Using ERPs to Improve Productivity of Manufacturing Units

This post is part of the series of the ad hoc content writer (#AdHocCW). It was first published as an e-article, where it appeared with minor additions that contained information about the company.

An enterprise resource planning (ERP) system is not only a tool to automate business processes and their underlying transactional data, but also a methodology to streamline and improve the operational efficiency of those business processes. And, manufacturing is indeed one business process where the impact of the use of ERP can be critical. Let us explore how does the use of ERP systems contribute to improving the productivity of manufacturing units.

Data and Decision Integration

ERP systems typically cover all business operations across a business unit. Consequently, the biggest impact of implementing ERPs lies in the integration of information. Such an integration is critical from the point of view of the survival and success of a business unit. That’s because decisions are time and resource critical. Any change or influence from the internal (controllable) and external (uncontrollable) factors can affect the decisions. And, having information at fingertips can always improve the effectiveness of the time-and-resource-critical decision making. Such decisions, though taken at different levels of different departments, will still be cohesive and move the organization in the same direction.

Vision Implementation

Businesses are as much about “tomorrow” as about “today”. Therefore, it is important for us to plan things much in advance. ERP systems can help us graduate data into facts, facts into information, and information into insights. These insights can lend us the vision, which is important to our success. An ERP system can also bring in the additional capability of analysis. We can use the reports and dashboards from millions of the stored data to come up with plans that can help us view the everyday business operations, such as demand and supply, way ahead of time. This capability is indeed important for the manufacturing units.

Organizational Management

One thing that ERP does, and does good, is operational management. We can use the information from ERP systems to help optimize our manufacturing activities. We can use ERP systems to switch people and tasks, based on the knowledge that the systems gather for us. That way, we can manufacture more in less time, with perhaps the best person and tool acquiring the best time slots.

Reduction of Losses

Just as we can forecast demands and supplies or transform data into insights, we can track and optimize our workforce, too, to make sure that we adhere to plans, budgets, and time constraints. This means a lot of time for us to adjust to changes, if any, in plans. But, a greater benefit of implementing ERPs is the reduction of losses. When we ERPs to optimize our manufacturing capabilities, we use our tools, people, and resources in ways that can help us predict, avoid, and, if required, overcome shortages and losses.

ERP systems can help us with some key areas of business operations, such as assuming timeliness in deliveries of orders, improving the quality of our processes and products, optimizing and reducing the product costs in the long run, reducing the downtime of manufacturing units on account of either lack of raw materials or failure due to overloads. But, the biggest benefit is still in reaping a higher sense of certainty in the overall functioning of a manufacturing unit.

The Ad hoc Content Writer

This month has been really exciting for me at the office. That’s because, from the first day, I played only a technical communicator. But in this month, I added some more feathers to my tech-comm cap – Newsletter and Blogs!

I delivered a big project at the start of this month: Administration, installation, and user guides; a CHM help; and a couple of utility documents. And, all that as the only writer for the project. Another project on the professional timeline, so I thought. But, the company had other plans for me. As I waited for other projects to start, my company gave me this opportunity to take part in the first-of-its-kind project, the company newsletter.

We decided it to be on the online platform, and in only about a couple of weeks, came up with the first draft of the newsletter. It must have been our efforts (and some luck) that we got the draft approved WITHOUT A SINGLE CHANGE. The newsletter is now live, but because it’s for only internal circulation, I cannot share the link with you.

My manager knows that I have a blog and that I contribute a fair amount of time to it. So, he assigned me to work with the content-writing team lead, and come up with blog posts for the company’s online presence. The efforts are to be a part of the company’s India marketing campaign. And, I am excited about this new ad hoc role of a content writer. Of course, I am still pitching in with the usual technical-communication efforts, but putting in efforts into the marketing side of things seems more like re-reading some old pages from my past.

In the coming weeks (or days, perhaps) I’ll share some of the blog posts I wrote for the company’s online presence. I hope you will like reading them. For ease of reference, I will hashtag those posts as #AdHocCW. Do let me know how good I do as the ad hoc content writer. One last thought: It has not been difficult for me to play the roles of technical communicator and content writer. I have always thought that technical communicators can excellently double as content writers; just that now I can say that more confidently.

What questions do you ask to SMEs to begin with technical documentation?

During a recent online conversation, someone requested for a list of questions I would typically ask to a subject matter expert (SME) to prepare technical documentation for a topic. Of course, the parameters may vary, but there is still a list of questions that apply across all sizes or complexities of projects. In this post, I share with you the list of questions that I shared with them…

TechComm and Content Disruption

Vinish Garg recently posted on the content’s role in Disruption. In his post, he shared what the experts had to say on the role that content has to play/currently plays. Here’s my opinion:

What is Disruption?

Let me first take you back in time. This started when the marketing and branding industry opened the corporate gates to the world of consumers. And, by opening the gates, I mean it transformed its value proposition from “this is what I have” to “this is what I can do”.

This is when the small brands started becoming revolutionarily big by using the power of content to reach people. Gradually, the brand communication transformed from advertisements to jingles, to sports, to brand personification, and to emails. But, this inherent idea of associating brands with emotions continued to lose its value as the size of content continued to become unmanageably big.

Today, we have a lot more touch points to reach to our consumers, yet we are far less effective in reaching the right audiences. Reason? The consumers are lost in the enormity of content. In the race of creating more content, we have forgotten to make it effectively personal. Today, the consumers have a lot of options, and each of those options is trying to be different. But, when everyone tries to be different, no one is different.

It is important to disrupt this clichéd template of communication to help consumers make informed decisions. It is important to keep consumers at the focus to design communication strategies that transform the value proposition from “this is what I can do” to “this is what I can do for you”.

This disruption is to bring back the consumers from the point of “I am being pushed” (with the product/service) to “I am being heard”. And, only such a disruption can help us engage better, listen better, and do better.

And, how can technical communication/technical communicators play a role in Disruption?

I think it is about the consumers, and not about the product. We exist because the consumers (and their needs) exist. We help build this communication ecosystem. We communicate products in an undistorted, unappealing form. But, we do connect the features and benefits. We can help our consumers answer the “what’s in it for me” question. Of course, we may not sell. But we can at least help them buy.

I look at it this way: If organizations were chemical equations, technical communicators would be the catalyst. We communicate. And, we help communicate. The information passes through us. So, it is up to us to transform that information into its utterly simple, memorable, and usable form. In fact, we can equate customers’ requirements with the developers’ intentions.

We can align tools, methodologies, and the technology while we bring clarity, insights, oneness, and simplicity (not in that order though). But of course, that all sums up as the easy-sounding commonsensical task. And, making common sense truly common is perhaps the disruption.