Manufacturers, Business Processes, and their Remote Workforce: But who’s in charge of the supply chain?

black chain like supply chain management

As my team and I continue to work from home, I’ve had a lot of time, perhaps more than I care to admit, to think. Lately, I’ve been thinking about the plight of so many manufacturers out there who have curtailed their operations, leaving only a skeleton of a fulfilment team on site to fulfil orders, while some, for the most part, are managing to work remotely, and others, have simply closed their doors.

Google’s definition of a manufacturer is a business or individual that produces goods. I went on to discover that “A company that makes a particular brand of sneakers, is an example of the manufacturer of the sneakers. One that manufactures.” But picture, if you will, today’s manufacturer. If their factory floor is still operational, albeit, with fewer employees onsite, all complying with social distancing, clad in masks, in addition to their standard protective gear, where’s the boss?

Who’s really controlling the manufacturing process and the supply chain? The CEO from his home in Salisbury? The Finance team who’ve all been working remotely since April? Or is it the Sales team, making virtual customer visits via Zoom or by phone?

 “Sorry, We’re Closed”

Disruptions in today’s supply chains, whether localized or widespread, are almost inevitable at some point in any manufacturing organization. For months now, we’ve all seen our fair share of supply chain chaos, with the pandemic disrupting the majority of supply chains worldwide, be it product and services shortages, delivery delays, or closed brick and mortar stores that have morphed into online shopping and e-commerce websites.

There are viable alternatives for manufacturers closing their doors, and too, for those who have remained open, adhering to strict health regulations, despite operating with a reduced workforce. Business management systems, such as ERP, CRM, and others, can help manufacturers and other stakeholders in the supply chain, to accelerate their recovery. Effective measures can be put in place to support today’s remote working, the proverbial ‘new normal, as well as mitigate the impacts of supply chain disruption when it happens again. And yes, that’s the ‘next normal.’

So, if it’s that easy, why then aren’t all manufacturers everywhere turning their attention to ERP to optimize their operations, revive the supply chain, and keep their doors open while working remotely?

Instead of just writing an endless list of benefits that you can read on most ERP vendor websites, I prefer to cut to the chase, and zero in on what plant managers and factory owners can achieve by implementing an ERP system with manufacturing and supply chain management modules. I’ll keep it brief.

1.      Manufacturing Execution System (MES). An essential information management system, an ERP MES module gives you the control you need to monitor work-in-process on your shop floor, tracking all your manufacturing data in real-time, plus, with mobile ERP, you can manage your operations, anywhere, anytime, from your mobile device. Get up-to-the-minute data from robots, machine monitors, and employees, track production progress, quality control, rework, and scrap ratios, and collect data via bar codes or RFID tags.

2.      Inventory Control. Inventory management and control is what drives your shop floor, supports raw materials’ handling, and helps increase your revenues by maintaining optimum inventory levels with real-time inventory analysis, improves service levels to handle current and future production needs, and manages tracking and traceability, with tight control on inventory replenishment.

3.      Serial, Lot Tracking & Traceability. If you’re in a highly-regulated industry, your business demands tight control over product tracking, and lot traceability. You need to respond quickly to any defect or hazard, down to the individual parts or ingredients. You’ll want an ERP that includes Serial and Lot Tracking to ensure reliable management of material and product traceability through every stage in your supply chain, from receipt of raw materials, through delivery to the end-customer.

4.      Warehouse Management System (WMS). A WMS module optimizes inventory service levels and boosts warehouse efficiency by controlling the storage and movement of your inventory. It’s essential that your ERP include WMS, plus mobile ERP functionality, so that you can control your operational processes on and off site, from the time goods or materials enter your warehouse, until they move out, including inventory management, picking, and auditing.

5.      Sales Analysis & Forecasting. These are both powerful tools that enable fast analysis of your profit centers and seasonal revenues, report sales and commission from each sale based on product, category, sub-category or customer, comparison reports to previous years, geographical breakdown, and more. An ERP with robust forecasting algorithms will help you predict future sales based on sales of a specific product, past performance, inflation rates, consumer spending, and more.

You’ll want to consider the key modules listed above, plus mobile ERP apps to manage your operations in the field and on-the-go, ECO management with tight revision control, to respond quickly with engineering changes, and product compliance with product-driven QC/QA functionality to detect and remove system defects, define test procedures and standards for inspection, inventory sampling, and testing, and final QA, just to name a few.

The list goes on (and on) if you want to ensure that you’re the real boss of your business, and successfully manage your organization, remotely. It can be done by implementing an open, flexible and scalable ERP system that can grow as your business grows.

With a modern ERP system, you can readapt your processes, ready yourself and your business for the next normal, and proudly hang a new sign on your front door that reads, Open for Business.

If you’re a business owner/manager considering ERP implementation, or replacing your current ERP, check out Priority’s latest webinar, a short, super-informative session with guest speaker, Dr. Scott King, Director at Pinnacle, a leading UK business growth advisory. Scott shares his take on the “next normal” and how to stay afloat in 2021 and beyond. Watch the webinar now. If you’d like to learn more, and schedule a no-obligation call with one of our ERP experts, email us at back2business@priority-software.com.

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The Author
Efrat Nakibly
Director of Consulting, Priority Software U.S.

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