IT Untangled: IT and Manufacturing -- The Big Picture
Every industry has specialized information technology (IT) needs. And while some needs spill over into multiple industries, the relationship between manufacturing and IT is a special one.
The IT umbrella probably encompasses more than you realize. From accounting software to the assembly lines you use daily – IT is your biggest fan. And as technology and automation become a bigger part of the manufacturing process, the IT department becomes even more critical to keeping it all running.
Believe it or not, Accent Computer Solutions, Inc’s history is rooted in manufacturing. In our humble beginnings, we started as a manufacturing software company, more than 30 years ago.
When your goal as a manufacturer is to expand and grow, some things need to be considered. Let’s explore how IT plays into the big picture of it all.
How IT Infrastructure Advances Operations in Manufacturing
As a manufacturer, your primary goal is to sail smoothly through your processes. In other words, production can never stop. Your business process should be an uninterrupted workforce. This is where IT comes in.
When working with a managed IT service provider (MSP), their primary focus is to keep you up and running – they want to maximize your performance, your efficiency, and of course, increase your competitive edge. This, however, can be a bit tricky if your hardware and technology aren’t in sync.
Manufacturers and IT are a collaborative effort. It starts with what do you need:
- Ability to share databases across different platforms and departments
- See real-time data on your process
- Inventory and order management
- Access points for your mobile devices
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
Implementing wireless capabilities to your infrastructure is also essential. The ability to access data on mobile devices can increase productivity for your company. Things like access points keep your warehouse operating smoothly with a secure, reliable wireless connection. Things like forklift communication or touch activation will be ready to go, saving time to get the job done. Consult your MSP to see what type of wireless system your business needs and where it can help increase overall productivity for your employees.
Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Software and What to Expect From your IT Service Provider
First and foremost, it is not your IT department’s job to sell you a product. It is, however, their job to help you find the right product for your company and implement it.
Here is a quick breakdown of how your ERP factors into your IT support.
- IT department or MSP should help facilitate the ERP software selection process – think: reviewing which would be best. Often times, they’ll bring in a Business Analyst or a Supply Chain Specialist to help executives evaluate the options.
- Have your IT team and ERP vendor work together to assure that all requirements are met before implementation.
- Have a procedure setup for post-implementation support with your vendor and your IT team.
- Collaborate with the software developer to implement and test the software.
- Create a plan for user configuration/cross over.
- After implementation, your IT team should be the point of contact for system issues. They’ll work with the software vendor to fix the issues. If custom reports or other customizations need to be made, a Business Analyst or ERP specialist may be needed.
These steps are not set in stone, and if you use a different method, do what works for you – different companies have different skills and different needs.
Keep in mind, you wouldn’t expect a new IT person to know custom software on their first day of work. So, you shouldn’t expect your IT department to know the ins and outs EVERY ERP system.
This is an all-hands-on-deck kind of project. While your IT team is talented, cooperation between executives, IT and the ERP vendor is necessary to make sure all goes according to plan.
IT and the Future of Manufacturing – Implementing New Infrastructure
Are you thinking about investing in equipment with more automation capabilities? With the speed at which customers are expecting products to be made and shipped these days, many manufacturers are looking for ways to increase production without adding to their headcount. Get more done with less.
In order to do that successfully, IT needs to be on point in your organization. Your IT department should be a part of any and all conversations about new equipment, applications, or other measures to improve efficiency.
Your IT team will play a HUGE role in the success of any new technology and should help guide you as you’re researching new technologies you might want to try.
Solid communication between you and your IT provider is critical to getting the results you want, especially when it comes to implementing anything new, but also for the day-to-day stuff. Your IT provider’s primary role is to support your business, so lean on them for insight.
A managed IT service provider needs to have specialized skills to help develop and advance your business. An IT service provider with a strong history in manufacturing infrastructure, ERP software, and a pulse on the future will lead you to a competitive advantage and a better market.
Are you missing any of these in your current IT department? Are you concerned that things could be better? Set a meeting with your IT department and have an in-depth conversation about where you are now and where you’d like to be next quarter and beyond. Because remember, at the end of the day THE BIG PICTURE is all about team work.
IT can be complicated. We're here to help "untangle" it for you.
IT Untangled aims to provide clarity on IT topics for business people. This weekly blog series will explain and discuss the complex world of IT, in words you understand.