ERP and the ‘New Normal’

The world of business is getting more complex -- and manufacturers’ IT landscapes aren’t helping them cope. Is ERP the answer? Pierfrancesco Manenti talks to Malcolm Wheatley, IT Contributing Editor at The Manufacturer

How can manufacturers prosper in the ‘New Normal’? It’s a question that is very much at the forefront of Pierfrancesco Manenti’s mind at the moment.

“Are they up to the challenge of coping with the increasing amount of economic uncertainty, demand volatility, and sheer complexity that is involved in doing business?” queries Manenti, European research director at IDC Manufacturing Insights.

And the evidence that they are up to the challenge, he asserts, is mixed — and by no means universal. Some will survive and prosper, in short, while others will not.

And make no mistake, he stresses. The ‘New Normal’ is coming.

Jeff Immelt, chief executive at America’s giant General Electric, points out Manenti, believes that “we are going through more than just a cycle. The global economy, and capitalism itself, will be ‘reset’ in several important ways.”

And ‘reset’, what’s more, to a business environment where the level of complexity is of a different order to today.

“For manufacturers, the complexity of doing business is increasing — and it’s increasing for all manufacturers,” he stresses. “Complexity doesn’t have boundaries: the issue affects all manufacturing businesses, large and small.”

It’s a theme, it turns out, that is central to Manenti’s upcoming keynote speech at ERP Connect 2011, held on the 19th May at Ansty Hall Hotel in Coventry.

Talk to Manenti about his upcoming speech, and it’s clear that he’s excited by one important aspect of his message — and it’s an aspect that all too few manufacturers have so far come to terms with.

“Complexity and complication aren’t the same,” he insists. “Complexity is a fact of life. Complication, on the other hand, is where manufacturers add to this complexity themselves. Which they do with complicated organisational structures, complicated IT landscapes, and complicated supply chain structures.”

And it’s those complicated IT landscapes that particularly vex Manenti.

“Quite simply, manufacturers have tended to build up enormously complicated systems, with a multitude of interfaces — but without really achieving very much by way of interconnectivity,” he charges.

And, as he points out, it doesn’t have to be that way. How? Look at what many of those complicated IT linkages are doing, says Manenti, and a lot of it could be done by a modern ERP system — especially one that was implemented as a cross-enterprise operational platform, rather than just limited to the core “order to cash” financial processes.

What’s more, he adds, there are consider benefits to doing that — ‘hard cash’ benefits that extend beyond life in the ‘New Normal’.

Such as? Well, you’ll have to attend ERP Connect 2011 to find out. It’s being held on the 19th May at Ansty Hall Hotel in Coventry. To book your place, click here to attend: www.themanufacturer.com/erpconnect