In talking to manufacturing companies about our workflow solutions software, a common response is: But we have a great ERP … The implication is: We have all the software that we need.
So I decided to write a blog that explains how workflow solutions complement ERPs.
Let me be clear, I believe ERPs have many advantages and are vital for large organisations. Indeed, most of our manufacturing clients have ERPs … My proposition is simply that they are not the full answer. Which is why our clients also come to us for bespoke workflow solutions.
Very quickly, what are ERPs?
In a nutshell, ERPs are solutions that usually offer a complete suite of features to automate the business process. There are general ERPs, and also industry-specific ones, e.g. ERPs for food manufacturing companies.
A key feature of ERPs is that they focus on the core processes of the manufacturing process. For example:
- Maintaining the product data and pricing.
- Managing the stock process.
- Maintaining customer order information
- Managing the supply chain process
ERPs are very important to business efficiency, and most manufacturing companies would be lost without them. But very often there is also a need for workflow solutions software to complement the processes that are not met in the ERP solution.
What do workflow solutions add?
- Unless your manufacturing company is very standard, ERPs will not cover all your processes. Workflow solutions focus on specific sub-processes. These may not be at the core of the business, such as stock control. But they are still crucial to the business.
For example: One of our food manufacturing companies has an ERP for managing suppliers, raw materials, stock, and much more. However, their ERP does not provide the functionality for managing the supplier non-conformances and product reject/disposal processes.
To be fair, some ERPs do include these processes. However, since they are not core features, they are likely less well-designed than the main functionality.
- ERPs are big solutions, costing over £300k, and sometimes exceeding the £1m mark. They focus on a number of core features that link to each other. Bespoke workflow solutions, on the other hand, focus on a specific task. This means that each and every functionality that you need in that task will be there, doing exactly what you want it to do.
Crucially, bespoke workflow solutions worth their salt will ‘talk to’ ERPs. So you only input data once, and your workflow solution can retrieve and use it very easily.
- ERPs are a big challenge to implement. There is a high risk of the project meeting numerous problems, and falling short of your expectations as a customer … If I had a penny for those people who said ‘Yes we have an ERP, and the stress nearly killed me!’ … The risks of failure increase drastically when customisations are required so that an ERP meets your business needs. Unfortunately customisations are often required because no one business is like another.
If I were to offer advice it would be this:
If you have an ERP, keep it! If it’s not doing what you want it to do, speak to your account manager. Maybe you just need additional training on getting the most out of it, or perhaps the functionality needs some tweaking.
If the ERP still does not do what you want it to do, then you probably need additional software to latch on to it. If your organisation is not large, an ERP solution could be too expensive, at least for the short term. You may want to consider implementing solutions to meet your crucial needs, which can be implemented much quicker than an ERP solution.
One pitfall of large ERP solutions is that, in an agile environment that requires constant change, changes to the ERP can be clunky, slow, and high risk. Also, if your ERP is old and needs replacing, you may want to consider improving the existing ERP by complementing it with bespoke workflow solutions that integrate with your existing ERP.
If you are looking for an ERP solution but your business is highly specialised, an off-the-shelf solution may not meet your needs. So if your business is highly specialised, you may be better off looking for a bespoke solution. Read here for more information.
At Progrex IT Solutions we have vast experience in bespoke software for manufacturing companies. Get in touch to discuss how we can help you.
If you are a manufacturing company and would like updates on how software can help you become more efficient and profitable, just let us know.