ERP Document Management: Production, Purchasing & Paper

Many have called ERP a giant mixing pot of transactions. Well, ERP can also be a mixing pot of documents. The integrated, “always online” nature of many modern ERP systems makes the printing of these documents unnecessary. Instead, businesses must implement strong ERP document management processes.

Company A orders a product from Company B. No paper changes hands and there is no need to print common documents. Company A’s purchase order arrives through EDI. Company B reads the EDI data and creates a sales order directly within the ERP system. That sales order is a screen document that all involved can see online and no one will need to print it. The backlog reports that include our sales order are only seen on screens. The one document that will be printed is the shipping label for the box. The packing list can be emailed to the receiving people. The invoice might be a draft on Company A’s bank account and the payment a bank transfer of funds. Even the printed shipping label has a bar coded tracking number. UPS never actually reads the label; it is only for backup. All the movements from shipping to receipt are scanned using the barcode and logged with the relevant documents stored securely within the ERP document management system.

Production, Purchasing…….and Paper

Think about the last purchase you made. Did you read about the product from a catalog? Or, did you look it up online and read from a computer screen? When you placed the order, did you write the product SKU anywhere? No, you clicked on the picture of your product and the SKU was automatically copied to a sales “document” and was shipped to you. Without ERP document management, these documents are sent into the offline, paper-based ether where chaos rules.

Industrial drawings and blueprints are digital these days too. The drawing that defines what Company A wants to buy can be included in the EDI purchase order. That same drawing will be saved in company B’s records linked to the sales order and to any jobs used for production of the product. The welder does not need to print; he looks up the drawing and blows up the detail showing the critical dimensions of his weld. Later the assembler looks up the same drawing and finds the details of the hardware and components to be attached at that assembly operation. Quality control looks at a different detail section where desired control dimensions are shown and verifies the actual product is within tolerance. Their measurements are recorded automatically as their measurement tool is attached to the ERP and the measurements are recorded at the touch of a button.

Look around your business. Do you see paper? You probably do. Is it really necessary? Probably not. Could that document be more secure and useful within your ERP document management system? Almost definitely.

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Tom Miller

About the author…

Tom completed implementations of Epicor, SAP, QAD, and Micro MRP. He works as a logistics and supply chain manager and he always looks for processes to improve. He lives near San Francisco Bay in California and can be found on the water in his kayak or on the road riding his motorcycle. Contact Tom at

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Tom Miller

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