With continually squeezed margins resulting in the ever-present need to do more with less, set against a backdrop of ongoing economic and political uncertainty, the manufacturing sector is facing some of its toughest times. In spite of this, the pressure is still on to capitalise on growth opportunities wherever possible, proactively pursuing new avenues to steal that all-important march on the competition.
Without a doubt, effective IT systems are a key enabler of growth, but where larger, less agile manufacturers may struggle to change course to chart new waters, SMEs are often in a stronger position to capitalise on growth opportunities, unencumbered as they are by restrictive legacy systems. But, with smaller IT budgets to work with, the benefit of being legacy-free can be somewhat curtailed by the pressure to make the right IT investment first time. SMEs not only need to invest in the right capabilities, but also to ensure they’re investing in capabilities that will work with what they’ve already spent money on. For example, there’s no point investing in a CRM system with a view to boosting service levels if it’s not integrated with wider business processes. Simply bolting on ill-considered solutions will only serve to add another level of complexity to operations, rather than adding value.
Many SMEs have found that having a single, integrated system in place to support all areas of the business is far more practical and cost-efficient than investing in a series of process-specific systems and solutions. A single solution that sits across the business, drawing in information from all departments and areas, is a much more effective way of improving processes. This ability to offer up-to-date information about precisely what’s happening means that such solutions deliver the levels of visibility and insight that manufacturers need in order to grow.
With a robust, scalable platform in place integrating all systems and processes across the entire operation manufacturers can pursue growth, adding new capabilities as and when required. Take Bell Lighting, a leading manufacturer and supplier of light sources and fixtures to the electrical wholesale industry: having experienced rapid growth in a relatively short time, Bell Lighting recognised the need to invest in infrastructure to support this expansion. With an incumbent Opera 3 deployment already bringing together all key areas of the business, it made sense to add to it and extend its reach with the addition of a new warehouse system. Not only has the new solution boosted efficiency in the warehouse, but the fact that it’s linked to all other processes via Opera 3 has resulted in improved visibility throughout the organisation. So, by automating the entire picking process (from PO through to labelling and dispatch), showing what’s being picked and by whom, it adds a whole new level of visibility for Bell Lighting, improving accuracy, efficiency and ultimately enhancing customer service levels.
By taking a step-by-step approach, with a focus on effectively gathering and using timely, accurate business information, manufacturers can optimise basic processes while benefiting from the levels of control and visibility that are necessary for growth. Incorporating seemingly mundane yet vital functions into business-wide IT systems enables a manufacturer to build a comprehensive picture of their operation and processes, with precise data at their fingertips. It’s only with this level of insight and control that manufacturers can expect faster, more effective decision-making, increased agility and, ultimately, continued growth.