When one thinks of an ERP system used by their company, it’s often from the perspective of managing operational aspects of their day to day. However, it can also be used as a means of driving new product R&D and innovation.

Normally, we discuss this topic solely in relation to Wherefour, but today we’re going to (mostly) talk about it more broadly.

 

Getting Started

When running experimental R&D for product iterations, it’s very likely that you will be using the inventory that is already on hand. At the same time, it’s also likely that this inventory is already documented in your ERP system. This is good, as it is important to track the accounting, stock levels, and traceability in the same way as current finished goods being produced. Chances are that whatever inventory is going to be used for the experiment(s), it may be a sizeable portion.

Another benefit to using your ERP system for R&D is the institutional memory, when these experiments are recorded and available to other departments. A cloud-based solution makes this easily shareable across functions, locations, and devices.

For companies that don’t already have an existing system, and are running this R&D through more manual approaches, a better place to start would be our article, What is an ERP and why should I use one?

 

An Example

In our customer webinars, we often educate through a workflow example demonstration within Wherefour. So for today’s example, let’s say that our company is looking to create a new iteration of their long produced item, Product X (Catchy, isn’t it?).

Without going into the technical specifics of Wherefour (for a demonstration relevant to your own product experiments, contact us!), let’s take a high level look at how a business may achieve these updates right in their own ERP.

First, we’re going to isolate the experimental product variants into their own category within your inventory and production. Creating these experiments is then as simple as cloning existing formulas / recipes / other production instructions, and making modifications from there.

Maybe Product X is a baked good, and one variant may be a slight reduction in flour, or change in the amount of water used. Maybe it’s the glass screen used in the newest smartphone to be released in the coming quarters, and engineering is developing new ways to improve strength and reduce costs. The sky is the limit for the iterations that you can work on.

Using the new test variants, which have also been given distinguishing working names such as Product X – Expt #Y, you would then set up a production order in the same way as normal, just with the current version.

When these production runs have been completed, it’s then a matter of recording test results and determining if it was a success or not. This could be in test notes located in a particular area of your inventory item. In Wherefour, this would take place directly in the production notes of the work order related to this set of experiments. Then, it may be back to the drawing board, but for this example, we’ll say that Product X – Expt #3 was a smashing success. Everyone is happy because it’s not only going to be an improved product for customers, but it’s going to be more cost effective for production, and result in a better looking bottom line for finance.

 

Conclusion

While utilizing the power of an ERP for product development is definitely a more comprehensive and impactful method than loose paper or spreadsheets on your desktop, it’s definitely more complex than the over simplified example here today. That being said, in the age of digital transformation, it can help your business to drive increased efficiency and collaboration, while reducing many of the manual task related headaches. That’s what the Wherefour team strives for, and we’re here to make this as easy as possible for you.

If you would like to learn more about how manufacturing companies are using Wherefour for their own product R&D (or the many other things that our system helps with across inventory control, traceability, MRP, and more), let’s chat!

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