In the early 1900s, Americans changed from horse-drawn carriages to automobiles. Once they made the change, drivers saw how much easier a machine was to deal with than an animal that required rest, feeding, and clean up. Automobiles only required fuel. There is a similar revolution underway in today’s shops. In this case, the horse-drawn carriage is hand-written notes and spreadsheets, and the automobile is a computerized ERP system. Making the change will let shop owners have stunning accuracy and excellent communication, both of which will keep them competitive and thriving.
With an ERP system, it’s much easier to keep all your paperwork accurate. For example, any good ERP system will have scheduling to make sure every job starts on time, so it goes out on time. When a customer inevitably calls in requesting a rush job, a schedule on the computer is much easier to change than one written on a whiteboard. It’s also much easier to look ahead on a computer and see what would happen if a job became a rush job. That way, you can actually see the ripple effect of how this impacts other jobs, as opposed to a physical whiteboard where you can only guess. In addition, once you’ve finished a job, you can see how long it took to run. This knowledge will help improve your estimating and make sure you’re charging the right price. You don’t want to leave money on the table, but you don’t want to overcharge and lose your competitive edge, either.
If you just want to keep track of your good versus scrapped parts, an ERP system will also help with that. At the end of each step, operators can be prompted in the system for how many good pieces they made and how many they scrapped. They won’t have to remember to do it later and there won’t be any issues with reading their handwriting. If your shop wants to achieve any kind of certification, this information will also be helpful. In addition, a good ERP system can help generate all of the necessary paperwork needed for a certification, like ISO. Even if you don’t get a certification, or keep track of your quality with your ERP system, having all of the other information digitized will make sure your paperwork is accurate. With accurate, up-to-the-minute paperwork, you can plan out the future of your shop with more confidence and success. Just like with the automobile, having a computerized ERP system makes everything faster, easier, and gives you less to worry about.
Good communication is imperative in any shop. With an ERP system, everything you want to know becomes much easier to find out. Instead of having to dig through papers that could easily be misread or lost, you can find out quickly just about anything you want to know. Instead of taking hours, it can take seconds to see how many hours everyone on the floor has been working this month. If your ERP system keeps track of quality, you can see who scrapped the most pieces, who works the fastest, and who is your most effective employee. All you have to do is make a few clicks, and your ERP system will run the necessary reports for you. There’s no handwriting to puzzle through and no searching for half of the documents that have gone missing. This communication works across your shop. If someone in sales wants to look up past and present orders for a particular customer, all of that information is at their fingertips instead of lurking in a filing cabinet. It even helps the folks on the floor. With digital, up-to-the-minute schedules for the day, everyone knows what they’re supposed to be doing and when.
This level of communication can have a big impact across your shop. For example, if your shop is fitting in a rush order, you can see which orders will become late because of this. If you have a good relationship with one of the customers who could be affected, you can call them before their order is late and ask if you can push the due date back. If they are able to push their due date back, or if your shop is able to do enough overtime, you could prevent your other jobs from being late. If not, it’s better to call the customer ahead of time to tell them their job will be late than not to tell them until after the due date has passed. Being able to have that level of communication improves your customer relationships with everyone and shows that your shop is professional and cares about its customers. It can also help everyone who works in your shop. The estimators can see how long it actually takes to complete a step, which means they can quote more accurately. If you keep track of your quality, your managers can see who is scrapping too many pieces and decide if those people need to be retrained to prevent that from happening again. In short, an ERP system will show you if all of your processes are doing what they’re supposed to do.
An ERP system can improve the accuracy of your reporting as well as the communication within your shop and outside of it. With all of these improvements, your shop becomes more competitive and more likely to win quotes. Because you’re not spending as much time with pencil and paper, your shop will have the time to work on all of these additional jobs, which will help expand your client base and improve your relationships with your current clients. In short, an ERP system can help put your shop on the path to success. More and more, ERP systems are becoming standard and if your shop doesn’t have one, you’re falling behind. By changing from pencil and paper to an ERP system, your shop can chug along like a well-oiled machine instead of, well, a horse pulling a carriage uphill.