What To Do When Your ERP System Isn't Meeting Your Supply Chain Needs

Mike Davis
Wed, May 13, 2015
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Modifying mobile data collection applications to communicate with ERP software should be seamless.

What can manufacturing organizations do when their enterprise resource planning software becomes a liability instead of an asset? With rapid growth in the supply chain and data management markets, many companies elected to implement an ERP system with the hopes of reducing costs and improving efficiency, whether they're specifically looking at their warehouse management, procurement or distribution processes.

However, technology evolves quickly and the systems that may have performed sufficiently in the past may be causing organizational roadblocks today. Recently, Manufacturing.net considered the question of whether today's manufacturers are working with ERP systems that are causing more problems than they're solving.

Take Time to Reassess the Current ERP System
As emphasized on Manufacturing.net, the industry changes quickly. As a result, the ERP system that an organization has in place may not be completely meeting the needs of the business - or worse, is making it more difficult to keep up with the demands of expanding into new markets or meeting the expectations of customers. At the same time, most manufacturers will recognize the headache involved in transitioning to a completely new ERP setup. There's no question that this process will cause a disruption for a period of time, but, with careful assessment and planning, it can be a much smoother process.

The last situation that a manufacturing organization wants to find itself in is knowing that its ERP setup is no longer meeting its needs. By that time, the moment to begin planning and integrating a new software system has passed. With this in mind, a key question is this: Who should be involved in examining the efficacy of the existing ERP software?

Although it may be difficult to avoid, the main person involved in purchasing the original software may not be the most helpful resource. Instead, it's critical to ask the opinion of the workers who directly use the software on a daily basis if an organization wants to get an accurate appraisal of its functionality. If employees on the floor have to put in longer hours to accomplish their workload, it's very likely they're going to express their frustration and concerns. The warehouse manager who can't give customers an accurate inventory audit will likely be quick to point out the impact of an ERP system that no longer meets business needs.

Besides a complete migration to a new software setup, customizations are another way for manufacturers to augment their ERP systems without causing as much of a disruption.

The Price of ERP Software Customizations
It's very likely that a manufacturing organization will have to modify its ERP software to some extent to allow it to meet the needs of the business. Especially in today's environment, there's an increasingly high priority placed on mobile data collection solutions. In warehouse management, shipping and receiving, workers frequently depend on mobile devices to capture data and store it in the ERP system.

An RFgen Software white paper, called "Mobile Application Customizations - The Hidden TCO Killer," indicates that modifications necessary to make mobile applications fit the specific needs of a manufacturing organization often involve a lot of work on the part of application developers. Moreover, bundled apps and modules are often insufficient to fit the custom needs of manufacturers in a mobile environment. Oftentimes, the tools that work at first can't be easily modified to meet the requirements of expanding business or new systems.

What Solutions Are Available?
One of the key things to consider with an ERP system and a mobile data collection solution is making sure there are tools available to rapidly and easily develop or configure custom applications. It's imperative that any kind of mobile transaction development tool is able to generate interface codes necessary to communicate with the ERP system. In addition, this resource should include a testing platform to make certain that modifications function as they're designed.

An example of this in action is the use of a mobile app that can be customized to the language needs of the workforce. Especially when an organization operates multiple warehouses throughout the world, it's integral for workers to have technology that operates in their native language to avoid any errors as data captured for inventory management is entered into the ERP.

While migrating to a new ERP system may be inevitable for some organizations, there are alternatives. However, to succeed, manufacturers need to plan carefully.

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