Manufacturing Tomorrow


Boosting Visibility Into Your Supply Chain to Improve Performance

Jan 24, 2017
Manufacturing and Distribution


Supply chain visibility continues to be a hot topic because its value to manufacturers can’t be overstated: visibility into a discrete manufacturer’s entire supply chain, from procurement to final delivery, is the best—if not the only—way to profitably grow your business and sustain that growth. Visibility and the improvements it makes possible could very well be the difference between an organization satisfying its customers and achieving its growth goals, or lagging behind, losing share and permanently eroding its position in the market.

A Simple Concept

What visibility means, simply, is that you know what’s happening at every level, at every moment, at every point in your supply chain. It means having cold, hard data about every process involved in manufacturing your products in order to understand where challenges and hurdles are, where you’re underperforming, and where opportunities lie for improvement and growth.

Getting that visibility, fortunately, is relative simple. A 360° view of your business is possible by using sophisticated, easy-to-use software tools that closely monitor raw materials, shipping, production, equipment, transportation, warehousing, quotes and estimates, billing…everything that’s part of running your business. These tools, the most effective of which are enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions, automate and integrate core processes so improvements can be made in a way that benefits the organization holistically rather than just a handful of functional areas.

Improvement Potential

Exactly how all this visibility allows for improvement is fairly simple, too: what gets measured gets improved, and all the data generated through an ERP system becomes the insight needed to make better decisions, faster.

According to a study by Nucleus Research, businesses that take advantage of the power of an ERP system:
- Accelerate their financial close times by up to 50 percent
- Increase sales productivity by 12.5 percent
- Increase inventory turns by 50 percent, among other efficiencies

Visibility tools look not just at specific key performance indicators (KPIs—like inventory turns, for example), but also look more broadly at trends and workflows, interactions, causes-and-effects. You can track workflow events, for example, from purchase order all the way through fulfillment to delivery confirmation. You can also add partners and suppliers to get even greater insights into the entire chain of events.

An ERP system also automates many of your business processes (like lead-to-cash, order-to-fulfillment and procure-to-pay processes), making them more efficient, more accurate, and faster. With automation in place, your people have more time to dedicate to activities that contribute to profitability.

In addition to the above benefits, you’ll also be able to:
- Help ensure financial compliance.
- Track all of your equipment to determine which is generating the most revenue and which just isn’t delivering ROI.
- Determine the right inventory and pricing mix to satisfy your needs and customers.
- Track inventory to help you avoid having too much or too little on hand.
- Automatically trigger orders based on inventory.
- Create an online employee portal stocked with frequently requested documents and information, like training videos, forms, manuals and others, to cut down on training and HR time.
- Track invoices to make contact easier and more accurate.

Not sure an ERP is right for your discrete manufacturing business?

If you say “yes” to any of the statements below, it’s time to talk to the experts at Wipfli. We have deep experience with manufacturers and have the knowledge to help you make the most of an ERP and grow your business:
- You have a lot of different software programs handling the different processes involved in your supply chain.
- You don’t have easy access to information (or a depth of information) about your business.
- Departments and functions are sometimes at cross purposes; what’s good for one isn’t always good for the other.
- Few, if any, workflows/processes are automated; most are time-consuming and largely manual.
- It’s difficult to act quickly and effectively on data—either that data isn’t there or it doesn’t indicate the right next steps.

Only when you have accurate, real-time information about what’s going on throughout your supply chain can you improve how your business performs as a whole. And when performance improves, you’ve got a far greater chance of satisfying your customers, making your organization more efficient and profitable, and opening up the opportunities related to new products, new markets, and new customers.

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