Everyone knows that if you want to compete in business, you need data. The right manufacturing data can be used to accelerate product and service development, reach new customers and offer high quality service to existing customers.
Although manufacturing is a critical aspect of New Zealand’s economy, some of the latest numbers from the industry are concerning, indicating that our economy may be slowing down. That’s why it’s essential that New Zealand manufacturing businesses harness their data and use it to improve their operations.
Outdated software or inefficient manual processes means you wind up having duplicate or even redundant data entry. Or worse, you simply aren’t using the right information to make business decisions.
Why your manufacturing data matters
If you want to compete, you need to know what’s working and what’s not. You need access to timely and practical insights to improve production and overall business performance.
When you have the right insights, you can focus your efforts appropriately, minimise waste and improve operational and financial outcomes.
But we’re not talking about collecting manufacturing data for data’s sake. Those manufacturers who are effectively harnessing data for growth are honing in on the information they know will add the most value.
For example, you can use your manufacturing data to:
- Know the true cost of goods
- Make informed decisions around inventory based on actuals rather than guesstimates
- Build a holistic view of the business through a single source of truth for the entire operation
- Improve accounting, finance and budgeting functionality
- Streamline, monitor and measure the sales and marketing process from end-to-end
- Customise reports, dashboards and workflows to suit and streamline business processes
So, what’s holding back mid-sized manufacturers from getting the best from their data?
Mostly it comes down to outdated software, inefficient processes and multiple solutions. By addressing these issues, you can lay the foundations for success.
Actionable steps to unlock manufacturing data for growth
Step 1: Make all your operational systems part of a single solution
Stop treating manufacturing, inventory, purchasing and projects in silos. When you bring together your manufacturing and distribution processes in one software solution, it’s not only easier to manage, you know you can trust your data.
This is one of the benefits of an all-in-one Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution. The modules work together seamlessly to transfer business information to each part of the system: inventory with purchasing, production results with material requirement planning (MRP), sales orders with accounts receivable, and so on.
The productivity and efficiency gains are clear: everyone can access the same reliable information, wherever and whenever they want.
Step 2: Customise your reporting
Once you have all this data, what do you do with it? It’s one thing to collect the right data, and another thing using it.
As former Hewlett-Packard CEO, Carly Fiorini said, “The goal is to turn data into information, and information into insight”.
For example, the right ERP lets you collect the necessary data, record it, and generate the reports necessary to meet with compliance standards, either self-reported or ready for an inspection or audit.
Or you can use software to track production picking, receiving, cycle counting, picking, transfers, and receipts for better inventory management.
Custom reporting means you can slice and visualise your data however you (or your stakeholders) need.
Step 3: Bring together multiple entities in a single database
Managing multiple entities with separate databases is the quickest way to cause problems with data. It results in complex, hard to understand and error-prone spreadsheets.
Most growing businesses find themselves at a point where they are using a bunch of separate legacy systems purchased over time. None of them talk to each other, which results in double or sometimes triple entry, increased errors and a need for multiple spreadsheets to analyse the data.
It becomes next to impossible to track materials and stock, which can lead to inefficiencies and poor customer service.
The answer is to consolidate them into one single ERP system that becomes the sole source of all data.
Establishing this single location for all data allows real-time, business-wide visibility and business intelligence from any part of the system. You have the ability to analyse behind the scenes and drill down to the details behind every transaction with the confidence that the data is accurate and consistent.
Step 4: Choose scalable software
There’s no point going through all of this only to find your business in the same position in a few years.
If there’s one constant in manufacturing, it’s change. Ready your business for the future by investing in software that can scale with your growth.
Step 5: Invest in change management and training
Changing your legacy systems is a big deal. But rather than focusing on gaining buy-in solely from leadership, focus on the employees who will be using the system on a daily basis.
Everyone across finance, operations, production and warehouse needs to be engaged in every step of the decision-making and implementation process. Get this right and they will be invested in its success.
Change management is an essential requirement when implementing a new ERP solution. Business improvements won’t happen overnight, and they won’t happen at all unless you manage change across people, process and technology.
A large part of this is training employees, so that every user understands how to get the best from the system. Investing in training is critical to maximise the chances of success.
Don’t dive in headfirst with manufacturing data. Think about your business goals before you invest in any new software, otherwise you’ll end up where you started – with lots of systems that don’t quite fit the bill.
Before you invest in new software solutions, ask yourself:
- What is the long-term vision for the business?
- What are the benefits of a new solution?
- How much is that benefit worth in time/money?
- Will this solution make it easier and more efficient to run my business?
- Is the solution scalable (i.e. can I grow)?
- Is this solution specific to my industry?
This might seem overwhelming. You’re potentially transforming your whole operation. But once you have the right system in place, you can start unlocking the data insights that will propel business growth.
Enabling business growth with the right systems is what we do best. No time to grow? looks at the challenges faced by many businesses when it comes to sustainable growth, and how having the right systems in place will break down the barriers that are holding them back.