Profitability of automotive manufacturers can suffer when operations are not lean and all teams, from the manufacturing floor to the back office, are inefficient.

Managing operations from a disparate collection of manual and siloed systems like loose spreadsheets and software applications ultimately impair the ability for managers to get a 360-degree view of their businesses and creates bottlenecks that can be costly to the bottom line.

The latest business software innovations allow automotive companies to erase the logistical and organizational inefficiencies that can threaten customer service and loyalty.

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) software addresses all these issues, automating and unifying all critical business processes across the organization, and making business data available to executives in real-time.

Here are the top five signs it’s time to implement ERP software:

Information System Neither Automates Nor Integrates.

Accounting software manages only financial records. It doesn’t handle projects, production, distribution or customer-relations management (CRM). For these and other tasks, you must turn to spreadsheets, paper-based or other siloed or homegrown systems.

Entering the same data into multiple systems is tim- consuming and leads to mistakes. ERP software automates all your business processes and functions including project management, distribution, quality management, accounting and finance, human resources management, CRM and manufacturing.

Data entered into any of these modules is stored in a single repository that serves your entire enterprise. By eliminating the need to maintain separate systems and manually re-enter data into each one, you’ll save time and slash your risk of error.

Lack of Real-Time Visibility Into Business Performance

When data is stored in multiple disconnected systems, it’s difficult to get a true view of what is happening across the business without relying on an army of people spending hours, days or even weeks pulling data out of different spreadsheets to create custom reports that answer questions about sales performance, inventory and more.

Lack of visibility is a particular problem for executives with enterprise-wide responsibility. They need access to data about the performance of the entire company at a moment’s notice to answer a shareholder question or make strategic decisions.

Information availability is a key benefit of enterprise business software. These solutions enable you to instantly create ad hoc reports to make informed decisions more rapidly.

Rising Production Costs

You can’t improve what you can’t measure – you need to know what your costs are before you can find ways to reduce them. Because ERP provides complete visibility of all manufacturing costs and materials, it enables you to accurately determine areas that can be tightened.

Insufficient Efficiency and Transparency

Chances are your company has mission-critical work processes that demand collaboration and cross-company interactions.

As you grow your business, manual processes start to take too long and tasks can fall through the cracks. It’s often difficult to track all documents necessary to fulfill orders.

Workflow engines within ERP software prevent important tasks from getting lost and automatically routes tasks to the next person in the chain.

Less-Than-Ideal Competitive Position

Cumbersome manual processes impede competitiveness in many ways.

An inability to quickly and accurately answer customer questions impacts customer service and can lead to lost business. Automation ensures that work processes are completed in a timely fashion allowing you to be more responsive to customers.

Document management means you have instant access to necessary documents, which further improves cycle times. ERP software also enables sales reps to provide quotes faster as it provides all the information they need at their fingertips.

Now is the time to ditch the spreadsheets and manual entry tasks, and embrace the impact that automation could have on your business. Your customers – and your bottom line – will thank you.

Dan Griffin is director-product management at Exact Macola, where he is responsible for shaping product direction, driving development and analyzing potential third-party partner relationships.