Tech-savvy manufacturers transition to a global economy

Manufacturers—large and small—are impacted by the global economy, competition from emerging markets and supply chains that span continents.

By Larry Korak, Industry Strategy Director, Industrial Manufacturing, Infor.

Whether they like it or not, they must face the pressures brought on by international conflicts, evolving trade regulations and the changing availability of raw resources.

Just as challenges change based on world-wide influences, so do the opportunities. Thanks to omni-channel buying and improving economic conditions, more potential customers are entering into buying cycles. This means growth opportunities for manufacturers who are ready and able to take advantage of the new paradigm shifts in go-to-market strategies.

Case in point
Harsco Rail, an over 100-year-old rail company, located in South Carolina is a good example of a manufacturer’s move into global operations, supported by IT. Harso turned to cloud deployment of an ERP suite from Infor in order to expand their operations worldwide. According to Abraham Kurian,  divisional information officer of Harsco, the company recently opened a facility in China in three months and under budget. The next expansioin was a facility in Germany, which took only two months.

“Customers are always looking for the quality and value-add,” said Kurian. “With our international operation we are able to collaborate with our engineers in India, manufacturing facility in China, and use quality control and documentation from the U.S.”  “This provides speed of communication, continuity and value to the customer,” he adds. Next on Harsco’s agenda: open facilities in Brazil, the UK and Australia over the next two years.

In addition to speed, modern IT solutions—whether deployed in the cloud or on premise—offer functionality to support global expansion, such as:

Availability of raw materials
Modern inventory management solutions help control the complexity of an extended supply chain. Advanced solutions mitigate the risk of unexpected interruptions to availability. Collaborative tools, online portals and advanced analytics help monitor and maintain appropriate levels of inventory for a geographically dispersed market.

Regulatory compliance
No matter where a plant is located, local and international regulations are always going to be a core consideration of a manufacturer’s operational strategy. Modern ERP solutions contain integrated quality control capabilities and use escalation alerts to help improve compliance with strict standards and performance requirements.

Global or local
Nationalism or cultural preferences can push customers to seek a local flavor of the global product. Made to order, engineered to order and configured versions of products may be expected in some regions where a distinct style is preferred. Likewise, labels, packaging, and consumer directions or warnings may have to be changed to reflect different languages or regional laws. Today’s ERP solutions and product configuration tools help manufacturers meet customer expectations for product specialization and localization.

Multiple languages, currencies and tax laws
Manufacturers in today’s global marketplace must choose ERP solutions flexible enough to operate in numerous languages, do business in multiple currencies and uphold the unique tax laws of different countries.

Quality control and consistency
Consistency and quality control become even more important as manufacturers extend their operations to several locations. Variations can put the integrity of the brand at risk. Contemporary ERP solutions have closed-loop quality control systems that can measure final performance against engineered parameters.

Agile response to risk
Global operations naturally involve some degree of risk, as plants move into regions where social and political volatility can threaten stability. Cloud-based solutions provide the agility needed for quick response to volatile situations.  Because there is no need for hardware, servers, systems to manage security or extensive IT support, setting up a new location—or relocating when there is a risk—can happen quickly and easily.

What it all means
Manufacturers today must compete in a globalized marketplace, orchestrate geographically dispersed supply chains and identify and capitalize on new opportunities for growth. Although competing in a global economy is challenging, modern software solutions provide the advanced tools required to tackle these issues with confidence.