Global ERP: Challenges for the Manufacturer

Manufacturing these days is truly global. No longer centered on the historically developed countries, manufacturing has become a dominant industry in the smallest and least wealthy nations. Global ERP systems help a business communicate with all locations and partners anywhere using a single channel. A customer in Austria might place an order on a business from Brazil. Someone working for the customer in China places the order and another person in Denmark accepts the order and enters it to the ERP system. The order moves to a manufacturing plant in Ecuador where components from France are delivered. The order then ships to a customer site in Greece and the payment processes from a bank in Hungary and is deposited in a bank in Italy.

Can a single global ERP system manage that variety? Yes, and many can handle it well. Look for an ERP that can work with the whole range of business models in your global business. Today’s businesses need to provide flexible and dynamic operations. Be sure you have an ERP that is at least as flexible and dynamic as your business. Ideally that ERP has modules or options that fit all the existing operations. Will it fit a later expansion to another model that isn’t even planned yet? If it allows connectivity and integration using standard protocols – yes.

People & Power

So, we are looking for a powerful big-ticket ERP? Not necessarily; powerful yes but it doesn’t have to be big ticket.

Implementation of a global ERP probably won’t be quick. Likely the implementation will need to be done in phases. These could be one plant at a time. Perhaps some plants could be combined into groups with similar qualities and several at a time worked on.

Consider people too. Consultants and employees might not want to be on the road for years so different teams might be needed for successive implementations. The expertise required will probably be different so the teams will be selected using different criteria.

On the subject of people, think about people using the ERP, some of whom may be from poorer nations where they might have received a lower standard of education - especially in information technology. The system still needs to be accessible so there will be needs for input and query screens that are easy to use and laid out in the local languages. Each location will need ERP training and ongoing training that fits the users worldwide.

The job is not easy. But it can and has been done. And the payoff can be huge.

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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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