Realising the full power of the cloud to boost resilience

Rewiring supply chains for cloud-based solutions enables companies to become more agile, efficient and resilient

While adaptability has always been important, the last two years made it clear that businesses must invest in resiliency to succeed. And while nearly all businesses had to react to disrupted supply chains, unexpected shifts in demand, and new ways of working, it’s our manufacturers and distributors who faced the brunt of this pressure, and who likewise must make resiliency plans one of their utmost priorities.

The good news is that cloud ERP software is helping companies implement efficient, agile business models that can change and scale at speed.

“When organisations are forced to change their business processes, the cloud offers them the flexibility to react quickly. Whether it’s to meet new regulations, seize new opportunities, or protect the health and safety of staff, the cloud can have an incredible positive impact on both your business success as well as the success of your employees and customers. Ultimately, the true power of cloud is that it can enable a world of better business,” said Andy Coussins, SVP & head of international at Epicor, a cloud-based software provider.

When looking for use cases of cloud impact, the list is sky high. For example, the agility of cloud has been key for rewiring supply chains to cater for changes in buyer trends. B2B distributors – like hardware firms that sell their products to tradesmen via branches – have had to adapt and offer services to customers who now wish to order online. Many have also had to generate new ways of retaining and attracting new customers to avoid disintermediation as manufacturers seek to sell directly to end users.

Cloud also allows manufacturers and distributors to extend the capabilities of, and around, their core business applications like ERP to streamline operations and take advantage of new revenue streams. Examples include ecommerce platforms, EDI for faster payments and information exchange, and enterprise content management that enables digitisation of the traditional paperwork in the production process.

Efficiency can also be optimised through scheduling capabilities in the cloud. With a simple Epicor software tool, manufacturers and distributors can schedule sales orders with multiple releases to meet customer needs in product release on their schedule. In doing so, businesses can prevent two common problems on opposite ends of the spectrum: either products sitting in their warehouses for long periods or repeatedly sending the same order.

Customer satisfaction and retention can also be improved via the cloud’s readily available data. For example, sales history tools in Epicor solutions enable manufacturers and distributors to view a customer’s sales history to see all the items they’ve bought, so they can have an informed conversation with their buyers. CRM solutions integrated into ERP systems also provide a clear view of customers, prospects, and contact data, from opportunity to quote to order.

Cloud software can mitigate the risk of cyber attacks

The availability of data is likewise key to reducing supply chain costs and improving the bottom line through more informed decision-making. Tools such as advanced demand forecasting, advanced inventory management (including sporadic and seasonal demand patterns), lead time per item per location, and vendor-managed inventory all enable companies to make business decisions based on hard data rather than using their gut instinct.

But, how safe is company data from the risk of cyber attacks? There is more good news on this front. Cloud ERP offers state-of-the-art security, from data encryption to system firewalls, while company data is backed up on servers that are routinely updated to combat the newest cyber threats. Cloud solutions also isolate email from ERP business applications, making it much harder to infiltrate organisations through phishing, a common form of cyber attack. In contrast, on-premises solutions can be harder to protect, slower to respond to an attack, and more vulnerable to break-ins or natural disasters.

Andy Reid, director of international product marketing at Epicor, is confident that moving to the cloud is the safest bet for distributors and manufacturers. He says: “With cloud software, you can benefit from the experience and investments made by your software and infrastructure providers, spreading the responsibility and mitigating the risk of cyber attacks. The question should really be ‘why would you not put your data in the cloud?’”

While the multitude of cloud capabilities is great, Coussins stresses that it’s the combination of people using software solutions in impactful ways while applying their own expertise when full potential can be truly unlocked. “Never discount the knowledge of someone who has worked in an industry for 20 years,” he says. “They can provide a valuable perspective, and typically have great instincts. View all the incredible data from the cloud as a way to empower your employees to make more fully informed decisions. And then have them utilise the cloud to improve the speed and accuracy of their decision-making. It should be an exciting opportunity for all involved and a unifying opportunity for business leaders and employees to build a better business together.”

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