How do you make smart customisation a success? First organise, then automate

Apr 12, 2021
  • operations
  • IT
  • discrete manufacturing
  • SAP

In order to work optimally with a customer-specific approach, the transition to a Smart customisation is the way to go for many manufacturing companies. It may be a big step for the organisation, but it is necessary in order to compete in the market. So how do you steer that transition in the right direction?

As a result of smart customisation, your product becomes even more central to your organisation. This brings with it a challenge: optimally tuning your processes and IT support to the product. In our view, this is the only way to ultimately deliver your product to the customer as efficiently as possible. Finding that optimal alignment first requires research and a solid plan.

Organising: what adjustments do you need to make and what are the consequences?

If you are not ready yet, you should first explore which configurable building blocks and parameters your products consist of in order to meet the specific needs of your customers. In doing so, you need to think about the dependencies that the options entail and how you tie these into your processes.

You must also look at how you adapt business processes such as sales, purchasing, production, finance, service and planning to this new way of working. Involving a partner with knowledge and experience in the manufacturing industry is no luxury - it is essential. Such an adjustment cannot be carried out in a few months, it must be based on a solid plan. You will have to critically examine your product, organisation, (IT) automation and processes and find answers to questions such as:

  • How are we organised and is that still future-proof?
  • How does our product stand up in the market and how do we deal with this?How clean is our article database? 
  • What effort is needed to move from the current to a future-proof situation?
  • What does the primary process look like and is it still future-proof?
  • How do the processes flow through the application landscape?
  • What do my customers expect from the products and services I provide?

Ensure you can answer these questions before you  start scrutinising your (IT) automation landscape. If you don't, you may skip steps and encounter challenges later on.

Automate: make your ERP system fit for smart customisation

A well-integrated IT support is essential for redesigning the position of your product in the organisation with all related business processes. After all, in order to enable smart customisation, your processes and IT support must be so well aligned that customer-specific requirements flow seamlessly through the organisation in an automated and efficient manner. Once you have taken a critical look at your processes, you will know what the IT support needs to provide.

Sometimes a redesign of your existing ERP system is sufficient. But it may also be the case that the layout, interfaces and functionalities your business needs are not feasible with your current ERP system, for example, in the case of outdated systems with a lot of customisation that has been developed over many years.

Nowadays, ERP systems with a lot of customisation are really out of the question. Stick to the standard is key. Saying goodbye to your customised package feels like a big step, but that is precisely what sometimes stands in the way of making smart customisation a success. Outdated ERP systems are often not integrated, less scalable and do not offer the flexibility to support smart customisation.

ERP is the basis of your IT landscape. The entire primary process is interwoven with the entire organisation. This has to be right, and from there you will have to design the IT landscape in the right way.

If your assessments show that your IT support is not suited to your smart customisation mission, take the leap to a more modern ERP system.. To find out if this is the case: first organise, then automate.

This is the last blog in the three-part blog series: Smart customisation in manufacturing - how manufacturing companies survive and thrive in a rapidly changing market.

Want to know more about how we help our manufacturing customer achieve smart customisation processes? Click below to download the whitepaper.

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