These days, many decision-makers in the manufacturing industry are probably using some form of ERP to get a better handle on several aspects of their companies' operations, and consequently seeing a tangible benefit overall. However, if they've made ERP decisions in the somewhat distant past, they may be surprised to learn that the number of options for getting a bird's eye view of their companies have grown significantly, allowing them a greater level of control over the proceedings.

One way in which many companies now approach ERP is by having what is effectively two types of systems in place, according to Supply and Demand Chain Executive Magazine. One can look at individual aspects of how each department works, identifying areas of potential strength and weakness as time goes on, and the other can get a big-picture look at how efficient each department is. This two-tier system can, in turn, give companies more control over how they operate on both the micro and macro level, simultaneously.

A closer look
For instance, the well-known candy manufacturer Hershey says it not only uses ERP and evaluates its options for that type of software on a continual basis, but its utilization of the data it gets from ERP also makes it run more smoothly as a whole, the report said. John Bilbrey, chairman, president and CEO at the candy giant told the site that it recently invested even more money in ERP, upgrading from a system in which it counted on employees to record data in the software on a regular basis to one that automates the process and can therefore allow the company to be more responsive to needs as they develop. That, in turn, allows it to streamline its costs and maximize its growth in what is, understandably, a crowded industry.

The tangible benefits
When it comes to what ERP can do for the average manufacturing company, the answer is "plenty," according to a report from CIO Magazine. Utilizing it to replace things like a regular physical inventory count, or timesheet collection can go a long way toward helping companies run more efficiently over time. Likewise, NAV barcoding with ERP systems to more effectively track materials and products coming in and going out can give companies a better understanding – on an ongoing basis – of their needs, usage trends, and more.

While some manufacturing firms may be a little wary of the potential investment they will have to make in ERP, the good news is that this is often something that pays for itself with that added efficiency. By reducing costs by spending fewer man-hours on previously time-consuming tasks, streamlining the supply chain, and more, the improvement ERP software – and a clear strategy for using it – can bring to a manufacturer is significant.

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.