Many manufacturers have gone or are going through changes as the challenging economic times continue. Companies are consolidating-buying out competitors through mergers and acquisitions, thinning their workforces through layoffs or merging locations in an effort to save money-all while trying to maintain the highest level of quality.

But maintaining smooth operations, employee satisfaction and product quality during such a state of turmoil poses challenges for many manufacturers. In such circumstances, manufacturers are faced with the difficulty of consolidating individual business processes and functions. Enterprisewide software, which consolidates business processes onto one platform, is one possible solution. (Look for more on enterprisewide software on p. 42 of this issue.)

Implementing an enterprisewide solution puts manufacturers under enormous pressures to achieve a smooth consolidation on time and within budget. I spoke with Mike Jovanis, vice president of product management at Sparta Systems (Holmdel, NJ), an enterprise quality software provider, to discuss some of the challenges and difficulties manufacturers face when consolidating business operations-specifically during these economic times.

“It’s a relevant time to talk about these challenges,” Jovanis says. “A lot of the same challenges face manufacturers [going through] the more traditional consolidation of mergers and acquisitions, and those companies that historically have operated in a decentralized way and are now consolidating how they operate 10 different sites, for example.”

One of the major stressors, says Jovanis, is the difficulty of maintaining a high level of quality while bringing business operations and functions together. “[Manufacturers] have to make sure they don’t lose control of what they are doing today while going to that next step of having one system in place,” he says.

Of course, adding to the stress is lack of patience while waiting to achieve that end result of efficiency-and that can lead to a lapse in quality. “You have to be careful that you don’t sacrifice quality because of time constraints and financial constraints. There has to be a careful balance between execution and effectiveness,” Jovanis says.

Executive support and buy-in of the consolidated vision is a must in order to succeed. Another important side of the equation is to seek input from all relevant parties involved, Jovanis recommends, as with employee consolidation where several employees have taken on extra job tasks and responsibilities as a result of layoffs. “Ultimately, if [employees] feel they have been involved in the process, it allows them to adapt to change much easier,” he says.

While the consolidation process can help many companies with their bottom lines, it is a task that needs a vision and a strategy before beginning. Once you have the end goal-what you want the consolidated entity to look like, and how you’d like the processes to work-you’re well on your way to achieving those visions and goals.

Share your experiences with consolidation by e-mailing me at [email protected].