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Complex Manufacturing Projects… On Time, On Budget, As Specified
(Four key capabilities to look for when evaluating an ERP system)


Are you a project-oriented manufacturer struggling to synchronize departmental operations and keep budgets under control? You need an advanced yet easy-to-use ERP system designed specifically for your type of business.

If your company produces capital equipment and highly engineered products -- such as factory automation equipment or aerospace and defense products, for example -- a generic ERP system probably won't get the job done for you. When you're juggling tight deadlines, resource constraints, and rapidly changing customer requirements, you need a sophisticated ERP system that can track all this and more -- one that can manage every aspect of your project, from quoting/estimating through engineering, procurement, production, shipping, and service/warranty.

But how do you select the right software? To assist you, we've formulated a list of four key capabilities to look for when you go system shopping.

1. Seamless system integration. The proliferation of disparate, unconnected software applications is the enemy of productivity in an engineer-to-order environment. Unfortunately, this is more often the rule than the exception. These "islands of automation" can include accounting, computer-aided design, manufacturing, project management, and purchasing modules. To avoid this situation, you need ERP software that seamlessly integrates all of these critically important capabilities into a single, powerful system, facilitating cross-company communications and assuring on-time product delivery.

2. A central data repository. The ideal ERP system will centralize all project-related information in a single repository where it can be used, shared, and updated throughout the enterprise. This kind of tight control simplifies the management of the entire product lifecycle; every department has visibility and input into the process.

In essence, such a system always reflects the current state of the project. The net result? You can be far more responsive to your customers' evolving needs than in the past. Equally important, you can shift resources to deal with changing project requirements, enabling maximum flexibility.

Another important benefit of the central repository is the traceability it provides, which is desirable for delivering follow-on service and essential for aerospace and defense manufacturers, as well as anyone else doing business with the U.S. government.

The ideal ERP system will centralize all project-related information in a single repository where it can be used, shared, and updated throughout the enterprise.

3. Cost controls. The sheer magnitude of many concurrent engineering projects makes tracking costs and assessing profitability a daunting task. And yet, to run your enterprise successfully, you need a true profitability picture of all projects in combination and individually -- at any point in the process. Achieving this requires an ERP system with the ability to define and control costs, capturing and measuring expenditures against the overall budget from the very first project quote through final product installation. In this way, you can meet your cost and profit targets for every project you undertake.

4. Project scheduling functionality. Look for an ERP system that includes an intelligent work breakdown structure capable of defining every project phase, task, and subtask. The most complete system will include materials, capacity, and human resources requirements planning and scheduling. Ideally, you should be able to view planned and firm demand for all active and anticipated projects simultaneously, and all of the resources needed to complete them. Also look for graphical critical path analysis to help identify possible bottlenecks as well as the ability to evaluate the potential impact of all change orders. Taken together, these capabilities ensure that your resources are always fully and optimally scheduled, enhancing company profitability.


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