Look at your smartphone for a moment. Now think of all the technologies it has replaced or brought together in a single handset.

It can make calls, take photos, record memos, play music, stream TV, send text messages, let you play games and read books, act as your diary and calendar, organise your contacts, pay for your parking, teach you French and much more.

Because it’s flexible, the apps you have installed on in will reflect your own needs and interests. Your next phone will offer even more – some already act as credit cards, and it probably won’t be long before they contain in-built projectors, act as your security pass and offer applications we currently only dream about.

Now cast your mind back 10 or 15 years. Your only option then was to use a whole range of technologies to do a part of what your smartphone can do now. For business, you might have carried a mobile, a diary, loose change for your parking and maybe a camera or Dictaphone  – but you were pretty unlikely to add a set of Linguaphone CDs, a TV set, a games console and several bag-loads of books as well.

The technology has not only changed rapidly, but it allows you to do much more. And because you adopted it in increments, you’ve tailored each change to your needs over a period of time.

Like smartphones, business software like ERP has evolved rapidly over the same period. But we’ve found that many manufacturing businesses still use their ERP in the same way they did a decade or more ago. At best they aren’t exploiting the full potential of their software, and at worst their ERP isn’t a catalyst for growth and efficiency – it’s a barrier.

 

Is the problem your ERP system – or its configuration?

Manufacturing businesses often call in our experts because they have implemented an ERP system like Epicor, but have found that it’s no longer delivering what their business needs, in the way they need it.

More often than not, these businesses are dismayed because they believe they have bought the wrong system for their needs. In reality, they usually have the right system that has been implemented in the wrong way.

To return to the smartphone analogy, it’s a bit like buying an iPhone because you want to read books on it – and then failing to install the correct e-reader. You might find workarounds via your browser, but unless you have the right app, it makes the process of opening and reading any e-book a hassle. Just because you can read a book in a more complicated way, doesn’t mean you have to.

In other words, there’s probably nothing wrong with the system you’re using – it’s likely the process you’re using that’s at fault. A comparable problem often happens when a third party implements an ERP system like Epicor without understanding your business processes. Instead of optimising a process to meet the needs of your business, they’ll often teach you many different ways of achieving it, leaving you to muddle through as you work out which one best fits your business. Worse, if they don’t understand your sector, you may end up with a system that is optimised, say, for make-to-order instead of make-to-stock. When this happened to one company we know, it needlessly generated 19 million material movement transactions within a year – costing it a lot of money.

So remember, a process perfect for one type of business could be a catastrophe for yours – no matter which ERP system you choose.

 

Or have you outgrown your ERP?

Many companies don’t adapt their ERP systems as they grow or move into new fields. For example, if a firm implemented Epicor in 2009 and has since expanded its manufacturing line and moved into fresh markets, it’s unlikely that the same ERP processes still align with the company’s current business objectives.

Again, think of the phone you had in 2009. There’s no way it could handle the processes you now demand from your current handset. Your needs have changed, and so have the processes open to you. Epicor’s no different – you need to review your business processes so your ERP system remains aligned to them, whether those processes use new functionality or old.

 

Match your processes to your ERP

Whether it’s a smartphone or ERP, you can see that frustrations emerge when either fail to meet your needs. With a phone, you adapt it to handle the functions that make your life easier, more efficient or fun. With ERP, you need to regularly check that your implementation handles your business processes in the most efficient way, and whether new functionality has emerged that makes those processes simpler.

That’s where we offer a unique service. We use our expertise to match your manufacturing business’s unique objectives to the most efficient processes available in Epicor or similar ERP systems. That way your ERP remains lean, up-to-date and grows as you do – saving you money and increasing your margins.

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