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Leveraging ERP and related technologies for a diverse customer experience

Nov. 17, 2023
Enterprise resource planning systems, CRMs and other tech such as RFID, barcoding, customer and supplier portals, blockchain, IoT, and GPS tracking all support this goal.

Modern ERP systems are no longer just about transactional processes and standard business processes. They are now pivotal in meeting customer requirements, supporting automation, and integrating other essential technologies like AI, IoT, CRM and e-commerce.

Companies must stand out from the crowd with a superior customer experience to sustain profitable growth during these turbulent times; however, service alone will no longer suffice. Companies must contain cost and mitigate risk. ERP and related technologies are key to achieving these objectives.

See also: How to pick the right ERP—and what happens when a manufacturer chooses wrong

During these turbulent times of supply chain disruptions, geopolitical risk, and stubborn inflation, companies must take bold action to mitigate risk, stabilize the supply chain, provide a customer service edge, and contain costs. As wars rage across the world, geopolitical risk has skyrocketed. If there is a disruption at one node in the end-to-end supply chain, the disruption can ripple throughout the entire chain. Executives realize that the risk is simply too high to count on the supply chain remaining stable without securing and gaining visibility to their full supply chain.

Similarly, as the world struggles with limited resources, high inflation and interest rates, there is an intense focus on cash flow and cost containment. Only those companies that automate, digitize, and utilize advanced technologies across their supply chains will be able to support customer requirements while maintaining and increasing profitability, productivity, and working capital. This will become even more critical as those companies that do not invest in their future will not be able to meet customers’ needs, leaving a vast opportunity for those ready to scale and meet customer requests.

Not enough to use your old ERP in new ways

Better utilizing an old ERP system will no longer suffice. To stand out from the crowd, you must go beyond these fundamentals and offer a differentiated or personalized customer experience.

For example, your ERP system must allow for progressive e-commerce capabilities that support not only B2C consumer expectations but also provides advantages for B2B customer ordering and status visibility with ease and effectiveness. Your ERP system should support customer personalization as well as product and service customization.

See also: How to pick the right ERP—More tips and tricks for the integration process

Similarly, a customer relationship management (CRM) system should be robust in tracking your pipeline, building relationships, and providing relevant insights and statistics of where to focus. Our most successful clients focus on analyzing CRM data, forecasting future customer needs, and utilizing these insights to build customer relationships.

The best clients combine CRM with a powerful business intelligence system to create predictive analytics and assess what if scenarios. The best companies connect directly with their customers’ data and provide proactive insights and differentiated value to their customers.

In addition to gaining sales, companies should utilize ERPs to take customer service to the next level with collaborative customer ordering programs and vendor managed inventory programs. By utilizing demand planning and sales forecasting including the use of AI and predictive analytics as well as replenishment planning and advanced planning functionality, clients can solidify their preferred partner status.

For example, a health care products manufacturer grew the business by outperforming their key customer’s resources in determining what to stock where. Not only did they increase their customer’s fill rate and shorten lead times, but they also reduced their customer’s inventory levels. The customer responded by expanding business and suggesting additional opportunities. In addition, the manufacturer reduced inventory levels and improved their production, warehousing, and transportation efficiencies. Profitability and cash flow increased.

Manufacturer technology that supports supply chain visibility

End-to-end supply chain visibility is essential to responding quickly to changing conditions and in providing Amazon-like status updates to your customers. Several technologies support this type of visibility, including RFID, barcoding, customer and supplier portals, blockchain, IoT, GPS tracking, and more. Smart companies are collaborating with supply chain partners to gain access to status information and to connect, plan, and optimize efficiencies across their supply chain.

For example, if you know the status of key materials, you can better plan production to minimize costs while meeting customer expectations. If you know the status of incoming goods, you can optimize truckloads and modes of transportation to mitigate costs while improving delivery performance.

See also: How to pick the right ERP—Negotiating the purchase and the end game

The metaverse can bring together what customers ask for with what customers need. In essence it can accelerate your SIOP (Sales Inventory Operations Planning) process. In a metaverse collaborative room, any set of customers, consumers, and suppliers can meet virtually to review sales forecasts, projected production plans, and possible supplier/capacity limitations that could affect manufacturing volume. They also can visualize an immersive supply chain network map, see where inventory is, identify issues, and model possible solutions. These types of proactive solutions will upgrade your ability to secure your supply chain, enhance margins, and provide end-to-end visibility.

The ever-increasing importance of automation

In addition to automating repetitive tasks, ERP systems and related technologies can keep facilities running at night without people. Since most clients have consciously prioritized which customers to serve due to limited resources, taking advantage of lights out capabilities is quite appealing.

See also: IoT’s game-changing role in modern asset management

For example, an aerospace manufacturer had a bottleneck in a critical area of the shop that required high-skilled resources to function which created significant past due and unhappy customers. This client purchased a robot and invested in high-skilled talent to modify the robot to work for their needs and connect it to their systems. They were able to program the robot during the day and run lights out on second and third shift, quickly resurrecting their customer service and supporting future growth.

As companies expand and upgrade the use of ERP and related technologies, they can create unique value for customers and in their supply chain. Taking it a step further, to thrive during these turbulent and inflationary times, it is important to automate, digitize, reduce repetitive labor requirements, increase efficiencies, and standardize so that more can be achieved with fewer resources. The best companies engage their people and connect with customers and suppliers to upgrade the end-to-end customer experience.

About the Author

Lisa Anderson

Lisa Anderson is founder and president of manufacturing and supply chain consulting firm LMA Consulting Group, which advises clients on fortifying their supply chains, ensuring resilience, and safeguarding profitability. She recently released “SIOP (Sales Inventory Operations Planning): Creating Predictable Revenue and EBITDA Growth”, a complimentary e-book on how to better navigate supply chain chaos and ensure profitable, scalable business growth.