13 ERP features to give discrete manufacturers a competitive edge

Every discrete manufacturing business operates with a unique set of systems and specifications, and faces equally unique challenges. Legacy enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems cannot keep up with the demands of today’s rapidly changing customer needs and market requirements. Here are 13 ERP features that can give discrete manufacturers a competitive edge.

1. Automated specification processing

It is very time consuming when technical specifications need to be manually typed and proofed to transfer them from product engineer’s documents to the ERP system. Automating the process of reading specifications directly from the engineer’s documents avoids errors and saves time. The changes between the first and second runs are fewer, and the gains from automated processing make the second programming of equipment much more efficient.

2. Machine-to-ERP communication

Precious time is wasted by shop floor personnel having to move from the work area to an input terminal and manually input the units completed. Modern production lines are capable of tracking completed units and production data can be directly transferred, accurately and in real time, to the ERP system.

3. Component management

Issues can arise when discrete manufacturers use their customers’ part numbers in their ERP systems, such as the same part entered in the ERP system with two different names and both parts stored in their own bins. Enhanced parts handling functionality delivers greater control and flexibility of BOMs.

4. Machinery management

Configure your ERP system to tell users which tool is required for which operation and make sure it is in the right place at the right time. Know when the tool needs to be recalibrated or replaced by tracking usage.

5. Rule-based component purchasing

Whether product specifications require a specific part number from a certain manufacturer or an approved supplier list with a choice of several items, or even if no particular manufacturer or model is specified, your ERP system should be capable of searching your database for the most cost efficient and reliable suppliers and components.

6. Quality feedback and compliance

Your ERP system should help ensure that internal compliance requirements are being met. By tracking and reporting on processes you can be certain they meet your defined routing and that assembly instructions are being followed. The quality control function should provide feedback on all critical processes, automatically identify potential problems and report to the appropriate user.

7. Real-time inventory

Accurate supply chain data and feedback from WIP is critical in delivering inventory data you can trust. An ERP system that provides accurate, real-time inventory self-reporting gives you greater confidence in your purchasing lead times and production time estimates.

8. Inventory resilience

An ERP system that doesn’t help avoid surplus inventory – by alerting you as soon as inventory conditions change – is losing you value. A fast-moving market and constantly changing customer demands requires an ERP system with an MRP module robust and agile enough to adapt to disruptions in supply or changes in demand.

9. Automated lead times

Avoid missed due dates by automating the creation of lead times. Your ERP system should have the ability to analyse available materials and shop capacity and provide expected lead times to product development.

10. Real-time production rescheduling

An ERP system needs the flexibility to be able to update production schedules in real-time based on current pressures along the production chain. Will overtime need to be scheduled? Will rescheduling another order affect the original order’s delivery date? Whatever the scenario, scheduling should be able to cope with it.  

11. Inventory shelf life and environment

An ERP system should have the ability to track the shelf life of perishable materials and trigger alerts as the stock loses its effectiveness over time. In addition, compliance standards may require the tracking of inventory environment such as temperature, humidity, and magnetism.

12. Consigned material management

An ERP system should have the ability to track consigned inventory distinctly from company-owned inventory, and control which inventory is used first. When consigned materials need to be either returned or paid for, the ERP system should alert you.  

13. Warehouse management

Inventory management tools such as cross-docking and slotting can help discrete manufacturers who often take delivery of parts just in time for production.

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Written by
Simon Barrett

A native of London and a graduate in economics, Simon began his marketing and PR career in the music and film industries. Simon is fascinated by the compelling ideas that shape our future and communicates them with passion.