How to Use This Playbook

Each Quad Cities Manufacturing Innovation Hub playbook is created with the business growth needs of our area’s small and medium manufacturers in mind. By utilizing the information in the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Platforms Playbook, you are taking the first steps to creating a competitive advantage for your company by innovating in the face of disruptive technologies. 

This playbook follows a logical flow to guide you as you learn more about Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) platforms (see Fig. 1). Review the sections as they apply to your individual opportunities and resources, either in the order they’re presented or jump around to fit your immediate needs.

Figure 1: Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Platforms Playbook Information Flow

Fig 1

This is your toolkit for plugging into the ERP network in the Quad Cities.

Together all eight of our playbooks uplift our regional manufacturers and Department of Defense suppliers through increasing digital readiness, working in concert to accelerate the understanding and investment in emerging technologies and to foster a culture of innovation in the manufacturing industry. We encourage you to review the other playbooks (see appendix for more information) as well.

Whom can I contact at the Quad Cities Manufacturing Innovation Hub with questions? 

Email and a member of the Hub team will respond to your question.

About the Quad Cities Manufacturing Innovation Hub and Our Partners

The Quad Cities Manufacturing Innovation Hub assists businesses by offering services such as operational assessments, registry in a regional catalog of manufacturers and suppliers, trade and business-to-business events, access to national marketing, access to subject matter experts through the Chamber’s Critical Talent Network, connections to the Quad City Manufacturing Lab and national research, and training seminars targeted at key technologies. More information on the Hub can be found online here.

This content was prepared as part of the Illinois Defense Industry Adjustment Program, a partnership between the University of Illinois System, the Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce, and the Voorhees Center at the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC), with financial support from the U.S. Department of Defense, Office of Economic Adjustment (OEA). It reflects the views of the Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce and does not necessarily reflect the views of the OEA. For more information, please visit:

Copyright © 2018 by Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce, Inc.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except as permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, write to the publisher at the address below:

Quad Cities Manufacturing Innovation Hub c/o Quad Cities Chamber 1601 River Dr., Ste. 310, Moline, IL  Visit the publisher’s website at

ERP Platforms in the Quad Cities: At a Glance

What are “ERP platforms?”

ERP platforms are usually referred to as a category of business-management software – typically a suite of integrated applications – that an organization can use to collect, store, manage and interpret data from these many business activities. ERP provides an integrated and continuously updated view of core business processes using common databases maintained by a database management system.

According to Wikipedia, ERP systems track business resources – cash, raw materials, production capacity – and the status of business commitments: orders, purchase orders, and payroll.

Why do ERP platforms matter to the Quad Cities?

Quad Cities manufacturers can be more visible and accessible to new customers, partners and geographies by utilizing ERP platforms. Building connections and communications through online methods is critical to competing in a global economy where access to potential manufacturing partners is seemingly unlimited and business information travels fast. The definition of “business as usual” has evolved as “going digital” is now table stakes for manufacturer survival within our communities.

What are the biggest ERP opportunity areas locally?

The Quad Cities Manufacturing Innovation Hub has identified three key opportunity areas in ERP platforms for area manufacturers:

  • Opportunity #1: Speed and responsiveness of customer and supplier material flows
  • Opportunity #2: Communications both within the firm and with its external environment
  • Opportunity #3: Improved productivity of both capital and labor for the firm.

More information can be found in the Identify Opportunities section.

What are the business benefits of utilizing ERP platforms?

ERP platforms have been proven to be more cost-effective means of:

  • Having a unified source of manufacturing data.
  • Providing both improved external and internal communications.
  • Improved productivity of operations

Customers who feel connected to their manufacturer throughout the purchase and delivery process are also more likely to purchase and recommend and refer you to their peers. Learn more below about key performance indicators you can expect to improve on by turning to the Metrics for Success section in Build the Business Case and Begin Implementation

Where can I find help to get started?

There are local partners who can assist you with full ERP strategies or specific implementations of tactical solutions on business functions that you’ve prioritized. There are also many free online resources, as well as educational courses offered by Quad City and state universities and colleges. Go to Find Help for a full list of area resources to help jumpstart your use of ERP solutions to grow your business.

Understand the ERP Technologies

In the first section, we take a closer look at the variety of technologies that contribute to the collective term “ERP platforms.” You’ll gain a better understanding of how ERP platforms contribute to an overarching strategy through diagrams, frameworks, and definitions of key terms used in the ERP system’s space. This section also details additional online resources for greater understanding. 

Glossary: Key ERP Platform Terms

Please refer to the glossary in the appendix for definitions of key ERP terminology utilized in this playbook. Definitions provided for educational purposes as described by the source unless otherwise noted.

A Starting Point for Understanding ERP

Wikipedia defines enterprise resource planning (ERP) as “the integrated management of core business processes, often in real-time and mediated by software and technology. ERP is usually referred to as a category of business-management software — typically a suite of integrated applications—that an organization can use to collect, store, manage and interpret data from these many business activities.”

Figure 1: Elements of the ERP Landscape:

Elements Of Erp Landscape Creative Commons License

By Shing Hin Yeung - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

There are additional infographics that provide great summaries and frameworks for you to begin shaping your thinking about implementing an ERP system. They will not provide detailed solutions or plans. Those specific solutions and plans need to be developed for you individual business needs and conditions.

7 ERP Infographics You Need to Know

On the ERPeople blog, they have collected seven infographics to explain ERP, its benefits, and some information on implementation. 

  • What is ERP All About?
  • The Facts of Cloud ERP
  • Getting the Most out of Your ERP
  • The Rise of Cloud ERP
  • The ERP Experience
  • What Stands in the Way of Getting Your ERP System?
  • Here’s How You Can Optimize ERP Business Processes

What’s Stopping You from Using ERP?

Algorithm, Inc. is an ERP systems provider and shares a detailed infographic on looking at a “cloud” versus “on-site” ERP solution. The included infographic also helps you walk through the challenges that you may be concerned about with an ERP system. Some of concerns addressed are:

  • ERP costs too much.
  • ERP is too much effort.
  • ERP is too complicated.
  • My company is too small for ERP.

Top 15 Benefits of Implementing ERP Software

Workwise Software shares a postand a framework describing the top 15 benefits of utilizing an ERP platform.  Some of those are:

  • Productivity through eliminating or automating  redundant tasks
  • Better customer service
  • Integrated information
  • Better collaboration both internally and externally

Additional Online Resources

There are many online resources for review to deepen your understanding of ERP platforms, technologies, processes, opportunities, challenges, and more. We’ve outlined a few below:

  • Can Your Small Business Afford ERP? Can You Afford To Operate Without It? Via Mint Jutras. Read the whitepaper here. In this whitepaper, you’ll find out how neglecting to invest in appropriate ERP technology can negatively impact a company’s future financial and sales success.
  • Small Business ERP – Misinformation, via Tegrous Consulting.  Read the blog post here. This article provides a quick summary and answers the questions of what is an ERP, why does a company need it, and can they afford it.
  • 10 Steps to Choosing the Right Manufacturing ERP System, via OptiProERP. Read the article online here. According to the article, if these 10 steps are followed, they will guide you on the path to choosing the right ERP system for your manufacturing business.

There is a wealth of information available by searching online to help you get started with your understanding of ERP. You can use Google images or Pinterest to find ideas using the suggested search terms below:

  • Enterprise resource planning infographics
  • Enterprise resource planning elements infographic
  • Enterprise resource planning benefits
  • Enterprise resource planning implementation

Identify Opportunities

Benefits and Use Cases of ERP Platform Opportunities

ERP solutions offer many operational opportunities to small and medium manufacturers in the Quad Cities. Here are some other commonly cited benefits of using ERP platforms:

  • Integration of a single source of data
  • Common data definition
  • A real-time system
  • Improved internal communication
  • Improved customer service and order fulfillment
  • Improved communication with suppliers and customers
  • Enhanced competitive position
  • Increased sales and profits

In addition, the Hub has identified three key areas that can bring greatest benefit to our area’s small and medium manufacturers:

  • Opportunity #1: Speed and responsiveness of customer and supplier material flows
  • Opportunity #2: Communications both within the firm and with its external environment
  • Opportunity #3: Improved productivity of both capital and labor for the firm.

Below, we’ll examine the key benefits of utilizing ERP by using a case example from each opportunity area that shows how a manufacturer was able to utilize ERP platforms to produce results.   

Opportunity #1: Streamline Processes for Better Customer and Supplier Material Flows

Case Example: Software and Process Updates Improve Visibility and Flexibility for Planning, Scheduling 

Hansaloy Corporation, a Davenport-based manufacturer of bread blades, lattice, blade guides and honing equipment for bread slicers, needed to improve their existing ERP platform. Not only was technology outdated, but it was unable to handle certain elements to help the business run efficiently.  They worked with CONTAX, a local ERP software and consulting company, to adopt new software and processes. 

By improving their ERP platform, Hansaloy Corporation:

  • Improved visibility into production planning, scheduling, and control 
  • Increased flexibility in demand planning and forecasting
  • Allowed for more flexibility in handling a wider variety of orders 

Download the full case study here. 

Bread Hansaloy Opp 1 Case Example Creative Commons License

Opportunity #2: Integrated Information and Better Collaboration Both within the Firm and with its External Environment

Case Example: Mr. P meets ERP 

A Midwest-based manufacturer of primarily milk and whey-protein based food ingredients had implemented an early MRP system, lovingly referred to as “Mr. P,” in March 2001.  “Mr. P” routinely tried to predict when the company would run out of raw material.  However, he was never given any data from which to draw accurate conclusions. (Source: presentation from Tom Waggoner, Living More, Inc., at ERP users group meeting)

Significant operational issues still remained after implementing the initial MRP package:
  • Over 300 products, maintained within Word Perfect
  • Weekly “wall-to- wall” counts (inventory assumes a blind count!)
  • Counts captured on spreadsheets for finance input to ERP/valuation
  • < 60% lot traceability for ingredients
  • < 56% on-time delivery, with some customers experiencing 50% “scrap” upon receipt 
Over time the company decided to implement a more modern ERP platform and processes that go along with it.  By doing so, they experienced the following improvements:
  • ZERO new raw material buys for 2 months!
  • Dramatic reduction in biological contamination due to reduced holding
  • Revolving debt reduction (dramatic!), greatly improved cash flow
  • Simplified manufacturing process through elimination of “recipe” complexity
  • Throughput improved over 80%
  • Efficiency climbed from 47% to 89%
  • On-time delivery reached over 90% for first time in company history
  • Recovered 4 MAJOR customer accounts, providing a 6% increase in revenue
  • Established end-to-end transparency, allowed focus on additional improvement actions
  • Created OPPORTUNITY!

Opportunity #3: Improved Productivity of Both Capital and Labor for the Firm

Case Example: Investment in ERP Finds a Quarter of a Million Dollars in Savings for Mar-Bal, Inc.

“The Company: Mar-Bal serves the appliance, electrical, transportation and industrial marketplaces from its four facilities in North America … Mar-Bal, Inc. was experiencing growing pains with their antiquated software that couldn’t keep up with the increase in their manufacturing activity. Their old system didn’t have EDI, lacked inventory scanning, didn’t track customer inventory and VMI accurately, and had limited reporting and forecasting tools.” (

By implementing an ERP platform, the company found the following return on investment:

  • 5,000 potential machine hours no longer lost to downtime for physical inventory
  • More efficient inbound order EDI processing: $40,000 annually
  • Capacity for outbound EDI invoice and ASN processing: $20,000 annually
  • Regular and monthly physical inventories eliminated: $83,000 annually
  • Quicker month-end close: $23,000 annually
  • Accurate production reporting through the RealTime interface: $62,000 annually

Download the full white paper case study here:

Build the Business Case and Begin Implementation

In this section, we’ll outline the steps to take in implementing strategies and tactics of ERP platforms within your company, beginning with awareness and change management, through establishing partnerships and building use cases that will save you time and money. We understand that the idea of implementing an ERP platform may be very different from what you may be accustomed to, and that the prospect of this degree of change to your communications and operations can be daunting and frightening. It is our hope that, through the following content and previous look at the benefits of ERP platforms, you’ll feel more comfortable exploring how you can utilize these technologies to better connect with your internal and external information flows to ultimately increase your product and service sales.

Key Considerations to Understand Your Business Case

First, here is an online whitepaper by Mint Jutras to help you understand your business case:

“Can your Small Business Afford ERP? Can you afford to operate without it?”

What to Look for in an ERP Platform

The following suggestions were discussed during a presentation by Corey Herchenroder of CONTAX, Inc. at a Hub users group meeting:

General Features:

  • Overall usability & ease of use
  • MRP capabilities
  • Costing Run, AR and AP functionality, Chart of Accounts
  • Production planning & control, BOMs, routings, work centers
  • Roles and authorizations (Sox compliance)

Manufacturing Features:

  • Job shop functionality (clock in and out, project-based)
  • Serialization and/or batch management
  • Planned vs. actual costing, profitability reporting
  • Quality management (inspections)

Future Features - Extra $$$?

  • Engineering change management
  • Add a plant, add a company, sell to customers in alternate currency
  • E-commerce
  • EDI integration

What to Look Out for in an ERP Platform Implementation

  • Is my consulting team local (no ongoing travel costs)?
  • Does my consulting team consist of W2 employees or 1099?
  • Is the solution built by the vendor?
  • Are there other vendors/consultants that can support me in the area?
  • What is the ERP community/user group like in the area?
  • What is the help platform/mechanism for the ERP?
  • Make sure you get documentation on business process and procedures (BPPs) from consultants.

Change Management: Building the Case Requires Defining Your Business Requirements

For most small and medium manufacturers, the prospect of adopting an ERP platform into your internal and external operations seems risky, as it requires “unlearning” the methods and habits that you have used to run your business to this point. And it requires learning new technologies and procedures to remain relevant in a digital age.

There are many ways for you to get started along the path to utilizing ERP. Use the change management tips below to make the case for change and immediately begin proving results:

  • Understand the business value of ERP and set goals accordingly. Use our metrics outlined below as well as your own data research to set realistic expectations of how you will measure the impact and success of integrating ERP into your existing manufacturing processes. This will help in resource planning if you’re measuring the right benchmarks out of the gate.
  • Focus on one or two key areas (such as financial reporting, inventory control, or ordering) first before adding complexity to your production process and supply chain.
  • Focus on getting every employee on board with the benefits of ERP through peer education. Get all stakeholders involved from the beginning via one-on-one conversations with leaders and all-company meetings to drive the vision.
  • Make them as knowledgeable as you possibly can, taking ownership of ERP initiatives. Innovative companies like GE promote “reverse mentoring” to foster understanding, create mutual empathy, and promote collaboration between disparate generations and team members. In reverse-mentoring scenarios, a younger colleague mentors a more tenured employee as a way of getting everyone up-to-speed quickly with new technologies and benefits. See below for more education resources and tips.
  • Keep communication lines open during the trial-and-error portion of ERP implementation. Employees should understand that it’s okay to fail, and fail fast, if it’s part of a learning process that eventually leads to prototyping successful new business processes. This mindset must be led from the top down within your company in order for employees to feel like they can experiment and innovate in order to achieve efficiencies from ERP. Breed risk-taking early.

Part of change management also lies in understanding and planning for the challenges you will encounter in integrating ERP platforms into your existing operations. Below are three challenges we’ve identified through our research and conversations with area manufacturers. Become familiar with the potential roadblocks so you can steer clear of their hindrances early on.

  • Challenge 1: Time commitment and prioritization. Many manufacturers, especially those small and medium in size, find it difficult to allocate precious time to adopt new technologies in lieu of other pressing priorities. In order to achieve results from ERP platforms, it takes commitment from both leadership and those responsible for implementation. Start with part-time allocation of one or two employees, and grow from there.
  • Challenge 2: Strategic oversight and education. ERP platforms must be integrated into a manufacturer’s overarching operations strategy. This takes foundational education for not only those leading the charge but all employees who are responsible for adopting the new operating system. See Find Help with Regional Assets and Partners for recommended educational partners in the Quad Cities.
  • Challenge 3: Budget availability and measurement. Allocating budget for not only the software, but also support and training is vital. In addition, a few key metrics need to be established measure the progress implementation and its impact. See the Metrics for Success section below for possibilities, but the actual selection will depend on your specific business strategy.

Processes and Frameworks for Implementing ERP Platforms

Integrating ERP platforms into your existing manufacturing processes requires a strategic approach. Utilize the workflows and frameworks below to jumpstart your efforts. The frameworks in this section are presented to aid in your high-level strategic prioritization of ERP platforms; we recommend you search out specific frameworks for each platform and tactic chosen to guide your implementation.

Framework 1: ERP Implementation: A Best Practices Guide for Small & Midsized Businesses

According to this online guide presented by SAP, a business software company, “… ERP is no longer a luxury that only the largest companies can afford. Quite the contrary, it is fast becoming a necessity that companies cannot afford to be without – regardless of their size. New pricing and more flexible architectures, such as those based in the cloud and offered on a pay-as-you-go software-as-a-service (SaaS) model, are contributing to increasingly rapid adoption among small to midsize businesses (SMBs) around the world.” Read the guide here.

Resources Needed: Technology and Staffing

Resources required to manage and implement ERP platforms will vary by which area of your business that you’ve prioritized. As previously outlined, you must create a strategic plan for how ERP platforms will augment or replace your current operational processes. How and where to begin implementing elements of ERP needs to be strategic in order to avoid investing in the latest “bright, shiny technology” or hiring unnecessary talent.

Use the following general checklist to assist in the process of planning for your hard and soft costs. Probably one of the first questions that you will have to answer is whether or not to use a cloud-based ERP software or have an on-sight system of hardware and software. As has been mentioned before, this will depend on your business needs and processes.


  • There are many systems available, and they are constantly changing.
  • You might try to search the term “best small business ERP” online to find options.
  • As mentioned above, a key decision will be whether or not to use a cloud-based system.
  • You may want to learn what systems your customers and suppliers are using now or planning for the future.
  • Learn how the pricing of the software is calculated. It may be by user or by site. This can be important when looking at the future growth of your company.


  • You will need to review your current systems and equipment to see how you currently capture and share data (it may be on paper). 
  • Even cloud-based systems will require some equipment like PCs or tablets.
  • You will need to consider how and who will support whatever equipment you adopt.

Employees and Hiring: 

  • You will most likely need some expert assistance in implementing an ERP platform. You will also probably like to have that assistance to be on-site and face-to-face for some period of time. You may want to check the local area for ERP integrators and the software that they support.
  • You will need someone within your company to be the “owner” and project lead for the new system. This will require a significant amount of time in the start-up and also be needed to train new or additional people in the future.
  • As mentioned in the change management sections, there will be a significant amount of your and your people’s time and energy devoted to this implementation. You will be changing the way your company’s work gets done, not just adopting a computer system.

You may also contact the Quad Cities Manufacturing Innovation Hub for help in thinking through your next steps. Email, and a member of the Hub team will respond to your question.

“Quick Wins” to Get Started with ERP Platforms

Here are a few areas to focus on to jumpstart your preparation for implementing elements of ERP: 

  • Tip 1: Begin mapping your existing business and manufacturing processes. This is probably the very best thing you can do to prepare. There a many local and online resources to help with this. Many are listed in the resources below.
  • Tip 2: Validate your data. An ERP platform is only useful if the data is accurate and up-to-date.
  • Tip 3: Find or appoint an internal project manager. You need someone within your company to be the “owner” of the new system. This is the only way to sustain the implementation and train additional people.
  • Tip 4: Identify the information “bottlenecks” where you are losing time. Where are the places that either information or material have to “wait” before they can move to the next step?
  • Tip 5: Ask your customers about their plans for future operational systems. While systems are getting much better at exchanging data, it makes sense to be proactive in understanding what is going on in your whole supply chain. You may also find others who are sharing your implementation journey.
  • Tip 6: Reach out to people in the community. You’ve already taken the first step by reviewing the Quad Cities Manufacturing Innovation Hub playbook. Go to the Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce events web page for other opportunities to network and connect with other area businesses. 

Metrics for Success: How to Measure Impact

When setting your objectives for your ERP platform, you’ll need to tie goals to business impact using metrics for success. Without measuring and benchmarking the performance against where you are today, it will be more difficult to consistently improve processes, assess weaknesses, and secure future resources.

The following two articles offer insight into the measurement process:

“How to Measure the Success of Your ERP Implementation”
“The following list provides a variety of conventional and unconventional ways to measure the success of your ERP implementation.”

“6 Great Metrics To Measure ERP Success”
“While having ERP systems is standard, not nearly as much attention is being paid to the actual tangible results derived from them. Measurement, when done, is often one-dimensional: have we made a bigger dollar bottom line after the implementation?”

Here are a few other metric examples:
  • Cycle time to process an order
  • Lead times
  • Inventory accuracy
  • Time to product delivery
  • Inventory level
  • Number of “rush” shipments
  • Increased employee productivity
  • Quality of delivered product
  • Supplier lead times
  • Cycle time for financial processes like monthly closing

Find Help with Regional Assets and Partners

In delivering this ERP platform playbook, among the seven other playbooks provided by the Quad Cities Manufacturing and Innovation Hub, our goal is to connect you to local resources you need to learn about and implement new technologies that will impact your business and our region in the future. In this section, you’ll find local experts, agencies, consultants, and specialists to help you succeed as well as a brief description from their websites. Additionally, we’ve outlined national and global resources in some categories if local resources do not exist and/or the national resource is reputable.

ERP System Integrators

There are many ERP platform integrators to choose from to meet your specific needs in crafting an ERP strategy to better reach your business goals. The organizations below offer varying services. Research individual agencies via their websites to ensure they meet your specific needs. 

Corey Herchenroder - CONTAX, Inc.
CONTAX is an SAP Gold partner and global SAP consulting services provider. From nine locations in four countries around the world, CONTAX delivers the highest quality of SAP services for SAP implementations, SAP application managed services, and SAP support services. CONTAX is an authorized reseller and certified SAP Enterprise Support service provider. CONTAX develops and markets cloud-based application extensions for the SAP Cloud Platform (SAP CP) environment, and is one of the leading adopters of SAP CP in the SAP ecosystem.

Yash Technologies
YASH started off as an IT consulting partner for one of the most recognized brands in the agricultural equipment manufacturing industry. With steady and planned growth, YASH’s vision went global in the year 2000, with introduction of offshore operations in Indore, India. Named as of one of the “Fast 500 companies,” YASH has grown organically through strategic acquisitions. They currently have over 4,500 global employees, and growing.

Quadyster is an Information Technology solutions provider. With over three decades of Information Technology experience, its professionals bring extensive knowledge and experience to solve the complex IT challenges. Highly accessible and flexible executive team with global experience to promptly resolve any issues.

Twin State Technical Services
It started with a mission: providing reliable, secure infrastructures, software, and websites for local Quad City businesses. In the 25 years since its inception, Twin State has evolved to also include both digital marketing and film production.

Operations and Lean Strategy

Tom Waggoner, Living More, Inc.
Living More Inc. leverages LEAN manufacturing experts, process improvement specialists and economic development thought leaders to direct investments into services that attack the core of dysfunction within our community, work-life balance, and access to a higher standard of living.

Hiring Solutions

Robert Half Technology 
Robert Half Technology specializes in placing application development, systems integration, information security, infrastructure management, networking, database development, help desk and technical support professionals in project, contract-to-hire and full-time positions.

Chenhall Staffing Services 
In addition to staffing and HR, the Chenhall’s team provides solutions in a wide-ranging area of IT needs. Whether they are simply identifying and placing highly qualified technical experts to fit clients’ staffing needs or serving as a prime or sub-contractor on an operational program, their preferred operating model is to build long-term partnerships and trusted relationships with the common purpose of delivering, sustaining, and supporting quality IT services.

Professional Organizations

APICS Quad-Cities Chapter
APICS is a professional organization pooling the training and experience of logistics, supply chain, and operations management professionals from around the world. APICS-Quad Cities Chapter is a group of supply chain and operations professionals from around the Quad Cities. From private industry to government service, it represents a full spectrum of experience know-how.

Educational Resources

Iowa State University Center for Industrial Research and Service (CIRAS)
The Center for Industrial Research and Service (CIRAS) is part of the College of Engineering and the Office of Economic Development and Industry Relations at Iowa State University.

Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center (IMEC)
IMEC is a team of improvement specialists and technicians dedicated to providing organizations in Illinois with the tools and techniques to create sustainable competitive futures. The experienced hands-on team at IMEC works closely with its clients to plan critical business improvements in the areas of Leadership, Strategy, Customer Engagement, Operations, and Workforce.

Western Illinois University – Bachelor of Business, Supply Chain Management
A degree program in Supply Chain Management (SCM) offers a unique area of concentration for undergraduate students that has garnered widespread recognition due to the quality of its graduates. The WIU Supply Chain Management program is one of approximately 50 SCM programs worldwide that are offered through a university accredited by the Association of Advanced Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) International. Coursework incorporates corporate best practices and hands-on experience in working with faculty and top executives and in utilizing course knowledge within the corporate environment.

Online Education

In addition to the local options available to you, many institutions and organizations offer online certificates and courses in related topics, taught by seasoned professionals. We’ve included three options below, though there are many more that may fit your specific needs. 

Udemy is a global marketplace for learning and teaching online where students are mastering new skills and achieving their goals by learning from an extensive library of over 55,000 courses taught by expert instructors.

Sample ERP course

Coursera provides universal access to the world’s best education, partnering with top universities and organizations to offer courses online. Every course on Coursera is taught by top instructors from the world’s best universities and educational institutions. Courses include recorded video lectures, auto-graded and peer-reviewed assignments, and community discussion forums. When you complete a course, you’ll receive a sharable electronic Course Certificate.

Sample ERP course

Sample Digital Thread: Implementation course

Special Thanks

The ERP Platforms Playbook was created with the contributions, time, and talent of many members of our manufacturing and ERP community. We’d like to extend a special thanks to:

  • Jaimy Szymanski, Digital Experience Analyst,
  • Tom Waggoner, Living More, Inc.
  • Corey Herchenroder, Director - CONTAX, Inc.
  • (RK) Radhakrishnan Vilayannur, Yash Technologies
  • Stacy Moon, Parr Instruments


Glossary: ERP Software Terms and Definitions

Definitions provided for educational purposes as described by the source unless otherwise noted.

Average order amount: the amount of all orders divided by the total number of orders; used in digital marketing to help calculate the necessary reach, along with CTR (click-thru rate) and conversion rate.

3rd party application: software that has been developed by an outside company and is sold through a vendor.

Accounts payable: any unpaid balances that your company owes to vendors.

Accounts receivable: any outstanding balances that your customers owe to your company.

Actual cost: The actual amount of money either paid for material or charged as labor, material, or overhead to a work order.

Aging: when assets are organized and sorted according to how long they have existed.

Allocation: distribution of cost in a manufacturing process.

Assemble-To-Order (ATO): a manufacturing strategy that allows users to combine a limited number of sub-assemblies into a large number of possible finished items. This strategy is designed to allow a wide variety of customization options, shorter lead times, and low inventory risk.

Business to business (B2B): when the vendor and consumer are both businesses, not end consumers.

Bill of material: A list of the type and quantity of components needed to build a part.

Bottleneck: a machine or workstation through which many production items must flow and which when overloaded causes a delay in the production process.

Build-To-Stock: a build-ahead approach to production where items are built ahead of time according to sales forecasts or historical demand.

Capacity requirements planning (CRP): the process of calculating the production capacity that a business requires to meet planned and actual demand.

Cloud computing: A process whereby users are connected to their ERP software via the internet rather than to computer equipment at their location, thus eliminating the cost and need to have the hardware infrastructure located and maintained at their site.

E-commerce: the process by which goods and services are bought and sold via the internet utilizing web sites that are virtual stores. Examples include businesses from banking to baked goods and everything on between.

Electronic data interchange (EDI): EDI replaces paper mail, fax, and email by electronically exchanging order and fulfillment/billing information in a standard format between trading partners.

Engineer-To-Order: a production approach where components are designed, engineered, and built to specifications after the order has already been received.

Fixed assets: assets that are necessary for production, but that are not going to generate cash within a year. These include assets such as equipment, vehicles, buildings, and more.

Forecasting: a process that uses historical data to predict future outcomes.

General ledger: a permanent, ongoing record that contains all of an organization’s financial transactions.

Implementation: the process of installing and configuring ERP software. This process involves installing, configuring, testing, training, and preparing an organization for the change.

Integrated software: two or more software functions within the overall ERP application that share data and combine functions, such as order processing and inventory control or invoicing and accounts receivable.

Job cost: a method in which all costs associated with a project are recorded over time, totaled at the end, and where the actual and planned costs are compared to generate variances that can be fed to accounting systems.

Job shop: a manufacturing facility that produces discrete, specialized, and fairly small manufacturing runs of products that are usually not repeated.

Kaizen: in Japanese, the word means “improvement.” This is the philosophy of continuous process improvement using analytical tools and methods.

Kanban: a communication system that controls the flow of the shop and synchronizes the level of production to customer demand. It normally uses standardized quantities and movement tickets that travel with the production pieces from operation station to operation station.

Key performance indicator (KPI): an approach to helping a business achieve its goals through the development of agreed-upon critical performance targets and the measurement of progress toward those targets. It can be, and often is, applied at every level of the business.

Lean manufacturing: a manufacturing method that focuses on the elimination of waste within a manufacturing system.  This approach helps determine the right combination of value for the customer needs, and producing that value in the most efficient and effective manner possible.

Liquidity: the degree to which capital can be turned into cash quickly.

Lot number: a number that is used to identify a specific quantity or lot of material from a manufacturer.

Make-To-Order: a manufacturing process where manufacturing starts after receiving a customer’s order.

Master production schedule: the schedule that a company uses to plan how many items need to be produced within a given timeframe. This time-phased production plan is comprised of forecasts, actual demand and supply and attempts to balance these components taking into account all resources.

Material control management: associated primarily with moving, storing, and assessing materials used or consumed in manufacturing. Inventory management, quality assurance, production reporting, and cycle counting. Most material master data and inventory movements all fall within the scope of materials management.

Material requirements planning (MRP) : a system used to plan production, scheduling, and inventory.  An MRP system ensures that enough materials are available for production, enough finished products are available to deliver to customers, and that the lowest amount of materials and products needed are on hand. MRP also plans manufacturing activities, delivery schedules and purchasing activities.

Materials management: activities involved with transporting, storing, and evaluating materials used during the manufacturing process.

Mixed mode manufacturers: In discrete manufacturing, the requirement to produce Make-to-Stock, Make-to-Order, Configure-to-Order, and Engine-to-Order products.  In order to accomplish this, an ERP application must provide robust functionality for all modes simultaneously, which can prove to be extremely challenging and often requires creativity in configuration as well as flexibility on the business processes.

Mobile data collection: a suite of mobile transactions designed for hand-held devices. This allows users to selectively deploy bar-code enabled, hand-held mobile devices.

Network administrator: the person who is responsible for managing the computer network of a business, including its security and performance.

Operations management: a group who is responsible for overseeing all aspects of a customer’s production resources.

Opportunity cost: the loss of potential gain from other alternatives when one choice is made.

Order management: the process of fulfilling and tracking customer orders.

Part numbers: unique identifiers that identify every SKU.

Point of sale (POS): the time and place that a sales transaction took place. In ERP applications, this is normally the ability to handle retail or counter sales.

Purchase requisition: a request for approval to purchase a material or service.

Return merchandise authorization (RMA): a unique document with an identifying number that grants a customer permission to return goods to a manufacturer.

Return on investment (ROI): A financial measurement that accesses how profitable investments are. This is calculated by dividing the expected return (profit) by the financial outlay.

Routing: a description of the sequence of steps that materials need to go through in order to produce a fabricated part, sub-assembly, or finished product.

Scheduling: the process of planning and arranging orders to maximize productivity, cost, and delivery times.

Six Sigma: an approach that is designed to improve quality and lower the number of defects. This approach aims for six standard deviations between the mean and the nearest specification limit in any process.

Software license: a way of granting multiple people access to the same shared software application. An ERP buyer pays a one-time fee for each named or concurrent user to use the software.

Total Quality Management (TQM): a manufacturing philosophy focused on improving quality across the operation.

Upgrade (software): the replacement of a software product with a newer, improved version.

User interface (UI): the way in which a software user is able to interact with a computer system.

Value stream mapping (VSM): a tool that helps businesses understand how their flows currently operate and helps them figure out ways to improve them in the future. This is achieved by creating a process map that is used to streamline processes across the entire supply chain. A value stream map (VSM) is a process map that identifies all the steps and data streams required to produce a particular product or service while adding value to each step that results in improved customer satisfaction.

Value-added reseller (VAR): a reseller that adds value to an existing software product through the addition of features or services, then resells it to end users.

Visual scheduling: a real-time database of shop floor activity, including new work, current work-in-progress, and completions. As work moves through the plant and operations are completed, the user receives instant feedback and is able to make adjustments to both the load (work orders) and the capacity to achieve a do-able schedule.

Work orders: a request that specifies the quantity and type of a material to be manufactured, as well as the date that it needs to be manufactured by. A work order also defines all component material and labor operations required to complete production of the manufactured item.

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