<img src="https://secure.leadforensics.com/133892.png" alt="" style="display:none;">

An ongoing challenge for the manufacturing industry is to reduce waste. But how can you do so realistically? ‘Waste’ can be tangible - like stock material, ingredients or excess product. ‘Waste’ can also be intangible - like the time operators spend waiting for machines and the time it takes for products (raw and finished) to travel along the supply chain.

A combination of agile and Lean manufacturing processes coupled with e-commerce can effectively reduce waste. Let’s discuss how.

What is Lean manufacturing?

Lean manufacturing is about reducing waste and providing customers with more value - using fewer resources in the process. That could be reviewing the movement of raw and finished goods to reduce unnecessary transportation. Or it could be improving manufacturing process efficiency to reduce product defects and enhance overall product quality.

What is Lean manufacturing

What is agile manufacturing?

While Lean concepts focus on waste reduction, agile principles are about ensuring businesses can quickly respond to market demands and address customer expectations. In the manufacturing space, Lean is usually the predecessor to agile.

The four pillars of agile manufacturing are:

  1. Modular product design to allow for quick and easy variation
  2. Technology to facilitate cross-team collaboration and quick data dissemination
  3. Alliances with corporate partners to enhance time to market
  4. A forward-thinking company culture that encourages knowledge sharing (which will support rapid changes within the business)

What is agile manufacturing

Achieve the above and you’ll find it easier to meet and exceed customer expectations.

Combine Lean and agile manufacturing principles and you can benefit from:

  • Improved process efficiency
  • A more productive workforce
  • Enhanced cost efficiency
  • Better customer service
  • Ability to respond and adapt more quickly to change

The last benefit is particularly important for manufacturers. The less waste your business produces, the more resource-efficient you can be. The more resource-efficient you are, the more resources you can spare when it comes to addressing sudden changes in the market - e.g. fluctuations in demand, new regulations requiring a change to working conditions etc.

You get the picture.

Where does e-commerce come in?

Now, the two manufacturing principles (Lean and agile) can apply to processes beyond production and ensure your business is efficient across the board. This is where e-commerce comes in to lend its support.

An e-commerce platform can ensure your product, service and pricing information is stored in one location. This makes it easier for your teams to keep this information up-to-date as they don’t have to waste time searching for what to update (and where).

It also contributes to customer experience as your customers can easily find the information they’re looking for and always view an accurate, most up-to-date version. That means they don’t need to reach out to your sales or customer service team for assistance, giving them more autonomy and time back to your team. Time to spend on other value-adding tasks.

Here are a few solutions which can improve your e-commerce experience:

  • PIM solution - to ensure efficient product information management (PIM). A PIM system ensures your product info is centralised, making its management easier (among other benefits)
  • CMS - your website is your business’s digital shop window. A Content Management System (CMS) ensures any content you display is the best it can be - from your latest promotions and sales messaging to the most popular products/services
  • CRM solution - to ensure your customer relationship management (CRM) process is streamlined. A CRM system houses all of your essential customer data in one place, making it easier for your teams to find and access what they need, when they need it
  • AI - to analyse customer behaviour and offer intelligent recommendations based on the findings. This can help you better profile your customers and offer personalised engagements to boost customer experience

Can you see how e-commerce can support the pillars of agile manufacturing?

For starters, you would be adopting technology to facilitate cross-team collaboration and quick data dissemination. As your product information, website content and customer data are centralised, this enables your team to quickly find and update what they need. And work off the same version rather than passing multiple versions around.

see how e-commerce can support the pillars of agile manufacturing

This supports another pillar - knowledge sharing.

When your CRM and commerce platforms are integrated, you can easily personalise content on your digital storefront based on customer behaviour - not guesswork. So, you can design a website that actually converts.

And here’s another example: if your commerce platform is integrated with your ERP, you can benefit from reduced manual work. Payment and shipping details, web orders etc can all feed into the ERP system from your commerce. And warehouse stock levels can transfer from your ERP into your commerce.

That links to arguably the greatest benefit of all - you gain time back because:

  • There’s no need to manually enter data
  • Your customers can see an accurate update of your products (no pesky post-purchase emails of ‘whoops! Your product is now out of stock!’)…
  • …which means they don’t need to contact your team so they can focus on other tasks
  • Any orders placed via your website can be automatically processed through your ERP and be ready to ship…
  • …which reduces time to market (another agile manufacturing pillar!)

Manufacturers, it’s time to create or rethink your e-commerce strategy

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that all markets are becoming more saturated - particularly for the manufacturing industry. After all, 70% of manufacturers worldwide say that increased competition is a key driving force behind their business’s digital transformation.

To keep up with market demands and trends, you must start adopting Lean and agile principles. E-commerce is a great area to explore if you haven’t already. Our guide to e-commerce for manufacturers covers everything you need to know.

And if you’re already part of the e-commerce game, well, there’s always room to improve. Right?

Check out our guide below for tips on the ideal e-commerce strategy for manufacturers.

How manufacturers can succeed with e-commerce


Discuss this post

Recommended posts

Starting the new year gives you the chance to hit the “reset” button on your warehouse facility. After a brutal year for nearly everyone on the planet, it’s time to set 2021 off on the right foot. Warehouse costs continue to rise year after year as the industry gets increasingly competitive. So, how are you going to cut your costs without losing profit?
A key benefit of an ERP system is its ability to unify business systems, processes and operations. So, you might be wondering whether you even need specific ERP software for the food industry. The answer is yes because food products have a life of their own. They constantly change their behaviour, often unexpectedly. That’s why you need food ERP software and not a generic alternative. In this blog, we take a deeper look into the reasons why: Deal with the variances of ‘living’ products Cater for products that need special treatment Manage the goods in and out stages Handle the complexities Prepare for the inconsistency Satisfy supply and demand Deal with the variances of ‘living’ products Whilst a standard ERP system can cover most requirements during the conversion process, it can’t handle the variances of food products. The uniformity and quality variations of ‘living’ products in the food industry can vary considerably during the manufacturing/production stage. Food ERP software is designed to cater for this. In addition, food ERP systems need to be tailored to deal with “attributes” of food items such as size, field, country of origin and so on. Whilst investing in a standard ERP system will get you some form of substitution functionality, a food ERP solution provides enhanced functionality in this area. This is extremely important when dealing with organic and conventional items where it can accommodate multiple attributes. Food ERP systems also provide the capabilities to change pieces of information after they’ve been scheduled or started. Cater for products that need special treatment Manufacturing resource planning (MRP II) is a major part of an ERP system. Food ERP software must go beyond the traditional “make to stock” or “make to order” process of standard ERP systems. This is because food products with a shorter shelf life or that have a nature bound harvest cycle require special treatment. For example: A standard ERP system doesn’t always support sudden changes in processing times. It’s important to have food industry ERP software in order to protect against unforeseen changes to weather or product quality Products with natural growing cycles are only ready when they’re ready, which doesn’t always fit with demand-driven MPS Foodstuffs that have a very short shelf life need their own scheduling algorithm Manage the goods in and out stage Food ERP software is needed when dealing with the intake of raw materials i.e. the “goods in” stage. This is because compared to other industries, the expectation of foodstuff can be much looser. Items can be of multiple varieties or breeds with their own differing specifications. In addition, your ERP system must have enhanced QA functionality to account for extensive quality and customer safety checks to incoming products. For provenance, food businesses need to ensure allergens and the points of origin for the products are as stated. Standard ERP systems generally don’t deal with units of measure, so food industry ERP software often features added functionality to account for this. Once products reach the finished goods stage, having a food industry-specific ERP system will ensure “best before” and “use by” dates are catered for to avoid customer service and safety issues. Handle the complexities The demand planning process is largely the same for food or non-food businesses. But that doesn’t mean you should dive in and invest in a generic ERP system – the food industry has some added complexities that need to be considered such as: The food industry is supply driven. There could be a demand for a product at a certain point but that doesn’t mean the raw materials will be in season or available Lots of products in the food industry are parts of wholefoods or whole crops. Demand for one fraction of a harvest or slaughter may give rise to other fractions that may have a different demand profile Food products can be affected by the weather. Perishable food businesses are in danger from unpredictable weather conditions that can affect daily demand   Prepare for the inconsistency In terms of warehousing, most ERP systems with a built-in warehouse management system (WMS) will cover the functionality needed, however foodstuffs do have some extra requirements during storage. You’ll need food ERP software to monitor positive or negative changes in foodstuff (think of unripe fruit turning to ripe fruit). In terms of inventory, standard ERP systems are used to dealing with consistency. But when we’re talking about foodstuff, it’s rather the opposite – food inventory is inconsistent, driven by its environment, changes all the time and its life can be short. Basically, the level of information required here is too much for your traditional ERP system. Invest in food industry ERP software to gain more detailed information at the item level, such as attributes, secondary units of measure and quality specifications. At Lot level, food systems usually include in-depth data on origin, residency times and allergens. Satisfy supply and demand Supply and demand work together in the food industry and investing in food ERP software will cater for these requirements. Supply decisions are made with the following key questions in mind: What are the main weather conditions? What is the micro-level demand? What is the current quality of stock on hand? What is the current storage situation/capability? What is the maturity of products in the fields/hatcheries/greenhouses? A standard ERP system will not be able to handle these variances unless it’s modified. However, modifications are tricky and the complexities at this level cannot be underestimated. Mistakes can be made when trying to turn traditional supply processes/algorithms into predictive software. Ready to invest in food ERP software? Although it might be tempting to choose the cheapest ERP system you stumble across, having the right solution is just as important as implementing one. The key is to ensure that the ERP and physical processes match at a detailed level. As ERP is a big subject, we’ve created a guide which takes a detailed look at the differences between a generic ERP system and food industry ERP software. Download it now by clicking the button below.
No industry is truly exempt from disruption (as most businesses quickly discovered during the COVID-19 crisis). One great way to enhance business agility? Embrace digital technology and transformation. For manufacturers in particular, the right digital tech and internal culture can help you maximise visibility, access real-time data and make swift decisions.
Having the correct ERP system in place is vital for any business to achieve the results it desires. After all, within each industry, businesses have their own specific requirements that they need from an ERP system.
If there’s anything we’ve learnt over the last year or so, it’s that you really can’t predict the unpredictable. Take COVID-19, for example. It’s majorly disrupted supply chains. And it won’t be the last incident to do so. Natural disasters, political changes, financial crashes - these are all examples of uncontrollable events that can impact your supply chain.
right-arrow share search phone phone-filled menu filter envelope envelope-filled close checkmark caret-down arrow-up arrow-right arrow-left arrow-down