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How to Build a Future-proof Manufacturing ERP


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Manufacturing and the service industry are leading the number of enterprise resource planning (ERP) adopters, according to a recent ERP Software Market report from Strategic Market Research. Together these sectors represent a 20.45% share of ERP adopters among all business verticals.

One of the reasons for widespread adoption is that ERPs enable manufacturers to automate a wide range of processes, from shop operations, human resources, and finance, to activities such as marketing and sales. Workflow automation, usually coupled with optimization, helps manufacturers enhance operational efficiency and service quality, resulting in improved competitiveness. 

However, despite the potential advantages, developing ERP systems for manufacturing is costly and challenging. To ensure its efforts are not in vain, a manufacturing company can create a future-proof ERP that brings immediate value but also grows alongside the business, remaining effective in the long run.

Discover several characteristics of a future-proof manufacturing ERP and get tips on how an enterprise can build it below.

4 Characteristics of a Future-proof Manufacturing ERP

Meeting the following parameters may help manufacturers achieve ERP efficiency.

1. Cloud-based

Using the cloud, which refers to running the service on the Internet, is just one of the options for hosting an ERP solution. When focusing on building a future-proof ERP, making the service accessible from anywhere may be the more relevant approach than restricting it to only on-premise hosting.

The cloud environment allows manufacturers to expand computing resources on demand. It ensures organizations are not limited by the capabilities of their physical servers. By eliminating the need to maintain servers, organizations may cut information technology (IT) costs and invest the saved funds into growth opportunities. 

In some cases, organizations can combine both cloud and on-premise hosting capabilities. This way, a manufacturer may achieve cloud flexibility while maintaining tight control over corporate and customer data. This approach is the most costly, as the organization has to pay for cloud usage and to maintain hardware.

2. Scalable

Choosing a scalable software architecture, such as microservices, is another step towards a more future-proof ERP. Unlike the traditional monolithic approach, where the software works as a single unit, microservices imply many separate services that are interconnected via an application programming interface (API). In practice, such decentralization provides many advantages.

Firstly, since each microservice works with its own business logic and code base, developers can review and edit the code effortlessly. In addition, developers can test and update each of the microservices separately, which reduces the risks related to the overall system’s stability.

Finally, the microservices architecture enables developers to scale ERP horizontally quickly. For example, engineers may build a new service instead of affecting the entire solution’s code to extend an ERP with new modules and features.

3. Easy for integration

An ERP works as a data hub for various business functions and should be easily integrated with other corporate systems as the business grows. For instance, developers may equip an ERP with specific integration tools to help enterprises deploy integrations without much effort. Otherwise, manufacturers will have to establish integrations based on the APIs.

4. Mobile

It is also worth evaluating if the ERP system is compatible with mobile devices. In this case, a manufacturer may continuously expand it with mobile-specific features. For example, developers may embed notifications for customers or employees. Being mobile-friendly pairs well with cloud-based ERPs. 

3 Tips for Creating a Future-proof Manufacturing ERP

Now that we’ve reviewed the above-listed ERP characteristics, let’s discuss how to build a future-proof ERP.

1. Choose the Proper Development Approach

Paradoxically, even if a company’s primary goal for an ERP relates to its long-term value, it should not make long-range estimates and focus solely on future development. Tech trends change very rapidly, so current technologies and practices may not be relevant in a year or two.

Instead, manufacturers should choose a development approach that allows developers to monitor trends and continuously implement them into the solution. And this is where agile may come in handy.

Agile methodology implies working in small iterations and rolling out incremental software changes. At each iteration, the product is tested, thus enabling organizations to ensure their solutions’ faultlessness and reliability.

In addition, ERP adopters may consider utilizing the concept of DevOps, which combines development and operations. DevOps enables developers to adapt to changing requirements and quickly release updates and new features. Moreover, it helps engineers customize software solutions built on microservices architecture without much effort.

2. Build an MVP

Traditionally, the minimum viable product (MVP) concept is related to startups aiming to build software with minimum features to save money. However, a manufacturer can also create and test an MVP to collect user feedback, adjust the project vision, and make necessary changes. It can then continuously expand the MVP functionality as it reaches certain predetermined milestones.

3. Consider Expert ERP Consulting

It is important to note that manufacturers do not have to implement the entire project themselves. An organization may hire third-party experts to validate its ERP concept, future-proof it, collect software requirements, or build a project plan. Also, if a manufacturer does not have sufficient technical competencies to develop, configure, and deploy an ERP, a consultant may fulfill these tasks. 

Get the Most Out of This Powerful Tool

Manufacturing ERP is a powerful tool, enabling organizations to automate and optimize work processes, thereby improving service quality and competitiveness. However, it is not enough today for an ERP to perform only basic functions. Given the complexity and cost of ERP development, such a solution should be future-proof and grow along with a manufacturer’s business. 

In particular, a manufacturing ERP should be vertically and horizontally scalable, easy to integrate, and mobile-compatible. Determining the right approach to ERP development, building an MVP, and engaging third-party ERP experts could help create an effective ERP solution for the long term.

 

Image Credit: Song_about_summer / Shutterstock.com

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