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Guide to systems integration with ERP

ERP systems collect and organize data from all levels of the enterprise. For manufacturers, this means data on orders, customers, production, shipping and more. In order for ERP to reach all the levels of manufacturing, it needs to be integrated with the other software systems in the organization. In this guide to systems integration with ERP, you'll find introductions to integrating ERP with a number of software systems and the many benefits ERP integration can provide.

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  Customer relationship management (CRM) software collects customer data, such as order history and spending patterns, which can be leveraged by a company's sales and marketing teams. For manufacturers, CRM ERP integration gives insight into customer orders, contracts, and buying behavior. One of the major benefits of CRM ERP integration is more focused sales and marketing strategies based on in-depth analyses of customer behavior, interests and context.

  Manufacturers use supply chain management (SCM) software to gain visibility into the entire supply chain, from materials and order fulfillment to shipping and logistics. Integrating best-of-breed SCM applications with ERP, as opposed to relying on the innate SCM functionality in some ERP systems, provides a manufacturer with specialized SCM features. ERP SCM integration provides insight into the product lifecycle and forecasting for supply and demand.

  More manufacturers are integrating their ERP software with manufacturing execution systems (MES). MES software typically manages production orders on the shop floor, collecting information on what materials are used, process parameters and errors. In ERP MES integration, ERP ensures that product lines have the right materials in place, that orders are accurately filled and that costs are managed, while MES keeps track of how products are built and what materials are used.

  Business intelligence (BI) software is used to review enterprise information through processes like data mining, analytics and forecasting. While BI analytics are most commonly applied to financials, manufacturers are starting to apply them to other areas, including human resources (HR). Through ERP and BI integration, manufacturers can improve business analytics and boost reporting capabilities.

  Integrating product lifecycle management (PLM) software with an ERP system optimizes PLM's data accessing capabilities. Through integration with ERP, PLM gains access to critical data about production costs, suppliers, historical customer information and shipping delays, all of which can be leveraged in existing product designs and incorporated into future product development projects. PLM ERP integration gives manufacturers insight into all stages of production.

  Organizations use business process management (BPM) software to maintain and improve the tasks and activities that make up daily business operations. Integrating BPM with ERP improves workflow management and performance measurement. Manufacturers are turning to ERP and BPM integration as a means of tracking, monitoring and measuring key performance indicators (KPIs) across processes ranging from product development to SCM.

  Geographic information systems (GIS) software allows users to view business data, analytics and forecasting as a visual element, such as a map. Manufacturers are integrating GIS with their ERP systems as a means of bringing a geographic and spatial dimension to key business applications. ERP and GIS integration can map plant locations, analyze the supply chain and track the flow of materials and finished products.

  ERP data integration can be a challenging task, as it involves working with information from all systems across the manufacturing organization. Manufacturers embarking on an ERP data integration project should be sure that their data is current, consistent and synchronized. Many smaller manufacturers tackle this task by choosing ERP software with embedded manufacturing modules.

This was first published in November 2009

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