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ERP and business processes: Why going back to basics is crucial to moving forward…

Times are tough for UK manufacturers with trends towards robotisation, automation and mass customisation placing increasing pressure on them to up their game. Coupled with this is the pressure from OEMs to meet ever more challenging KPIs relating to production turnaround times, quality standards or compliance. The implications of Industry 4.0 for manufacturers cannot be underestimated.  If a business doesn’t invest in technology or see the potential of that technology to drive efficiency, they will at best stand still and at worst go backwards, losing any competitive edge they may once have enjoyed.

At K3 Syspro we’re often approached by manufacturers who are struggling to keep up with these trends without streamlining their processes. Unsure what to do next in order to future proof their businesses, they’ve reached the stage where they need to implement ERP or upgrade their legacy systems in order to survive and thrive.

Knowledge is key

If this describes the situation your business is in currently, then there are some fundamental steps you need to take to move forward.  First and foremost, you need to truly understand your business processes. And by that, I mean hard facts and data that can be relied upon. All too often our team of consultants come across businesses where knowledge is ‘siloed’ among a few key long-standing employees.  If this rings true for your business, what would you do if these employees were unavailable or left the business?

I can’t stress enough how vital an in-depth knowledge of business processes is to the effective implementation of ERP.  Automation will, of course, play a fundamental role in enabling businesses to grow and meet customer demand (and keep up with industry trends), but rather than rushing to invest in automation, a detailed understanding of your business processes must come first.

You might feel able to undertake this process internally, but at K3 Syspro we regularly meet prospective customers who are so caught up in trying to manage their rapid growth that they recognise bringing in external consultants is the most logical and sometimes the only option. Having someone external to the business to guide you through the process, undertake a gap analysis and advise you on what steps to take to move the business forward should definitely be considered if you don’t have the time or resource to manage this process internally.

A partnership approach

Identifying an ERP partner shouldn’t be a snap or function focused decision.  Firstly, you need to identify a trusted partner – not just a technology supplier – who will work with you at all levels asking the difficult questions needed to get to the core of, and truly understand, your business and industry. This will ensure that the partner you choose will deliver a technology solution to improve and support both your current and future business needs.

And despite what many may think, implementing an ERP solution isn’t just about the technology; it’s as much about the business processes, and how the manufacturing operations have been designed within the factory. Often this will have been an evolutionary process, with technology added as the business has grown, resulting in fragmented systems.

In order to look at all these issues in context, you need to be looking for a partner who will undertake a thorough review of your business to better understand what you do, how you do it and, often just as importantly, why you do it. Without understanding the what, how and why, the deployed technology solution simply won’t deliver the measurable benefits you want to achieve. You might already have business critical KPIs, for example, but do you truly understand these measures and are they still valid? Are your KPIs aimed at measuring historical results or do they help drive improvements and efficiencies? These are all areas that your ERP partner should challenge you on.

It’s all about understanding the manufacturing process and what each individual part of your business needs. That’s why for manufacturing businesses, I would always advocate choosing a partner which offers a product that has manufacturing in its DNA!

An effective ERP partner should be able to deliver an integrated solution which can evolve and change with your business and which can be scaled up if necessary. It must be capable of easily integrating with your other internal and external systems and technology such as web, EDI, 3PL, automated warehousing, shop floor machinery, weigh scales, freight carriers, IoT and other connected products etc. The product’s features and functions are obviously important, but it also needs to be easily tailored for use and growth.

A future-proof solution

Ultimately, I would advise you to choose an ERP partner which will deliver an integrated business system that provides the visibility and accuracy of data needed to aid your thought leaders in making qualified decisions on best practice and future direction. By doing this, you’ll be much better positioned to face whatever demands your customers place on you, both now and in the future.

 

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