Navigating the Challenge of Choosing ERP Software

Finding and utilizing the right ERP system is a great way to streamline a company’s manufacturing process, minimize miscommunication and disconnect amongst your employees, and decrease the resulting errors. An ERP system puts all the data — from supplier to production to consumer, from executives to managers to supervisors to line workers — on the same database, providing a thread that connects the entire process.

Disconnects are a major issue for many companies, and without an ERP system, they are almost inevitable. An example of a common source of disconnect is that a successful manufacturing process requires the input of many people from many levels, and each of these people has a vision, agenda, and focus specific to his or her role in the process. As a result, line workers, the individuals who produce the company’s goods, often receive conflicting messages. They may prioritize minor aspects and ignore the major ones in an effort to meet perceived expectations.

Also, when employees feel isolated in their own specific tasks, they are unable to see the whole picture. Therefore, it is difficult to see the full impact of errors or inaccuracies. This disconnect is also fueled by unnecessary complexity. Many companies have inadvertently built in complexity by creating processes or acquiring systems to tackle specific problems. When a company has a unique system assigned to each leg of the process, it may streamline each small step while slowing down the overall operation by leaving more room for miscommunication and errors. 

Whether or not to get an ERP system is a huge decision, but it can benefit a company in numerous ways. For example, while employees are extremely valuable to the manufacturing process, an ERP system can help eliminate the types of errors that all humans are bound to make from time to time. For instance, manual data entry leaves room for errors because people will enter their own perception or estimate of the data, rather than the reality or accurate amount. A forty-four minute pause in production may be entered as a forty-minute pause, or eleven scrapped items may be entered as ten.

ERP systems eliminate this hassle by putting everyone in a company on the same page. While this sounds simple, choosing the right ERP can be challenging. Before assessing options, it is important to assemble a committee with members from all levels and departments, along with an external consultant who is knowledgeable about the available systems.

Consider size, product, consumers, and the challenges faced in the past. This is important to keep in mind before looking into options. For example, in a small or mid-sized company, you will derive greater value from a system that is designed specifically for the kinds of goods produced instead of a top-tier system.

Along with assessing the company, also discuss what is important to the company when selecting an ERP. Is it price, or particular features? Does the company highly value customer support and expertise in a specific industry, or is it about a system’s proven success or cost-efficiency? This process may also help hack through the reasons why an ERP is a good decision in the first place.

After working through these considerations, it may be time to research the ERP systems available and schedule brief phone conversations with product experts and sales representatives. Narrow down the options to a reasonable number of potential fits, research the vendor’s past successes and failures, and start contacting those vendors.

In the end, ERP may not be right for every company. However, an ERP system that matches a company’s size and product can streamline the manufacturing process.