How to Use ERP Software to Support Fastener Industry Needs

As the global demand for industrial fasteners continues its rise, it’ll become increasingly critical for manufacturers and distributors in the fastener industry to leverage enterprise software solutions to manage complex supply chains and meet growing requirements. Without the visibility and control provided by enterprise software, businesses are likely to succumb to stringent regulations, production roadblocks, insufficient stocking and other critical issues. 
We’re about to take you on a deep dive into some of the core functionality that an enterprise resource planning (ERP) software solution offers to enhance processes in the fastener industry, but before we do that, let’s start off with an explanation of ERP. 
ERP Explanation
ERP software is designed to support a variety of backend functions for an array of vertical markets, including the fastener industry. ERP consists of integrated business applications to manage finance, supply chains, production scheduling, projects and much, much more. By covering a broad scope of business needs, ERP serves as a central hub for your enterprise data. 
Storing data and managing processes in one platform offers enormous benefits to your organization. Rather than implement multiple systems, users across your enterprise can access everything from one place, drastically cutting down on IT costs. This also eradicates departmental silos and increases data accuracy. Information is automatically captured in one system, not manually entered in disparate places. Additionally, process automation reduces repetitive, rote tasks, so employees can focus on making smart business decisions.
ERP software also drives actionable insights. By leveraging artificial intelligence (AI), business intelligence (BI) and machine learning (ML) technology, ERP systems can transform big data collected from your machines, accounts and everything else into reports, forecasts, graphs and other useful information. With all this material at your fingertips, you can detect shortcomings, plan for future success and make major business improvements. Ultimately, ERP will help you see your enterprise with a new set of eyes, giving you powerful insight into every facet of your organization. 

An important thing to keep in mind, however, is that not all ERP systems are created equal. Some instances are too rigid and limited in their functionality to respond to changes and nuanced requirements. For this piece, we’ll focus on Epicor® ERP, as it includes integrated modules that support a wide variety of manufacturing and distribution industries, including fasteners. 

Quality and Compliance
The first specific benefit of implementing ERP for fastener manufacturers and distributors that we’ll cover is the system’s ability to maintain quality and compliance. Businesses must ensure the fasteners they make comply with the strict standards of multiple industries, such as automotive, aerospace and defense and medical device manufacturing. The fastener market is facing increasingly tough mandates, forcing businesses to seek out lighter materials and ensure their products are fulfilling global requirements. Meeting these regulations requires stringent quality control and tracking that only an ERP instance can facilitate. 

Epicor includes Quality Assurance features to automate compliance, generate audit trails and track quality from cradle to grave. Automated serial and lot tracking give users insight into the lifecycle of every pallet, box and part throughout your supply chain. Such a high degree of visibility enables businesses to quickly retrieve information to perform lot costing, create reports and simplify recalls when necessary. 
An ERP system should go beyond sophisticated tracking to support an array of regulatory and industry standards. As compliance documentation becomes a bigger requirement, you’ll need your software to include functionality to help you collect necessary certificates and keep a detailed audit trail. 
Epicor’s modules provide a comprehensive framework to comply with an array of standards, such as automotive (TS), ISO, FDA and aerospace (AS). Epicor can check for Certificates of Compliance upon receiving parts and materials and before shipping products to customers, helping you maintain thorough documentation. It also maintains visibility across audit trails and collects data from inspection plans, purchase orders, jobs and more to use for auditing and document creation. 
Regulations don’t just differ from industry to industry; businesses also have to keep up with mandates across multiple countries. Your ERP, therefore, should include the ability to support standards across the globe. Epicor’s Country Specific Functionality (CSF) supports local, regional and international reporting and accounting requirements, including IFRS and Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). 
Slip-ups in quality management and compliance can easily break your business, resulting in heavy fees that hit your bottom line and hurt your reputation. To stay afloat in a global marketplace and serve industries with severe standards, fastener manufacturers and distributors require an advanced ERP solution to simplify quality control and collect comprehensive data. 
Manufacturing Execution System
When it comes to your production line, every second counts. A few seconds difference between machines adds up to hours of run time being wasted each week. To drill down into every second of your operations and make on-the-fly changes to account for new or modified orders, you’ll need to integrate your machines with your ERP system. This proves especially important for the fastener sector, as it relies on high-end equipment to create all the nuts, bolts, screws and more that your customers need. 
This is where a Manufacturing Execution System (MES) comes into play. MES is designed to connect data and processes across your shop floor, providing critical insight to optimize manufacturing operations. By generating real-time data 24/7, users can identify downtime, increase OEE and reduce scrap to enhance your enterprise performance. Furthermore, this automatic data collection reduces manual data entry, resulting in incredible time savings and better accuracy. MES is essential for maintaining shop floor efficiency, high quality and lean manufacturing principles. 
Epicor Mattec MES is a particularly powerful solution designed to populate data from your shop floor in real time, so you can effectively solve problems. Operators can view production data from touch screens to easily get the details on downtime, cycle time and quality. Users from the top floor to the shop floor can drill into efficiency and production metrics and statistical quality control (SQC) and statistical process control (SPC) along with other datasets to control every detail of your production lines. Deep insights and analytics also enable users to make fact-based decisions, from determining which orders to run next to finding areas where the company can cut energy costs. 
One way that MES protects your processes is by providing real-time preventative maintenance. Using a calendar to schedule maintenance can prove disastrous for your production lines, resulting in unnecessary maintenance that eats up your time or unplanned machine downtime because you didn’t schedule maintenance early enough. Mattec’s real-time tracking will help you perform maintenance at optimal times and instantly update production schedules to make up for the down machine. 
Modern business success hinges on agility and flexibility. When you connect your machines with your ERP tools using MES, you gain key insights into manufacturing floor processes. Automatic notifications, real-time data and the capability to change schedules on-the-fly enable you to make your operations more responsive, so you can meet customer demands and design strategies to cut costs and waste. 
Supply Chain Control
Supply chains are growing more complex, and the fastener industry isn’t immune to this trend. With customer demands becoming more specific and regulations becoming stricter, fastener manufacturers and distributors have a tougher time controlling each step of the supply chain. This results in unexplained errors and delays that impact your profit margins. 
To address these issues, it’s critical to take advantage of Supply Chain Management (SCM) tools available from ERP. SCM modules consist of interconnected features designed to enable users to automate and control the supply chain, from obtaining raw materials to distributing the final product to the customer. Epicor includes a robust SCM suite that integrates several functions, so you can manage inventory, purchases, supplier relationships and more out of one platform. Furthermore, the system grants visibility at every stage, powering streamlined processes and smart decision making. 
By building a full range of capabilities within one system, users can access a range of data from a single screen. You can easily track lots and their attributes, parts, POs, quotes and more to help you manage inventory, production lines and deliveries. Real-time metrics, analytics and notifications fill users in on shortcomings, giving actionable insights to help them make strategies for supply chain improvements.
The ERP dashboard serves as your portal to all this exciting knowledge. A key attribute to look for when selecting an ERP system is usability. In the case of Epicor, usability comes in the form of its configurable dashboards. Each user has the power to easily personalize their home page to display the most relevant enterprise data, analytics and charts. You can also easily drill into specific datasets and search for other insights. On top of that, embedded business intelligence (BI) gives you advanced analytics to maximize the value of your data.
Additionally, you can automate processes throughout your supply chain. For example, you can replenish materials in line with inventory levels and trigger production lines to start once materials have been vetted for quality and acquired. By automating rote tasks and data collection, ERP frees up more time for employees to focus on value-driven activities and reduces human error. 
One of the most important tools for maintaining visibility and efficiency in fastener supply chains is Electronic Data Interchange (EDI). EDI is heavily utilized in the automotive and aerospace industries to transfer documents and orders between customers and vendors. Epicor’s EDI module serves as a useful feature for handling large volumes of data between fastener manufacturers and distributors and their customers. Because EDI functions are tightly integrated with Epicor, the solution reduces turnaround time and improves accuracy. 
The supply chain consists of a large variety of moving parts that can easily become unwieldy without an ERP system serving as your organization’s backbone. When you have instant access to data and granular control, there’s no obstacle your business can’t overcome. 
Global Management
Globalization is increasingly impacting manufacturing and distribution sectors, and the fastener industry is no exception. Global demand for industrial fasteners is growing, and this trend is expected to continue for years to come. As a result, manufacturers and distributors of fasteners will need to invest in solutions to support international consumers and supply chains. 
Though we’ve covered the importance of utilizing ERP to power supply chain visibility, we haven’t touched on how ERP can extend this visibility across various locations. Businesses can’t afford to experience slow-downs because a global warehouse lacks sufficient lot tracking, or processes are manually being handed off from one site to another. Without ERP software, organizations suffer from disjointed operations as they lack visibility into the processes and data of multiple locations. 
ERP deployed in the cloud can help you bridge these gaps. Cloud computing is an important innovation in enterprise software. It’s known for making advanced solutions accessible to small and midsize businesses by lowering IT costs and simplifying implementation and upkeep. But it’s value extends to larger, global enterprises as well. With data instantly updated in the cloud, multiple locations have insight at their fingertips. Cloud solutions are also more scalable, enabling your ERP system to grow with your business. 
Cloud deployment solves many of the difficulties that plagued old ERP systems, but there are other issues involved in running global operations that are beyond cloud computing’s reach. To provide 360-degree insight and manage multiple currencies and languages, you’ll need to seek out an ERP solution that includes advanced global management tools. 
Epicor includes multi-company management capabilities to allot managers with virtual views of the entire enterprise. From a single login, users can track key metrics, drill into up-to-date datasets and check the status of orders and production to ensure every facet of your enterprise is running smoothly. With other solutions, users end up wasting time and struggling to find what they need as they log in and out of different companies.
Additionally, Epicor helps organizations that operate in multiple languages. Each site can deploy applications in their native language without customizing the base code, simplifying global management. Epicor also includes tools to manage multiple currencies, tracking default currencies and exchange rate tables and automating buying and selling in foreign currencies. This takes the guesswork out of foreign transactions, allowing users to effectively revalue transactions and safeguard international accounting practices.
Fastener manufacturers and distributors must take advantage of increasing demand and other benefits of globalization. With cloud computing and sophisticated ERP functionality, businesses can capitalize on international opportunities while maintaining full control. 
Connected Enterprise 
In a way, the modules and tools that make up an ERP system serve as the fasteners that connect each location and stage of your supply chain. By serving as a central hub of data and streamlining operations, ERP features act as the nuts and bolts of your business, creating a connected enterprise. ERP is a complete business solution with multiple modules that manage production, projects, finances and more in one place. When you have a complete view of processes and data, you can implement a holistic approach to solving operational pain points and making overall business improvements. 
Our consultants often see manufacturers and distributors undergoing enormous trials on their outdated, rigid solutions. Managing processes on QuickBooks and Excel platforms becomes unwieldy when businesses undergo global expansion, growing datasets and other major changes. Legacy solutions experience frequent crashes and fail to process big data within a reasonable time frame.  When each department operates on a separate system, the result is information silos and poor communication. Any of these set-ups are recipes for organizational breakdown, especially in an age of increasing complexity and globalization. 
Manufacturers and distributors in the fastener industry can’t afford the risks that come with antiquated, rudimentary technology. ERP software connects your processes, departments and data. This enables better collaboration, no matter how large your enterprise is, so employees can form a united front to build robust strategies. IT teams only have to worry about maintaining and upgrading one system, resulting in lower costs. Processes can be automated throughout your enterprise to accelerate lead times and improve accuracy. 
Enterprise software is becoming more innovative and connected than ever, making users better equipped to meet any business challenge head on. ERP has become a vital component of manufacturing and distribution success, particularly for the fastener industry, which involves stringent regulations, multiple sectors, complex processes and a global marketplace. Selecting and implementing the right ERP solution will have you seeing major business improvements and a stronger bottom line. 
About the author: Amanda Hagedorn is the Marketing Associate at Datix. Datix is an Epicor Platinum Partner and certified partner of Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Salesforce. For over 20 years, the software consulting firm has provided enterprise software implementations, integrations, upgrades, customizations and more to a variety of manufacturing and distribution industries. 
Epicor is a registered trademark of Epicor Software Corporation, registered in the United States and other countries. Other trademarks referenced are the property of their respective owners.

Date : 03.12.2018