Dealing with Brexit uncertainty through investment in your business

Contrary to public opinion, the UK is one of the leading nations when it comes to manufacturing. We currently rank ninth in the world, and produce £3.82 billion to our economy from our manufacturing businesses (Office for National Statistics).

However, the gridlock of Brexit has dragged the UK economy close to stalling point. Growing numbers of manufacturing companies are delaying their spending plans, or cancelling their investment all together due to the uncertainty in the current marketplace, and not having a clear view on how Brexit could affect their supply chain.

Manufacturing companies are now deciding to go to Europe themselves rather than exporting, putting off investment all together and, as Make UK Chief Executive Stephen Phipson describes it, ‘building inventory like crazy’.

The current uncertainty in the marketplace is forcing manufacturers to hoard more inventory, meaning that their stock holding capabilities need to improve rapidly to deal with the increased levels. One way of achieving this, is to digitalise their business, and introduce a sophisticated and sustainable business software solution, like Microsoft Dynamics.

The fourth industrial revolution is currently taking place, with digitalisation touching every aspect of life, specifically businesses. The introduction of next generation business software is allowing businesses to thrive in this time of uncertainty, automating their stock holding processes and giving them a full and clear overview of their whole business.

It’s critical that UK manufacturing businesses have next-generation digital infrastructure in place. The UK is taking steps to cement its position as a world leader in future technologies of full fibre and 5G through the £740m of funding from the National productivity investment fund that the chancellor announced last year.

The top companies are digitalising well, and there are numerous examples of medium-sized companies that are starting to do it quite well in implementing these techniques.

Mr Phipson identifies that the challenge is the long tail – the 90% of businesses that are SME’s – and ‘really getting them to realise the value of investment’ and what they can achieve through digitalisation.

To understand how digitalising your manufacturing processes can help your business, contact Azzure IT today. We have significant experience helping companies like Make UK, S+B and process engineering companies like Snowdonia Cheese.

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Cloud Software – One size doesn’t fit all

Our 5 key questions to find your perfect cloud solution

Cloud business solutions aren’t one size fit all, and they all bring different benefits to different businesses. Many solutions providers, such as Microsoft Dynamics 365, offer the option of hosting your cloud software in a public or private environment. Both of these options can be the ideal solution for a business, but it is all about finding out which solution is the right fit for your business. At Azzure IT, we have come up with 5 key questions to answer to help you find your perfect cloud solution, whether that be public or private:

  1. How many tenants do I want on my system?

If your business is looking to use a Microsoft Dynamics solution to manage a number of different companies, then you will need a multi-tenant system, as it allows you to seamlessly interlink each company to each other. A single tenant solution only allows you to operate one company. This could decide very quickly whether your business requires public or private cloud!

  1. How quick do I want the project to be?

Public cloud projects are often much quicker than private cloud, due to the nature of the hosting service. Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central in the public cloud can be up and running in a few days, as the software is ready out the box and is hosted on Microsoft’s server. It is just a case signing into the server and you’re ready to begin!

Private cloud solutions are installed and run in a unique environment for each customer. It is a single SaaS environment, fully designed for that specific business. This means that the process of designing, installing and customising a private cloud solution will naturally take longer than a public cloud solution, but the resulting solution will be a perfect fit for your business.

  1. How much customisation do I want to have?

If your business is looking for a straight out-the-box and ready to use Dynamics solution, then public cloud is the way to go. While it does offer limited customisation capabilities, it gives you the full power of an ERP solution as soon as it is installed, and will not take any development time to get started. It also only takes a few days to setup and get running, so it does not take any time away from your business’s operating hours, and is not an inconvenience. Public cloud solutions also allow you a lot of scalability, letting you start off with a completely out-the-box solution that you can add more onto as your business continues to grow.

However, if your business is looking for a fully bespoke built, customisable solution that is in line with your business processes and hosted in the cloud and not on-premise, then cloud software can do that too. The private cloud gives you much more flexibility, as your organisation can customise its cloud environment to meet its specific business needs. It also still offers all the scalability of a public cloud solution, letting you start off small and slowly build and add more to, as your business and its requirements continue to grow.

  1. How much maintenance do I want to do to my system?

With the public cloud, you have practically no maintenance to worry about. Your service provider provides the maintenance for you. A vast network of servers ensures against failure and provides you with the highest levels of reliability. Public cloud also ensures that updates are installed automatically onto your system without there being any need for your system to go offline or be restarted.

With private cloud, you can choose when you want to install updates and new versions, Azzure has access to fix any issues you may encounter, and we can provide any levels of customisation or integration you require.

Also, private cloud solutions offer a higher level of security, as resources are not shared with others, so higher levels of control and security are possible. With a private, single tenant solution, the chance of one user accidently accessing another’s data is essentially eliminated. In a single tenant environment, you also have more control over backups and recovery because the system is backed up to one dedicated part of the SaaS server. On the other hand, in a multi-tenancy public cloud environment, this process is much more long-winded to the point that it’s not always available to users.

  1. Do I want to pay all in one go or on subscription?

Public cloud is available on subscription only, which means a cheaper cost per user because all the resources are shared. Because of this, multi-tenancies operate a maximum resource usage, which makes for optimum efficiency.

Private cloud is available on either a subscription or perpetual full licence deal, giving you the flexibility to choose how you want to pay.

No matter what requirements you have, there is a Microsoft Dynamics cloud solution available, and as a Microsoft Gold Partner, Azzure IT can help your business achieve its goals.

Get in contact with a member of the Azzure team today for free and impartial advice, on 0345 467 9950 or info@azzure-it.com

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6 trends that will define intelligent manufacturing in 2019

Since the start of the First Industrial Revolution, manufacturing has been the force pushing industrial and societal transformation forward. Today, we’re in the midst of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, as a new generation of sophisticated technologies is transforming manufacturing into a highly connected, intelligent, and ultimately, more productive industry. The man-powered shop floor of the past is being replaced by smart manufacturing facilities where tech-savvy workers, aided by intelligent robots, are creating the products and services of the future.

As we approach 2019, we’re looking ahead to the trends that will define intelligent manufacturing, as well as help empower clients to better evaluate and manage operations, build innovative products and services, and grow their manufacturing businesses.

These trends are detailed in our new 2019 Manufacturing Trends Report. In this report, we deep dive into six macro-level trends, providing a breadth of data, analysis, and observations on each.

Trend 1: IT and OT converge

IT systems merge with operational technologies to create smarter, connected solutions.

In 2019, businesses will face increased pressure to meet changing customer demands, including those for faster fulfilment and greater transparency. To do this, manufacturers will be forced to integrate their systems, including IT and OT systems, as well as integrating new and legacy systems.

Trend 2: The rise of XaaS

Manufacturers evolve their business models—moving closer to the consumer—to meet evolving customer demands.

New demands driven by the growth of the X-economies, such as on-demand services, will force manufacturers to re-evaluate their value chain to optimise performance and better meet customer expectations. As a result, manufacturers will seek tighter control over their value chain, including sales, which will push an increasing number of brands to explore direct-to-consumer options.

Trend 3: Intelligent manufacturing

Connected intelligent systems leverage AI and machine learning to make manufacturing smarter.

Throughout history, manufacturing and the products produced by manufacturers have been driven by technology. In 2019, technology is becoming smarter, with the cloud, IoT, AI, and machine learning delivering instant intelligence. Accordingly, manufacturing supply chains will become more intelligent in 2019, as well.

Trend 4: Manufacturing technology evolves

New technologies are revolutionising manufacturing, improving R&D and production.

In 2019, manufacturing technology will become smarter, safer, and more efficient. Digital twins will provide manufacturers with an inexpensive way to test new products and environments and monitor products remotely.

Advancements to both additive and subtractive manufacturing will finally start to see broader adoption through hybrid manufacturing models. And other innovations, including autonomous devices, advanced materials, and AR/VR, will gain broader adoption in 2019, improving workflows, unlocking new product opportunities, and enabling new levels of productivity and collaboration.

Trend 5: Businesses adapt to an evolving workforce

A new, diverse generation enters the workforce with new expectations and demands.

As manufacturers face an increasing skills gap in 2019, they must seek new ways to fill critical roles on the front line and in the back office. They will try to sell young, tech-savvy workers on a career in manufacturing, retrain older employees, seek foreign labour, and tap the emerging gig economy to meet temporary labour demands.

Trend 6: Living in the age of uncertainty

From tariffs to foreign policy, uncertainty puts a strain on businesses.

2018 was a year with great uncertainty, and trends suggest that 2019 will be no different. From tariffs and trade policy to Brexit and data protection, manufacturers must navigate muddy waters through a turbulent, highly-politicised environment.

The world is changing and as a result, so is manufacturing. As the manufacturing companies of the past turn into the intelligent manufacturing businesses of the future, manufacturing leaders must leverage technology to help bridge the gap, improve safety and operations, provide greater transparency, and deliver better products and experiences.

Microsoft Dynamics 365 is enabling intelligent manufacturing through a suite of holistic, connected applications. It gives businesses the tools to accelerate the speed of doing business by empowering people to make smarter decisions, transforming business processes faster, and driving rapid business growth.

Please read our report, the 2019 Manufacturing Trends Report, to get much greater detail on the topics discussed above, and learn more about how Microsoft can help you transform your business to handle new challenges and maximise the opportunities ahead.

(Re-post: Microsoft original posting by Colin Masson)

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6 ways you can solve your business’s productivity challenges

We conducted a survey of 206 small to mid-sized businesses throughout the UK, to find out what challenges business leaders in this sector face. The results of this survey showed consistent answers of productivity being the main boardroom challenge.

We have found that these productivity problems can be solved through the implementation of a Microsoft Dynamics 365 ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) or CRM (Customer Relationship Management) solution. To this point, I’ve put together six ways you can solve your business’s boardroom productivity challenges with Microsoft Dynamics 365:

Save time – Streamline processes

Automating and connecting repetitive tasks frees up people, time and resources for more important matters. ‘Kofax ReadSoft Online’ is an external service for Microsoft Dynamics NAV that both we, and a number of our clients use. It helps reduce manual data entry and cost per invoice process by up to 90%.

Intelligent cost management

Integrating your business into a single system allows you to gain greater control of your finances and fraud detection. Microsoft Dynamics 365 can help cut out the cost and complexity of managing your business through the use of custom, extended bespoke apps.

Prepared and insightful

By making faster, stronger and smarter business decisions and using intelligent reporting features, you can gain a clearer holistic view of your business for the future.

Empower employees

Your business can connect employees, anytime, anywhere, on any device with the best office productivity, real time reporting and collaboration tools.  The Microsoft Dynamics 365 Suite offers users the ‘Field Service’ version, which can provide your employees with 360 degree information, from any location to improve resource productivity and customer satisfaction.

Cloud enabled

You can improve flexibility, lower total cost of ownership, deliver secure access anywhere and enjoy an enterprise infrastructure. The Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central suite allows your business to take advantage of the Microsoft ‘Azure’ platform in the cloud. It allows you to transform your business process automation and increase people productivity in the cloud.

It allows you to gain insight into your business and harness the power of your data. This lets you improve processes, spot trends faster and outperform your competitors.
Save money and manage your business without the burden and cost of installing, updating and maintaining software and hardware.

Easy and adaptable

Implementing new ways of working is simpler because of the familiar Microsoft interface and seamless integration with popular applications. You can therefore increase your productivity by automating and keeping track of your processes. Improving communication and allocating jobs and tasks. Help people accomplish more every day with a familiar, easy-to-use interface, that is common to the Microsoft suite of products.

You’ll find simplicity and affordability with Microsoft Dynamics. Best of all, you can extend what you use and grow your business on your terms. Hopefully you’ve found these six tips informative, and has made you think about what Microsoft Dynamics can do for your business to solve your productivity issues.

Insider Expert

This blog post has been republished and forms part of the ‘Insider Media – Ask the Experts‘ feature.

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4 Key ways Digital Transformation can help your manufacturing business

Manufacturing

Craig Such of Azzue IT says that if you are one of the small to mid-sized manufacturers in the UK still using pens and paper to track your orders, stock, inventory and deliveries, then soon you’re going to be left behind.

Our research at Azzure IT has found that many manufacturing businesses often reach a tipping point, where the tools that helped them get started are now holding them back – hindering instead of helping them grow and expand as a company.

Using outdated tools to manage finances, orders, stock and delivery in a growing manufacturing business can lead to several big problems, but there is some good news.

The next wave of digital transformation is coming to manufacturing businesses, meaning there has never been a better time to replace your aging and outdated Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) or Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Solution.

Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central is an affordable, end-to-end business solution that comes straight out the box, ready for immediate use. This means that your manufacturing business does not need to come to a halt to upgrade, and day-to-day work can not only continue, but improve dramatically – meaning overall productivity output can increase, too.

We’ve identified four key areas of your manufacturing business that Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central can improve – and how it can do so:

Productivity

Painstaking manual processes can hamper a business’s potential to grow, as more time is spent manually completing remedial tasks, instead of strategically planning for the future. Employees learning and manually updating multiple systems with weak functionality leads to inefficiency and poor productivity.

Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central allows your business to connect data across accounting, sales, purchasing, inventory and customer interaction to get an end-to-end view of your business. This can help your business reach optimal output levels, by calculating and optimising manufacturing capacity and resources to improve production schedules and meet customer demands.

Financial Control

Accelerated financial reporting is important to any small to mid-sized business, as streamlining accounts, receivables and payables allows the business to report on financials quickly and accurately. This translates into making smarter buying decisions, which therefore leads to more opportunities for growth and future investment.

Business Central allows your business to create, manage and track customer projects using timesheets along with advanced job costing and reporting capabilities. You can also then develop, modify and control budgets to ensure project profitability.

Business Insight

Built-in business intelligence and reporting features can allow a manufacturing business to optimise its inventory levels to the highest level. Using built-in intelligence to predict when and what to replenish can help ensure your business never loses track of its stock, and by making the whole business as cost effective as possible, can lead to greater margins being made, and an overall higher profit being achieved.

Business Central makes sure you only purchase what you need, through the use of dynamically updated inventory levels. It also suggests substitutes when requested items are out of stock, meaning your stock never falls behind what you have promised to deliver to customers.

Profitability can also be maximised by getting recommendations on when to pay vendors, when to use vendor discounts and how to avoid overdue payments, meaning that no money is accidentally wasted.

Mobility

Being a mobile company directly affects how productive you can be. Being able to be connected anytime, anywhere, on any device with real time reporting and collaboration tools allows your business to be active at all times and in all places.

Business Central allows you to get a holistic view of your inventory for efficient order fulfilment, helping you run your warehouse effectively. You can track every item transaction and movement based on warehouse layout and storage unit dimensions.

(Republished: Insider Media)

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The UK’s Leading Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central Provider

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Has your business’s ambition outgrown its IT software?

Craig Such, chief executive of Yorkshire tech firm Azzure IT, on why growing businesses may need to upgrade their outdated accounting software.

If your small to mid-sized business is using accounting software, such as QuickBooks or Sage to manage your business, you may be asking yourself whether you need to upgrade it in order to support your own growing ambitions.

You’re not alone.

A business challenges survey of 208 small to mid-sized businesses was conducted by UK-based digital transformation company Azzure IT earlier this year, and found that 75% felt that digital transformation was either ‘important’ or ‘very important’ to meeting current boardroom challenges.

To find that such a vast majority of firms feel digital transformation – and improving existing ways of working – is crucial to moving forwards into the digital age, is encouraging and welcome news, but nonetheless the next step is passing on the expertise these firms need to make the jump.

Most businesses tend to reach a tipping point, where the tools that supported them when they were starting-up, are now hindering their ability to grow their expanding business.

There are several common signs that indicate your business has outgrown your existing accounting software:

  • Difficulty keeping up with growth.
  • Lacking the control and visibility needed to track performance.
  • Spending more time being reactive when you need to be proactive.
  • Being unable to support a mobile workforce.
  • Customer satisfaction is decreasing because you aren’t meeting expectations.

The good news is that, due to the impending wave of digital transformation coming to small to mid-sized businesses, there has never been a better time to replace an outdated accounting system with an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) or Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solution.

An ERP solution, such as Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central, can help businesses manage their financials, supply chain, manufacturing, operations, reporting, human resources, sales, etc, and enable and empower all these departments to talk to each other and work together.

In our experience, the four-core board-level benefits sought from an accounting and ERP solution are: Productivity, Financial Control, Business Insight and Mobility.

Businesses can see the benefits of increased productivity right from the initial implementation of the system with Microsoft Dynamics 365. The implementation of this ERP system couldn’t be easier, with Microsoft Dynamics’ rapid start tools allowing a faster, lower-risk implementation and migration of existing data.

This results in less time spent waiting for a new system, therefore improving productivity, business insight and processes. Microsoft Dynamics’ ERP system also has that familiar Microsoft Office feel, requiring minimal training for your staff to feel comfortable with the new system, and the role-tailored interfaces and integration keeps your people informed, connected and productive.

Microsoft Dynamics 365 allows you to take control of your finances in a more advanced way than a simple accounting system, enabling you to control your costs, make smarter buying decisions and seek more opportunities for growth and re-investment.

It also comes with built-in business intelligence and reporting features that puts data into context, to allow you to make swifter business decisions, which can be connected to anytime, anywhere, and on any device with real-time reporting and collaboration tools.

Fitting, as the small to mid-sized businesses we surveyed in our research felt that enhancing the way they operate was ‘crucial’ to business development.

(Repost: Inside Media)

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Small manufacturing and Digital Transformation

With global industry business leaders recognising the increasing importance of digital technologies, it’s imperative that manufacturers join the next revolution, or risk being left behind, say Azzure IT.

Manufacturing, as an industry, has traditionally been seen as slow to change, especially when it comes to the latest business solution technology and the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’, for instance. Craig Such, managing director of Microsoft Dynamics 365 support partner, Azzure IT, explains that this is due to the nature of the work involved. “The fact that manufacturing is lagging isn’t deliberate, it’s just because of the nature of the industry,” he says. “In manufacturing, people are undertaking hands-on, practical jobs. They’re not afraid to put the hard work and long hours in to get the job finished. Other industries, which are more immersed in technology, are looking to the Digital Transformation as a means of seeking ambitious, new commercial opportunities and productivity is a by-product of that.

Attitudes are changing

However, these attitudes are beginning to change amongst manufacturers, continues Such. “We’ve done market research in the sector, and over 80% of the respondents have said that IT and digitalisation is either important or very important,” he says. “Without technology, they believe that there is very little they could do to take their business forwards. In practice, there’s still a way to go though. Fewer than 10% describing themselves as an early adopter of technology, while over a third would say they are in the late majority.”

Added to this is research by Gartner (http://gtnr.it/2uzlgEi), which found that CEOs believe digital transformation is the second biggest driver for their businesses going forward – a trend that is only set to increase. “A successful business has to be able to exploit digital technology to make themselves more productive and differentiate from competitors.,” says Such. “For everyone, the use of digital technology is increasing in our day-to-day lives. This means there is also a huge volume of data that can be captured and utilised. By using that intelligence, leaders can maker quicker or more effective decisions – making their company more proactive and agile.”

Azzure IT’s survey also revealed that the biggest barrier for manufacturers looking to adopt digital technologies wasn’t finances, or buy-in from senior management – it was time. “Manufacturers tend to look at improving existing ways of working rather than putting aside time to look at how technology can transform ways of working,” says Such. “Once business leaders take the time to engage with next generation business applications, they can easily identify the productivity and commercial opportunities”.

“Benefits aren’t just constrained to the shopfloor”, continues Such. “While their products coming off the lines may be world-class, manufacturers may struggle with aspects of business operations, such as real-time business analysis, responding quickly to evolving customer demands, improving utilisation of stock or resources, and seamless integration with ecommerce and sales. Technology can get you from where you are today to where you want to be.”

A need for education

Such believes that these benefits may be lost on manufacturers, especially smaller ones. “Many manufacturers simply need more support to make these decisions and realise the potential of technology,” he says. “At Azzure IT, we host regular events so manufacturers can benchmark and re-imagine their business. When we first speak to a customer about how they can improve their business, that’s when we can get specific; we learn about the company, their real-world challenges, their successes and their vision for the future. From there, we can easily demonstrate how a complete end-to-end business solution will have transformational benefits.”

Smaller manufacturers are being put off investment by a perceived level of complication, and high-level terms like the Industry of Things (IoT) and the Fourth Industrial Revolution, adds Such. “Keeping it simple, smart, digital applications are now levelling the playground for small manufacturers, providing enterprise-level capability that is easy-to-use, out-the-box, scalable and cost-effective”.
“One of our clients recently said to me ‘forget the internet of things, a real-world challenge for small manufacturers may be simple shopfloor data capture,’” he says. “They wanted to collate data on the shopfloor to be able to see where how jobs were progressing. They were using machinery that was 30 years old – there’s no way they could use the latest IoT-ready technology on that. They invested in mobile devices, on which workers were able to log jobs as they progress through the factory. One digital transformation has modernised their business – they can give finance, customers and managers real-time updates on how the job is progressing, whereas before, it would mean someone from the office going onto the shopfloor to work it out.”

Invest, or beware the consequences

Ultimately, however, all companies will have to invest in technology in order to keep-up in today’s changing digital environment. “If we look at the uncertainty surrounding things like Brexit and other social-demographic changes, they also have the potential to bring great opportunities for some businesses, but only the ones that are forward-thinking and agile,” says Such. “We only have to look back to the economic crisis a decade ago to see that the companies that managed to survive the downturn and come out the other side were the ones that were able to adapt to the changing markets. Not everyone was directly impacted by the downturn – the ones that were, were because of their slow-to-adapt approach.

“This is the same in the digital revolution – businesses that are willing to engage with the digital transformation are the ones we’ll see grow. There’s already a lot of research that shows that small businesses, that invest in technology, grow quicker than those that don’t. Companies that don’t embrace it will still be around, but will be lagging in their digital transformation and struggling to exploit emerging opportunities”.

The next commercial opportunities are digital. You must make the decision: is your business moving forwards seeking out digital opportunities or are you waiting, treading water and eventually running out of commercial energy. Digital Transformation is coming, and it’s imperative that all manufacturers get involve, learn, adapt and grow, before it’s too late.”

Key benefits of Digital Technologies

  • Better production planning: anticipate changes in demand, supply and manufacturing capacities
  • Gain better insight and understanding of the business: efficiency and cost savings
  • Streamline and automate production processes
  • Use and share information with vendors and suppliers
  • Improve utilisation of stock and resources
  • Reduce stock holding and improve customer service
  • Track stock all the way through the manufacturing process including inventory control
  • Control operational costs: make smarter buying decisions
  • Better manage regulatory and governmental compliance

(Re-produced with kind permission of Manufacturing Management Magazine)

 

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Essential Cash Flow Control for SMB’s

I have witnessed first-hand that the small to medium business community are investing for growth. However, with the constant feed of economic upheaval and Brexit uncertainties, organisations are also working hard to manage their cash closely.

Whether you’re bulking up reserves to manage future growth or trying to build up reserves, finance departments must be obsessed with looking after every penny – making cash work hard.

So, why can cash management seem so hard? The principles of cash management are well documented and relatively simple. It comes down to having the right tools – providing the information needed to make the right decisions?

If you’re flicking from one screen to another, comparing spreadsheet to spreadsheet – wondering why the numbers don’t add up – maybe it’s time to review the accounting or ERP solution you’re using to manage your finances? Here’s a quick outline of the key functionality you should seek to control your cash flow:

Financial Control

  •  Simplified cash management is what’s needed – you need to create a cash flow calendar that lets you look back (or ahead) – simply by selecting a day, week or month, to see exactly how your funds flow in and out of your business.
  • You need to clearly see your actual cash, as well as all your deposits or debits across all your bank accounts, with bank integration and reconciliation tools that are simple to use.
  • You need to be sure your customers are paying you on time. You need the ability to track collections, to keep tabs on accounts receivables and make sure you’re getting paid as quickly as possible. What would be useful is a simple, out-of-the-box report that could pull a list of customers with balances over a particular threshold (of your choosing) – allowing you to prioritise and evaluate their history. You’d be able to see at a glance if any balance issue is a one-time occurrence or a trend you need to address.

Better Decisions

  •  Managing a business is all about making smart decisions – from marketing, inventory, customer credit limits, discounts and payment terms – to bring down costs and turn margins into cash flow. When you make fast, informed decisions it has a direct impact on your bottom line.
  • You need to optimise your resources and improve end-to-end processes to increase your profitability. This can be achieved using predictive analysis tools.
  • You can increase staff productivity and drive accuracy by automating your purchasing processes – using order-point minimums and maximums, as well as built-in workflows.
  • You must streamline supply-chain processes and inventory management whilst reducing operational costs company-wide, with the ability to maintain the right stock levels and track turnover.

 

 

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ERP Implementation Five Top Tips

Republished with kind permission of The Manufacturer.

For many years there has been a misconception that one of the most difficult and problematic IT upgrades is the implementation of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software. While most people are aware of the benefits of ERP software in terms of increasing productivity and efficiency, some MDs and IT directors have been wary of it due to a false impression that ERP implementation can be tricky to get right.

It looks like that could all be set to change. According to Hennik Research’s Annual Manufacturing Report (AMR)2016, many manufacturers are ready to grasp the opportunities ERP software offers. A quarter of those surveyed said investing in ERP was their main focus for IT in 2016, making it this year’s top IT priority for the sector. It’s easy to see why. Access to more robust business information alongside better operational planning gives manufacturers much greater control of their business and delivers more efficient ways of working.

It’s not about working harder to gain a competitive edge, but working smarter.

The stats in the AMR 2016 speak volumes about the benefits of investing in technology. 98% of respondents said IT investment had delivered increased productivity. 89% revealed their competitiveness/efficiency had strengthened and 80% said it improved profitability. But how do you make sure your investment in ERP delivers what you need with minimum disruption?

At Azzure IT we have more than 100 years’ experience of ERP delivery to manufacturers. We’ve seen first-hand what causes an ERP system implementation to go wrong, or indeed, right. Here are my top tips for making sure your investment is stress-free and delivers a superb return:

1. Start with the scope

It sounds obvious but get this wrong and a simple process can quickly become anything but. Get to grips with your core business requirements and what functionality you need will pay dividends later on. The clearer you are about exactly what you need from the new system, the more likely you are to have a positive experience. Realising half way through the process that you need the software to handle another operation you haven’t scoped out is likely to cause unnecessary difficulties. The more specific you can be, the better equipped vendors are to provide you with the right solution.

2. Communicate

As with all successful projects, good communication is critical. Explain your objectives to your ERP partner clearly and honestly. Highlight any issues and barriers you might need to overcome. Be clear about your expectations. Let vendors know about your business plans. If you’re expecting to introduce a new process or product, or looking at targeting new markets overseas, make sure you’ve got a system that can adapt with you. Investment in ERP should be about future-proofing the business.

3. Embrace the change

Change is never easy but your new ERP system doesn’t have to become a battlefront. Involve key team members in the process and canvass their thoughts early on so they can appreciate the new system is about making their lives easier and not forcing them to do things differently. Make sure your vendor offers a comprehensive support package and plenty of training. Simply making sure staff fully understand how to use the new software and feel supported in doing so can make achieving that all important buy-in more straightforward.

4. Choose your partner wisely

Don’t be too hasty when picking a supplier. The best implementations happen when customers and ERP vendors work together as partners from the offset. You should choose someone who you can work well with, who takes the time to really get to know you and understand your requirements and ultimately, who you feel you can trust. Do your homework by asking for testimonials and speak to some of the vendor’s customers. A legitimate software provider should have a directory of happy customers ready to sing their praises.

5. Fit is everything

Finally, ask whether both the ERP software and the provider you’ve chosen fits with your business. If you need to make huge changes to the way your business operates in order to fit with the new software, you don’t have the right solution. Go back a step and look at alternatives. Similarly, think carefully before you commit to a provider. Do they have experience in your sector? Have they worked with similar sized businesses or those facing similar issues? Do they fit with your business culture? Get the fit right and you will be on the right track to a straightforward system implementation and quickly enjoying the benefits ERP software offers manufacturers.

Craig Such, MD

First posted on 8 Feb 2017 by The Manufacturer:
www.themanufacturer.com/articles/erp-implementation-five-top-tips/

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The ERP Business Case

Total cost of ownership should be the overriding criteria for ERP selection, not short-term financial savings. In this post we will look at the ERP Business Case!

Manufacturers have long been used to assessing total cost of ownership when they are evaluating options for equipment and machinery. Fewer use the same thinking when making software purchases despite the ease of application.

There is little doubt that a modern ERP system can breathe new life into any sector of manufacturing, but what if the business is struggling to raise the necessary funds to invest? Total cost of ownership should be a key factor in the decision-making process, says Craig Such, head of the manufacturing division at consultancy-led business software supplier Access. A typical ERP solution may be replaced every seven or eight years, he says, so manufacturers should calculate the cost of ownership over that period. However he also warns that businesses should be aware that the most significant investment is often their time and the potential disruption to their business.

There are various rental options on the market but these may not provide the best long-term value, even if the initial offer appeals. “Quite often, some of the rental models may appear attractive at first,” says Such, “particularly if you can stop paying for it if you decide you don’t like the product. What many fail to take into account is, this doesn’t address the investment of your time.

“Once you have invested time and effort you are unlikely to want to throw that away and so will persevere with the system, even if it isn’t proving to be the best fit. The price may have looked low at the outset, but the full cost of ownership may mean that renting is not the best solution. The bottom line is, do your homework first, and compare offerings on a like-for-like basis.” Return on investments is a critical part of the total cost of ownership equation, no more so than now as the economy recovers. Businesses are straining to release precious funds and senior management teams must make a call on investment requests across the organisation.

There are recognised methods with which to justify payback on any capital purchase, but the biggest barrier to the capex model for a new ERP system is the fact that there are so many finance options on the market. While it’s commonplace for manufacturers to fund investment from cash reserves, there are others for whom a £50,000 purchase, for example, is impossible without finance from an external source.

“ERP vendors have to recognise that they need to offer a range of finance options to suit different situations,” says Such. “Because of this we have flexible financing options available.” For any reputable supplier, their objective is to help the customer realise swift return on investment – and this is achieved by ensuring the purchase or finance option aligns with the anticipated improvements to efficiency and productivity.

For a system as critical as ERP or supply chain software, one size definitely does not fit all. Reliability, affordability and, most importantly, choice are vital. Enter cloud computing, which has been a hot topic within the IT sector for some time. Such is keen to point out that a pragmatic approach is required if this is to pay dividends: “Cloud can play a key part in your manufacturing IT strategy but don’t automatically think this has to apply to all of your systems,” he says.

“Manufacturers need to carefully review each area of their business and where a cloud application might be the most appropriate option. It could be the case that a combined cloud and on-premise solution is the ideal answer. One of the underlying concepts of cloud is the provision of software as a service (SaaS) and, while there is an increasing number of software providers offering ERP on demand, the fact remains that for many manufacturers, core ERP functionality is just too business-critical to relinquish control in this way. A company may have invested a great deal in their IT infrastructure, on-premise manufacturing solutions and, for example, robotic control systems that need to be physically on site. As a result, the cloud may not be a suitable alternative for certain manufacturers.

The combination approach, therefore, may prove fruitful with core ERP remaining on premise and specialist areas provided on demand via the cloud. “Areas such as CRM, document management and HR are ideal for cloud,” agrees Such. “They lend themselves to the cloud environment; it removes the need to have this software installed on in-house servers, so avoiding need for hardware investment. It also provides manufacturers with flexibility over future capacity, so they only pay for what they use.” Access, in fact, has recently announced its cloud computing strategy for document management and HR. This means not only is there a finance option to spread the initial outlay, but the solutions themselves will be managed in the cloud, removing any potential hardware or infrastructure headaches for the customer.

It’s vital, says Such, for suppliers to be able to offer the breadth and depth of technology, service and finance to suit manufacturers who, themselves, have to offer flexibility and responsiveness to secure and retain contracts. As the manufacturing sector continues its slow climb out of recession, businesses will need to invest in equipment and technology to ensure they are sufficiently agile, highly efficient and capable of seizing new opportunities and fulfilling customer demands. This is enabled by true company-wide visibility which, in turn, comes from accurate, real-time data.

Putting off an ERP purchase or upgrade may in fact damage competitiveness which is already fragile. Investing in a top-class ERP solution through one of a variety of cost models could be the catalyst to a more secure future.

The ERP Business Case

Republished with kind permission of The Manufacturer

https://www.themanufacturer.com/

Posted on 11 May 2011 by The Manufacturer:
www.themanufacturer.com/articles/the-value-proposition-of-erp/

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Manufacturing & Engineering

CONTACT

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10 Europa View, Sheffield Business Park, Sheffield, S9 1XH, UK

The UK’s Leading Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central Provider

t. 0345 467 9950
e. enquiries@azzure-it.com

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