• Some manufacturers still use spreadsheets to prepare quotes. What are the drawbacks of this system and what should manufacturers be doing instead?

While spreadsheets are good for many things, they were not designed to store papers, notes, email conversations and related information that are essential parts of estimating and neither are they very good at version control. Relying on spreadsheets for estimating eliminates any chances to effectively collaborate under them as well. We’ve all heard (and experienced) what happens when you email spreadsheets around with team members and you end up updating different versions of the same document.

Also, given the world that we now live in, many regulations have an impact on spreadsheets. Over the last two decades, there has been a growth in regulations that directly affect spreadsheet-based data, with associated conformity being difficult to conform with, if at all possible.

When I visit manufacturers and see their current processes, the estimating spreadsheets are often created by individuals who have very little IT expertise. This means that, eventually, the spreadsheet files become highly personalized and difficult to explain to others. So, when it’s time for a new person to take over as part of a business or personnel change, the beginner may have to start again from scratch.

Once I show them how estimating functionality is a part of our ERP solution, they immediately see the benefits.

  • What processes must a manufacturing organization automate and what are the benefits of doing so?

The processes that can be automated using the functionality are the workflow from the estimate process and the subsequent quote process through to the creation of the associated data. These processes are done by different people. So, by automating them, the real-time notification of when someone wishes to action their stage becomes the norm and timescales shrink.

  • Which solutions will help increase the efficiency of a manufacturing business and how?

The efficiency of a manufacturer can be increased in a number of areas, not just in the estimating department. Collaboration between internal departments can be enlarged. For example, during the estimating process, both the sales and finance teams have access to it and ensure that the budgets, margins, and assumptions are correct. This will mean that if the estimate/quotation is approved by the customer, then the details will automatically be converted into an order and BOMs created/updated as compulsory with no need for the re-input of data.

This whole process eliminates redundancy, increases accuracy and breaks down departmental silos and gets teams working more cohesively and efficiently.

  • What unique recompense would a manufacturer gain as an IFS customer? 

The main advantage that manufacturers would gain as an IFS customer is that of having a supplier who is focused on their industry and has a solution that meets their requirements today as well as tomorrow. The manufacturing industry is the largest focused industry at IFS and customer advisory councils ensure that customers can meet senior executives as well as R&D to see and affect what is being developed. The IFS resolution allows today’s manufacturer to digitally transform their business with Industry 4.0capabilities and help them on their journey to become a smart factory.