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5 Reasons ERP-only Solutions Fail At Last-Mile Product Customization

Matt Bio 2

Content Marketing Specialist

Last week, we narrowed in on how the rigidity that made ERPs stable in the past is ultimately becoming too unwieldy to keep pace with today’s’ complex order demands. But this doesn’t mean ERPs are going away anytime soon. Nor should they. When it comes to managing back-end systems of record functions like payroll or human resources, an ERP is the go-to solution.

ERP megasuites have been the backbone of business operations since before the Internet existed. In an offline, analog world, monolithic ERPs were used to facilitate linear business changes that were predictable, accurate, reliable and stable. And for many years, this solitary mode of operation was efficient. In fact, it was the only option.

But today’s suppliers need to learn to function in hybrid reality environments if they want to discover new frontiers of growth and profitability. That means they need business solutions that are agile, responsive and undeterred by risk or complexity. If you are a single or multi-site value-added 3PL or copacker doing business today, you are facing vastly different market conditions and challenges than any other vertical in supply chain.

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The Elephant In The Room

A one-size-fits-all resource management solution cannot sufficiently support the complexity of assembly, kitting and WIP management workflows with the same focus and power of a specialist, purpose-built vendor solution. When it comes to shoehorning an ERP’s capabilities to support a unique, short-run production workflow, there is a fundamental lack of fit in functionality.

Then there’s the costs. ERPs are a capital expense and an operational expense. Lump sum capital expenditures have a lifetime cost calculation and a total cost of ownership, and they depreciate over time. Not only that, ERPs incur annual maintenance and service fees, ongoing consulting fees, and often additional fees for upgrades and added features.

All of this adds up to a lot of pain for everyone involved, whether you’re the CEO of a medium-sized copacker in the midwest, or the Plant Manager of a division of a major European 3PL provider. The bottom line is, your needs are not being met, specifically, in the following areas.

Here’s What The Pain Looks Like

  1. Rigidity: ERPs are notoriously inflexible systems that make it challenging to meet end-users’ needs for intuitive, mobile-ready, and agile execution of new procedures and workflows.
  2. Inconsistency: All unique workflows requires customization within an ERP system, making it next to impossible to achieve network-wide standardization. When internal processes don’t align, people work outside of the ERP and accelerate the deterioration of standard practices.
  3. Complexity: ERP functionality is comprehensive but generic. It has to be, that’s how it was built. This makes it difficult to onboard brand customers rapidly and makes configuring and automating bi-directional integrations between brands and suppliers complex and clunky.
  4. Operational Overhead: Modern labor and time-sensitive business operations have little margin for downtime, nor the resources to halt operations long enough to implement an ERP megasuite adequately. And that’s exactly what’s required if ERPs are your only option.
  5. Technical Overhead: Depending on an ERP-only resource management solution puts a heavy burden on internal IT teams and shifts their focus away from keeping last-mile product customization ops running at peak performance.

It’s clear that ERP capabilities aren’t able to satisfy the needs of suppliers and brands that require cost-effective, agile, and networked ways of executing mass customization. it’s a good thing reinforcements are available

Fill in the Gaps With SaaS

Software as a Service aka ‘cloud computing’ aka ‘SaaS’ is revolutionizing the way businesses operate. The ways that SaaS solutions enable last-mile product customization open up vast opportunities for revenue growth, cost, reduction and optimization and provide an antidote to pains that ERPs have be stretching and scrambling to address for the past decade.

Not only do specialist SaaS solutions facilitate agile operations, they are also affordable. As a monthly operational expense, SaaS solutions appreciate over time. They provide regular feature updates, improvements, and product enhancements that actually increases their value. SaaS solutions are also comparatively easy to implement, usually fully supported by the same people who built it (not some third party consulting agency), and purpose-built to solve the kinds of problems that ERPs retroactively overextend to accommodate.

As SaaS specialist vendors in all areas of supply chain management are filing the widening operational gap, and relieving the host of associated frustrations left by traditional ERPs, they are ushering in an era of last-mile product customization experts equipped with ‘bimodal capabilities’ that are leaving their competition high and dry.

Next week, we dive deep into Gartner’s ‘bimodal capabilities’ and look at just how much 3PLs and Copackers stand to gain from taking a balanced bimodal approach to fulfilling the perfect order in the face of mass customization driven brands.

Interested in learning more? Get the whole white paper for free, right now.


Matt Bio 2

Matthew joined Nulogy as their Content Marketing Specialist in 2016. He develops original research and creates educational and entertaining content to help elucidate the opportunities that digital technology has opened up in the last-mile of supply chain management. Matthew holds two degrees in English (B.A. Hons, M.A.) from York University in Toronto, Ontario.