Manufacturing is a complex business, with many potential pitfalls and conflicting objectives. Manufacturing companies always need to strike a balance between customer demands, finance goals and manufacturing’s need for efficiency. Add to that supply chain complexities, quality management and changes in technology, business practices and regulatory requirements. It’s enough to make your head spin, and it’s the primary reason why manufacturing companies must have freedom and flexibility in their ERP solutions.
Even as the requirements for flexibility are increasing exponentially, some ERP providers are putting unnecessary restrictions on customers or forcing technology changes, whether the customer runs the ERP system in the cloud or on premise. Every company must ensure that the ERP solution they bet their business on provides them with the freedom to run their business effectively. If you’re tired of your ERP vendor telling you how to run your business, fight for your IT freedom by looking for these seven key freedoms in your next ERP choice.

Freedom of ERP Deployment

Deploying ERP on premise or in the cloud is a strategic decision that your IT team should have the right to make. They shouldn’t face restrictions on functionality or industry editions that are only available in one deployment model or the other. The ERP vendor shouldn’t force IT to decide on a deployment strategy based on functionality restrictions. Your ERP solution provider should offer a full range of deployment options on a site-by-site basis. Don’t be fooled by so-called “hybrid deployments” designed to mask the vendor’s inability to offer flexible deployments across its entire product line. You should base your deployment strategy on what’s best for your company, not what’s easiest for the vendor.

Freedom to Upgrade on Your Own Schedule

Most cloud ERP vendors push enhancements and new versions out on whatever schedule works for them, sometimes on a monthly or quarterly basis. While this may be fine for non-critical applications such as CRM, it is impossible to run manufacturing with unexpected and unplanned changes. Manufacturers have required certifications based on existing documented processes, and unplanned changes can trigger the need for new FDA audits or ISO recertification. You need an ERP solution partner who will work with you to plan upgrades at a time that works for your business.

Freedom for Each User to Choose a User Interface

Almost every ERP vendor has either just introduced a new UI or they are about to. While some offer the option to use their old interface or their new one, few if any offer that option on a user-by-user basis. Some ERP vendors show off moving columns in a grid and call it personalization or process changes. Don’t be taken in. Every user should have the freedom to choose the interface that helps them accomplish their tasks most effectively. They should also be able to choose the language for the field names and even the data that they see. But the real test is the ability to personalize the business process to reflect the way that particular user works. Your CSRs should be able to completely change the order entry screen to eliminate steps that add no value to their work, even if the person sitting next to them needs to enter data in the fields. Your ERP vendor shouldn’t be forcing your users to tab through non-value added steps in a process. Your ERP solution partner should be helping you to make every user an effective user, who accomplishes tasks as quickly and efficiently as possible without wasted motion or steps.

Freedom to Customize Your ERP

Some cloud ERP vendors do not allow their customers to customize the software to reflect their differentiating business processes. Many manufacturers differentiate themselves from their competitors based on unique business processes—special services, faster turnaround, custom labeling—whatever the secret sauce may be, your ERP system has to support it. If you can’t customize your ERP software, you’re forced to use the same business processes as all your competitors. Look for an ERP solution partner that not only allows customization but who will even support the unique code and ensure it upgrades properly when the time comes. That’s real freedom.

Freedom to Integrate to Third-Party Applications

ERP solutions are comprehensive, but they don’t cover every possible business process. Some ERP vendors offer integration to applications as long as they use the same technology, or run in the same deployment model. You need an ERP solution partner that enables and encourages integration with other applications, regardless of whether you or the third party runs on premise or in the cloud. Your ERP partner should provide integration tools and consulting help to ensure that your company has exactly the right software tools it needs to become an effective enterprise.

Freedom to Adapt Business Processes

Today, it’s not enough for manufacturers to run lean principles on the shop floor. They need to streamline every business process and eliminate waste wherever it occurs, and that includes every ERP process. You need the freedom to configure your processes for maximum effectiveness, and to increase your process speed and efficiency with unique workflows. Consider adaptable business processes a core requirement next time you look at ERP software, and you just might end up with an ERP partner instead of simply a vendor.

Technology Freedom

If your strategy is the cloud, the underlying technology should be irrelevant, since it’s the cloud provider’s responsibility to manage it all. If you’re deploying on premise, don’t let your vendor force you into making a technology change that isn’t right for you. Make your next ERP choice based on ensuring that your manufacturing company will have the freedom to adapt and change to stay competitive. Freedom is one of the most important aspects to consider when making an ERP choice.

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