Five underused ERP features

The list of features included in any ERP system grows continuously.  Like any good piece of sales literature these always include the benefits to be gained from each.  But there are some that are under-utilized by many of us.

1. Inventory management

Inventory is the heart of ERP for many businesses and it is used every day.  True, we know where everything is (or we should know), and we know the value of our inventory.  But how often do we check if that inventory is in the right place?  If we need a part tomorrow but it is on the top rack, way at the end of that narrow aisle, is that the best location? Parts that are used on a common product are often picked together. Why have them stored around the warehouse in part number sequence?  Your inventory level fell last month and you believe the value is accurate.  Should it have risen instead based on current demands?

2. Product lifecycle management

PLM began in the automotive industry.  It is frequently looked at today as a critical part of electronics where life cycles are short and rapidly changing.  You might think it adds no value to your business; you still make some of the products inventory by your founder 75 years ago.  Think again.  Are the drawings and documentation that describes those legacy products consistent with your newer products?  Could some product be improved by using a component that was originally selected for another product?  Is a newer and better component available that would reduce the cost of that legacy product?

Use this guide to 70 features to look for in your next manufacturing ERP to help nail down your requirements for new software

3. Dispatch

Your manufacturing ERP has standard dispatch reports right now.  In many businesses people ignore these because they are consistently wrong.  Scheduling work depends on probabilities and ERP assumes those schedules are fixed because the probability is certain.  Most likely the dispatch report you run at 6 AM is wrong within a few hours when one operation took less time than scheduled and some equipment was out of action for unscheduled maintenance.  Those events are normal life, so take the uncertainty out of the equation by running a real-time dispatch at each station when the last job is complete.

4. Quality management

Today’s ERP systems come with some very sophisticated quality management tools.  Do you use the ones you should?  Or, do you rely on spreadsheets?  Quality is not only in manufacturing.  In financial services, how many errors are found daily in payment processing?  What would be the value if your ERP helped you reduce those errors by at least one order of magnitude?

5. Document management

Your ERP already can link documents to transactions and work operations.  So why do you print a set of documents showing where a weld needs to be?  Why does your accounting department have a printed end of month checklist?  Use your ERP to be sure the most up-to-date document is the only one available to your workers.

Look at the features in your ERP again.  Which ones could you use better?

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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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