While many manufacturers have been using ERP for years, the issue most face is that the systems they've had in place might not be as effective as executives may think. The point of relying on ERP in the first place is to run more efficiently and save money in the long run. But simply relying on so-called legacy ERP systems often doesn't match the power of getting the latest versions.

One of the biggest reasons that legacy ERP systems might not be as effective as they were a decade or more ago is that the nature of data collection has changed significantly with emerging technology, according to IT Web. Simply put, all of a company's operations data used to be fed through what was probably a relatively small number of desktop computers, but these days laptops, tablets and smartphones are regularly in use on the factory floor. Options like mobile data collection and even mobile warehouse inventory management have changed the game in recent years, but some manufacturers haven't caught up.

Why is the upgrade important?
When it comes to stepping into the future, the biggest reason to do so is often the support from ERP providers that comes with it, the report said. Legacy ERP systems typically don't get software updates any more, and that can lead to buildups of error messages or incorrect data that can really put a manufacturing business behind the eight ball.

"Companies using these outdated systems urgently need to adapt to the changing landscape that allows for any-where, any-device access," Bernard Ford, CEO of a business solutions provider, told the site. "The lack of standardization and myriad of bolt-on as well as bespoke components that typically make up the current systems are open to error, difficulty in maintaining, high running costs and worse, security breaches leading to inefficiencies and lack of information."

Making the switch
Of course, changing from legacy to current ERP software isn't always an easy process if businesses don't approach it the right way, according to Data Informed. Typically, experts recommend a relatively soft adoption, meaning that legacy systems should still be in use at least for a little while even after the new one is introduced. This helps to make sure that all potential kinks are worked out; it might be easy to think of such a switch as being somewhat akin to using training wheels with a new system.

The more executives can do to make sure their manufacturing businesses are ready for an ERP switch, the better off their companies will be. That should also include making sure everyone knows how to both use and interpret the latest data, which in turn can help to inform better ERP-related decisions down the road, and continually streamline a company's operations. The more data an ERP system can collect and manage, the more efficiently a manufacturing enterprise will run.

Learn how to define your ERP strategy by downloading the white paper entitled "ERP in Manufacturing: Defining the ERP Strategy" from the Insight Works website.