Reducing customisations for greater manufacturing efficiency
Customisation is often sold as a software benefit. "It is tailor-made, unique and built only for your organisation," these were the constant and reliable sentiments of the past. While bespoke software design certainly had its place in history, as the pace of innovation in tech continues to rise, the value of customisations must be weighed up against the benefits of easy upgrades.
In a year's time, when the software is outdated and it's time to upgrade, the process becomes more complicated when customisations are in place and often as expensive as the initial implementation. However, businesses still need tailored solutions to meet their unique needs. To achieve this, software should be individualised through correct configuration.
"In the past, customisations were an integral part of enterprise resource planning (ERP) implementations. This formed the 'secret sauce' that differentiated one company's processes from the next," advises Adriaan Rossouw, Executive at EOH Infor Services (formerly Softworx), Infor's Master Partner in Africa, operating as a Gold Partner.
"Business systems have matured, and a well-designed solution does not necessitate customisations, but rather configurations. In the modern world, if customisations are required, they are done as an add-on to the existing product, ensuring upgradeability."
One of Africa's leading manufacturers of wood-based products, specialising in particle board, kitchen tops, solid surfacing products and timber, recently made the switch from customised to configured. The manufacturer has plantations and factories situated throughout the country.
The company owns the entire integrated supply chain, managing the process from production of the raw material through to the finished product. As such, the business' forestry and timber manufacturing operations (with primary and secondary processing) had to be managed to perfection.
With previous customisations in place, the entire software management process became complicated. "When evaluating the current state at the manufacturer, the need to aggressively simplify business processes quickly became evident. It was critical that the latest industry best practice be used to follow standard system processes, and eliminate cumbersome functional customisations," explains Rossouw.
By eliminating the customisations, user efficiency and overall business processes improved, offering new functionality and an enhanced user experience. "This also led to improved sales and distribution planning, with a strong emphasis on warehouse controls and stock accuracy with barcode scanning. Offering intelligent management reporting, an industry-standard middleware layer and a common data repository were developed. Sans the custom elements, the manufacturer now had a scalable system that could be deployed easily to new businesses and support their overall business strategy towards lean, cost-efficient operations," adds Rossouw.
The deployment of the latest solution reduced customisations by 60%. This resulted in easier maintenance, simpler upgrades and standardised processes with use of best practice and built-in functionality. "When the manufacturer is using technology as a key business enabler to integrate, control and direct an extensive supply chain process, it is essential that the solution suite serves as a key information driver in the process. In the past, customisations were the way to go, but businesses must keep moving forward as new best practices develop.
"Configuring and setting up a reliable ERP system to support organisational changes ensured the standardisation of master data throughout the business. With improved credit management, better business controls through integration and greater business intelligence, the business is excelling."