Our manufacturers’ guide to finance and data, the tools that will improve your business and drive greater efficiency.

We help improve businesses across Scotland every day and have pulled out 4 areas most businesses could benefit from. We will start with finance and data as these are the two areas that power everything else. The 4 areas highlighted in this article can apply to manufacturers of all shapes and sizes from production lines with single products to engineer to order type companies.

The two main tools this comes down to are ERP and Data. An ERP (enterprise resource planning) is a fully integrated back office finance system that can join up different areas of your business such as; finance, operations, sales, CRM and give you one unified view of how your business is doing. Microsoft’s ERP is called Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations, formerly known as Dynamics AX. This solution is available via the cloud or there is the on-site alternative (known as Local Business Data) and is the key to unlocking efficiency. Without an ERP you don’t have the information in one place which makes it difficult to effectively make informed decisions.

The other is data and this can be split into 2 areas; improved access to data, this is delivered by Microsoft via a number of tools including Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations with Power BI providing you with better access. The second is analytics, these tools can help you analyse and extract the value from your data, this is delivered through enhanced processing power, artificial intelligence and a range of other analytics tools to extract the value out of your data and importantly those insights that can be used to drive improvements. This is delivered by Microsoft through Azure, Azure Machine Learning and Cortana Intelligence. 

The 4 key ways this can help manufacturing companies are;

  1. Supply chain management – Using your supplier data, you can easily catalogue all your suppliers and orders, this will help you identify what suppliers are late or provide poorer quality produce and how often/likely they are to again. Using this you can more effectively ensure you always have the supplies you need without having to stock high levels just in case. This reduces storage and wastage costs and ensures you meet your orders. This also takes into account complex demand planning to help you predict that next up turn and never miss out on an opportunity, read how Harbro does it here. For food or products with an expiration date this can also be used to reduce wastage by predicting down turns and planning supplies accordingly.
  2. Process optimisation – As the ERP is integrated across your systems and business, it removes certain manual tasks across the operations. It moves all interactions into the system removing the need for paperwork throughout the production process. This removes the issue of things like out of date job packs and access to the information. This allows you to quickly reschedule and change your production quickly based on changing information as it can all be updated through the one system.  There is no longer a need to manually communicate updates and figures across departments as this is all updated in the system in real time and accessible through a range of customisable reports. It also drives huge savings in terms of financial reports as these can be created with the click of a button rather than in many cases days of manual effort every time. This goes further to updating things like material costs and can drastically reduce the admin required in the day to day finance jobs. This can be extended across your whole operation by using the data and analytics you can identify slow or failing processes and focus on improving these.
  3. Predictive Approach. Using machine learning you can use past maintenance/error data to predict when the next fault is likely to happen. Does this really work? Find out how JABIL used this to accurately predict 80% of failures or slowdowns in their manufacturing processes, read the JABIL case study. This applies not just in your manufacturing process in terms of quality control but works for your manufacturing tools and can reduce down time by tackling. This is all done by proactively using the data to identify possible future faults and dealing with them before they happen, removing down time and improving quality. For equipment providers that provide ongoing support this can even be applied to improve your customer service and be extended to your customer’s equipment, helping you keep them running more.
  4. Streamline your IT – You can reduce your IT costs or improve the productivity of your IT department by moving to the cloud. This reduces the need for servers and the maintenance resource required for this, it also means you only pay for the services you use, allowing you to easily scale up or down the amount you are paying for based on use. This allows your IT team to focus on improving your business or allows you to reduce your costs.


If you would be interested in having a further conversation around ERP and data and how it could work for your business, contact us to start building the case today.


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