be challenging due to its complexity. Supply chains involve multiple stages, including procurement, planning, inventory management, distribution, and logistics, each with its own set of challenges and potential inefficiencies.

Common Supply Chain Management Problems

Make-to-order manufacturers face unique challenges in supply chain management because of the complexity and variability inherent in producing customized products. This can have a direct impact on the effectiveness of your supply chain optimization. Here are some common problems you may encounter:

1. Demand Forecasting Difficulties

Due to the nature of their products, custom manufacturers often deal with highly variable and unpredictable demand patterns. Unlike mass production, you rely on specific orders that can fluctuate significantly. Window and door manufacturers are typically busy from spring through fall. In contrast, custom furniture and cabinet builders see demand rising during the fall and winter months. This seasonality can make it challenging to plan production schedules and inventory levels accurately.

2. Complex Inventory Management

supply chain optimization, deman forecasting

Custom manufacturers face enough supply chain challenges, especially with demand forecasting. Frontier ERP provides robust analytics and reporting, providing you with the best tools for demand forecasting.

Managing inventory for make-to-order manufacturing is more complex than for standardized products. Many companies rely on both on-demand and to-stock when purchasing raw materials or components for customer orders. While purchasing the most popular products in bulk makes sense, it can lead to overstocking if demand quickly falls.

3. Supplier Coordination and Reliability

Custom manufacturers often work with a range of suppliers to source specific materials and components required for tailored orders. Coordinating with multiple suppliers and ensuring timely delivery of high-quality materials can be difficult and time-consuming. Supplier delays or quality issues can disrupt production schedules and lead to delays in order fulfillment.

4. Production Scheduling and Flexibility

Make-to-order manufacturing requires flexible production schedules to accommodate varying order sizes and specifications. Balancing the need for flexibility with efficient resource utilization is a significant challenge. Unplanned or last-minute changes can disrupt production workflows, leading to inefficiencies and increased lead times.

5. Quality Control and Consistency

Ensuring consistent quality across customized materials and products is difficult. Each custom order requires different materials, processes, and quality standards and may require different production methods. Maintaining rigorous quality control while adapting to these variations can be resource-intensive and complex.

6. Cost Management

Custom manufacturing often involves higher production costs because of specialized materials, unique processes, and smaller production runs. Managing these costs while remaining competitive in pricing can be tricky. Additionally, the variability in orders makes it harder to predict and control costs accurately.

7. Lead Time Variability

Lead times fluctuate for make-to-order manufacturers. It all depends on the complexity of the order and material availability. These variables can make it hard to provide accurate delivery estimates to customers. This could lead to unhappy customers and lost business if deadlines are missed or delayed.

8. Communication and Collaboration

Effective communication and collaboration across different departments and with external partners are crucial for custom manufacturing. If your team is disconnected, miscommunications or lack of coordination can lead to errors, delays, and increased costs.

9. Technology and Data Management

Managing the data and technology required for custom manufacturing can be complex. You need robust systems to handle order specifications, track inventory, manage production schedules, and ensure quality control. Integrating these systems and ensuring they provide accurate, real-time data is vital but can be problematic.

How ERP Helps with Supply Chain Optimization

ERP systems are software solutions that help manufacturers manage their core business processes from one centralized data source. They often include finance, sales, service, manufacturing, and human resources.

According to cited statistics from G2, over 67% of supply chain managers use spreadsheets for supply chain management. This is both inefficient and prone to a multitude of operational issues. For supply chain optimization, ERP systems provide tools and features that can enhance efficiency and streamline operations. These tools integrate and automate multiple processes, making it easier to manage the supply chain as a cohesive whole.

The best ERP systems for manufacturing provide many advantages that can improve your supply chain optimization.

real-time data visibility with erp

Get full transparency and visibility into your supply chain data in real time with Frontier ERP’s Supply Chain Management tools.

Enhanced Visibility and Transparency

ERP systems provide real-time data on every aspect of your business, including what impacts your supply chain optimization. For example, manufacturers can track inventory levels, monitor production progress, and oversee logistics with an ERP. This enhanced visibility allows you to monitor your operations closely, identify potential issues early, and make informed decisions quickly.

Data-Driven Decision Making

With access to comprehensive analytics and reporting, manufacturers can make more informed decisions regarding their supply chain operations. ERP systems provide detailed insights into key performance indicators (KPIs), helping you identify areas for improvement and implement strategies to enhance efficiency. This allows you to respond quickly to changes in market conditions, customer demands, and supply chain disruptions.

Improved Inventory Management

Using integrated order processing for inventory systems can improve productivity by 25%, space consumption by 20%, and stock use efficiency by 30%. One of the key features of ERP systems for supply chain optimization is inventory management.

Effective inventory management is crucial for custom manufacturers to avoid overstocking or stockouts, both of which can be costly. ERPs provide real-time stock level visibility and automatic triggering of reorders when quantities fall below predefined thresholds. This ensures that you maintain optimal inventory levels, reducing your carrying costs and minimizing the risk of production delays.

Streamlined Procurement Processes

Procurement is another critical area where ERP systems excel. They automate procurement processes, from supplier management and material planning to purchase order creation and invoice processing. As a result, you will experience fewer manual errors and an accelerated procurement cycle. Streamlined processes ensure that all necessary raw materials and components are ordered and received on time.

The best ERP systems also allow you to evaluate supplier performance, negotiate better terms, and establish reliable supply chains. This leads to cost savings and improved supplier performance.

Optimized Planning and Scheduling

Demand planning is another vital feature of ERP systems. Using historical data and trends, ERP systems can accurately forecast future demand, helping businesses prepare accordingly. This helps you plan your production schedules and ensures that resources are used efficiently, reducing downtime and increasing output. Accurate demand forecasting also helps in better inventory management, further improving supply chain optimization.

ERP systems also enhance workflow automation by integrating procurement, production, and logistics processes. This integration helps in reducing lead times by ensuring that each stage of the supply chain is synchronized. Automated alerts and real-time tracking ensure that potential delays are identified and addressed promptly.

Quality Control and Metrics

ERP systems integrate quality management processes with production workflows. This ensures that quality checks are performed at each production stage, from raw material inspection to final product testing. ERP systems can also track quality metrics, document compliance with standards, and manage non-conformances. By maintaining rigorous quality control, manufacturers can ensure consistent quality across all customized products.

Efficient Logistics and Distribution

Managing logistics and distribution effectively is critical for the timely delivery of finished products. ERP systems offer features for optimizing truckload planning, tracking shipments, and managing warehousing operations. With real-time tracking and automated scheduling, products are delivered to customers on time while minimizing transportation costs.

Enhanced Collaboration and Communication

ERP systems also enhance coordination and collaboration among different departments within a company. When procurement, manufacturing, and logistics teams are all using the same system, communication improves, and processes become more aligned. This reduces the likelihood of miscommunication and ensures that everyone is working towards the same goals. Moreover, ERP systems provide a centralized platform for sharing information and tracking progress, which fosters better teamwork and efficiency.

Cost Savings and Increased Profits

By streamlining processes, reducing waste, and improving efficiency, ERP systems help manufacturers achieve significant cost savings. Automated procurement processes minimize errors and delays, optimized production schedules reduce downtime, and better inventory management lowers storage costs. These efficiencies translate into increased profits, allowing you to reinvest savings into further business growth. Zippia reports that by reducing your supply chain costs from 9% to 4%, you can double your profits.

Scalability and Flexibility

The best manufacturing ERP systems are scalable and can grow with your business. This ensures that your supply chain optimization processes remain efficient no matter how large or small it is. With a flexible ERP, you can confidently enter new markets and launch product lines without worrying about your system.

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Choose Frontier ERP for Supply Chain Optimization

Frontier’s Supply Chain Management solution is essential for optimizing supply chain operations for custom manufacturers. As a unified ERP solution, Frontier streamlines every aspect of the manufacturing process, including procurement, production, distribution, and customer service. Our robust modules offer complete visibility and control over your entire supply chain for improved operations and growth opportunities.

  • Procurement Management/Purchasing & Receiving
  • Distribution Requirements Planning (DRP)
  • Advanced Warehousing
  • Dispatch Truckload Planning
  • Shipping
  • and More!


Mastering supply chain optimization with ERP systems is pivotal for businesses striving to compete in today’s ever-changing market. ERP systems address the complexities of custom manufacturing by enhancing visibility, streamlining processes, and fostering data-driven decision-making.

These systems improve inventory management, procurement, planning, and scheduling, ensuring efficiency across all stages of the supply chain. By integrating quality control, logistics, and enhanced communication, ERP software helps reduce costs and increase the bottom line.

Frontier’s Supply Chain Management offers comprehensive tools to unify and optimize supply chain operations, empowering businesses to achieve sustained growth and increased efficiency.

Want to learn more? Contact us today for a free demo!

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