Addressing the challenges of process manufacturing with ERP software

Process manufacturing industries are among some of the most heavily regulated, so it's hardly surprising they'll use whatever means necessary to make operations easier.

There are few industries that were immune to the effects of the global financial crisis and in many respects, process manufacturers are just starting to get back on their feet again.

This doesn't mean, however, that there aren't still challenges to be faced. Ageing infrastructure and high costs are just two of the issues that need to be overcome on a daily basis.

Process manufacturers are also facing difficulties when it comes to complying with new environmental and safety regulations. Companies are expected to be proactive in their approach to these issues, which isn't always easy.

With inaction no longer an option, the process manufacturing industry will need to evolve to cope with these issues – and ERP solutions could be just what's required to make this happen.

What is process manufacturing?

Perhaps the best way to understand the issues facing process manufacturers is to understand exactly what their operations entail.

Simply put, they create products that following the manufacturing process, are unable to be returned to their original form. This includes everything from wine and soft drink production through to the creation of plastic products.

While each company will come up against its own specific challenges, there are some common problems that affect the industry as a whole.

What challenges are process manufacturers up against?

One of the greatest difficulties faced by process manufacturing companies is the need to stay ahead of the competition. As with many other industries, the market is highly competitive, leaving businesses desperately looking for a point of difference.

This comes at a time when customer demands are growing – people are expecting more for their money, as well as top quality customer service to match.

Process manufacturers need to delicately balance the need to provide a great service with cost controls. Spend too much and the bottom line will be affected, invest too little and quality could be jeopardised.

Quality control must be at the centre of everything a process manufacturer does, but strict environmental and safety standards may mean this isn't easy.

Every stage of the process is subject to heavy scrutiny, so companies need a means of gaining a complete overview of their operations that enables them to meet all the necessary regulations.

Why are ERP solutions so popular?

With inefficient infrastructure to compete with and the need to constantly stay ahead of the game, it's hardly surprising companies are looking for ways to enhance their industry specific business processes.

ERP software gives ultimate visibility into projects, enabling process manufacturers to enhance the efficiency of their operations while reducing the risk of failure.

In turn, customers can be more satisfied with the products and services they receive, giving manufacturers that head start they so desperately need.

There are many challenges faced by the sector, so a good ERP solution should address all of them and generally make the company more streamlined and efficient.

[Mike Lorge is Managing Director of Sage Business Solutions.]

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