The idea of improved operational efficiency and resultant savings often drive manufacturing businesses to upgrade their enterprise resource planning systems.

For a busy production floor, adding important time savers like barcode data collection or timekeeping software can mean the difference between struggling to meet goals and exceeding them. The benefits of ERP extend into the back office as well, providing greater insight into the financial aspects of purchasing, output and sales and informing future decisions. For many manufacturers, the biggest roadblocks to a smooth implementation and use aren't choosing the right modules and functions for the software, but having sufficient organizational insight into the process.

Collaborate to fully understand needs, desires
ERP selection and installation efforts should include representatives from a variety of departments and stations throughout a company, so that a comprehensive plan can be crafted ahead of the actual decision-making process. By soliciting input from workers and managers directly involved with production, as well as those responsible for other functions like financials and customer service, executives who make the final decision to buy a particular system will have a better idea of what needs to be included.

One strategy to avoid is having ERP choices exclusively made by the IT department. While these staff members should be involved in the process, they can't provide the hands-on experience that those directly doing the work can contribute. Supply chain and manufacturing website Venture Outsource points out that the level of customization and organizational knowledge needed for truly effective ERP means that the IT department can't handle the process alone.

Modular platforms help address more issues
Because manufacturers have a wide range of operational needs, a component-based ERP system like Microsoft Dynamics NAV may be the best choice for these companies. These platforms combine the high level of customization available for more traditional software while costing less than a monolithic, all-in-one system that requires any and all features to be specifically configured during the installation process.

There are many major concerns that manufacturers want to address with ERP. In fact, recent research from Aberdeen Group shows that there are five major areas commonly recognized as being major drivers of adoption, with none being a clear leader. The ability to pick and choose which operational areas get the most attention from the software is better from both a strategic and a financial standpoint.