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Act Outside the Box: Why You Need to Keep Innovating - And How Manufacturing ERP Software Helps

Act Outside the Box: Why You Need to Keep Innovating - And How Manufacturing ERP Software Helps


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Act Outside the Box: Why You Need to Keep Innovating - And How Manufacturing ERP Software Helps

28 Jul 2021

Jim Tuttle
Manufacturing workers looking at tablet

Surviving a global pandemic has made business leaders more ambitious. According to PwC survey of US CEOs, 88% of organizations are pursuing organic business growth in 2021, 63% want to launch a new product or service and 57% are looking at mergers and acquisitions.

Moving forward after an unpredictable trading period takes vision, so it’s encouraging to see many senior personnel feeling buoyant. But this positive attitude needs to be reflected in company culture and development strategies to translate vision into reality.

For the manufacturing sector, COVID-19 showed just how fragile customer relationships and sector stability can be. Generating growth when your current revenue streams are vulnerable means expanding and diversifying, to protect your business from future market shifts. You need to want change, and to invest in the platforms that make this transformation possible.

Using Manufacturing ERP Innovation to Push the Envelope

You’ve probably heard the saying that a rolling stone gathers no moss and that’s certainly the case for industrial manufacturing. Even before the COVID-19 crisis, front-running organizations were looking at ways to work smarter, drive efficiencies and remain relevant in today’s digital market.

The desire to innovate is still present post-pandemic. In the same PwC survey I referenced earlier, 84% of CEOs said they now plan to increase their investment in digital transformation. However, if most companies are drawing the same roadmap, all that does is raise the industry bar. Digitization alone won’t make your business stand out from the market. So, how do we make digital transformation a differentiator?

The answer is to use technology as a platform for innovation. For manufacturers, this means investing in enterprise resource planning (ERP) software that will allow you to push the envelope on what’s possible for your organization. To find a digital platform that enables change, rather than locks you into only creating the things you’re good at producing right now.

The route to innovation is finding manufacturing ERP technology that empowers you to think outside the box, and to act outside it too. Because you never know where your next big revenue opportunity will come from.

Optimizing Every Moment in Your Manufacturing Calendar

Manufacturing ERP software is such a powerful investment because it gives business leaders the opportunity to lift your head up and look to the future, knowing that day-to-day operations have been automated and optimized.

It also gives you the analytical capabilities to benchmark where you are right now, to determine what else is possible. For example:

  • Which customers present your biggest growth opportunities?

  • What people resources can you assign to research and development projects without impacting production?

  • Where in the schedule can you slot in proof of concepts and prototypes?

For many manufacturers, ERP software also provides an opportunity to look at demand across the year. If your work is seasonal, where are the quiet periods? What can you do during those times to strengthen your performance in the next peak? Or create a secondary revenue stream for off-peak trading?

Take agricultural manufacturing as an example. Most tractors are produced over the winter and sold in early spring for the planting season. Combine machinery is manufactured in spring and sold in the summer, ready for the fall harvest. Factories may be down to skeleton staff outside of these periods, but then it’s all hands on deck in the main manufacturing season, hiring additional staff and paying overtime to meet customer demand.

How can agricultural manufacturers use quieter periods more effectively, to prep for busier times? And how can they find new ways to drive revenue in other areas using existing manufacturing equipment, people and processes?

It’s not just agriculture, either. So many manufactured products are driven by the seasons, from lawn furniture through to snow tires. All organizations should be striving for calendar consistency. Manufacturing ERP software will help you to understand valleys and peaks, to locate key periods for innovation.

Using Manufacturing ERP Software to Move with the Market

At a seasonal level, focusing on ERP-led innovation maximizes revenue opportunities throughout the year. But it also plays an important role in moving your business forward in line with the market.

Many industrial manufacturers are heavily reliant on a small number of big clients. As we discussed in our blog post on how manufacturers can pivot quickly when demand patterns change, what happens if you lose one client? Even worse, what happens if all your customers are based in one sector, and the bottom falls out of that market?

Consumer appetite for newer, better ways of doing things changes the industry landscape. Fifteen years ago, people were still going to the DVD store to rent a movie on a Friday night; now they just power up Netflix. They were using digital cameras to capture special moments, as photo and video technology hadn’t yet been integrated into their smartphones.

What happens if consumer culture changes make your main product base obsolete?

The major innovation challenge for most manufacturers is identifying relevant opportunities and finding the customers that fit this area. There’s always going to be growth in your current customer base, but to act outside the box you may also need to nurture new prospects—or start to think sideways.

An interesting example of lateral innovation is the tobacco manufacturing industry.

Demand for tobacco-based products has been consistently declining, as the number of smokers in the US has fallen by 6% in 15 years. At the same time, the electronic nicotine delivery system (ENDS) market has grown significantly; the global vaping market was worth $17 billion in 2020. Electronic cigarette manufacturing has quite literally risen from the ashes of the traditional tobacco industry.

Smart tobacco manufacturers have invested heavily in vaping innovation. And the biggest beneficiaries to date have been those that used data insights to identify the opportunity first and mobilize their production capabilities, along with those who dedicate resources to continued product development.

Optimize Present Operations to Focus on Future Innovation

The fantastic thing about being an industrial manufacturer is the basic platform for success is universal. Engineering and precision production are transferrable skills; you just need the foresight to spot new opportunities, and the flexible technology to pivot your operation.

Manufacturing ERP software factors directly into this equation. It provides valuable data on current customer trends, while optimizing the processes you need to turn ideas into reality.

If you’re not having to fight operational fires day to day, you’ve got more time, energy and resources to focus on the future—and you can look realistically at what proportion of your business activity can be dedicated to innovation. With an ERP platform in place, you can afford be more adventurous and even fail without impacting your basic commercial model.

Accelerate Change with Manufacturing ERP Software

It’s no coincidence that CEOs are setting ambitious targets following a pandemic. People often find a new zest for life when they experience a near-death encounter; the exact same thing happens in business.

Now we know how fragile success is, and how easily we can be blindsided by influences out of our control, we take nothing for granted. No manufacturer can afford (or wants) to stand still.

If a rolling stone gathers no moss, then digital transformation is the rolling stone of manufacturing. And innovation is the force pushing that stone down the hill.

Investing in manufacturing ERP software will enable your business to enhance operations and act outside the box, to accelerate your speed of change and meet future revenue opportunities first.

Make smarter strategic decisions using Aptean’s Industrial Manufacturing ERP Software. Book your free ERP demo to enhance your innovation capabilities.

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