In this article, you'll learn about ...

  • How assembly-specific ERP software ensures consistent quality and greater traceability

  • The myths of ERP software and why they are myths

  • Benefits and functions of assembly-specific ERP

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) software gathers and disseminates critical management information across your entire organization. It can run every aspect of your company, including manufacturing, accounting, sales and human resources.

Over the course of a long career in the manufacturing ERP software market, I have heard all the common objections from assemblers regarding ERP software:

  • ERP is for only discrete manufacturers—I specialize in assembly processes.
  • ERP is only for large organizations. My business is too small, and our spreadsheets are working just fine.
  • ERP requires too much customization and a dedicated IT staff. 

Don’t be fooled by these myths. ERP software can greatly improve all aspects of your operation and bring your company to the next level of competitiveness. The benefits are endless, provided you select the right software for your business.

Assembly-specific ERP software can ensure consistent quality and greater traceability within your processes. It can en-hance tracking of routing structures and help you identify product availability and costs at each stage of production.

Other benefits of ERP software include:

  • Real-time visibility into every aspect of your production, alerting you to the exact status of your products at every stage of the assembly process.
  • Improved customer and vendor service with complete sales, support, purchase and shipping history.
  • Increased inventory control, including better forecasting, tracking and material planning for improved purchasing decisions and just-in-time assembly.
  • A consolidated picture of your entire organization, complete with business intelligence data such as key performance indica-tors and overall equipment effectiveness.
  • Full financial management that covers all your operations whether local or global, including payroll, process costing and fixed assets.
  • Quality control, including lot traceability, serialized inventory, document control, statistical process control, corrective actions and engineering change orders.
  • Streamlined processes, workflows, data and operations.

Software Features

Assembly processes can be complex and varied, so your ERP software should be as well. When searching for ERP software, don’t settle for a one-size-fits-all package. There are manufacturing ERP systems that offer assembly-related features to greatly improve your ROI and success. 

Key features include integration, scalability, ease of use, mobile interfacing, real-time data access, and industry-specific functions.

To truly give manufacturers a complete picture of their business, ERP software must be fully integrated with any other software that shares the same data. I’m not

To truly give manufacturers a complete picture of their business, ERP software must be fully integrated with any other software that shares the same data. 

talking about “best of breed,” bolted-together options that require third party add-ons. These types of options often lead to integration problems, expensive customization and missing data. Find an ERP system that offers everything in one package, including customer relationship management, inventory control, e-commerce, Web portals, quality management and sales. The transition and visibility of data across every aspect of your business should be seamless.

Scalability is also important. The ERP system should be able to grow with your company in terms of both modules and number of users.

Don’t underestimate the power of a user-friendly interface when adopting new technology. A nonintegrated ERP system will have differing screens and multiple ways of doing things that will ultimately require extra training and delay adoption by your employees.

Tablets, smart phones, scanners and other electronic devices have entered the manufacturing workplace. A good ERP system should have apps to take advantage of these devices.

Data is critical to the success of any operation, but only if it is timely. Receiving reports and data 24 hours after a product is assembled is not useful and certainly does not allow you to take a proactive approach to managing your operations.

Industry-specific functions are critical. A cookie-cutter approach to software will only lead to costly customization or workarounds. ERP software packages are available to meet your specific processes. Seek out assembly-specific features to assist with production planning, product lifecycle management and quality management. Particularly helpful are features such as dispatch lists, labor reporting, subassembly support and line clearance security.

Assembly-specific ERP functions include:

  • Assembly configuration flexibility. Whether your assembly processes are workcenter-based, line-based, application-based or a combination of many types, ERP software should offer industry-specific options for both continuous and batch production.
  • Bill of materials (BOM) management. Assemblers need flexibility to create unlimited processes and attach them to assembly-specific BOMs for visibility across every step of production. Make sure your software choice supports multiple processes and multiple cycle times that create one unique product or multiple products, depending on your need.
  • Kanban capability. ERP software should provide tools to support a kanban inventory-control system.
  • Labor reporting. Some ERP software has the ability to measure labor per process or per shift, track products at each stage or at the end, and report scrap and defect rates for each assembly process.
  • Process security. ERP software can give assemblers the ability to certify separate processes or specific employees. The software should also provide the ability to assign manager rights for line clearance and final assembly approval.
  • Product lifecycle management. Can you track products from the design and quoting process through assembly and end of life?
  • Production planning. The software should allow you to handle detailed fabrication and assembly routings, capacity planning and subassembly controls.
  • Scheduling flexibility. Whether you require dispatch lists, finite scheduling, or a mix of the two, your employees should be able to electronically log in to their specific dispatch lists for the day to receive job details and operation schedules directly from their workstations.

ERP software can increase productivity, bring in new business, and elevate your company to the next level. With the right fit and assembly-specific features, ERP can take you into the future.