Business Insider: Take advantage of your time at GIE+EXPO with ERP

Phil Harwood explains how companies should approach big trade shows with an enterprise resource planning (ERP) mindset.
(Photo: putilich/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)
(Photo: putilich/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)

GIE+EXPO is the largest trade show in our industry with more than 20 acres of outdoor equipment demo area in addition to more than a thousand indoor exhibits. I’m a regular attendee, and the word that continues to come to my mind when I walk the trade show floor is “opportunity.” But not just the regular version of opportunity. This version of opportunity is jaw-dropping, overwhelming, heart-pounding. It evokes thoughts of abundance, innovation, growth. Unless you had too much fun at Fourth Street Live! the previous night, you can’t help but walk away with a multitude of new ideas after attending this show.

The challenge then becomes how to respond to these great ideas. Too often, we have breakthrough ideas at trade shows that never move forward. As soon as we get back to normal, those great ideas get put aside until tomorrow, next week, next month, and ultimately just fade into a black hole. The problem here is the lack of a system. Let me explain.

I grew up in a family business and have been working since I was 8 years old. I’ve worked for and consulted with startups, small family businesses, nonprofits, midsize businesses and Fortune-500 global organizations. At every level, successful organizations and leaders have a number of systems. I’ve written extensively about time management systems and strategic planning systems. In this article, I’m going to discuss another system that some of you may not be familiar with called an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system.

What is ERP?

ERP systems became cool in the 1990s, so they aren’t new kids on the block. They originally came from the manufacturing world in various forms such as material requirements planning systems, manufacturing resource planning systems and computer-integrated manufacturing systems. Today, ERP systems are fully integrated but still retain strength in the areas of resource planning and supply chain management, which is why I’m writing about them in conjunction with GIE+EXPO.

Due to the massive disruption of the global supply chain in 2020, equipment procurement has never needed to be more strategic because the turnaround time for new equipment orders has been stretched. Buying or leasing equipment at the last minute is no longer an option. Instead, businesses need to be much better at planning ahead and placing orders well in advance of when the equipment will be needed. For many in our industry, this is a foreign concept and may even seem impossible. That’s where an ERP system mentality comes into play.

In an ERP system, you establish long-term and short-term goals, including sales and production goals. Production goals are translated into resource requirements, which is a fancy term for what you need to have to meet your production goals. How many people will we need? How many trucks and trailers will we need? How many crews can work out of our current facilities? How many of each type of equipment do we need? Create the plan and execute the plan. You get the idea.

The benefits to ERP

Like I said earlier, successful organizations set these goals and projections as part of their three-year or five-year planning systems. Because they have been doing this for years, their plans are consistently reliable with built-in scenarios for when outside factors affect them. When it comes to ordering equipment, they know what they need well in advance. This planning gives them a huge advantage — with respect to procurement, pricing and relationship-building with equipment manufacturers, distributors and retailers — over their scrambling, last-minute-shopping competitors.

So, this year when you’re walking the trade show floor or visiting the outdoor demo area, being inspired by the opportunities all around you, consider how you might be more strategic with your equipment procurement. Think about your long-term vision and your three-year plan. Take more of a systems approach to translating your great idea into your strategic plan. Then, work in tandem with your preferred equipment brands to execute your plan. This is a systematic approach that leads to success.

Now go forth.

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