5 ways ERP software can empower metals businesses to win

Tony Barnes
5 ways ERP software can empower metals businesses to win

Having a successful metals business for the long haul depends on investing in your most important assets: Your people. This includes giving them the right technology to solve problems quickly, drive efficiency, optimize processes, and deliver world-class customer service.

Too many metals businesses get left behind because they don’t empower their employees with the right tools. Rather, they choose to depend on outdated systems that stifle their employees' productivity and morale, which can affect their bottom line.

Thankfully, this scenario doesn’t have to be your reality. In this article, we’ll look at five ways technology can empower your team to win and set up your metals business for long-term success.

1. Empower your entire metals business with a unified system

Over the years, metals businesses have invested in technology to meet customer demand and to stay ahead of the competition in key areas of sales, operations, and finance. The problem is, over time, those systems become outdated and siloed, making communicating effectively with each other challenging.  

Think about the inefficiencies and headaches posed by a typical scenario:  

  • Your sales team takes a customer’s pipe cut-to-length orders and enters them into one system. 
  • Your planning team receives 20 different cut-to-length orders and has to enter them into a second system. 
  • Your production team tracks those orders’ specifications and quality requirements on a piece of paper and checks in frequently to monitor the progress. 

In a few steps, you are amplifying the risk of errors and miscommunication while asking your team to enter the same information multiple times. It’s frustrating and requires a high level of follow-up among departments to track the progress of the orders. Multiply this over your customer base, and it’s a bewildering scenario for your team.  

Metals companies have to be faster and more efficient than the competition to grow market share. Thankfully, a unified enterprise resource planning (ERP) system can bring the essential areas of your metals business under one roof, with one central source of truth accessed in real time. Frustrating manual processes and the potential for errors quickly become a thing of the past.

2. Empower your sales team to deliver world-class customer service

The modern customer needs frequent communication, accurate information, on-time quotes, and adaptable product customization. A problem for many metals businesses is that outdated systems make it challenging to meet these basic expectations. Set up your team for success and give it the keys to customer satisfaction through a modern ERP system that can help provide:  

  • Real-time customer service. Give your team real-time access to customers’ unique information, including open orders, order history, quotes, sales activity, pricing agreements, shipments, incoming customer supply, and returns. With this information at their fingertips, your team members can quickly build trust with customers and experience greater job satisfaction. 
  • Accurate quotes. Efficiently provide accurate quotes, including product costs and material margin on sales quotes and orders. Arm your team with the tools to make smarter decisions for your business and your customers. It’s a win-win.  
  • Unique customization. Effectively track and manage product specifications, including customer-specific and order-specific specifications, across the life cycle of an order from quote, sales order, purchasing, and production all the way to shipping – a process your team can depend on and be confident in.

3. Empower your operations team to improve margins

Your operations team is the engine room of your metals business. Get the fundamentals right and it’s plain sailing. Get them wrong and you’re lost at sea – while the competition steams ahead. Empower your operations team members with an efficient ERP system to give them the feeling of accomplishment at the end of every workday:  

  • Production visibility. Know what is happening on the floor, including when products and materials are complete and where they are in the cut-to-length or slitting process. Having information like this maximizes machine uptime and can improve customer relationships through real-time updates. 
  • Worker efficiency. Metals businesses can use mobile devices to streamline data entry, increase worker efficiency, and allow for real-time tracking. In addition, optimized outside processing allows for more efficient delivery of customer orders. Smart tools improve efficiency for your operations team members and allow them to invest their time in adding value elsewhere.  
  • Inventory planning. Having a real-time view of your inventory allows for faster customer fulfillment, optimized production processing decisions, and improved order margins. You’ll minimize delays, optimize inventory, and decrease frustrations.

4. Empower your finance team to provide accurate forecasting

Your metals business needs to make financial decisions with confidence, using accurate data and detailed forecasting. An ERP system positions your finance team to deliver regular reports and forecasts to paint a clear picture of your present and future financials.  

  • Efficient forecasting. With a unified ERP system, your finance team can access real-time operations data to provide accurate financials and forecasting, allowing you to plan with confidence. There’s no time delay or waiting until month-end to see where you are financially; your finance team can dig into high-level or detailed forecasts with ease. 
  • Smart efficiency. With smart technology you can uncover profit margins at a product, grade, alloy, and order level to pinpoint trends and improve performance. There’s no better feeling of accomplishment than when your finance team knows it is helping to capture cost-savings opportunities.

5. Empower your IT team to innovate for the future

Many metals businesses have IT teams that spend the bulk of their time running from one emergency to the next. They focus on trying to eliminate the costly downtime that comes with outdated systems. When they are not decreasing downtime, they’re often tasked to deliver reports, importing and exporting between segregated systems. Their role is reactive more than proactive and often full of headaches, frustrations, and exhaustion.  

An ERP system can change the trajectory for IT team members when you empower them with a solution that enables them to become solution providers. Give them the tools and allow them to focus on delivering the next customer innovation, like e-commerce and customer portals, instead of building one-off reports and spreadsheets for your team. You’ll be giving them a new purpose that can positively affect the entire organization. 

Ownership for the future

Investing for the long term depends on choosing the right technology to empower your team to succeed. Think about the dedicated operator on the slitting machine, the hard-working quality manager, and the diligent controller. They are integral parts of your metals business family and have got you to where you are today. Giving them the right tools will help increase their job satisfaction and help your metals company stay ahead of the competition at the same time.

Contact us

We’ve watched companies struggle with outdated systems, but we’ve also helped metals businesses like yours step into the future with a modern ERP system that attracts and keeps their best people (and customers). If you’d like to learn more, we can help you.
Tony Barnes
Tony Barnes
Principal, Microsoft Cloud Solutions Leader