4 ERP software tips for mixed mode manufacturing companies

There is an ERP system to match any manufacturing business model. Manufacturers work along a spectrum and the ERP systems on the market also follow this spectrum. But what happens when your manufacturing processes are mixed-mode. In other words, how can your ERP software cope with process production runs, engineer-to-order inventory and batch manufacturing quality control (among other permutations)?

1. Find a system that compliments your agile business model

A majority of manufacturers use more than one mode of manufacturing already. They might have products they make that fit more than one mode. They might have a process environment making products that primarily support their discrete mode. Some ERP systems are very oriented toward discrete manufacturers. Other ERP systems provide different modules or different setups in the same module to allow use with a variety of manufacturing needs.

Recommended reading: manufacturing ERP requirements template - over 120 critical manufacturing ERP features in one downloadable spreadsheet

Agility is the key. Your ERP should be prepared to cope with any forecasted requirements for a manufacturing mode well in advance of any orders landing. This agility may take the form of system capability such as support for recipes and formulations for process production runs and an engineering module for discrete product management. Be prepared with a mixed mode ERP that is as agile as your business.

2. Employ a consultant to manage configuration of mixed-mode processes

We all need help and support with our ERP systems from time to time. Whether you find all the support you need at a single phone number or need to employ more than one source of support, be sure they are nearby and prepared to provide what you need. Some ERP systems are for a single mode and others are ready for mixed mode. ERP resellers and consultants fit into similar categories. You haven’t specialized in a single manufacturing mode so why should anyone in your team.

Many ERP systems aren’t configured out of the box for mixed-mode businesses, so an external resource who has experience with this configuration is advisable.

ERP consultants are especially valuable when your manufacturing processes deviate from the norm. Many ERP systems aren’t configured out of the box for mixed-mode businesses, so an external resource who has experience with this configuration is advisable.

3. Use configuration and customization to avoid a big spend

Most ERP providers have modules available for particular manufacturing modes. They would all be happy to upsell you into another module. But if you are watching your wallet, you might be able to postpone that expense. There are similarities between a recipe and a bill of material. Maybe you can use the BOM in your mixed mode ERP as a general guide and tweak each job with a little more or less of an ingredient. Have alternate routings ready if you need to use the high-pressure pump for a certain job. Think about whether this will work in your business.

4. Be sure your ERP can handle serial and lot numbers

Process ERP systems all will have the ability to track lots or batches. Discrete ERP systems will probably have some ability to track serial numbers. If these are in isolation they are constraints in the use of mixed mode ERP. Every transaction will need to be filtered to a particular lot or a specific serial number and you might need to employ both constraints. The trick is to be certain the ERP doesn’t throttle throughput because the transactions are so difficult. Try it yourself; the salesperson isn’t the one who will be processing transactions. Pay attention to your staff who will process the transactions.

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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 customerteam@erpfocus.com.

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Tom Miller

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