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Beyond ERP

Manufacturers need to better exploit data from their transactional systems to compete in a tight market.

South Africa's manufacturing industry has been on a rollercoaster ride for the past decade. Exchange rate volatility, increasing water and power prices, labour unrest and unpredictable demand are all placing immense pressures on margins and profitability.

Manufacturers around the world are needing to shift towards a more customer-centric way of doing business.

As a result, those manufacturers that have yet to put integrated ERP solutions in place are needing to do so. Those that have mature ERP deployments in place, meanwhile, are looking for ways to extend the functionality of their enterprise applications to improve efficiency and decision-making.

Manufacturers around the world need to shift towards a more customer-centric way of doing business, says Johani Marais, channel manager for Epicor in Africa. To make this transition, organisations that are still running legacy home-grown systems must implement modern solutions that provide them with more timely and accurate information for decision-making, she adds.

Manufacturers can improve customer experience by investing in fully integrated ERP systems that streamline operational processes and connect the back office with the front office by offering integrated CRM, warranty and aftermarket functionality. Once that ERP backbone is in place, manufacturers need to extend it with analytics engines that enable them to get better business intelligence, Marais says.

She adds that today's most successful manufacturers are shifting their focus from inward to outward, using ERP as an enabler to move beyond better price and availability to improved service levels, reliability and relationships. Manufacturers will not be able to compete by lowering costs and increasing product functionality – they must also embrace a customer-oriented culture.

"Manufacturers need to focus on intelligently predicting demand going forward, which will allow them to streamline manufacturing and delivery," says Philip Mostert, BI development manager at 3fifteen. By implementing the right BI technologies, manufacturers could, for example, avoid unnecessary stockpiling because they have a real-time understanding of current market trends and which products are selling.

At the same time, a real-time analysis of key market data could allow manufacturers to predetermine raw material requirements and drive down their costs by making the correct purchases at the right time. Process enhancement has also become increasingly important.

For example, manufacturers could analyse throughput and past maintenance information to minimise downtime and maintenance, says Mostert. "Knowing what your safe throughput capacity is and where the bottlenecks in your process lie will ultimately lead to increased profit margins."

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