In manufacturing, ERP workarounds are relatively commonplace. Workarounds such as spreadsheets or Microsoft Access databases, for instance, or even manual ledgers. Or supplementary systems, installed to perform tasks that the business’s manufacturing ERP system can’t perform: an EDI add-on, for instance, or an e-commerce capability.
The trouble is, such ERP workarounds defeat the purpose of having a manufacturing ERP system in the first place. A manufacturing ERP system is supposed to be the central system of record, the one common ‘go to’ system that handles a business’s transactions.
And with multiple workarounds in place, that one common ‘go to’ system—the central transaction ‘backbone’ of the business—just doesn’t exist.
Multiple systems, multiple costs
There are several problems with this. The first, most obviously, is cost. Multiple manufacturing ERP workarounds cost you money.
There is additional software to buy, for instance, in the form of those third-party add-ons. Then there’s the cost of the lost productivity as people work with these third-party systems, manual ledgers and spreadsheets, and re-type data from them into the ERP system itself.
Which leads us on to another drawback of manufacturing ERP workarounds: the loss of that all-important ‘one version of the truth’.
Quite simply, when you’re copying data from one system to another, or working with different system cut-off times and dates, data discrepancies are going to arise. And then, which system do you believe?
Is lack of training the problem?
Now, it’s important to note that the problem may not lie with a business’s manufacturing ERP system itself.
Because for every instance where an ERP system simply can’t perform a particular function, there are just as many instances where ERP workarounds arise through knowledge or training failures.
In other words, the people using the manufacturing ERP system just don’t know how to get it to perform that function.
Which is something else altogether—and it’s far from uncommon to find that with proper training and perhaps some consultancy, manufacturers’ ERP systems do turn out to provide the required functionality.
It had been buried inside the system all along, in other words, just waiting for someone to know how to access and operate it.
And in those circumstances, it’s a little unfair to blame the manufacturing ERP system itself.
Outgrowing your ERP system
But it’s also fair to say that manufacturing ERP workarounds arise for very genuine reasons. Particularly in the case of companies that are growing, or adopting slightly different business or manufacturing models, or—say—trading overseas.
Because here, what is likely to have happened is that the business has simply outgrown its manufacturing ERP system.
Perhaps through the system not being scalable enough, for instance. Or through a lack of investment and development by the system’s creator. Or possibly because the missing functionality simply wasn’t seen as important when the manufacturing ERP system was originally chosen.
And in such circumstances, while ERP workarounds are a tempting short-term fix, they’re hardly the basis for a growing business to move forwards on.
Instead, you need a different manufacturing ERP system—one that is a better fit for your business.
At which point, it’s time to look in the mirror. Or rather, at your manufacturing ERP system.
And ask yourself this question: is your manufacturing business heavily reliant on ERP workarounds? Because if so, then now may be time to look at why—and at what you can do about it.