Enterprise Resource Planning systems (ERP) are among the biggest investments many manufacturers make.

Between licenses, training, deployment, consultants, integrations, and maintenance, the capital expenditure on an ERP can be massive

With so much money allocated to a single system, you want to make sure that you’re getting as much value as possible. 

In this post, we’ll go over some ways our customers have integrated Tulip to supplement their ERP and increase efficiency across their operations. 

Where ERPs Get Complicated (And when to consider an integration)

ERPs are ambitious systems. 

Their power comes from the fact that they combine many mission critical business functions into a single system. Manufacturing ERPs can handle everything from work order generation and inventory planning to CAD and MES integrations to supply chain management. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. 

As a result of this comprehensive functionality, however, ERPs are extremely complex. 

Some of this complexity is mitigated by modular design–functions are organized into neat modules, and business units and end-users only have access to the modules they need to do their jobs. 

Nevertheless, many key modules can be difficult for the average end-user to navigate, and complexity remains a barrier to maximal value in some cases.

Some common complaints we hear from customers are: 

  • The system is too difficult for some of our employees, and using it slows their work. 
  • Manual data entry is prone to error
  • Even with tight permission controls, it can be tough to give people the modules they need without exposing too much of the system to them. 
  • Our ERP data doesn’t always align with data taken on the shop floor.  

So the questions we tend to get next are generally:

  1. Does Tulip integrate with our ERP? (Yes!) 
  2. Why would I consider this integration?

(We also get this very justified hesitation: Our ERP is our single-source-of-truth. We’re not interested in anything that would compromise it).

Here we’ll consider #2 by walking you through how Tulip can help you get the most value out of your ERP. 

How Tulip Helps You Get More Value From Your ERP

While there are many benefits of connecting your ERP to your shop floor systems, here are the ones we find most frequently:

  • Better experience for end-users
  • Improved data integrity
  • Simplified inventory management and forecasting
  • More alignment between production and back-end data

We’ll look at each in turn by focusing on a real customer case. 

Simplified Experience for Front Line Workers at Staymobile

Mobile device remanufacturers Staymobile constantly impress us with their innovative use of the Tulip. Staymobile uses Tulip to:

  • Synchronize digital work instructions across a distributed workforce
  • Track inventory and chain of custody for each repair
  • Collect the data they need to optimize workcell structure. 

Their embrace of data has led them to best-in-class quality standards, and helped them eliminate paper from their workshops.  

One way they achieved this distinction was by integrating Tulip with their ERP, Netsuite. 

Prior to Tulip, Staymobile technicians logged information directly into Netsuite. But the interface was difficult to navigate. This led to slower repair times and prevented technicians from focusing fully on their work. 

“We wanted to keep end-users away from the ERP as much as possible,” Staymobile Operations Manager Brad Nichols noted. 

By integrating Tulip, repair and work information automatically sync with the ERP. This means that their system works for everyone who needs it without complicating employee’s work unnecessarily. 

“Netsuite is still our centralized database,” Nichols continued, “Tulip just makes managing everything easier.” 

Better Data Integrity

The best way to ensure data integrity is to remove paper and manual data entry from a process. For Staymobile, a Tulip and Netsuite integration helped accomplish this. 

In some cases, however, it’s not possible for Tulip to pass all information about a process to an ERP automatically. Staymobile found that there were still situations when technicians needed to enter data directly into the ERP. 

In this case, Staymobile built failsafes into their Tulip applications. They did so with simple visual tweaks like adjusting button size and color. They also added pop up notifications that asked operators to double-check the data they were inputting. All of this reduced the number of errors in data, and created an attribution system for linking every entry to a specific operator. 

All and all, this additional data collected enabled Staymobile to reduce the number of ERP licenses they purchased, thus translating into hard cost savings. 

Align your shop floor processes with back end Systems

If your ERP is your single-source-of-truth, you want to make sure it contains just that: truth. That’s why many of the manufacturers we work with want to ensure that what happens in their processes is reflected in the ERP’s accounting.

This source of truth can be especially hard to maintain in high-mix environments.

This was the situation Rich Brilliant Willing, a manufacturer or high-end lighting solutions, found themselves in when they integrated Tulip and their ERP, Netsuite. 

“Our process can be challenging,” said RBW Production Manager Dave Staehle, “We have a lot of customization and over 1000 different SKUs. In a single day we can make over 14 different fixture types. It’s a lot of moving pieces, a lot of moving parts, and a lot to track.”

Often times, manufacturers use Tulip to create a simpler interface for exchanging information with the ERP.

“We wanted to add more monitoring of data into our manufacturing process,” Director of Operations Bill Baker noted of the decision to integrate Tulip, “You connect Tulip to NetSuite and Tulip has the user interface, has the tools for our team to do what they need to do.”

As a result, shop floor builders now have a single tool for passing information to and from back-end databases. Tulip enables an additional layer of production visibility to the data they have in their ERP.

Further, Tulip automatically generates work orders for operators by pulling the relevant bill of materials and creates SOPs using data stored in NetSuite.

“Tulip is superb at facilitating information, tracking information, and it feeds back into the NetSuite database,” Staehle said.

As a result, information moves seamlessly between disparate shop floor processes and centralized data systems. 

Conclusions

Full disclosure: ERP integrations are complicated. 

It’s not something that we recommend for everyone, and in some cases it’s not necessary. That said, our customers who do integrate Tulip with their ERP are glad they did.

They’ve found that connecting Tulip to an ERP isn’t just about making life easier on the shop floor. It’s about maximizing the value you get from one of your biggest investments: your ERP. 

If you want to learn more about how RBW uses Tulip with Netsuite to improve data collection and efficiency across processes, check out our case study here

If you have any questions about what this kind of integration might look like for you, get in touch