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Detailed Production Scheduling. A detailed ERP production scheduling system for process manufacturing demands a high level of sophistication. At a minimum, the system must have the ability to schedule manufacturing from multiple combinations, based on available inputs, capacity, and quality specifications.  It requires the ability to generate detailed views of capacity and production constraints, including tanks and vessels.  In process-oriented manufacturing, many production processes are coupled, and the overall goal of optimization is to reduce down time and changeovers and increase overall throughput.

ERP Manufacturing

ERP Helps Process Manufacturers Cope with Chaos (Part 8)

Tanks require specialized scheduling based on their operating behaviors, such as fill/empty rate.  Vats are often linked to mixers, which are linked to packaging lines. This creates interdependencies on sequencing, due to the fact that one process cannot be scheduled without considering the state of an upstream or downstream process.

Genealogy and accurate lot tracking are very critical for quality and regulatory compliance.  The ERP system must also account for time-based factors such as shelf-life and aging of both materials and final products.  A production scheduling system needs to take each of these factors into account to ensure quality, compliance and recall capability.

Because no two customers are alike, the ‘new-normal’ requires that best-in-class scheduling has the ability to support customer specialized needs and requirements, and provide the capabilities to respond to market opportunities on a much more timely basis.  At one point on the calendar, the scheduling objective may be optimizing profitability through more efficient production runs.  At other points, it may be optimizing customer service or customization needs.  At still other points, a plant may need to quickly respond to opportunistic events such as a late breaking customer order, availability of excess materials, or seizing other short-term opportunities in the market.

A best-in-class scheduling system needs to have the flexibility and adaptability to support any of these scenarios, while at the same, providing ease of use among planners and operational users.

Opportunities for Leadership

In the “new-normal” business conditions are never static.  Business transformation provides the opportunity for process-oriented manufacturers to successfully respond to volatility, variability and variety within their market segment.  A backbone of new process and information technology capabilities, coupled with more empowered professionals, ensures increased agility with less capital expenditure (CapEx).  New markets and channels can be exploited and leveraged for increased revenue and profitability.  Rationalization of assets and/or product lines leads to a more efficient and cost competitive processes. In the “new normal” the goal is integrated and agile operational excellence.

Yes, process manufacturers do indeed face extraordinary business challenges, but challenge presents opportunity for renewal and transformation.  The ability to effectively manage and respond to market imbalances, supplier failure, increased regulation and quality requirements separates industry leaders from laggards.  A determination to excel coupled with an ERP backbone that has been designed, integrated and tested for process-oriented manufacturing enables new levels of efficiency, insight, and more timely decision-making. Success in the “new normal” equates to having the complete set of capabilities.

Either the path of continuous improvement or of transformation can be best enabled by an end-toend information technology system that has proven abilities to integrate the collective processes of supply chain planning, PLM planning and enterprise asset management. It is an information technology backbone that has been built and tested specifically for process-oriented manufacturers, and enhanced to support the realities of the “new normal” in business.

New Product Introduction Planning. Constantly shifting consumer needs and behavior are driving ever increasing needs for new or improved products. Consumers and retailers will not wait and will often switch to products or manufacturers that will meet their current needs.  Product management teams must more than ever be aware of local market requirements such as banned ingredients, unique labeling or packaging needs.

ERP Manufacturing

ERP Helps Process Manufacturers Cope with Chaos (Part 7)

Time-to-market and time-to-volume have become ever more critical.  Reducing time-to-market requires short timeframes in the decision to develop a new or revised product, and the time to produce it, test it, and make it available to appropriate channels.

New products often fail in the market.  For instance, in consumer product goods markets, up to 50% of products will fail after introduction.  Manufacturers need to have the sensing capabilities to understand as quickly as possible how each product is faring in the market, and what adjustments need to made to the demand plan or to the product or sales approach.

Production Planning. Production planning for process-oriented operations involves constantly managing and optimizing variability, cost, and delivery.  The challenges are that there may be multiple paths to produce finished product and that finished goods are often shipped in various packaging by style, material, size or weight.  Processors need to balance the variability and specifications of customer demands and due dates (a mostly pull type of supply chain environment) with the scheduling and variability inherent in inbound supply (a push type of supply chain environment).  An ERP planning system must have the capability and functionality to plan for both types of environments. Raw material feedstocks are ordered and validated to a set of product characteristics with certain tolerances for composition and quality.  Production plans or campaigns are generated based on capacity needs, facility availability, or feasibility of yields for end products and co-products. In many situations, overall planning and scheduling needs to account for material usage, along with most efficient safety stock and inventory planning needs. Certain processes call for blending or trim optimization, which require specialized planning algorithms.

Process manufacturers need to ensure optimized material usage. This is complex, since a single raw material can be processed into various products that may or may not be combined with other materials to create the final product. The same final product may include different costs in its production based on materials and routing variability.  This must be taken into account in optimizing planning.  Shelf life, genealogy, accurate lot tracking, and reporting are also very critical to ensure conformance to quality and regulatory compliance. Expired inventory is of no value to either the manufacturer or the customer.

An effective process manufacturing ERP planning system must also be able to plan for each stage of the new product introduction process, integrating product planning information from product management and engineering with overall supply chain sourcing needs.  In certain cases, new products will replace other existing products, and planners must be able to simultaneously plan for both ramp-up of the new product, and ramp-down of the product being replaced.  Planners also require the ability to ascertain the overall effectiveness of the new product’s launch, and account for the promotions uplift for the new and possibly also end-of-life products.

Concluded in Part 8

 

The overall keys to success for process manufacturers are the timeliness of business planning, and production processes, along with seamless integration of enterprise-wide data.  Profitability equates to a constant need to balance customer demand with capacity, production scheduling and asset optimization requirements. Too much or the wrong inventory, or expired inventory, will impact revenue and profitability. Too little or the wrong mix of inventory impacts customer satisfaction. Planning in a process manufacturing environment equates to the best match of variable supply to meet constantly changing customer demand.

ERP Manufacturing

ERP Helps Process Manufacturers Cope with Chaos (Part 6)

Specific ERP/Process needs:

Demand Planning. The ability to accurately plan and/or forecast customer demand is a constant and critical business need for process manufacturers.  More forward-looking planning and business process capabilities are the foundation for becoming more customer- or demand-driven. An accurate picture of demand allows more efficient use of warehouse and production capacity, operational resources, inventory and assets.

Granularity. Demand plans must include a level of granularity that reflects product hierarchies, customer delivery channels, and other important demand factors typical of pyramid modeling.  Pyramid modeling is when data is arranged and visually represented in a pyramid, allowing increasing levels of information granularity. For example, a producer of soft drinks would require the ability to forecast and plan for demand by package types (6, 8, 12 ounce and 1 or 2 liter container), by channel (wholesale, retail, vending, end-consumer), and by geographies (Asia, Europe, U.S.) or sub-regions. In today’s rapidly changing industry landscapes, there also needs to be the flexibility to accommodate changing views of demand data with different hierarchies.

Event Driven Adjustments. The ability to anticipate the impacts of events, seasonality or product promotions is also an increasingly important consideration for insuring responsiveness as well as efficiency within process manufacturing.  As an example, in a batteries or laundry detergent business, up to 50% of product volume is sold on the basis of promotion. Planners need to factor in the production and distribution timing window for ramp-up and ramp-down to support seasonality and/or promotion of products, along with the intelligence to understand the impact events will have on the overall production schedule and forecast. Advanced statistical forecasting techniques further assist planners in the smoothing of all forms of demand, along with the ability to support demand shaping that can influence more profitable production runs.

Collaboration. In order to support shifting realities in markets and products, more and more process-oriented companies are practicing integrated Sales and Operations Planning (S&OP) involving their key customers, suppliers and other stakeholders. Fill rate pressure drives an increased need for more frequent and timely planning cycles focused on forward-looking demand, supported by cross-functional or cross-company collaborative planning processes. Planners across regions and product lines need instant access to production schedules and plans, as well as the ability to plan various scenarios of the most efficient means to fulfill last-minute market opportunistic demand.

Increased use of contract manufacturing and co-packing as a supplement or business alternative is also driving the need to model external capable-to-promise and other constraints into S&OP decision-making processes.

Continued in Part 7

 

Continuous improvement implies building on the current foundation of business planning processes and supporting information technology.  It addresses one problem at a time, as functional needs warrant, or as business pain points need to be addressed. 

ERP Manufacturing

ERP Helps Process Manufacturers Cope with Chaos (Part 5)

In “continuous improvement” mode, information technology is implemented as needed.  However, to ensure proper information flows as well as analytical reporting of management data, many companies choose a gradual implementation of an integrated ERP suite.  This is because best-of-breed third party applications may result in the need for expensive and time-consuming custom integration, which is even more problematic during upgrade cycles of each application.

Transformation, on the other hand, implies a different approach. It starts with a common business-wide vision.  As an example, a regional dairy has identified that meats and eggs were complimentary products. Due to capital constraints of a regional dairy cooperate, they chose to use co-packers to produce new products. Since their existing systems were designed to support this scenario, they successfully brought these and several other new product lines to market with less CAPEX. This leads to a framework of the required process capabilities and business metrics needed to manage volatility, variability and variety within the “new normal” of business.  This path naturally specifies an integrated enterprise level information technology or ERP system that is delivering value in similar process environments.  The trick here is to find a system that’s easy enough to change to adapt to new conditions in the market and the business.

Many ERP system implementations cause disruptive shutdown of operations, or costly and lengthy upgrade cycles. There is one common application option for these two paths.  Companies can succeed on either path with less time and money by selecting an enterprise system that has been designed for flexibility and modular deployment, coupled with the ability to support change with evolving needs of the business.  Such a system can deliver fully integrated processes across all areas of the business.  A few are also crafted to support all of the complex needs of process manufacturing, including timely operational insight.

Overall keys to success

ERP-system needs of process manufacturers are indeed specialized.  Process industry companies are generally asset intensive, and face continual pressures in balancing needs for optimized product margins with constant variability in inbound and outbound materials. To ensure long-term competitiveness, manufacturers must continue to drive cost efficiency while also growing revenues in an increasingly global marketplace.  They require the ability to understand and incorporate industry-unique functionality related to supply chain planning, production scheduling, product lifecycle and asset management.

Beyond those long-standing issues, volatility, variability and variety generate a need to become far more agile and responsive to frequent change on short notice.  Retailers, wholesalers and other customers continue to push lean business practices that cut their supply chain costs and increase product availability.  They insist on tighter or more frequent shipping schedules pegged to end-item demand, while also insisting that there be no out-of-stocks on high demand products.  This upends the traditional process industry path to profitability of operational stability and long production runs.

Continued in Part 6

 

There are several dimensions of accelerated change that require deployment of an advanced ERP environment with special capabilities:

Customer Fulfillment. Product lines keep expanding to meet ever evolving customer and geographic opportunities presented by new markets.  Channels, especially in the new developing regions of the world, present one-of-a-kind challenges, specific to local needs or consumer preferences.

ERP Manufacturing

ERP Helps Process Manufacturers Cope with Chaos (Part 4)

Forward-oriented perspective. Metrics or planning methods grounded in past occurrences are like driving your automobile by looking in the rear view mirror. This focus may not help in determining what will occur in the future across channels and market segments, or adequately support a more demand-driven production environment.

Hidden capacity and inventory. To compensate for inadequate information, optimization capabilities and inability to respond in a timely fashion; companies have built excess capacity and inventory buffers. While this minimized risks to customer services, return on assets or working capital was significantly impacted. With the new realities of restricted credit markets and ever changing external markets, these factors of hidden capacity and shadow inventory will likely result in longer term inability to react, reduced customer service and cost write-offs.

Greater detail. Product demand plans are often aggregated and optimized at product family level to support more timely sales and operations planning.  Product forecasts, on the other hand, need to be granular enough to buffer or optimize variability and variety across planning and production schedules.  If you don’t have a system that can support the demand planning process with the flexibility to support both needs, you’re flying blind or are vulnerable to sudden market shifts.

Time to action. Manual processes and inadequate or standalone tools limit a company’s ability to proactively respond to market opportunities or specific customer needs.  Awareness of a potential excess batch of product can be proactively communicated to Sales and Operations management teams to shape additional demand or promotion of that product.

Production optimization. A business reality for many process-oriented manufacturers is that production schedules are rarely feasible, and often do not result in the best cost-revenue trade-offs.

In this “new-normal” there are two paths to business success:

• Continuous improvement by addressing one problem at a time or a plan to solve a series of smaller challenges.

• Transformation through an overarching vision and framework of future capabilities.

Either path may converge with the other at some point, and each approach holds pitfalls if the other path is not considered in some way. Continuous improvement implies building on the current foundation of business planning processes and supporting information technology.  It addresses one problem at a time, as functional needs warrant, or as business pain points need to be addressed.  Processes are improved utilizing various continuous improvement mechanisms such as those common in lean or six-sigma initiatives.

In this approach, an improvement is likely to focus on one business process or area.  For example, the company might scrutinize a production bottleneck such as a packaging line for how to improve performance with new scheduling, changeover and maintenance practices.  Or the S&OP leader may push a specific group such as finance to be more active in the process to ensure planning results increase profits.

Continued in Part 5

 

As companies rationalize or increase products, plants and distribution facilities, supply chain variability mandates the ability to continually change without custom coding.  For many companies, the breadth of products, markets and plants require the ability to concurrently support multiple planning strategies. Tactically, it becomes essential to have deployed an ERP system that can do so automatically.

ERP Manufacturing

ERP Helps Process Manufacturers Cope with Chaos (Part 3)

Variety. The new economy is one where competitiveness and customer loyalty are predicated on service and product choice.  Changing channels, market demographics and consumer tastes lead to the need for product and packaging variety. Brand expansion, new channels, and regional expansion may all demand new SKUs.  Process manufacturers now face special challenges related to more frequent needs for managing incremental or totally new formulations, products and packaging.

Process oriented manufacturers must adapt to this chaos. In the “new normal”, business is not static and process manufacturers must have enterprise systems that make them more agile and responsive to constantly changing business conditions.  The unique nature of inputs and outputs is driving more process manufacturers towards adopting hybrid push-pull manufacturing planning, scheduling, and distribution methods.  Inbound materials can often be push dependent, relying on the timing of harvest, season, or yield factor of an inbound commodity.  Inbound packaging and many ingredients are pull based.

On the outbound side, process manufacturers need to ensure that their finished goods production and distribution processes are pull-oriented given the volatility, variability and variety at play.  Hybrid push-pull supply chain planning provides the means for maximum operational efficiency.  To maximize return of assets or working capital, an ERP system must support product line, sales channel and customer segmentation level strategies. Planning must balance specific constraints in production, shelf life, or production lot control with customer responsiveness and overall competitiveness.  Being more demand-driven requires leveraging ERP technology to integrate the processes of product development through product packaging and distribution, irrespective of global region. All of this must be supported by analytical and decision-making processes that support business and operational insight.

Multi-plant or multi-region planning presents added complexities which outmoded MRP/MPS, re-order point techniques, or other conventional planning approaches cannot effectively manage.  Clearly, even advanced planning and scheduling techniques not designed for the variables and realities of process manufacturing are likely to be inadequate.

In this environment, traditional “best practice” planning may fail. Traditional “best practice” planning can fail if it does not account for or support the current challenges of volatility, variability and variety challenging today’s process focused manufacturers.

Lack of an integrated and responsive new product introduction process can cause many product launch failures.  Few companies today can integrate design and engineering information with production planning, sourcing, compliance and supplier information for more timely product launches, as well as a more seamless time-to-volume ramp-up with market attractive products.  Traditional systems do not always allow the company to quickly sense that a new product has wide customer acceptance, and quickly achieve time-to-volume when the product is at its most attractive margin point.

Continued in Part 4

 

In the wake of the continuing global financial crisis, particularly in Europe, many economists predict that uneven market demand, increased regulation, and tight credit are likely to continue for the foreseeable future.  Constant volatility, variability and variety will become the “New Normal” even through the economic recovery and subsequent cycles.  This presents extraordinary challenges to chemicals, specialty chemicals, consumer packaged goods, pharmaceutical, and food and beverage process manufacturers.

ERP Manufacturing

ERP Helps Process Manufacturers Cope with Chaos (Part 2)

Shifting markets, more empowered buyers whose spending patterns align with evolving lifestyles, the rise of the mega retailer or customer that control larger percentages of distribution and demanding end-consumers are generating intense business pressures for reliable, consistent, ontime delivery despite the uncertainty.  Globalization provides the opportunity to sell into and profit from new markets, but brings new and different business risks in maintaining margins and remaining the supplier of choice.  More empowered consumers, the effects of consolidated distribution, and the speed of the web can now amplify the effects of a potential product recall.

This impact can lead to huge write offs, erosion of shareholder value, or complete damage to the brand.

Volatility. Rapid economic changes increase volatility in markets.  The current global recession has led to overcapacity in certain regions, with increasing power shifts toward mega retailers, product buyers and consumers.  One clear sign of that is price volatility. Price volatility leads to increased financial risk for suppliers. As a result, buyers must be prepared to rapidly respond to either supplier quality erosion or even supplier failure as an unfortunate new norm.

There were 15 major food recalls in the U.S. last year, with producers only able to recover 40% of the product.  Such recalls can also reduce shareholder value of the producing company dramatically.  Increased regulations that vary by region indicate additional needs for:

• Accurate data capture,

• More details on sub ingredient compositions,

• Integration of compliance validation,

• More granular lot-tracking

• Timelier reporting and traceability.

Competitiveness comes from the flexibility to support constant change. Continual process improvement, flexibility and market responsiveness are now the key differentiators for process manufacturers.  This does not alleviate pressure on reliability and quality; it makes them more difficult to achieve.

Variability. Process manufacturers have always needed to factor in variability to achieve quality, market success and customer satisfaction.   On the supply side, quality, quantity, current cost and shelf life of inputs are often controlled by the vagaries of mother nature. Formulas and recipes are used to control material and processing based on local market variability and yields.  The recent advent of biofuels introduces competition for supply, as commodities can be channelled into other, sometimes more profitable products.  In some cases, process manufacturers have to manage a defined push system of inputs based on existing contracts.

On the output side, constantly changing markets, channels and demand patterns require more adaptability to meet or create market trends.  This, in-turn, requires more demand-focused or pull-driven production and higher-mix scheduling.  Production strategy must be able to accommodate higher mix with either higher or lower volumes An increasing trend toward increasing outsourcing of manufacturing to external co-packers introduces more exposures for uncontrolled variability, since external manufacturer systems lie outside internal process control systems.

Continued in Part 3


Pharmaceutical manufacturers are scrambling to comply with impending global legislation that will mandate sweeping changes to packaged drug coding and marking operations. With major upheaval in the industry – pressure on patents, counterfeit products, greater complexity in releasing new medications, and a spotlight on manufacturing efficiency – drug companies face more challenges today than at any other point in history.

ERP Manufacturing

Pharmaceutical ERP: The Key to Traceability (Part 1)

For companies that produce medications, track and trace capability is no longer a valiant goal – it’s a critical requirement. Even if there was no compliance issue at stake, no one wants to put a single person at risk, let alone tens, hundreds or thousands. Yet, incidents of medication-related illnesses show up in the news every day. Amid demands for more stringent legislation for “end-to-end traceability,” pharmaceutical manufacturers struggle to adequately track and trace their products.

The “trace” part of the formula is visibility into where a product has been, looking backwards at the inbound supply chain of ingredients and materials. “Track” refers to understanding product location as it moves forward through the distribution chain. While some believe that “track” and “trace” are independent of each other, experts indicate they are interdependent.

Consider this: if a toxic product turns up on a retail shelf, it’s imperative to have a thorough understanding of every stop along the way, not just from your door to the retailer’s hands, but also inventory handling, inbound supply shipments, your suppliers’ handling and production, their suppliers’ harvesting and production, and so on. To meet rigorous traceability requirements, manufacturers must arm themselves with the right tools, processes, and insight to uncover and report every element along the supply chain – from origin, all the way to the shelf or provider. And, the cost of all this insight can’t be a barrier to enterprise financial success. Pharmaceutical manufacturers face risks that are unique to their industry; medications begin with formulations. So should your ERP system. If you’re ready to take traceability to the next level, there are a few things you’ll need to know.

#1 — NOT ALL ERP IS CREATED EQUAL . If you’re using an industry-agnostic ERP system, you probably have some insight, but likely not enough. Since most manufacturers don’t need end-to-end traceability – that is from absolute origin to final dispensing point – the average ERP system generally provides only one level of trace in each direction. With this scenario, a drug maker’s system would only provide detail about their direct ingredient distributors. But, what about the facilities that produced the binders or capsules? What if any one of them had a problem along the way? Moving even further back in the supply chain, it’s anybody’s guess about the  plant growers or chemical formulators. Without the ability to trace an unlimited number of points along the supply chain, it could take weeks or months to pinpoint problems. Meanwhile, your business could face massive financial devastation due to complete recalls, lost inventory and liable actions.

Continued in Part 2

 

How Industry- Specific Compatible ERP Manufacturing Software Solutions and Related Applications Designed for Implementation in the Restaurant Industry Work (Part V)

ERP Manufacturing

ERP Manufacturing Software Solutions and Related Applications Designed for Implementation in the Restaurant Industry Work (Part V)

An Analysis of how Partnerships Formed Between Small Restaurant Businesses and Small Vendors of Industry- Specific ERP Manufacturing Software Solutions Can Bring Mutual Advantages and Promote the Development and Dissemination of Innovative Technologies/ The Role and Influence of Small Technological Innovators in the Promotion of Industry- Specific ERP manufacturing Software Applications Designed and Customized for the Needs of Small- Scale Restaurant Businesses

The partnership formed between small restaurant businesses and small vendors who offer highly efficient ERP manufacturing software solutions that are small- business oriented, affordable at low prices and which maintenance requires little ERP cost expenditures in the short and long- run would create mutual advantages for the small innovative businesses especially (which, in the global industrial stage, have always been the primary innovators for new products and technologies and are principally responsible for designing, developing and introducing innovative features and applications that are then also integrated by vendors/ providers into their ERP manufacturing software solutions for internal implementation and for delivery to their customer base. And, of course, these innovative applications are also integrated into other multiple varieties of ERP/ Internet/ Information/ high technology products for delivery to customers on a mass scale (such as multimedia- gadgets and devices with online functions).

These small businesses- despite their low market visibility and presence due to the current saturation of the ERP/ IT market - are able to develop such technologies simply because they are very skilled at employing numerous strategies that allow them to keep up to date with the latest innovative technological tools entering the market in growing numbers more frequently and which therefore necessitate more visibility potential if - as small businesses –these principal technological innovators are to survive competition especially within what has become, during the course of the past decade, a buyers market that offers innumerable choices of IT or ERP manufacturing software products and an extensive variety of multimedia/interactive gadgets to buy.

This situation, because of the large selection of products that are available, also creates issues for potential buyers - in their case, particularly because they may not be able to make up their mind between their choice of 1, 2 or more products they may be interested in purchasing, and therefore - because they actually may not be aware of the existence of the specific technological products that suits their needs completely - they simply may not really know what to look for (assuming that such a product even exists; for such is the current condition created by this increasing global market saturation, and which has given rise to new industry concerns such as this).

And this brings us to the various ways in which the dissemination of IT/ ERP knowledge and technological expertise by both vendors and customers/ clients is effected and promoted to higher standards of visibility through the use of advertising tools such as the social media networks (YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc.), including the various online discussion and blog forums hosted by individual ERP manufacturing software vendors which are also in some cases, embedded by their respective customers into their own company website in order to promote discussion among Internet users, and especially industry/ software professionals, regarding a certain product’s features and quality level or discovered deficiencies, or to present comparisons with similar lower or higher-quality ERP manufacturing software solutions.

 

How Industry- Specific Compatible ERP Manufacturing Software Solutions and Related Applications Designed for Implementation in the Restaurant Industry Work (Part IV)

ERP Manufacturing

ERP Manufacturing Software Solutions and Related Applications Designed for Implementation in the Restaurant Industry Work (Part IV)

The Value and Importance of Partnering with Mergers for Small Restaurant Businesses: The Nature and Role of Mergers in the Implementation of Industry- Specific and Compatible ERP Manufacturing Software Applications Designed for the Needs of Small Restaurant Businesses.As noted previously, in the article from the series “How Industry- Specific Compatible ERP Manufacturing Software Solutions and Related Applications Designed for Implementation in the Restaurant Industry Work (Part III)”, there are various reasons why many businesses may wish to enter into the international cluster of ERP/Information/ Internet Technology relations. Some may wish to draw from all - or only some - of the multiple advantages presented by forming partnerships with all the parties involved (as is the case for example in a merger or business conglomerate - which can, under any aspects, be considered small- scale or miniature versions of a global associative industrial cluster such as the one that exists between the ERP/IT technology industrial sectors).

Other reasons to explain their individual decision to participate and form partnerships include the need to acquire an adequate understanding of the appropriate promotional tools (which are based on ERP technology and ERP manufacturing software applications), that are necessary to advertise their products, so they can expose them to bigger intranet/customer audiences. Other companies, instead, may be solely interested specifically in providing technical ERP and technological training for their employees; so that all company levels will know how to operate the multi- purpose functions of the company’s customized ERP manufacturing software solution to run either specific, single, or multiple (depending on the case) internal and external manufacturing, distribution and business/ market processes.

To understand how mergers – acting as collective collaborative bodies -can greatly benefit small businesses in the Restaurant industry, it is worthy to note that mergers create a system which places all participant parties in a condition of mutual and reciprocal growth and survival; one which is also promoted by the free and unrestricted exchange and inter- change of the respective functions/ roles played by each of the participants, and which affects everyone -from company employees to customers, vendors, consulting firms, supply/distribution sectors, manufacturing businesses of any type, local, state and national government, academic organizations and universities, professional institutions and anyone else that enters the “net” or “network” of ERP/Internet technology interests.

The reason is that, ultimately, associative clusters, by their very definition, are in fact net- working associations where every party can promote their business or discover the specific solution to their needs; including innovative marketing strategies to capture new audiences via the interchange of market logistics and technical ERP data and technological expertise regarding innovative technologies for new software upgrades and applications, or valuable market information as well as inside scoops into foreign audience/country demographics, and – last but not least - data on potential global customer audiences who may be interested in the specific services or products they offer. Such a network system assures that ERP technological expertise is disseminated and transferred back and forth continuously (touching new customer audiences and attracting them to the associative cluster) - and in the process - assimilated by every party in the chain of relations.

 

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