With the recent news from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) conference that the country’s economy needs to ‘level up’, it got us at Neuways thinking:

How can ERP systems improve productivity across the nation?

We know that Enterprise Resource Planning software can do a great deal of things for an organisation. Improvements can be made by implementing the right type of business system, but why should a fully optimised system be at the top of every business’ wish list for 2022 and beyond?

At Neuways, we have been involved in many ERP implementations over a number of decades. Our Managing Director, Martin Roberts, has been central to many of these projects.

Here is Martin to explain how ERP can help improve your productivity…

“At the recent CBI conference, we all heard that the UK is experiencing a case of ‘chronic under productivity’. One of the answers to this is an increased use of automation within your company. But what does that actually mean for businesses?

“We would advise fully utilising the existing resources you have within your business first. This could involve a strategic review – looking at your current way of working and identifying areas of improvement.

“Measuring the performance of equipment can be carried out by an ERP system, such as Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central. Processes can be analysed to ensure they are working as efficiently as possible, and if not, they can be streamlined. The detailed data your business can receive from your ERP system can give your decision makers a wealth of information that can benefit the entire business.”

But how exactly can ERP improve existing processes? Martin says it’s all about assigning the right job roles to the most appropriate people, or technology…

“Having to record data and manually fill spreadsheets takes time for a human being to input. If you’re currently collecting data manually then by simply allowing your business system to capture the information automatically from one end of the business to another, you are freeing your staff to fulfil more beneficial roles for the business.

“If you have areas where productivity is particularly important, such as a warehouse, then this is where the investment would give a positive return. Performance in the warehouse is critical, to ensure your customers are happy and receive the goods they require promptly. By removing manual processes, such as filling out paperwork and involving technology to automate activities, timeframes can be drastically shortened and accuracy increased.

“But it’s not just replacing paperwork for technology. No, the information you receive can tell you the best pick route to take which could cut down the work staff are having to do in the long run by giving them the quickest route for the items that need to be picked.”

How can different ERP systems improve productivity? Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central, in particular, produces positive changes in how businesses operate. Its ability to adapt and offer new modules to add on to existing business systems gives organisations a way in which to evolve their systems over time.

It means as you grow, Business Central can grow. If you have a recruitment drive, more user licenses can be added to your existing subscription, allowing for more of your organisation to benefit from Business Central’s functionality. Martin explains what the different modules can bring to your business system:

“Finite capacity scheduling is something that is available as an additional module, MxAPS from Insight Works. This means that businesses can benefit from scheduling bottleneck resources to ensuring that they maximise the value. If you rely on spreadsheets or paper-based systems to manage the bottleneck currently you lose the value, when taking into account other factors that can impinge on the bottleneck such as input materials or demand.

“Using finite scheduling in a bottleneck resource, a machine that is essential to the production process, but is very expensive to buy and run, can mean the difference between getting the most from the machine in the work centre or considering investment in a second machine.”

ERP systems don’t have to be brand new, though, for businesses to benefit from a productivity increase. What Martin has found over his years of working with ERP, is that systems can grow as a business comes to fully realise its potential – which can often come long after the go-live date.

Martin adds: “For people who already have ERP, they should go and check their data to make sure it is accurate and up-to-date: review your queue times, purchase lead times and safety times – do they all make sense and reflect reality? Plan, execute, measure and adjust is a mantra for all businesses – many don’t do this and they work with base data that is, simply, wrong. This can impact on your efficiency. Do you have plenty of inventory, but not stock of what you need or how about having to ‘borrow’ items from other works orders to meet deadlines after the stock has been issued? These are all indicators that your base data needs reviewing.

“ERP implementations should be a process, not an event. After your company has completed selecting, implementing, training and then the go-live of your ERP, you should plan to have optimisation phases – to keep the use of your system under constant review. Look at the functionality you are not currently using in the system and see how it could work for you and bring continuous improvement.

“Neuways will be holding workshops in the future to help our ERP customers optimise their business system, allowing them to take it to the next level. There are two ways to do this: by making sure you are using the functionality correctly and ensuring that you are aware what your investment is capable of.”

It is critical for businesses to fully involve their staff. Employees are at the heart of any business, and central to the success of an organisation. In turn, for any ERP system to be a success, staff need to live and breathe the business system.

They need to not only understand the changes that will be coming along with the implementation of an ERP system, but also the reasons why. Some may be hesitant to change the way they do their job initially, but if they can see the many benefits that come with ERP, then there may be less transition time experienced as a result.

Here is Martin, to summarise why ERP could be right for you and your organisation: “ERP can be a great investment for businesses – through the scheduling and planning abilities, the add-on apps, such as MxAPS – productivity can be increased without having to buy a new machine. It really should be a consideration for any business, small or large, as we have seen it can bring benefits to all types of enterprises, across many different industries.

“For those with an existing business system, you are one step ahead, but time still needs to be put into understanding, ‘how can our ERP system improve and do more for us?’. In the long-term this will really help any business looking to improve its productivity, both in the UK and around the world”.