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How Can Discrete Manufacturers Use ERP Software to Pivot Quickly When Demand Changes?

How Can Discrete Manufacturers Use ERP Software to Pivot Quickly When Demand Changes?

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How Can Discrete Manufacturers Use ERP Software to Pivot Quickly When Demand Changes?

Jul 6, 2021

Jim Tuttle
business people checking robot hand

Humans love to find order in chaos. To predict what’s round the corner—whether that’s tomorrow’s weather forecast or next week’s sporting event. But, as anyone who has hosted a picnic on the wettest day in July or lost a few dollars on a sure-fire game knows, things don’t always go according to plan.

Manufacturing is no different. It only takes a major customer to be bought out, or the supply chain to be hit by a global pandemic, and ‘guaranteed’ revenue is under threat. And there’s far more at stake than a soggy sandwich or some loose change. 

To thrive in an unpredictable world, discrete manufacturers need to keep one eye on the future and another eye on your current capabilities. And manufacturing ERP software can enable you to do both these things, so you can pivot quickly when demand patterns change.  

Using Business Intelligence to Model Customer Demand

Reacting quickly to demand is part of a resilient business model. And it begins with seeing what’s happening with your current customers, to identify potential issues before they develop into fully-fledged problems.

For example, if your customer base is comprised of a handful of high value customers, you’re in a vulnerable position. Any one of them reducing their order or ending their contract altogether could put you in a very difficult financial position.

Some manufacturers argue that the work they’re offered is very dependable—which may be true. However, during the coronavirus crisis we saw strong, long-standing customer relationships collapse under the strain of market forces. You can’t take anything for granted.

The ideal scenario would be expanding your client base. But in the meantime, discrete manufacturing ERP software can help you to manage existing relationships proactively. Your team can use business intelligence features to analyze the value of client jobs over the past few months, along with the type of business they are placing your way.

As you see more detail from your day-to-day operation, you’ll be able to identify any warning signs that a client relationship is in trouble, or the customer is evolving their offering in a way that’s less profitable to you.

Real-time insights delivered through ERP give you two powerful choices: move with that customer to meet their new needs, or accept the relationship is losing value and look for alternative opportunities.

Integrating Insight and Action Through Manufacturing ERP Software

While insight is critical to meeting customer demand, it needs to trigger a response. And that is where the connected capabilities of ERP software add significant value.

Using data analytics to drive operational processes is pivotal to managing customer demands. Too many discrete manufacturers are reliant on slow, inaccurate manual communication process and disjointed systems for day-to-day production. They might be OK when the market is running smoothly, but they will quickly collapse when placed under pressure.

In contrast, discrete manufacturing ERP software integrates insight and action to create a rapid response system. For example, if a customer cancels an order at the last minute, the next job with available inventory can be pulled forward and the updated schedule shared automatically with the shop floor. Income lost from the cancelled job still needs to be found, but at least it hasn’t ground production to a halt.

The most effective manufacturing ERP solutions are the ones that adopt a ‘hub and spoke’ approach, because they can integrate with systems your business already has in place—or ones you may invest in further down the line.

For example, Aptean’s manufacturing ERP platform uses API functionality to connect with other solutions, so you can develop your infrastructure as your business evolves. This enables you to enhance processes and meet demand faster, such as integrating CAD software so you can automatically create a bill of materials and send concepts into production once they’ve been approved by the customer.

Finding a Flexible ERP Platform for Scalable Change

On the subject of business evolution, ERP software does more than accelerate your operational capabilities. It gives you the flexibility and scalability to ramp up your operations quickly, even if demand is coming from an entirely new customer, product or service.

There’s a common misconception that choosing a manufacturing-specific ERP solution means trading off functionality; you can get something bespoke to your industry but it needs to be incredibly defined and customized for your needs right now, so it won’t flex with your business. Actually, that’s not true.

While some ERP platforms are highly configured and therefore difficult to develop, other solutions have been built to support growth among discrete manufacturers. I mentioned Aptean’s API approach earlier; this is an extremely flexible way to help manufacturers grow their technology stack.

The key to pivoting quickly at scale is choosing ERP software from the second category, which has been built to evolve with your business. Enterprise technology should liberate you to pursue new customer growth opportunities, not restrict you from evolving your business.

Reaching New Opportunities First Through ERP Technology

As sophisticated as our modelling and forecasting abilities have become, it’s impossible to predict the future 100% correctly—whether that’s the weather, a soccer game or customer demand. However, discrete manufacturers can use ERP software to gain clearer insight into what may lie ahead, and the connected capabilities to respond quickly when patterns change.

Shapeshifting your business is never easy, but software automation is making it simpler to integrate people, processes and insight so you can build a flexible business model. Because of this, the future may not be defined by who can see what’s around the corner first, but by who can reach that opportunity quickest once it’s in view. And investing in discrete manufacturing ERP software will make a massive difference to your reaction times.

Know your customers inside-out and respond to their changing demand patterns with Aptean’s discrete manufacturing ERP technology. Book a free demo to find out more.

Tell us about yourself and an Aptean specialist will be in touch.