How can Industry 4.0 feel more accessible to manufacturing SMEs? The 2017 Made Smarter review suggests that industrial digitalisation could deliver huge benefits to the UK economy, boosting manufacturing by £455bn over 10 years. However, it also reports that that adoption of new technology has been reluctant among SMEs.
Here, Paul O’Donnell, Head of External Affairs for The Manufacturing Technologies Association (MTA), explains how Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems software can provide manufacturers with a route to innovation, which they may find easier to adopt.
What is ERP?
“Enterprise Resource Planning is software that integrates various essential business functions into a single system. It means businesses can streamline their various processes more effectively.”
The key element is data processing through a shared database.
“Vital functions such as inventory and order management, along with CRM, accounting and CRM can all integrate into ERP, meaning users across a business can all access the same information on the same database”
ERP is now increasingly sophisticated in what it can encompass, including business intelligence and sales force automation.
“The business benefits of ERP are in how it enables people to work more efficiently and effectively together. It offers a real time, global view of data while automating core functions. And it can enhance customer service significantly.”
What Can ERP Do for Manufacturers?
“ERP will prove essential to manufacturers looking to up their game. What they need to understand is how it goes far beyond planning orders and logging transactions.”
ERP can improve business processes significantly.
“As a manufacturing business evolves, it can end up carrying baggage in the form of processes it no longer needs. ERP uses proven best practices to streamline how businesses work.”
It offers a common, accessible source of data.
“Whether it’s orders, parts or raw materials, having this essential information in a single repository helps massively with inventory and best use of resources and materials.”
ERP provides a platform for improved efficiency.
“Integrating your processes through ERP software gives full visibility to production processes, and to any creeping variations or discrepancies, allowing you to cast a critical eye on things like tooling and shop floor layouts”
“In short, ERP enables process innovations, which save on production costs. It also opens up opportunities for more collaborative working.”
“Again, this is down to integration. ERP makes co-dependencies clearer to all, and helps inspire people to develop processes which will benefit different stages of the production, sales and marketing cycles.”
It is a perfect example of enabling technology that can improve daily practices. The point is that manufacturing innovation could be much closer in reach for many SMEs than they realise.
Smart technology and the internet of things – key cornerstones to Industry 4.0 – depend on data visibility and joined-up processes. ERP is already maximising the effectiveness of data and using it to improve how businesses work, and how they interact with their customers and suppliers.
“ERP a real world innovation that offers a gateway for manufacturers to improved performance, better productivity, product enhancement, increased profitability and, therefore, ultimately more money to invest in further digitalisation,” Paul concludes.
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