Q&A: manufacturing can overcome today’s industry challenges
In this Q&A, I ask our manufacturing industry expert, Antony Bourne, to answer five questions about how manufacturing companies can improve business performance.
As the Vice President of Global Industry Sales at IFS, Antony’s responsibilities include acting as the Global Industry Director for Industrial Manufacturing and High-Tech Manufacturing as well as managing the other global industry directors.
Antony has over 20 years of experience in the IT industry, including working in the manufacturing sector. Prior to joining IFS in 1997, he held Business Analyst positions with Ford Motor Company and AlliedSignal. During this time, he implemented enterprise resource planning (ERP) software as well as business process improvements.
Some manufacturers still use spreadsheets to prepare quotes. What are the drawbacks of this method and what should manufacturers be doing instead?
Answer: While spreadsheets are good for many things, they were not designed to store documents, notes, email conversations and related information that are essential parts of estimating—and neither are they very good at version control. Relying on spreadsheets for estimating eliminates any chances to effectively collaborate on them as well. We’ve all heard (and experienced) what happens when you email spreadsheets around with team members and you end up updating different versions of the same document.
Also, given the world that we now live in, many regulations have an impact on spreadsheets. Over the last two decades, there has been a growth in regulations that directly affect spreadsheet-based data, with associated compliance being difficult to conform with, if at all possible.
When I visit manufacturers and see their current processes, the estimating spreadsheets are often created by individuals who have very little IT expertise. This means that, eventually, the spreadsheet files become highly personalized and difficult to explain to others. So, when it’s time for a new person to take over as part of a business or personnel change, the new-comer may have to start again from scratch.
Once I show them how estimating functionality is a part of our ERP solution, they immediately see the benefits.
What processes should a manufacturing organization automate and what are the benefits of doing so?
Answer: The processes that can be automated using the functionality are the workflow from the estimate process and the subsequent quote process through to the creation of the associated data. These processes are done by different people. So, by automating them, the real-time notification of when someone needs to action their stage becomes the norm and timescales shrink.
Which solutions will help increase the efficiency of a manufacturing business and how?
Answer: The efficiency of a manufacturer can be increased in a number of areas, not just in the estimating department. Collaboration between internal departments can be increased. For example, during the estimating process, both the sales and finance teams have access to it and ensure that the budgets, margins and assumptions are correct. This will mean that if the estimate/quotation is approved by the customer, then the details will automatically be converted into an order and BOMs created/updated as required with no need for the re-input of data.
This whole process eliminates redundancy, increases accuracy and breaks down departmental silos and gets teams working more cohesively and efficiently.
What unique advantages would a manufacturer gain as an IFS customer?
Answer: The main advantage that manufacturers would gain as an IFS customer is that of having a supplier who is focused on their industry and has a solution that meets their requirements today as well as tomorrow. The manufacturing industry is the largest focused industry at IFS and customer advisory councils ensure that customers can meet senior executives as well as R&D to see and affect what is being developed. The IFS solution allows today’s manufacturer to digitally transform their business with Industry 4.0 capabilities and help them on their journey to become a smart factory.
There are several IFS customers that have used IFS solutions and expertise to overcome today’s industry challenges. Do you have one that you can share?
Answer: Yes, one example is Mekoprint where the company has digitized its business flows. As Mekoprint’s CIO, Lars Bo Nielsen, says in their customer story:
“Employees use iPads or iPods to view and update everything from production orders and time and attendance registration to information on production, inventory and distribution, work instructions and guidelines, and quality documentation. The entire digital flow is based on IFS business logic, which gives a great overview of the company. All data is live, so if there is a delay in production or shipping, even the sales team knows immediately”
Another example is NEC which has streamlined its operations as well as improved its competitiveness.