Can an ERP help during COVID-19? Absolutely!

March 16, 2020

Author: Paul Van Metre

As I write this post, the Coronavirus is sweeping the world. Schools, borders, events, gatherings and workplaces are being closed at a rapid pace. It’s an uncertain and ever changing situation. Some of the concerns I’ve heard shop owners share this week include how to best keep their employees safe, and mitigate the risks to their business as this pandemic unfolds.

For companies who primarily do “digital” work, like Microsoft, who recently asked employees to work from home, the impact is significant, but manageable. For manufacturing companies, this is a less feasible scenario. In a machine shop for example, you still need people to run the machines, inspect parts and ship product. You need to quote new jobs, and keep your business running.

For companies with a traditional installed client/server ERP system, this is particularly difficult. For some, it may be possible to have office workers work from home and connect remotely using VPN and RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol). But that isn’t typically practical as most don’t have the IT infrastructure in place, or installed software on remote computers from home. There is also the issue of the paper-based workflow being an obstacle. Job travelers need to be printed, and people within the office often don’t know they have something to work on until the traveler is placed on their desk. Hardly compatible with a work-from-home situation. And managing the on-premise infrastructure is another obstacle. If your server goes down or needs maintenance, it will require your IT staff, or remote IT provider to address it.

I have the unique vantage point to see many different shops before they implement ProShop ERP. I spoke with a shop owner last week who uses an installed ERP system. His estimator had been home sick with a common cold, so they had not been estimating jobs for nearly a week since the estimator could not connect to their ERP system. This will lead to a drop off of new orders within the next week or two, and a drop off of shipments and revenue several weeks later.

Fortunately, users of ProShop ERP, with its built-in digital workflows, have the added benefit of minimizing negative impact from a “social distancing” event, or any need for remote work, for that matter. Here are just a few ways ProShop makes a difference.

  1. Office workers can work from home. ProShop is available from any internet connected device. Estimators, sales people, order entry and admin staff, purchasing, planners and project managers can all work just as effectively from home. They can access everything just as they could from the office.
  2. Everyone knows what to do. ProShop’s built-in dashboards, automatic alert systems, and work queues ensure that everyone knows what work activities and jobs are the highest priority at all times. There is no need for paper documents to “alert” people that there is something that needs to be done.
  3. No IT infrastructure to manage. With our ITAR compliant cloud service, dealing with local servers is no longer a necessary evil. We host on AWS and the AWS GovCloud which offer a 99.99% uptime guarantee.
  4. Internal Messaging System. ProShop has an internal messaging system which ties directly into every module. It eliminates the need for personal company email accounts for any employee who doesn’t communicate with clients or vendors. You can send individual, group, or full company messages within ProShop, and tie them directly back to any page in ProShop. So it’s a great tool for company announcements, communicating about specific jobs, or any other communication need. For most clients it becomes the primary communication tool in their company.
  5. Did we already say paperless? ProShop eliminates the use of job travelers to communicate where a job is at, and what is happening next. Office and shop employees access ProShop from a web enabled device. Because ProShop also manages work instructions, cutting tool lists, inspection plans, and much more, it also eliminates the need for any sort of document package to travel with the parts. All of these reference materials can be created and/or embedded directly inside of ProShop and updated from anywhere. It’s entirely possible to quote, win, enter and process a new job without printing a single piece of paper, with a remotely distributed team. This is not a work-around, this is the normal daily workflow within ProShop. If a customer calls about the status of a job, it can be looked up and provided while that person is on the phone.

When trying to contain the spread of diseases like COVID-19, or even just the common seasonal flu, the advice from experts says, more social distancing that is implemented, the better off your company will be. If office workers can get their jobs done from home, the company is better off. Out in the shop, there are greater distances between employees, and there is likely less of a chance of spreading an illness from one employee to another. And because there is no job traveler to contend with in ProShop, the only thing moving around the shop is the parts themselves and using gloves and other precautions to keep parts washed and clean is easy. Even last-minute customer changes, triggered by a remote office employee, will instantly propagate throughout the system without a need to reprint any job information.

One of the biggest unknowns with this new situation is how it will affect the economy, and your order book. It’s entirely possible that a recession will follow and shops will be looking to cut costs, get more work done with fewer staff, and ultimately look to find new customers to replace those who have canceled orders or are just ordering less in general. ProShop can help here too. Our clients report an average throughput improvement of 20-35% on the factory floor, with the same number of staff. And they can often reduce overhead hours by a significant percentage as well. We’ve had customers with just as little as 4-10 office staff be able to reduce overhead functions by 1-2 full time people by either redirecting them to more value added roles, or allowing attrition to reduce overhead costs. Here is a case study of a 35 person shop who freed up 3 full time overhead staff with a move to ProShop.

When it comes to adding new customers to backfill work, ProShop becomes one of the most effective sales tools a shop has. Watch this short video of a shop in Chicago who has to pry their customers away from the conference room after giving them a ProShop demo. Buyers and audit teams are “blown away” by the capability in ProShop.

This article from Modern Machine Shop outlines another ProShop customer who won a considerable statement of work with a customer as a result of their ProShop implementation. And consider how much more confidence a customer will have in your company when you show them how you can manage their work when your team can work remotely during unusual times like this.

With our proven 9 step implementation process being entirely performed remotely, you and your team don’t need to travel, or have our team visit to be up and running on ProShop in just a few short weeks. Watch this video to see how a client discusses just how fast and easy the implementation process was.

Can an ERP system like ProShop help give your shop a competitive edge over your competitor in the best of times? Absolutely. And it can become a crucial tool during challenging times like the one we face today. If your company is considering how to handle this current situation while still maintaining a high level of efficiency, we’d love to discuss how ProShop can help. Contact us or book a demo today. Thank you. Be safe. And good luck out there!

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