Wow these are good and insightful questions.

Overall, technology is important for a business--it helps you do more with less, save time, be more productive and gain intelligence on key business processes and metrics. For manufacturers in particular, you need to manage and have data on inventory, shipping, receiving, logistics, returns and a number of other "product" related information.

Technology can help you manage this much better than you could manage it without a proper technology system in place. If you have business processes at the core of your business, simply adding technology won't help. In fact, it might hinder things. Keep this in mind. If you need to get every penny from other business processes, a good technology system can help you monitor those costs and know where to invest and where to cut back.

Follow the examples of Wal-Mart and Dell. These retailers have thrived by cutting out as much waste as they can from the manufacturing and fulfillment process. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) products from SAP, Everest, Oracle, IBM and others can help.

Ramon Ray,
Editor and Technology Evangelist,
Smallbiztechnology.com