Competitive manufacturers continually look for ways to improve efficiency, optimize their processes, and innovate. The most successful companies also extend those practices to IT as well as their physical operations. The challenge is, however, that in an era of increasing digitization and automation, most manufacturers have discovered that their legacy enterprise resource planning (ERP) manufacturing production software doesn’t provide them with the capabilities they need. The question is, what will?
The market is filled with manufacturing software, from simple to complex and designed for a range of different types of operations, which can lead to a time-consuming search to find the best solution for your unique business. This guide will help you narrow your choices and focus on options that will result in the greatest value for your operation.
Whether you are implementing manufacturing ERP software for the first time or upgrading to keep up with new demands, start your search by considering solutions with these six features:
At its core, manufacturing ERP software helps operations plan production. Software should have the ability to help operators coordinate with their supply chains, monitor inventory, coordinate with accounting and finance, and schedule labor. When ERP adoption first picked up steam a few decades ago, manufacturing operations still relied heavily on proprietary equipment and systems that operated in data silos. Today, manufacturers should look for next-generation software that they can leverage to plan and manage production in a connected, digital environment.
Software that provides visibility into the dynamic processes in the factory and helps facilitate collaboration between many processes running and sending information between people, machines, and data systems.
Your software should also give you total visibility into your operations and the ability to set boundaries for certain metrics, e.g., inventory levels, overtime, and machine utilization. Therefore, you can immediately address small issues or address anomalies before they lead to downtime.
It’s uncommon for the process from initial design to production to take place without making changes. Your manufacturing software should enable you to track changes and keep a record of procedure versions. The software should be able to tell you beyond a doubt which procedure version and bill of materials (BOM) was used for each part or assembly you produced, allowing you to deliver the highest-quality products – and customer satisfaction.
This data stored in your manufacturing software can also provide the records you need for regulatory or client compliance reporting or audits. Also, if a recall is necessary, your software should enable you to manage it and minimize costs and waste associated with it.
With all the data that your operation generates, your manufacturing software should give you the opportunity to extract value from it. Choose a solution with an analytics engine that can combine both real-time and historical data to help you forecast, avoid bottlenecks and make smart decisions that help you improve processes.
Also, because data analysis can provide value to every team member, from the top down, look for ways to make insights consumable by any employee. Integration with a visualization tool can provide team members in various roles with the specific insights that are most important to them.
Teams can focus so much on their own responsibilities that they don’t share data or work with other departments’ schedules in mind. Manufacturing ERP software can give you the framework for a plan that helps teams, from engineering and production to marketing and HR, align so that schedules aren’t disrupted, and your entire company maintains a big-picture view of operations.
Legacy ERPs have a reputation for improving efficiency but also being complicated to use. Employees may not immediately trust a new solution or resort to workarounds instead of using an ERP they don’t understand. Look for manufacturing software with a user-friendly interface, simple navigation and a record or high user adoption. Everyone is getting very used to great software and UX in their daily lives, on everything from email to stock trading, so why shouldn't the software they spend most of their day in be very user-friendly?
When employees find a tool that makes their lives easier and makes them more successful in their jobs, they’ll use it.
As you are evaluating manufacturing software features, also take time to vet the software’s vendor. You want to choose a company with a good record in business and is familiar with your market or niche. However, also look for one that is dedicated to innovation and has developed a platform that gives you the ability to add new features or integrate new technologies. Ask to see their product roadmap to learn whether it addresses the trends, such as robotic process automation (RPA) or artificial intelligence (AI), that may impact your business in the coming years.
Choosing software from a vendor that provides you with the features you need today, as well as the ability to scale and enhance your system with new features in the future, will ensure you get the most return from your investment.