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Literarily, ERP refers to Enterprise Resource Planning software. In general, ERP is an industry term for the broad set of activities supported by multi-module application software that help a manufacturer or other business manage the important parts of its business, including product planning, parts purchasing, maintaining inventories, interacting with suppliers, providing customer service, and tracking orders. Typically, an ERP system uses or is integrated with a relational database system. In practice, ERP does not live up to its acronym. It does not do much about planning or resource planning.

So, why do I need to use ERP?

Remember the word "E" or enterprise. This is true ambition of ERP. It attempts to integrate all departments and functions across a company onto a single computer system that can serve all those departments’ particular needs. The integration streamlines internal business processes and improves productivity of a company.

To be concise, ERP software offers the following benefits:

1. ERP integrates all aspects of the business processes including: manufacturing, design, customer services, financial, sales and distribution. By integrating business processes and people anywhere in your company, you can enjoy more efficient work flow and improved productivity.

2. Nowadays, retailers and consumers push for lower prices, better quality and quicker delivery. ERP implementation shows your determination to head for those direction. Confidence of your business partners and consumers will be increased.

3. ERP provides the right information to the right people at the right time anywhere in the world, enabling you to improve productivity, enhance decision making and promote communication between coworkers, customers and vendors.

4. For better ERP software, it helps to reduce or eliminate duplicate work, and automates operational tasks and provide easy access to information. ERP, therefore, can deliver significant time savings.

5. Advanced ERP software has the ability to be customized to the extent that screens can be remodelled, fields can be edited and the architecture modified through progressive installation processes. In addition, advanced ERP software can be operated in a secured, web-based environment. These features provide flexibility and convenience in implementation and operation.

6. Some multi-lingual ERP software can perform automatic translation enables almost every style detail to be viewed in several languages including English, Chinese, and etc. It improves the effectiveness of communication.

7. Manufacturing companies often find that multiple business units across the company make the same widget using different methods and computer systems. ERP standardizes the manufacturing processes and improve quality.

8. ERP helps business process flow more smoothly and improves the efficiency of fulfillment process. It leads to reduced inventory. Eventually, it decreases the overall business cost. At its simplest level, ERP provides a way to integrate all your business process. To get the most from the software, you have to get people inside your company to adopt the work methods outlined in the software. If the people do not agree with the method and the system has no flexibility to be customized, ERP projects will be failed. Therefore, you should choose ERP software wisely.

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Will Your Company Stay the Course?

The textile sector in the UK continues to languish for the most part in intensive care.

Having met many executives in this sector, I continue to be struck by the wide gap between the few companies who have got their management act together and the rest who struggle along until a final crisis pushes them over the edge.

The knee-jerk reaction to the increased level of price competition has been to curtail manufacturing in the UK and source product off shore from low wage cost regions. This strategy is fine in terms of reducing the unit cost of manufacture, but it does bring a number of logistics and other management issues in its wake. Quality, lead times to replenish and uncertainty of supply are just a few issues that now need to be dealt with.

However, any cost advantage obtained by sourcing off shore is soon dissipated as everyone starts to do it.

Given the above, the competitive battleground continues to be driven by the same strategic factors that have always applied, namely doing more with less and doing it better and faster than the competition.

There is no doubt that without the aid of effective business management tools, this continual process of performance measurement to drive operational improvements will not be achievable.

Quite simply, you cannot control and refine what you do not measure. What you are not measuring therefore is probably out of control.

The reluctance to invest in effective technology based management systems in the textile sector is certainly one major reason why it has remained almost perpetually in recession to a greater or lesser degree in recent decades, regardless of the generally prevailing economic conditions. When investment is made, it is usually piecemeal and fragmented.

Your computer system, like your company, has to change to model the on-going process of improvement that is needed to retain and increase competitiveness.

An effective computer based business management system will rapidly (in months, not years!) recover any investment made in it.

How? It will reduce the cost of doing business.

And It will form the core of a service level improvement programme that is essential to maintain and increase sales.

Business Cost Reduction

Reduce stocks of finished goods and improve their availability to your customers. (Information from your computer system will replace inventory).
Reduce deployment of fixed assets. For example, reduced stockholding of finished goods and raw materials will reduce the requirement for expensive warehouse space.
Reduce the administration overhead: less paper handling, capture data once only to improve accuracy and faster access to information held digitally for decision making and progress chasing.

Overall, you benefit from being more price-competitive and from better margins on sales.

Service Level Improvements

Achieve more reliable delivery times.
Achieve shorter order to delivery times.
Respond more rapidly and effectively to market changes for your products.
Improve product availability.
Provide a more responsive after sales service.

Not having an effective computer system to underpin trading operations obviously puts a textile company at a serious competitive disadvantage.

Fortunately, systems like XeB's are available with very short paybacks on investment.

However, ensuring systems like these are deployed and used effectively remains a challenge. Investments also have to be made in training, consultancy and in customizing the system to reflect changes within the supply chain and improvements to business processes.

The (too) few companies who continue to prosper understand the importance of effectively deploying technology tools and are not reluctant to make investments in them.

More companies need to follow suit. The systems are available. However, the will to make the changes necessary to bring these systems to bear remains the major challenge facing companies in this difficult sector.

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