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They may not always get the recognition they deserve, but midsize mill products manufacturing companies are the bedrock of modern economies.

Whether its sheet metal fabricators, plastics moulders, paper mills or packaging makers, these are the companies that few end consumers ever hear of, but who play a critical role in the supply chains of so many of the everyday products we all use.

What’s also often overlooked is that these midsized companies typically exhibit growth as strong – or even stronger –than their larger peers. In fact, by some estimates, manufacturers in the United States have outperformed some of the biggest companies in the world over the past decade.[1]

These companies should not only feel pride in their recent performance, but also positive about the opportunities for future digital transformation and innovation – both in the products they make and in the manufacturing processes they use to make them.

Indeed, their smaller size often makes them nimbler and more agile than larger competitors. So they can transform faster, gain more advantage from digital innovation, pivot to new markets more easily, and better prepare themselves for future M&A opportunities.

Cloud ERP as growth enabler

However, having the right business technology in place is a critical prerequisite. And it’s why cloud ERP is an increasingly important consideration for manufacturers of all shapes and sizes.

At SAP, we’re proud that our Cloud ERP offerings like SAP S/4HANA Cloud Public Edition are helping the world’s manufacturers solve challenges and scale up performance. An example? Take Slovarm, a specialty fitting, piping systems and plastic product component manufacturer based in Central Europe.

The company wanted to be able to respond proactively to a changing market. But its aging ERP system, cumbersome MRP, and spreadsheet-based planning was holding it back.

By implementing SAP S/4HANA Cloud Public Edition, Slovarm was able to integrate key processes and reduce its work-in-progress and final-stock inventory by 60%. It also doubled its throughput for key production programs, while giving production planning teams increased visibility across the business.

Simplify ERP in the cloud

So why is a Cloud ERP now so important for these kinds of companies? One of the key reasons is simplicity of use.

The reality of running a smaller or midsized manufacturing business is you usually don’t have dedicated staff for different functions like purchasing, planning, sales, and so on. Instead, any single employee might perform any or all of these different activities at any one time.

These generalist users have very different needs from an ERP system. Above all, they need it to be simple, fast, and easy to use. They can’t be expected to be experts in all the intricacies of a complex application. Nor can their company be expected to maintain a large team of IT experts to implement and maintain it.

That’s why a system like SAP S/4HANA Cloud Public Edition can be so valuable for these businesses. Not only do they get an ERP provided as a service in the cloud, but they also get a simple and user-friendly system with out-of-the-box dashboards showing key analytics in areas like inventory management.

On top of that, the application makes it easy to automate routine activities, such as automatically booking a sales order as soon as it comes in. So it saves employees time, improves their access to data, and increases their operational productivity.

Enable intelligent decisions

Then consider the impact on data-driven decision making. This can really benefit midsized manufacturers because it can often be difficult for generalist users to make full use of all the operational and business data at their disposal.

To solve this, a cloud ERP can provide actionable intelligence to help generalist users make more informed decisions. That even includes prescriptive insights — such as a menu of ‘what if’ simulation options – based on real-time operational and financial data.

Imagine, for instance, an employee is running MRP and sees that stock outages mean certain sales orders can’t be covered within the agreed time. SAP S/4HANA Cloud Public Edition can suggest a series of options — delaying the order, offering an alternative product, using a different material, and so on — and simulate the financial and customer impact of each one.

Visibility into fragmented data

But what about the data itself? Midsized manufacturing businesses often suffer from siloed data and fragmented systems built up over time, affecting their ability to gain insights into the true state of overall operations.

We all know what happens in practice. Without a single repository for business data, valuable insights remain trapped in spreadsheets, email attachments, physical paper, or any of the myriad other data formats used by different teams.

The impact? Inefficiency and a lack of overall visibility into how the business is performing at any one time. Again, this is a problem that a cloud ERP can solve. When all this data is consolidated

in an application like SAP S/4HANA Cloud Public Edition, generalist users can not only see everything together in one place, they’re also better able to join up the dots across the business.

To take a simple example, they can see how a sales order was planned, which production orders were attached to it, when the delivery was scheduled, and when that delivery actually happened. And they can view it all through a visually appealing graphical interface.

It means employees are better placed to see issues as they arise — whether that’s ballooning costs or a customer order going off track — and take immediate proactive steps to prevent them.

Take growth to another level

These are just a handful of the benefits that midsized manufacturers stand to gain from switching to a cloud ERP solution.

From improved supply chain resilience to streamlined operations and from enhanced cost management to product innovation, there are numerous other ways to work smarter, faster, and more efficiently with SAP S/4HANA Cloud Public Edition.

To find out more about how GROW with SAP can help midsize manufacturers achieve these gains and continue their proud record of strong growth and product innovation, please take a look at our dedicated website for mill products businesses here or request a free trial here.

(1) https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/mckinsey-on-books/the-titanium-economy