What forward thinking manufacturers should look for in their next ERP upgrade

28 October 2013

Philippa Holland

Philippa Holland

Founding Director

Despite the global market for ERP investment slowing down – reporting just 2.2% growth in 2012 – it is still acknowledged that a good ERP system forms the back-bone of any successful manufacturing firm.

It is also no secret that vendors remain keen to sell you their latest products. But what should you really be looking for in your next ERP purchase?

With the growth of platforms such as Cloud, Software-as-a-Service (Saas) and financial and human capital management set to further accelerate, manufacturers need to act now to find out what technologies and capabilities will be important in five or 10 years’ time.

While it can never ascertained for certain what will transpire down the road, any forward thinking manufacturer looking to increase efficiency should look for:

  • Industry focused solution
  • Real-time analytics
  • Out of the box system
  • Easy to integrate platform

Industry focused solutions

For ever-smaller niche sectors, ERP companies are becoming increasingly flexible in what they can offer. Think brake manufacturers, rather than general automotive makers. To give a company the edge over its competition, a specialist, tailored solution is required.

Manufacturers have often made the error of believing a vendor telling them their business doesn’t need a tailored solution, as the ERP product can already do everything. While this may be true, it costs the manufacturer both time and money as it waits for the implementation teams to configure the product to its needs.

Pre-configured or specialist solutions will save time and give a manufacturer what it needs. Pre-configured or specialist solutions will save time and meet a company’s needs, albeit not for a company diverging from its core business line.


ERP systems are designed to track the transactions across your business, so that you know what is going on. But what manufacturers should really be investing in is a knowledge solution that reports what you need to know at the time you need to know it.

Real-time analytics in ERP systems are improving in quality and given the emergence of cloud software, will become more important over the next few years. Moving ERP to the cloud can bring flexibility to your back office.

Cloud-based analytics can add real-time decision support that allows you convert flexibility into efficiency, shortening production cycles, adapting to disruptions, and responding to customer demand before the customer even asks. Here lies an area where new solutions can have the greatest impact on a company’s competitiveness.

Companies that are looking to set up new ventures in new territories need to get up and running quickly. ERP cloud vendors are integral to achieving this.

Seamless integration

Companies either actively involved or planning in a series of mergers or acquisitions should consider how to cope with merging the ERP systems once this has been carried out. Vendors are offering a number of ways to do this.

The best use international standards to access each ERP system and provide an integration layer. Some of the cloud vendors are moving towards Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) offerings that perform this function. If M&A is important to a business’ strategy, then an ERP system with seamless integration built in must be considered.

A manufacturer from a high profitable prime company recently said the worst case scenario of badly organised ERP is the breakdown of the business. In summary, the implementation of effective ERP is as crucial as the products in a manufacturer’s output.

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About the author

Philippa Holland

Founding Director

Diversity of people inspires new ideas.  One of the reasons why I co-founded Bluefin was to create a supportive environment where people – client and consultant – can come together to find answers to business and technical problems. 
Since 2002, I have been lucky enough to work with the world’s largest manufacturers such as Rolls Royce and Lafarge-Tarmac, helping clients win by giving them the most talented people in the industry.   Client success starts with our people.
We have won six “best place to work for” awards in just 11 years because we recruit and retain consultants that are passionate about learning and sharing their insights and ideas with clients.  This includes attracting university graduates into our sought-after annual recruitment programme.
When I’m not spending time engaging with our clients and consultants, I enjoy nothing more than socialising with family and friends. For relaxation, I try and take holidays in interesting places and watch a variety of sports, either live or from the comfort of my home.

Bluefin and SAP S/4HANA - welcome to the one horse race

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