- 18 January 2017
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Manufacturers are flocking to ERP solutions. In 2016, 1 in 4 manufacturers surveys said ERP investments were their top priority, according to the recent Hennik Research’s Annual Manufacturing Report. It makes sense. The right ERP system can provide seamless communication between the various departments of your manufacturing company.
With more and more ERP solutions available, it’s not always easy to determine the right factors to consider when choosing a product for your own business. That’s why we’ve provided a list of the latest tips for ERP implementation, to get you started.
1. Understand Your Own Company Goals
For any technology to benefit your company, you must first understand what you want it to accomplish. This means documenting every existing business process. How is order information currently passed to production and inventory? What reports do departments rely on? Too often, management decides on an ERP system without knowing how the company processes run. This can result in an ERP selection that isn’t entirely compatible with your company’s production needs.
Once you have processes documented, it will be much easier to identify areas for improvement; this will guide you in defining the scope for your project. Look particularly for unnecessary repetition of tasks, or objectives that are difficult to deliver on regularly. If order information is re-entered several times as it moves from production through delivery, perhaps data sharing is priority. If one area of production sees frequent waves of intense production that it can’t handle, maybe a system that can handle sales forecasts is key.
2. Research Several Vendors
Every ERP system is different. Finding the right system for your company requires research, and strong communication with potential providers. If an ERP system requires a major overhaul of business operations, for example, it’s likely not for you. While researching, make sure that you:
- Check out the vendor’s reputation and history. Does their ERP software meet industry standards? Has their software been recognized by any industry organizations?
- Reach out to other companies that use the potential ERP. How was their experience? Are they looking to switch to another system?
- Understand the system’s data collection and reporting capabilities. Can the ERP measure and track the most important metrics at your company?
- Understand the ERP’s customization capabilities. Is the system an out-of-the-box solution? If so, does the system address all your company’s goals?
3. Find the Right Company Fit
Choosing the right ERP provider is not just about the ERP system itself; it also means ensuring the vendor is able to support your company’s needs, in everything from implementation to ongoing support. Company reps should be able to answer all your questions, and make you feel comfortable when talking with them. This could be based on their experience with companies within your industry, or of the same business size. Ideally, the reps will understand your company culture and values (i.e. you can easily establish a rapport with them).
Without proper vendor support, you risk getting stuck during implementation, or training. Aside from the fact that it’s simply frustrating to encounter delays, this can also slow down or interrupt your business production. This means a massive loss in the investment spent on the ERP system; and the time spent on research, meetings, and partial implementation.
Finding the right ERP provider for your company will not only ensure a smooth ERP implementation, but the right vendor will also act as a comprehensive resource so you don’t experience delays or interruptions.
4. Test Everything
Before going live with your ERP system, it’s important to test every component to avoid bugs or errors that could hurt your company. While testing, document everything you do, the results of your tests, and all processes for using the system. This will not only help with future employee onboarding and training, but your documentation allows you to compare the new ERP system with the previous way of doing things. Are reports reflecting accurate data in a more concise manner? Is accurate information moving from department to department as expected?
Testing provides the opportunity to find and fix any bugs in the software before they cause damage to your production process. Bring in employees from all departments that will use the ERP system; ask them to go through the instructions for using the system, and see where they get stuck. Understand that some aspects of the ERP may not be as intuitive as others, so it’s okay if there’s a learning curve for some tasks. Identifying pain points beforehand allows you to prepare training documentation to help employees better transition.
5. Welcome the Changes from ERP
Introducing a new ERP system requires employee training, and a modification of processes. This is inevitable. The sooner everyone embraces these changes, the sooner your company can embrace the benefits of the new system. The new ERP system may take steps out of report generation, or data entry — it may reduce redundant tasks, or take some previously manual tasks to an automatic format. Even though ERP solutions are meant to make things easier, keep in mind that it’s possible employees will stick to old processes or find workarounds that keep the new ERP system out of the picture. This isn’t because your employees want to do things the “hard way,” but more likely because they are resisting the change to their workflow, and they haven’t fully bought into the new system.
Management needs to lead the charge on this major change. Show visible enthusiasm for the new system, to motivate employees to feel the same. ERP systems are meant to help companies improve processes, communication, and more. Only with full company support can the system bring the benefits leadership is looking for.