How Will an ERP System Benefit My Business?

Keeping an SME afloat requires countless processes and duties that are spread across several departments, all of which require finance and human workforce. From budget planning to CRM and stock control, when you’re undertaking these processes manually, inefficiencies will build up over time, mistakes due to human error will be made and it will be much harder for you to scale in an ever-changing and competitive climate. For any business looking to maximise ROI and evolve, implementing an ERP system could be the way forward. 

What is ERP?

ERP stands for ‘Enterprise Resource Planning’ and is a category of business software that unifies day-to-day processes across various departments, such as human resources, purchase capacity, order processing, payroll and much more. 

What makes ERP a desirable solution for distributors and wholesalers is the fact that it facilitates information flow between all business functions and manages connections to outside stakeholders, customers and vendors, therefore making it much easier to keep track of all aspects within a business.

Which industries will benefit the most from an ERP System?

Whilst ERP was originally designed for large corporations, there’s an increase in the number of SMEs who are choosing to implement an ERP system, as it helps aid business growth and development. Enterprises across various industries can implement an ERP solution that can be tailored to their specific needs and goals. The industries benefitting from ERP include:

● Wholesale & Distribution
● Manufacturing
● Construction
● Professional Services
● Healthcare
● Industrial Services
● Retail
● Farming
● Hospitality

What value does an ERP system have to a growing business?

Many businesses struggle to scale because their day-to-day processes and admin tasks take up a huge amount of resource and time. A survey undertaken by the Federation of Small Businesses had shown that small business owners in the UK spend an average of four days a month on internal business admin, and 76% of owners said they’d spent more time than they’d have liked on business compliance tasks such as accounting tasks, tax and workplace pensions. When owners are spending more than 33 hours a month on admin tasks, it becomes detrimental to the growth of their business, as they do not have the time to work on real business activity.  

Daily processes that are crucial to the longevity of your company shouldn’t be holding you back, and this is where an ERP solution comes in. When tailored correctly, ERP software can automate and reduce the amount of time spent on admin tasks. Here are some more benefits of an ERP system. 

TB Davies, a leading UK supplier of professional access equipment and ladders, implemented prof.ITplus. This meant that their staff spent less time on repetitive tasks, and instead were able to focus on the business at hand. 

The Head of Business Development at TB Davies said: 

"We have also found that repetitive processes such as sales and purchase order entry are more streamlined, something staff have fed back as a big positive; they can focus on more interesting tasks. And of course, because the data behind the modules is more consistent, our accuracy in all our business processes has improved."

Improve business performance and create better stability

From meeting tax deadlines to reducing labour costs and managing the operations, ERP software helps organise thousands of different processes and manage the back-end admin jobs they all require. Think about it - having a software solution that consistently updates and maintains these duties throughout the year will not only improve your overall business performance, it will help to maximise profits, therefore creating more stability in terms of market competition. 

Stay on top of business data across all departments 

When implemented properly, ERP systems give departments within a business access to the same real-time data, reducing the risk of employees making decisions that are based on non-standardised, disparate data. Because data is stored in the same place and can be accessed via secure login credentials, even field staff can work remotely using the same pricing grids, stock figures, schedules and much more. 

With real-time, accurate data (such as finances and inventory management) being stored in one central place, accurate forecasting becomes much quicker and easier as it is all built-in and presented on a simple dashboard. This is imperative for owners who are looking to make business decisions in order to scale.  

Stay on top of product and/or service performance

As data is updated in real-time and presented in easy-to-see and easy-to-use reports, keeping an eye on customer journeys, open sales, warehouse management and stock control becomes much easier. All the data is synchronised which means inventory is also updated in real-time, so you know exactly what is available. This then gives you the ability to not only improve sales performance, you can also undertake company analysis. You’ll then be able to identify any pain points within the business, look at staff productivity, identify your best employees and reduce any unnecessary cost.

Stock Control and Warehouse Management

An ERP system means that you can not only keep on top of your growing portfolio of products, it also means you’ll have even further control of stock, and in turn, warehouse management. 
 
You’ll have an overview of stock levels, which means you can keep track of stock, and purchase more stock when levels are getting low. Alongside this, you’ll be able to see which products your best sellers are, any dead stock, and you’ll know exactly where it’s located in the warehouse, making it much easier for your employees to find.  

UK-based cleaning products supplier, System Hygiene Ltd found that implementing an ERP System meant that staff could be more reactive to customer enquiries and orders and so much more. They were also able to organise their warehouse and strengthen their product portfolio. 

"Our ERP software, prof.Itplus, allowed us to be more responsive to customers' needs, buy better and sell smarter, minimise overstock and free up warehouse space for stronger selling lines. prof.ITplus provided a systematic way of growing our portfolio and managing our stock. With deep analytics, we now know how ranges or even individual products are performing, which markets have room for growth, and what lifestyle stage our portfolio was at.”

Communication across departments becomes much easier 

All communications (whether customer or employee), documentation and products are all stored in one place within an ERP system. From new-starter documents and payroll records for employees to phone calls with customers or new product information, when it is all located within one central place, communication between employees and departments becomes much easier. This also means that employees are kept up-to-date with product performance, new product launches, customer interaction, status of an order and so much more. 

Quality control

ERP software gives you the control of the quality of services and products and everything else you offer. The real-time data provided means that you can streamline labour costs, increase efficiency in terms of employee productivity, reduce unnecessary costs and more. For any company wanting to scale, quality control should start at the top with management and filter down. Quality control is a way of life within the business, and ERP offers a range of powerful tools to aid and reinforce this. 

Streamline your customer service

Employees will be able to provide better customer service, as they will have a holistic view of the customer’s journey and history, in one central place. 

For example, if you have better management of your warehouse and stock, you’ll be able to send orders out much quicker, therefore improving your efficiency, giving you time to improve your customer service. Alongside this, you can automate shipment notifications and order status. 

Embrass Peerless implemented an ERP system and found that it streamlined their ‘picking’ process, which meant they could increase the number of orders they clear. 

"Every member of staff in the warehouse logs onto a handheld device and each employee has their own individual barcode. It’s really quickened our ‘picking’ process and the scanners are universal; anyone can, and everyone does, use them. It’s not unusual for a member of staff to pick in excess of 1,000 products a week; before we started using the Warehouse Management System we picked nowhere near those numbers."

What to consider before buying an ERP software

Cloud or On-Premise?

For SMEs who are considering buying an ERP system, one of the most important decisions an owner will have to make is whether you deploy an ERP system that’s in the cloud, on-premise, or a hybrid of the two. 

According to the 2018 ERP Software Report, there was a significant increase in businesses choosing a hybrid of SaaS and cloud deployments (85%) in comparison to 15% of businesses choosing on-premise ERP deployment. However, that’s not to say that an on-premise solution will not work for some SMEs - both come with their own advantages and disadvantages.  

Pros and cons of on-premise ERP software 

● On-premise ERP systems are much easier to modify and customise.
● Your business will have more control of the software and its updates.
● Data security and cyber security becomes your sole responsibility. 
● Mobile accessibility may become a problem, as this usually requires third-party communication between a mobile device and the on-premise software. 

Pros and cons of cloud-based ERP software 

● Cloud-based ERP software has strict standards in terms of cyber security and data protection.
● Many cloud-based ERP systems allow easy mobile accessibility and offer native mobile apps for various devices. 
● Reduced customisation and flexibility in terms of tailoring to specialised needs. 

Pros and cons of hybrid ERP software

● Hybrid ERP allows for loose coupling between modules, therefore making it much more flexible. 
● A Hybrid ERP solution combines the cloud-based solution with small, core solutions that are on-premise, therefore reducing manufacturing and financial costs. 
● Asset and product-centric industries such as media and professional services are able to customise certain functionalities to suit their business needs. 
● Hybrid ERP may have compatibility issues due to dual infrastructure. 

Think about any industry trends

Before you make that all-important decision, you should think about the direction your industry is taking, and whether there are any upcoming seasonal trends or events. You need to make sure the ERP solution you choose can keep up with industry standards and put you ahead of the curve. If you choose a dated ERP system that’s limited in terms of customisation, you’ll be at risk of being left behind, therefore losing your competitive edge. From seasonality to political changes, this should all factor in. 

Do your research on the ERP provider

From Microsoft Dynamics AX and SAGE Intacct to smaller, more specialist providers such as OGL Software, there are thousands of ERP software vendors out there - you just need to find one that works for your business. When researching different suppliers, make sure you check out their testimonials and reviews so that you can get a feel for the reputation of the business. Alongside this, you should ask the following: 
● Has it got the latest essential features, such as MTD and MRP? 
● Does the software have regular updates and upgrades to keep it compliant?
● Can you personalise the features and criteria of the software to meet the needs of your business? 
● Can it be configured to your needs with minimal effort or is it just an out-of-the-box solution?  
● What level of support will you have during this time?
● How secure is this new ERP system? 

If you want an ERP system that will help your business scale, you need to find a solution that not only complements your business goals, but improves your existing processes. 

Speak to your customers and vendors

Your customers and suppliers are the people you do business with every day, so why not talk to them and get insight into any areas you can make easier for them? Because they have a different view of your business, they’ll have a fresh perspective. Speaking to suppliers and customers will not only help you identify what features you need, it will ensure growth and success. 

Review your day-to-day processes

If you want an ERP system that will streamline your day-to-day processes and make life easier for everyone across the board, you need to know how each process works and exactly what goes into it. Look into how your employees do their work, and then innovate and streamline the processes. How do you expect to have the foundations of the process if you don’t know exactly what goes into it all? 

What to consider when switching to a new ERP system

Most SMEs choose to stay with their ERP system for 12 to 15 years , and what worked for them a decade ago might not work for them now. The ERP industry is evolving at a fast pace, and there’s a chance that your employees have become complacent and accepted the limitations that your current ERP system has. If you’re considering switching or migrating to a new ERP solution, you should take the following into consideration. 

What’s included in the implementation phase?

If you’re looking at switching, you should always find out what is included in the implementation phase from prospective suppliers. From finding out how long it is expected to take to questioning how your data will be transferred (and what the backup process is), this is all crucial for your company. You should also find out what level of training is provided, and whether this transition will be easy for your employees.

What do you want to achieve with your new ERP?

When it comes to switching to a new solution, you should know exactly what you’re trying to achieve, and what your business goals are. From recruiting more staff to introducing new products or centralising your existing processes, you need to know exactly what you want, so that your new system can help get you there. 

What are your essential requirements?

Should you choose to switch, you need to make sure you’re transitioning to a software that is not only doing what your existing one does - it is doing it better. Think about exactly what your current system does that you can’t do without, and any other requirements that you cannot compromise on. This is very important for a niche service that needs particular functions. 

Conclusion

ERP software provides one central solution that will help you manage your core business processes, therefore reducing the amount of time spent on admin tasks and inventory. Alongside this, managing financial operations such as tax, accounting and budgets is more accurate and can be synchronised with cash flow, business purchases and procurement. When you free up unnecessary admin and inventory time, you’ll have more time to spend growing your business, and the tools you need to do so. 

However, implementing a holistic ERP solution that will cater to the needs of your business takes research, time and is costly. But once this is done, you can ensure your supply chain is uninterrupted, cut back on costs and stay on top of every aspect of your business. Alongside this, the modern ERP software is exceedingly flexible, and can scale alongside your business. 

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