5 Things You Should be Asking About Your Manufacturing Software and Partner

Purchasing new ERP software for your firm is a big decision.  It impacts almost everyone in the organization either directly or indirectly – regardless of whether they are on the shop floor or in the back office.  If you are not confident in the value of the system and the ROI your organization will get out of it, the investment into a new system can be intimidating.  You need to do your research to ensure that the software and partner you choose to work with will be able to help push your business into the future.

How do you ensure you set your firm up for success?  We recommend asking these 5 questions to learn more about the software and the partner.

  1. Does the solution support the type of manufacturing you use today? How will it support the future?

There are four main styles of manufacturing process – make to stock, make to order, engineer to order, and continuous process flow.  Of course, each style has variations with in it and there is a good chance that you are currently leveraging more than one style.  Added to that, there are hundreds of detailed manufacturing processes across an unlimited amount of industries.  Then there are the different types of manufacturing principles to be considered.  How can you be assured that your new ERP solution will work for how your organization operates?

The solution you choose will need to fit your organization’s unique business model.   To best do this, first you need to have a very good understanding of your current processes.  By fully understanding how you operate, you can better evaluate the software. You also need to define what you need from the new system – which tasks do you need to automate, what needs to be reported on, etc.

During your review of the software, involve all stakeholders.  Bring in a few plant floor employees to attend a system demo.  They need to buy-in to the solution to help ensure adoption.  Showing the new solutions simplicity and how it can improve users day-to-day work will help do that.

  1. How does the solution handle my processes?

Processes are at the heart of everything you do.  Whether it is on the shop floor or in the back office, your processes are important and unique to your business.  Your ERP software should be able to adapt and help you excel.

Process modelling helps your business develop a clear understanding of your processes and the systems across the organization.  It allows for standardization throughout the organization and ease in developing new processes.

As important as the standardization of processes, your ERP software should be flexible enough to adapt if needed.  As you grow and technology changes, you may need to adjust. Your software solution should be able to help you with that also.

  1. How does the software handle inventory?

Inventory is key to your manufacturing operation.  You need to know your raw materials, WIP, and your finished goods – in both physical reality and dollar value.  Knowing this information will allow you to better identify potential over supplies and take action.  It will allow for improved profitability through stock level optimization and inventory reduction.

In many industries, traceability of inventory is very important.  It is important to understand if the new system offers traceability automation or if it requires a person to key in lot codes.  You should also understand how easily you will be able to trace back a product to its origin and then trace forward to other parts that include the same defective material.

  1. Is the partner’s team qualified to deliver measurable results?

Understanding software is one thing, but providing thought leadership to help your manufacturing firm run better requires a different level of experience. Don’t be afraid to ask about the team behind the company, including their technical and business expertise.

  1. What additional support does the partner provide?

Aside from your partner’s support, they should help you find peer user forums and groups facilitated by vendor experts where you can ask questions, get training, attend special events, and learn the latest news.   They should also continuously keep you informed of product announcements, releases, offers, end-of-life dates, pricing changes, and licensing matters.

It is safe to say that not every manufacturing ERP software on the market will be a perfect fit for your business.  The same can be said about software partners.  Ensure you evaluate both, considering not just the short term, but also the implications for the future.

For more, check out “The Value of Microsoft Dynamics NAV for Manufacturers” by Nucleus Research.

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