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10 Features of Formulation and R&D to Look for in your ERP

That an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software is a fundamental requirement of any process manufacturing business, is an established fact now. For the process manufacturers, ERP has emerged as a panacea to their various challenges, with issues pertaining to traceability, compliance, quality, inventory, etc. being the notable ones. It effectively deals with the challenges by meeting the specific needs of each individual business, constantly improving and streamlining the business processes across departments, and integrating all the different areas of the business, thus ensuring that every business function relies on a single database and delivers accurate and vital real-time information.

And how exactly does an ERP pull this off? The answer is through its set of robust modules, namely compliance, production, Quality Control (QC), planning & scheduling, costing, and warehouse, among others. Since we are talking about process manufacturing, or the formula/recipe-based manufacturing businesses, there are certain modules that are an indispensable part of the ERP. Two such modules that particularly stand out are formulation and R&D. Formulas are often considered to be the life-blood of process manufacturing industry, with various critical operations revolving around them. And a process manufacturing ERP provides the foundation to manage formulas and carry out R&D on them to drive innovation through experimentation.

Through this blog, let’s take a look at 10 combined features of the formulation and R&D modules of an ERP, which are essential to a process manufacturing business. But before that, let’s understand in brief what these two modules are & what significance do they hold.

Formulation- the heart of the entire manufacturing process

Unlike the discrete manufacturers, process manufacturers are dependent on formula/recipe – which are the building blocks of their products and consist of a list of ingredients, their quantities, manufacturing instructions and such. Manufacturing in the process manufacturing industries involves the creation of hundreds and thousands of such formulas, which usually have infinite versions that are required to be recorded, maintained, retrieved or archived in a common database for future reference. An ERP software’s formulation module helps them to store, retrieve, and revise every formula used in the business along with defining in detail formula’s ingredients, set of instructions, QC-test requirements, class, status, description, costs, safety instructions and many other specifics. The module basically allows the smooth management of all aspects of the creation of a product from its initial concept to the final outcome.

Moreover, ERP software even offers the foundation for easy formula comparison, version control, roll-back, formula security, formula sizing, and material substitution, among other features.

R&D: Unlocking innovation through experimentation

Innovation with integrity is the need of the hour.  Blame it on exposure, increased awareness, more travel, fusion of cultures, etc., that today’s consumer demands newer, greener and innovative products. The R&D module, or commonly known as the laboratory module of an ERP software, helps process manufacturers unlock innovation through experimentation without hampering the production process at the same time. It allows the process manufacturers to conduct research on their formulas based on the material properties, and facilitates the achievement of targeted physical, nutritional or specific characteristic, and specific packaging based on the nature of the product.

The features of this module lend immense flexibility to the manufacturers to meet their specific needs, significantly cutting down the man-hours spent on error-prone manual calculations and paving way for quick and accurate access to useful information. Consequently, the manufacturers can develop new formulas with new physical properties or modify formulas for multiple uses, assess new formula’s impacts on production, size formulas, and make physical property comparison, among others.

The ‘must-have’ formulation and R&D features in your ERP

Formula creation & management: As mentioned above, the formulation module of an ERP allows manufacturers to create numerous formulas with countless versions, and manage them by recording, maintaining, retrieving or archiving them in a common database for future reference. This is the single-most important feature of this module, which lays the foundation for the manufacturing process.

Formula security: Another important requisite for the formula and recipe-based manufacturers is to have a mechanism to protect their formulas, which usually are developed after intense research and hard-work. This can be done by ensuring that not everyone within the system has access to the formulas, and instead, the formula access and modification rights are limited to those who should have it. An intensive approval workflow makes this possible.

Secure testing: The formulas/recipes used in the process manufacturing businesses are often complex in nature. But that doesn’t deter the manufacturers from experimenting and developing quality formulas. ERP software’s R&D module offers secure recording of formulas, and allows intensive testing through multiple tests on experimental formulas. This effectively means that the manufacturers can carry out secure experimentation keeping the master formula safe at the same time.

Physical property analysis: The process manufacturers often feel the need to dynamically calculate certain overall properties of the formula, during its inception or with every change to the formula or say, after item substitution. Besides, they may even want to achieve the targeted physical, nutritional or specific characteristic, cost, potency, specific packaging, etc. of the formula which involves intricate calculations. An ERP’s R&D module automates this entire process, helping do “what-if” analysis to achieve the targeted values or cost.

Formula analysis with cost: Another important feature of an ERP software’s formulation module happens to be the in-depth analysis on cost, which supports deriving the cost of the new product. ERP, through the R&D module, allows performing granular-level accurate costing of product considering all the elements and different costing methods. Besides, it also allows ‘what-if ‘cost analysis to help manufacturers estimate profitable scenarios based on different assumptions.

Sample management: Samples play a crucial role in process manufacturing. For they define what customer wants. Managing and costing these samples take a toll of manufacturers.  But an ERP’s comprehensive sample management module enables innovating, creating, costing and tracking samples based on customer specifications while also keeping a record of all the communications.

Version control & Rollback: Any good ERP software with a sound formulation management module has version control feature, which gives the process manufacturers the ability to track the changes that have been made to the formulas, and also the employee who made those changes. This eventually comes in handy for the manufacturers to meet a qualification during regulatory audits. Ask a formula/recipe-based manufacturer, and he will tell you how badly he wishes to have the ability to roll-back to the desired formula as and when required. A good ERP software’s formulation module makes this wish come true, with its formula roll-back feature. Besides allowing the manufacturer to go back to the previous formula anytime, it also makes their vast database quite manageable.

Formula comparison: The formula comparison feature of an ERP’s formulation module allows comparison of multiple formulas in terms of their ingredients, labor, packaging, cost and other characteristics. This feature assists the process manufacturers when it comes to decision making with respect to the existing formulas.

Material substitution by weight & volume: The formulation module of an ERP provides a feature to substitute a material – which may be used in hundreds of formulas, and in multiple levels of formulas – across any chosen range of formulas. The feature allows the manufacturers to decide what percentage of the new material to the old is required, and also how they want to adjust the formula back to its original – whether by adjusting another ingredient alone or by sizing all materials proportionately to obtain the original weight or volume.

Formula sizing: This feature of the formulation module allows the process manufacturers to size their formulas, both by weight and volume. The manufacturers need to specify the quantity of sizing the formula. This feature helps the manufacturers meet the customers’ varied requirements without needing long lead times.

Closing thoughts:

An ERP software, through its countless invaluable benefits, has time and again proved its worth when it comes to addressing critical problems faced by the process manufacturers. This blog has shown how two of its particular modules – formulation and R&D – serve the needs of the process manufacturers.

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Sanjay Panjwani, Co-founder & MD BatchMaster Software. A technology enthusiast, he is the brains behind BatchMaster ERP- ERP Software for process manufacturers. An avid outdoorsman by the weekends, he enjoys reading & playing sports too.

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