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Top 5 Questions to Ask When Choosing an ERP System

May 25, 2017
By: Mark Stevens

Ho w to Choose and ERP System 

When a job shop outgrows its existing business management software (or when it’s grown to a size that requires it), it’s time to invest in an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system that can meet the diverse needs of the company and, ultimately, its customers.

With growth comes an influx of data about your supply chain, procurement, inventory, customer service, finance, production, human resources and more. Integrating all that information into actionable intelligence using an ERP system will streamline processes and improve productivity—positioning your company to pursue new markets and achieve sustainable growth. If you’re in the market for an ERP system, ask yourself the following questions to guide you toward the right ERP for your job shop.

1. What Problem Needs To Be Solved?
Something brought you to the point of considering an ERP system. What was it – staff inefficiencies? Erratic inventory levels? Production overruns? Shipping issues? Vendor management? It’s likely a combination of factors. Talk with your team about the most pressing challenges and outline them in order of importance. When talking with an ERP provider, make sure your greatest challenges can be resolved with the software you’re considering. ERP systems can have impact throughout your job shop, with the potential to improve:

  • Financial Management — revenue tracking, invoicing, audits, compliance, reporting
  • Sales and Marketing — pipeline and productivity, order processing efficiency
  • Manufacturing Performance — inventory, staff scheduling, production efficiency
  • IT Management — support resources, server costs and maintenance, disaster recovery

2. How Will the ERP Integrate with Our Existing Systems?An ERP system ties all the business activities of various departments together rather than continue to have them operate in silos, each using their own management tools. But there may be a few tools that will remain in use, so ask your ERP provider to outline how any that remain in place will integrate with your new system.

3. How User Friendly is the System?
he functionality of a system is important, but if users find it too complicated to use and understand, it will increase frustrations and do little to improve operations. It may, in fact, be a detriment to the organization. Because so many departments within a job shop will use an ERP system, ease of use is critical. Look for an ERP with an intuitive user interface, customizable reporting tools, and accessibility from anywhere using the Cloud. This last factor is increasingly important as employees become more mobile. Equipping your sales force with access to production and order status information in real time from a mobile device could make or break a potential sale.

4. Will the System Improve Visibility Throughout My Shop?
Everyone, whether on the production floor or in the field or front office, should be able to access the reports they need to make the best decisions: where a job is in the production cycle, where inventory levels are, the latest material order status and shipping schedules are just a few. A ERP consultant should guide you toward a system that captures and integrates data across the organization.

5. What Type of Support Can I Expect?
This may be one of the most important questions you can ask when it comes to choosing an ERP solution. A system is only as good as the people who stand behind it. When choosing an ERP, look just as closely at the insights, experience and attention provided by the vendor as you would the features of the product they’re selling. Look for a consultant with expertise who specializes in the unique needs that your business presents and who has experience in manufacturing and job shops in particular. 

Ask for case studies and referrals to guide you choice of system and consultant. In short, look for a provider as concerned with your success as you are, and a system that’s got the capabilities to help you achieve it.

If you’re considering an ERP solution, reach out to one of our Wipfli experts. We’ll provide a free consultation and gladly address all these questions and more.


Mark Stevens
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