Is it time to replace your manufacturing ERP system? 3 warning signs to watch for

No one really enjoys replacing a manufacturing ERP system. Doing so isn’t cheap, it takes time and effort, and it isn’t without risk. The temptation, in short, is always to carry on just a little bit longer with your existing manufacturing ERP system, and work around its limitations.

But inevitably, there comes a point where those limitations can’t be ignored. Because to do so would be business-limiting, curtailing the opportunities for growth, enhanced profitability, and improved efficiencies that a new manufacturing ERP system can provide.
Yet recognising that point can be tricky. And the mere passage of time isn’t a reliable guide: some companies can outgrow a manufacturing ERP system in just a few years; others can be happy with a decade-old system, and see no reason to change.
In short, it’s down to the individual business itself, and the pain points that it is experiencing. So here’s our take on three warning signs to watch for.

Warning sign #1: a lack of functionality or flexibility

When you bought your existing manufacturing ERP system, it will have met a specific list of criteria. In other words, at that time, it was a good fit.
But in the intervening period, your business may have changed. Perhaps you now have overseas operations. Perhaps you’ve embraced an aftersales service model. Perhaps you have entered a radically different market, manufacturing (say) process-based products or built-to-order products alongside your existing conventional assembly business.
And if your existing manufacturing ERP system doesn’t support these new facets of your business, you’ll struggle. Workarounds can only go so far.

Warning sign #2: signs of age

Sometimes, the problem isn’t a functionality gap, but a performance gap. Your manufacturing ERP system has become slow and unresponsive, as the number of users has grown, and the demands on the system have become more complex.
Sometimes, the issue is hardware, which can become unreliable, costly to maintain, and starts to require a level of specialist support that is increasingly difficult to locate.
And other times, support is no longer available from the original provider of either the manufacturing ERP system or the hardware, as they have either gone out of business, or been absorbed within a much larger company which has little interest in older users of legacy software or equipment.
Again, faced with such a situation—even if the system’s raw functionality is still adequate—is can be better to bite the bullet, and move to a newer manufacturing ERP system. A manufacturing ERP system which is faster, more stable, and less costly to maintain.

Warning sign #3: no support for newer technologies

From a technology perspective, there’s more to consider than simply the technology on which your manufacturing ERP system runs.
Because in terms of both user accessibility and exchanging data with suppliers and customers, technology also moves on apace.
Perhaps you want to support mobile devices on the factory floor. Or provide access to remote workers and busy executives on the move.
Perhaps you want to provide suppliers with access to your manufacturing ERP system, via a supplier portal. Or perhaps you’re selling direct to customers, online.
These days, both forms of data communication are very common, and are best carried out by fully interfacing to a manufacturing ERP system, rather than carried out at arm’s length by bolt-on capabilities updating in batch mode. 
Again, fudges and workarounds can only take you so far: at some point, it’s better to recognize that it’s time to invest in a system that will deliver the functionality that you need.

So is it time to bite the bullet?

Put it all together, and what have we got? In short, three clear warning signs that strongly suggest that a new manufacturing ERP system could be a productive investment.
Granted, the existence of one warning sign on its own may not tip the balance in favour of wholesale replacement.
But two or more should be taken as a definite indication that it’s time to start surveying the manufacturing ERP system market. And when that time comes, we at Datawright would be delighted to have a conversation with you.