By Marius Wessels, Manager: Professional Services for SYSPRO Africa
In the fast-paced world of manufacturing, staying ahead of the competition requires constant adaptation and optimisation. Tempting as it is to stick to the ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ credo, one crucial aspect of maintaining a competitive edge lies in regularly updating Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems.
The investment in an ERP system is a significant one for any manufacturer, and it takes time, effort and resources to get an out-of-the-box system customized and tailored to the business’s requirements. Combine this with the costs of maintaining on-premise systems, and it’s easy to understand why many manufacturers are reluctant to incur additional costs and downtime for system updates or upgrades.
Keeping up with features and functionality
Regular ERP updates are an essential part of keeping any ERP system operating at maximum capacity. Regular ERP system updates introduce new features, functionality and performance enhancements that build on existing features to streamline operations, improve productivity, and enhance efficiency throughout the manufacturing process. Updates may also fix little bugs, manage small tweaks or effect repairs to the product.
An ERP system has touchpoints across the entire business – from inventory management and supply chain optimization to production planning and customer relations management. Failing to keep up to date with system updates will eventually erode operational functionality, and not regularly updating an ERP system also means that the company could be missing out on new features and functionality that could help improve their business. Another key reason to stay current with updates is to remain compliant with the latest industry regulations as regulatory requirements, compliance standards and best practices evolve.
Constant evolution is a business prerogative
No business stays static, and as businesses grow, so does the complexity of their operations. To match this, ERP software solutions also constantly evolve and develop to provide the latest functionality, integration and applications. Upgrading ERP systems regularly allows for seamless integration with other business processes and avoids the dreaded data siloes. This enhances visibility across the business and improves data accuracy, which in turn leads to more informed data-led decision-making.
As the flow of data increases exponentially with the introduction of AI and IoT devices throughout the manufacturing process, the ability to extract valuable and actionable data insights becomes more and more crucial for manufacturers. Regular ERP updates often introduce advanced reporting and analytics capabilities, enabling a real-time view of key performance indicators and the chance to identify and resolve bottlenecks and blockers to growth before they have a material impact on productivity or efficiency.
Businesses never let up, and neither do nefarious players intent on benefitting from business disruption. In an era where cybercrime presents a real and constant threat, keeping up to date with software improvements is also essential for keeping security measures relevant to safeguard valuable and critical business data. Outdated security patches make any system vulnerable to hacking or unauthorized access. Preventing a breach is far less onerous than responding once an incident has occurred. Regular updates will provide manufacturers with the latest security patches, bug fixes and vulnerability resolutions, all of which work to ensure robust data protection, compliance, and risk mitigation.
Updates versus upgrades
Updates are the regular, ongoing, fine-tuning and enhancement of your existing system. However, in a constantly evolving IT landscape, upgrades can only take a system so far. At some point, it becomes necessary to upgrade the business’s ERP system, particularly if your business has grown and in doing so, has outgrown the current ERP system and functionality, or your system is running an older version of software which is no longer supported. In some instances, customization or an ISV (independent software vendor) solution can extend functionality, but in other instances, a system upgrade is necessary.
For manufacturers who rely on seamless and ongoing operations to keep their inventory and supply chain flowing smoothly, this can feel daunting. However, clinging to outdated systems will ultimately prove to be a drag on the business as more updated functionality and features are missed out on. While a system upgrade may be viewed as an added cost, an outdated ERP system requires more maintenance and support, which will create additional costs in the long run. And of course, the longer an outdated system is retained, the more complicated the upgrade becomes. ERP system vendors take great pains to ensure that upgrades are as frictionless as possible, so in this instance, being a late adopter holds no benefits.
Outdated systems frustrate users, which can lead to a drop in productivity, or worse, encourage users to take shortcuts or use the system inappropriately, which could lead to unintended negative consequences. Keeping an ERP system up to date ensures that it’s working to its full capacity and ensures that manufacturers are getting the most out of their investment to compete effectively in a competitive marketplace.