Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) technology has long been a staple for manufacturing organizations that wish to streamline operations and hasten inventory and warehouse management while improving customer service. However, with the advent of new technologies, ERP implementations are about to get dramatically better. These new technologies – including cloud computing, mobile solutions and real-time business intelligence/analytics – along with new advances in warehouse automation -- will empower manufacturing organizations like never before.
In fact, these new ERP innovations will allow manufacturers to completely jump-start their operations. For example, in the very near future, manufacturers will rely on mobile networked devices and on-demand software to increasingly enable the seamless integration, tracking and optimization of key tasks from inventory, shop floor and management all the way to capacity and materials planning and product quality control.
Manufacturers focused on growing their businesses must consider implementing these ERP advances in particular:
Mobile is emerging as a critical technology for manufacturers that wish to empower their remote workers while improving customer service and satisfaction. One leading manufacturer of insulated industrial outerwear relies on VAIs S2K Sales Force application so that the outside sales staff can use smart phones and tablets to directly view sales patterns, notes, previous sales, inventory levels and past appointments prior to visiting clients. They can also enter more notes or place orders in real-time – which are all immediately visible to the back office. This resulted in a major productivity boost for the manufacturer.
Business Intelligence and Analytics
Most manufacturers are not leveraging their own internal data to their best competitive advantage. In fact, these organizations often have valuable data scattered throughout their enterprises without a proven mechanism to find, track and recover exact components of data in real-time – necessary for making more intelligent decisions on-the-fly as well as keeping abreast of competitors, sales forecasts, inventory changes and market trends. Next-generation ERP technology will get a boost from new advances in analytics and business intelligence solutions that will give manufacturers the ability to rapidly uncover the right data sets while providing intelligence on how to act on that data based on the situation at hand.
ERP solutions will be further bolstered by warehouse automation advances that offer such important capabilities as RFID tracking and integration with voice-pick solutions.
New advances in ERP will give manufacturers the ability to analyze large data sets to more effectively drive innovation, productivity and efficiencies. According to a recent study by the McKinsey Global Institute, a major retailer leveraged the power of Big Data to improve operating margins by more than 60%. And, McKinsey believes that the manufacturing industry can benefit in a similar fashion by leveraging data-driven strategies to innovate, compete and capture value from both deep and up-to-the-minute real-time information.
There are new technologies that can dramatically improve operations and inventory management for manufacturers of all sizes. These advances will transform the role of inventory management from a record keeping tactic to a more strategic business asset by driving major improvements in overall productivity while eliminating costly mistakes in the warehouse.
On the shop floor and in the warehouse, many manufacturers are already using RF scanning to improve performance and overall productivity. By implementing RF scanning alone, manufacturers can automate the entire warehouse and shop floor, improving performance across all key areas including: receiving; directed put away product movement; picking; packing order verification; returns refused shipment; raw materials issue production; bin replenishment; warehouse transfers; file set-up; and, cycle counting.
With RF scanning added to their ERP implementations, warehouses will uncover seven powerful ways to hasten the order fulfillment process by:
- Integrating systems
- Automating picking
- Driving better shipment planning
- Automating shipment verification
- Reducing paperwork
- Managing warehouse capacity, and
- Incorporating sales into the process
For optimal warehouse automation, there are traditional approaches that companies can utilize – most notably fixed stations and check out stations for validation. And, as an alternative to RF scanning, some manufacturers are also using new voice-enabled, label-based and paper-based approaches that have proven to be effective.
With so much innovation across core ERP functions critical to manufacturers, now is the right time for organizations to explore how these advances can further modernize and streamline operations, inventory and warehouse management, sales and accounting, among others. Forward-thinking manufacturers should consider adopting new mobile cloud, business intelligence and analytics capabilities in order to stay ahead of the curve and the competition.