With recent optimism in the manufacturing industry, you might be one of many small to mid-size businesses looking to capitalize on the upward trend happening in the marketplace. From growing your employee base to reaching out to new prospects to adding new equipment, many companies are searching for opportunities to expand and take advantage of the revitalizing industry.
But where should you start? The tactics that work for small job shops may not work for larger manufacturers. I believe one sure-fire way to advance any business is to analyze your weak points, your strengths and put an action plan together to maximize potential and minimize waste. The best tool to do this, in my opinion, is to implement ERP software. Let’s take a look at some key benefits for both small and large shops.
Uniqueness & the Cloud
Small shops are as unique as the product and parts they develop, making their needs just as varied. The fear of implementing new technology and the question if the software will be flexible enough for them are real hurdles. However, one of the biggest benefits for implementing ERP software, especially if the software has a cloud-based version, is that you don’t have to have a full-time IT department or a costly infrastructure to run the system. Security may still be a concern, but your information is actually more secure on cloud-based data centers than on local servers which can be wiped out easily by a hacker or virus. Cloud-based storage has built-in redundancies and stores the info at multiple locations which can aid against hacks and other emergency scenarios, including natural disasters.
Transferring your information from multiple datasheets and programs into one system may seem cumbersome, especially if the data is housed on old, legacy systems. But if you break down the info into “must-have,” “nice-to-have” and “don’t-need” buckets, it will make the transfer process easier. What’s even better is if you purchase software from a company with a comprehensive training program and an excellent support team. Do your research and know what kind of support you’ll be getting with the price tag. You want to be up and running quickly with very little hiccups so you can see that ROI as quickly as possible.
Improving Efficiencies & On-Time Delivery
No matter your shop size, improving production to maximize efficiencies, eliminating waste and getting better on-time delivery can help any shop thrive. ERP software helps you quote faster, streamline ordering, manage inventory and allows you to analyze and integrate with every department in your business. No more costly mistakes. As one of my colleagues said after purchasing an ERP, “No one forgets a common bolt or to order a special part that has a 3-week lead time. Once you’ve done it in the system, it’s always there. It prevents costly mistakes and therefore saves us money.”
Fixing the Mounting Issues
I’ve found it’s usually not as hard to convince larger shops that they need management software. If they don’t already use it, their problems are usually piling up by the day and therefore, they see the value in an ERP system fairly soon after researching what it can do for their business. But implementing new tech can be more daunting to a larger shop based on the shear amount of data, the training time commitment and the question of comprehensive support. Shops want easy to use, easy to navigate software. Implementation is certainly something both small and large shops have in common. Thankfully the immediate and future benefits of an ERP system quickly outweigh any initial hesitation of proceeding with the investment. From quality control to scheduling to data collection, ERP software will help your business understand problems you are currently struggling with as well as those you may not know you have! A customer of mine said that they assumed their quoting process was mostly accurate only to find it wasn’t after they implemented ERP software. Now they can do a cost analysis after each job to determine how accurate they were and what to change for the future.
Been There, Done That…
If a company has tried shop management software before, perhaps when they were small and growing, and it wasn’t successful, it’s easy to understand why they wouldn’t be too inclined to try again. But again, if you choose a good company that has the right training and support for their product, you can sometimes see ROI within a matter of weeks. Remember that ERP software should not only improve efficiencies and production on the job floor, but it should also reduce chaos and make things less complicated in the office as well. Keeping tabs on your goals and analyzing if the software is solving your problems should be a constant, long term goal.
Upping Your Tech Game
Larger companies have one big thing in common — they’ve invested in technology and continually push the barrier for future advancement. Once you have an ERP system in place, progress and growth can be planned for and should even be expected, when done correctly. Another customer of mine expanded into using more modules when they implemented handheld scanners on the shop floor. “It’s funny to say but our ERP pushed us to be even more efficient. When you realize all of the data that you get with the touch of a button, we couldn’t help but wonder what else we could improve upon!”