Your manufacturing business can succeed or fail based on your customers’ experience. To ensure customer satisfaction, Acumatica’s Channel Chief shares the seven things (or truths) you need in your manufacturing ERP.

After more than thirty years selling complex business solutions in the ERP space, I have found that there are some truths that seem to not only stand the test of time but that become even more important as time—and technology—continue to change our lives and the lives of our customers. For those in the manufacturing space, these truths need to be a part of your daily mindset, and the manufacturing ERP you choose should provide them as part of a complete solution.

It’s All About the Customer Experience: 7 Things Manufacturers Need in Their Manufacturing ERP

Your manufacturing ERP and the seven truths

An ERP for manufacturing can make or break the success of your business. How so? If you choose the right one, then the manufacturing ERP software connects your business processes from the shop floor to accounting and from production to customer management, as well as everything in-between, making your job—and your life—easier. If you choose the wrong one, then you’ve invested a lot of time and money into a glorified accounting solution that doesn’t integrate a thing.

Here are the seven things the right manufacturing ERP should help you with:

1. Providing a stellar experience for your customer

The first truth is that as the cost of technology continues to fall, the expectations placed on businesses, regardless of their size, continues to grow. It is now expected that regardless of your organizations size, you will have the same capabilities as the largest and most successful companies in your industry.

This expectation also drives the expectation of a certain kind of experience when someone deals with your company. Prospects and customers expect you to be open for business 24/7. In most cases this means you need more than just a web site. You need a “portal”. The portal needs to have a “self-service” capability so that they can get the information they want, on the device of their choosing, quickly and accurately. If they find what they want, they have to be able to place, track, and receive their order, as well as check their order status, pay their bill, deal with any issues, read reviews of others, and leave reviews of their experience for others to read.

And all of this must occur seamlessly. If prospects or customers don’t have a good experience with your organization, they can find a replacement in SIX SECONDS or less. Given another two minutes, they can tell the world of their experience in a forum that will remain available forever! Think of all the technology you need to incorporate, the systems you need to acquire, the integrations you need to have, the bandwidth you need to provide, the security you must have in place, and the training your people will require.

Providing a stellar experience for prospects, customers, partners, and all other stakeholders does not happen by accident. It is a deliberate strategy that requires deliberate action at all levels of your organization. It should be your number one priority! And selecting a modern manufacturing ERP is vital to achieving this goal.

2. Providing a flexible experience

When auditing clients, one of the most fundamental findings I encounter is the “single experience culture”. Is your competitive advantage still an advantage? The internet has completely redefined what we consider an advantage to be—regardless of the industry you have chosen. Just ask E.F. Hutton, General Foods, US Steel/Bethlehem Steel, Compaq, Kodak, Blockbuster, Palm, RadioShack, Circuit City, and Toys-R-Us to name a few of the many hundreds of examples that could be given.

Alan Wurtzel started as a delivery boy for his father’s television business in the 1950s. By the 1990s, as the CEO of the company, Alan had revenues in excess of one billion dollars annually. But according to Wurtzel, after he retired from the company, his successors failed to understand that the “model that led to such high earnings during his time didn’t translate to the 21st century.”

In his book, Good to Great to Gone, Wurtzel chronicled the rise and meteoric fall of Circuit City—another example of a company that was unable to redefine the experience it gave its customers. So, what is the scorecard for the eleven companies that made the Wurtzel’s “Good to Great” list ten years later?

  • Abbott Laboratories: Stock up 0%
  • Circuit City: Bankrupt
  • Fannie Mae: Placed in conservatorship
  • Gillette: Bought by P&G
  • Kimberly Clark: Stock up 1%
  • Kroger: Stock up 0%
  • Nucor: Stock up 400%!
  • Philip Morris: Stock down 20%
  • Pitney Bowes: Stock down 20%
  • Walgreens: Stock up 0%
  • Wells Fargo: Stock up 0%

What changed between 2001 and 2015? In a word, EVERYTHING! And as a manufacturer, you need to be able to flex quickly (or even proactively) as changes occur. Again, the manufacturing ERP software you choose can help you with this requirement.

3. Having true integration

The term integration has been around for a long time and is generally understood by many of those who have been involved in information systems in any capacity. Unfortunately for most, integration is a one-way street. Integrating your systems, processes, data, resources, and other assets is much more than the “collecting” of data.

True integration is the dissemination of data to the appropriate resource whether or not that resource is an employee, prospect, customer, vendor, partner, or anyone else having an interest in your organization and its products or services. Integration is one of the most fundamental components to delivering a stellar experience. It brings with it another overused term: empowerment.

Even though it is overused, it is nonetheless a mission-critical component of any company hoping to thrive in the 21st century. Data does not empower—knowledge does! Collecting data and having it sit unused is not going to help anyone. Making knowledge available to those that require it allows them to make informed decisions at the appropriate time (which is empowering), with the appropriate tool and as long as that information is accurate!

This brings us to number four on the list.

4. Having appropriate and well-documented processes

To thrive in this new business paradigm, businesses need to be able to push decision-making to the level closest to the customer. And when you think about it, the level closest to the customer is…the customer! But pushing knowledge to the people who need it most requires that the knowledge be appropriate and accurate. It means that you must have a process in place to ensure that the information within the sales department is the same as the information on your portal. And the information on the portal must be the same as that being tracked by your finance, accounting, warehouse, shop floor, etc. In company after company, we find that there are generally three different answers to any one question. This is simply unacceptable in today’s business climate.

Another area where we generally find a disconnect with manufacturers is their continued attempt to have their old and outdated processes mimicked by their new business solution. That would be like asking your Ford 150 to act like your Ford Fiesta. This is a total waste of the capabilities you just spent a lot of money to obtain.

The same is true of complex business solutions. The manufacturing ERP solutions created today do more and as a result, they require that you and your people act differently.

5. Accepting that changing processes means changing people

Let’s face it, change is the hardest thing any human can do. We instinctively fight change. This is especially true in an organization where the change might not be understood. When people are not sure how the change will positively impact them, they will undoubtedly fight that change every step of the way. “What’s in it for me?” is a basic communication strategy that should be employed by every manufacturer hoping to thrive in this new business paradigm.

After thirty years of implementing ERP, CRM, and other complex business solutions, I can say with total and complete confidence that the vast majority of implementation failures are a result of incomplete, inaccurate, or misunderstood communications.

6. Being “open” to more experiences

There is a new catch phrase making its way through the industry right now. The term is Internet of Things (IoT). It seems like someone is writing about it on a daily basis. In a nutshell, IoT refers to having the capability to get to information wherever it might exist.

I think of IoT as the 21st century requirement for any organization wishing to thrive. It is absolutely a competitive advantage. It brings together data and information from everywhere and makes sense of it. You use it to determine how you will go to market and to find new sources, partners and customers. IoT is a way of gaining visibility to the world and a modern ERP for manufacturing will incorporate this capability.

7. Being culturally aware

Finally, to thrive in the 21st century, your manufacturing company must become culturally and generationally aware. Baby Boomers are retiring. Generation X and Generation Y are starting to move into positions of economic power. This is simply a fact of time. We get older and a new generation replaces us. But in today’s world, this new generation thinks and acts differently. VERY differently.

Let me give you an example. I was in San Francisco International Airport waiting for a flight from the West Coast to the East Coast. As I was “people watching”, I noticed a man leaning against a pillar reading his golfing magazine. I noticed him first because he was actually reading a hard copy magazine. Then I noticed he had two sons standing on either side of him—about two feet apart. They were both staring intently into their cell phones. The boys appeared to be both under 10 years old. At one point, the older boy leaned forward and looked at his brother and asked, “Did you get that?” They were texting each other from two feet apart!

At first, I thought about how strange (to me) this was, and I immediately began thinking about what kind of blog article I could write about this current state of human communications. After all, these two boys were symptomatic of a much larger issue that includes billions of people around the planet. And then it hit me: the problem was not the two boys. The problem was me.

These two boys have never lived in a time where texting was not the preferred way of communicating. They don’t know another way. THIS is the issue CEOs and business leaders of today need to understand. You don’t have to like it. You don’t have to agree with it. But you DO have to deal with it. The way people communicate, research your products, purchase your solutions, and will let others know of their experience has all changed. Forever. Even the Pope is blogging these days.

Your customers’ experience is influenced by your manufacturing ERP solution

What kind of experience are you creating for your manufacturing customers, prospects, vendors, partners, and employees? This is your competitive advantage. This is your business model. This is your path to success. To survive or thrive… it’s all about the customer experience and the manufacturing ERP you choose.