A Beginner’s Guide to ERP Integration
Way back, back in the day, when tweeting was the noise a bird made and not a social post, software was almost always a single-purpose tool. It might have been a check register or a purchase order system but that was all it did.
Gradually there became a demand for our data to be integrated, and the software folks paid attention. MRP systems gave us suggestions for purchase orders and manufacturing jobs. To do that, they had to see sales orders and inventory on hand as well as talk to each other. MRP systems contained some of the earliest examples of what we would class as ERP integration.
ERP evolved from MRP when we wanted to look at the whole business and not only the manufacturing floor. Accounting and engineering were integrated with manufacturing ERP. Businesses other than manufacturers began to value their ERP systems. Now we have CRM and PLM and other tools ready to add another layer of complexity to ERP integration.
Some of us still want more. A business might want a best of breed warehouse management system that comes from a different supplier, for example. This kind of integration can certainly be done and there are many successful implementations. All require overhead to keep the integration current. Each system has its own supplier and its own lifecycle of improvements. One change to either product and the integration must change. The other improves and the integration must be changed again. A business that selects this kind of integration has done its due diligence and decided the benefits outweigh the costs.
We also want to integrate with other businesses. The bank that loans money could want a direct view to our balance sheet as a condition. Our customer wants us to check a portal to see their inventory level and replenish their inventory within agreed-to terms. We can use XML tools to connect through the portal instead of a person manually checking. EDI is another example of ERP integration between companies. Purchase orders, ASN, deliveries, and other transactions are sent back and forth between systems along the supply chain.
ERP Integration can be achieved in most cases. ERP Integration can work in most industries. But it is not always easy or cheap so the payoff needs to be carefully valued.
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