Why Robot?

A "guest" post by Managing Director, Ian Oldrey

On a recent dog-walk, I had an encounter with a robot.

I was at the local park, and my eagle-eyed hound spotted a potential threat: a tiny, tank-like machine patrolling the grounds, clearly up to something. Curious (and slightly apologetic for the commotion being caused by the dog’s outrage) I approached the man who appeared to be in charge of said machine, and asked what it was up to.

“Painting the lines for the football pitch,” he replied.

“That must save a lot of time,” I said.

“It takes roughly 25 minutes – so actually it’s about the same amount of time it would take a person to paint it.”

I let that percolate for a moment.

“So – why do you use it?” I asked. Surely this was a wasteful use of valuable council resources?

“Well,” he replied, “It takes two people 4 hours to measure out a pitch every time, where this can start straightaway.”

And there’s the point of it all.

A machine might not necessarily save a huge amount of time performing one particular task; but once a process is automated, repeated and learned, it can free up a huge amount of time in the longer-term. Time which can be put to better use on the areas where humans really add value: interacting with other humans, coming up with new ways of doing things, building communities and cultures of acceptance, innovation and improvement.

So what does that mean for merchants?

I am often asked about the advantages – and disadvantages – of software systems in business. And sure, they can be a headache to learn and navigate (though hopefully we’ve addressed a lot of those issues in our design and user-friendliness of Merchanter!)

But there are so many ways in which a co-ordinated, well integrated ERP system can benefit your business - and your people – that it’s absolutely worth the investment, in every sense of the word.

Many customers come to us who are used to using a manual or paper-based system, and can be surprised that performing a given task (raising a quote, for example) could take about the same time as it did before. But the value and hidden savings are in the next step, and the ones after that: quote to order, order to dispatch, dispatch to invoice, etc, where time is saved and errors prevented. It’s in the fact that all previous orders are easily accessible, that every part of the system is linked giving fast and direct access to the information you need, and that there is no duplicated effort because the information is updated across the whole system in real-time.

When moving from legacy systems, similar time-and-effort savings are common, with the added advantages of remote training, maintenance and updates, of constantly evolving software that doesn’t require a 24 hour (or longer) shut down for a site-visit and system reboot. The compound advantages are many, and they represent enormous potential value to any merchant business.

So if on the face of it you’re not convinced of the savings or the opportunities, it might be time to dig a little deeper, and consider the bigger-picture potential an industry-specific ERP system has to offer.

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