Ceramic Industry

SPECIAL SECTION/BUSINESS GUIDE: Automated Financial Systems

December 1, 2009


A good financial system can benefit manufacturers of all sizes by automating processes and reducing hours of tedious work. Automated financial systems are software applications that perform defined tasks determined by a company’s management. Broadly speaking, financial systems can track assets, liabilities, income, expenses, transactions, inventory, invoices and more. In addition, automating key financial processes can enable manufacturers to assign their personnel to perform tasks that are more profitable.

Automation Benefits

The ability to accurately and efficiently track financial information is crucial in maximizing profitability and reducing overhead expenses. Automated financial systems can allow manufacturers to quickly assemble financial statements and balance sheets, which not only eliminates lengthy manual processes but also provides the necessary data to make important business decisions. More timely information can be produced automatically, and reports can be generated for management with the click of a button.

Having an integrated financial accounting system can make the difference between a manufacturer that merely survives and one that thrives. An integrated application can address all operational and accounting needs to improve reporting, coordinate production, determine correct stock levels, control information flow across the enterprise, and more.

In addition, automated financial systems can break down departmental barriers and enable staff members to gather data quickly from both inside and outside their own departments. Data is keyed only once, instead of being re-keyed into different systems. Employees can access information immediately after it is entered in the system, rather than waiting for a data update. Customer records are instantly available, which improves communication and customer service, and orders arrive in real-time from sales to the plant. The lag times that result from moving data from one system to another decrease. Most importantly, as efficiencies increase, personnel are able to address other tasks.

Software Selection

SAP, Sage, Oracle, PeopleSoft, Great Plains, JD Edwards and Deltek are examples of financial systems that are commonly used by medium to large corporations, while QuickBooks, Quicken®, Everest, Peachtree and Navision are more common to small companies. For manufacturers considering implementing an automated financial system, a number of factors need to be considered. Many automated financial systems are similar in their basic function, but subtle differences in features can make the implementation of new software either incredibly successful or less than optimal.

Implementing a system is a significant corporate decision that requires commitment, and appropriate planning can help ensure a smooth implementation. The first step of the project should be to choose a software selection team. The team should identify the best practices, perform a gap analysis, evaluate software options, meet with providers and review proposals. (A consultant can also help avoid common pitfalls.) FindAccountingSoftware.com is an excellent source of information on automated financial systems. The site can help guide manufacturers as they focus on selecting the right system within a given budget.

After selecting a system and vendor, a detailed implementation plan is needed. Install, configure and customize the software. Create and configure modules for proper data conversion, and document the entire process. Finally, train management, key users and all end users.

Lower-Price Alternatives

Manufacturers can also reap the benefits of automated financial systems without spending hundreds of thousands of dollars. Programs such as Microsoft Office Excel offer viable alternatives to expensive financial systems. Strong Excel consultants can automate many of the tasks that employees perform manually, freeing up their time by as much as 80%.

Manufacturers can save time, avoid errors, speed up processing, improve controls and perform repetitive tasks with the click of a single button using Excel macros. A macro is a Visual Basic program that performs sequential actions within Excel spreadsheets. Examples of Excel macro modules include Sales Estimating and Quoting, Database Integration and Reporting, Sales/Marketing Process Automation, Cash Flow, IRR and ROI, HR Employee Performance and Bonus Tools, Budget Planning and Market Modeling, Complex Cost/Benefit Analysis, Pricing & Costing Models, and much more.

Manufacturers should consider Excel and macro development services when:
  • Some business modules are not reaching their potential because they require more advanced techniques than the current staff is capable of.
  • Some modules require too much manual processing. Errors inevitably creep in that require repeating the process or result in incorrect reports.
  • The flow of data through modules is complex (cascading links). Controlling the data flow in a quick, repeatable manner would ensure that the final reports are based on the latest data.
  • A small number of vital spreadsheets would benefit from an expert review to look for actual and potential errors and to get advice on how to improve the design maintainability and robustness.
  • Some models have grown in complexity over time and have become cumbersome, unwieldy and fragile. Employees hesitate to touch certain sections for fear any problems will be difficult to fix.
  • Key reports need to be completed quickly to support management decision making. Reducing the processing time would give staff members more time to analyze the data.
  • Migration projects are in place, but they take too long and short-term enhancements are needed.
An effective Excel consultant should be an expert in data analysis and business reports. As such, they will know how to build smarter spreadsheets, reduce errors and provide ongoing maintenance. Their spreadsheets should quickly and easily allow manufacturers to see the health of every department, and they should be able to integrate databases with office applications and standardize data formats from all importing sources. With a consultant’s assistance, manufacturers should be able to improve the audit-ability of their spreadsheet models and reduce investments in high-priced systems and tools that do not meet their unique needs.

For more information, contact CG Consultants at 337 Ella Ave., Avenel, NJ 07001; call (908) 333-5024; e-mail CG@CGConsultantsLLC.com; or visit the website at www.CG-Consultants.com.

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