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Recent news reports, including an article just published in the Wall Street Journal, suggest that the long industrial decline in the U.S. is in reverse. March 2012 data shows that U.S. manufacturing expanded for the 32nd straight month.

Manufacturers themselves are feeling optimistic. A recent KPMG survey finds optimism at record highs among U.S. manufacturing executives. As the survey notes, U.S. manufacturers anticipate healthy revenues, profits and new business activity in the months ahead. For those companies that weathered the storm of the economic downturn, this is welcome news.

The challenge now is for the small to medium manufacturer to keep pace with this uptick in business activity. Manufacturers that used the recent downturn as an opportunity to increase operational efficiency should be well-positioned to benefit from growth in demand.

Specific to ERP systems, we’ve found that companies that have in place manufacturing-specific features and functions will be the best suited to handle increased business activity. The following aspects of manufacturing ERP software, in particular, contribute to a company’s ability to keep pace with expanded production:

1. Up-to-Date System Features. Manufacturers using ERP systems with a continuous upgrade strategy can ensure that the business software will handle increased demand volume and customer requirements. They can trust that new functions and technologies will be integrated into the software without disruptions to their operations.

2. Intuitive User Interface. As manufacturers handle increased business activity, and new workers come on board, the importance of an intuitive user interface is even more critical.  An ERP system must be easy for all workers to use via screen structure, fields, online help and workflow. The ERP system must let users work fast, and operate securely, intuitively and effectively.

3. Automated Processes.  The more streamlined and automated the operations, the easier it is for a manufacturer to keep pace with increases in customer demand. As an example, comprehensive materials management features must easily handle increasingly complex logistical processes. As business activity expands, the ERP system must automatically track and coordinate warehousing measures with delivery schedules and enable the company to function efficiently with minimum inventory levels.

4. A Global Footprint. As a final consideration, ERP systems should let companies work with the same database in different operating languages. This simplifies working with subsidiaries in other countries as business expands.


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