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Articles | September 12, 2013

A No Nonsense Guide to Selecting the Right ERP System

Maximize the Trivial This may sound simple, but it is far too frequent that people fall victim to the “thousand siren syndrome”. ERP systems are vastly too broad and...

By WorkWiseSoftware

Maximize the Trivial

This may sound simple, but it is far too frequent that people fall victim to the “thousand siren syndrome”. ERP systems are vastly too broad and complex to compare each and every difference. It is quite easy to plot hundreds, if not thousands of things that each system does differently. Take some helpful advice, list the top seven (or less) goals that you need to accomplish with the system. And then, make sure the system can absolutely accomplish those goals. Why seven? Trust me; it is hard enough to verify that those seven items will absolutely be accomplished. Focus on the seven, and you will achieve success. Now, I don’t mean to check if the system has an inventory module, or an MRP module, or any other module. What I mean is, Will the system will perform the goal you need? For example, here is a better goal list:

Only when you specify the exact results you want, can you begin to test the vendor as to whether they can perform. If you start by comparing every little difference, you will soon become glassy eyed, and lose sight of the real reason you have set out to purchase a system in the first place. Always remember, too much information clouds the perspective.

Bouncing Ball Demo

This is a real indicator of whether a vendor ERP system will perform. If the demo focuses on their hot new technologies of the day along with a light cruise through the modules and screens, you are probably in trouble. I call this a “bouncing ball” demo because you are supposed to be impressed with the blinking screens and buzz word topics (watch the bouncing ball as we never go deep). If they aren’t demonstrating the solution to your specific problems, you might as well hang Christmas tree lights in your office. It will be more entertaining.

Wisdom, Not Tool Jockeys

Ask the vendor to demonstrate exactly how they will solve your list of seven goals. Ask them to specifically detail how they will transform your current performance into your future desires. If they can’t do this now, how can you possibly expect them to perform later, especially when they bring in their “B” team of newer, greener people? Always remember, you not buying a tool, you are buying a solution. And lastly, never accept the “Superman” answers of some vendors. Asked any question, “Superman” will always answer yes that they can do that. Ask deep probing questions, and see if “Superman” isn’t really “Daffy the Duck”.

Weenie Product

ERP is an integrated product that covers your entire organization. Unfortunately, there are some systems that grew up in accounting, or started in shop scheduling, that just don’t have the horsepower to cover your entire organization. We suggest that you check to see that they have an adequate level of product in the following areas:

The Betty and George Problem

Once you have your true goals set, I now want to advise you on how to solve a problem that will certainly arise in your analysis. We call it the “Betty & George” problem. Betty and George are people on your team who do an excellent job and have been doing it for years. They may not be top management, but they are representative of those important people who keep the wheels turning in your operation.

Now, Betty and George attend a demo, and become upset and nauseous because of the way that the screens look and how they are organized for their work. Betty and George go as far as to say that if this system is selected, they will quit and retire. What are you to do?

Surprisingly, we agree with them. No one should be quarantined into an ill-fitting system. It is de-motivating and simply unproductive. Fortunately, one vendor has solved this problem, and taken it one step beyond. All screens are adjustable to the exact work of the individual. And, multiple screens can be combined to make one single screen with the exact details both Betty and George need. Bingo, not only has their criticism been resolved, but their productivity is now beyond what it was in the past. Now, imagine how this feature would help all your employees, particularly as your environment continues to evolve and change (and whose doesn’t). If you are dying to know the vendor, you’ll just have to wait till the end of this article.

The “Big Joe” Customer Problem

We have all been there. Your largest customer calls and demands a change that you aren’t ready for, and, more importantly, you don’t even know if your systems can handle. It may be that they want an option for different components deep in the bill of materials, or to have each order assembled with different features and options.

What is necessary is a system that has the built-in versatility to give you the flexibility to produce in any manner your customer demands. To do that, the system must support mixed modes of production, including build to order, configure to order, make to stock, assemble to order, engineer to order, and others. This gives you the choice to solve your customer needs with the most cost effective and on-time methods possible.

On Demand Lean

Your plant is a bundle of different processes. In one area, you may be creating an assembly that is used across the Bengbum product line. The Bengbum products have customer demands that are as smooth as the ice rink in the Rockefeller plaza. However, in the BooBop product line, customer demands look more like a ride on the roller coaster at the Six Flags theme park. Would it be right to apply lean to the BooBop product line, or MRP to the BingBum line? Absolutely not! You would be throwing away mega bucks on lost productivity, or poor fill rates. The best ERP system allows you to mix and match models to achieve the absolute maximum results. And if your competitor does not have this capability? Well, too bad for them.

Become Invisible-Just Sign Here

The demo went well, it seems like a fit, and the people you have met seem smart. But how well do they perform once the ink is dry on the agreement? You may have asked for a reference list, and even checked a few to see if they seemed ok with the product (although some weren’t quite enthusiastic). Is this it?

The answer is No. Let’s go on.

First, remember to ask their customers what their major goals were, and whether the vendor helped them to achieve those goals. Be specific. If they can’t answer, they bought tools, not solutions. ERP systems are a continuous improvement project that demands progress from both you and your vendor.

Second, check how many training classes the customers have attended subsequent to the implementation. Have there been regional and national conferences to further their education and to collaborate with other customers?

Third, check how many improvements have been made to the actual manufacturing software functions. Is there an overriding focus on adding IT bells and whistles, or new tech gizmos? Everyone will adapt the useful technologies, but ask the vendor which key manufacturing updates have been made that will help to make you more productive, or help to lower inventories, or to raise fill rates, or to otherwise meet new demands of the customer. These updates make the real difference in how successful you run your manufacturing business. Remember to focus on your seven goals, and you will easily weed out the good from the not-so-good.

Fit is Important in Shoes and Software

You wouldn’t purposely buy shoes that are too big for you (and don’t tell me about your clown brother). Why make the same mistake in selecting an ERP vendor. Here are some of the common pitfalls:

Complicated software- It is a known fact that the more broad software becomes, the more complicated it is. Software that is designed for mega multi-national companies has too many functions that many companies just don’t need. You don’t drive a cement truck to church, why do it here?

Runaway New Technologies- Some software vendors, in their haste to parrot the latest buzzwords, adopt every new technology. These technologies are good for some, and a nuisance for others. The past is littered with technologies that did not provide true value to the business. Don’t be forced to adopt the latest fad, if it doesn’t fit your business.

 Small Fish, Big Pond

A simple question for you. Which vendor will pay more attention to your requests: one that is very large and complicated, or one that considers your order to be important to their success? Try that question in your purchasing department, and you will quickly find a resounding answer for the smaller, pays attention vendor.

Expertise too thin- The second most important success factor in the implementation of ERP, is the expertise and experience of the support team. (The most important factor is the motivation of your team). Manufacturing experience takes years to learn and perfect. Watch out for an over mix of young enthusiastic greenies within the vendor. If you want to sponsor recent college grads in gaining some on the job experience, try an intern program…

Confucius Says- All Things Will Change

Think back to a time when change was slow and easy to accommodate. Can’t think of it? Me either. And now add the growing customer demands, the new employee demands, the foreign competition, and the advancing technologies, and you have definition of the new normal- mega change. Now, think of your ERP system and how you will keep pace with all that change. Software modifications only accommodate today’s change, and then locks you into a system that the vendor can’t update without huge costs. What you need is system that adapts to change like butter to a hot knife. A system that has flexibility built right in at the core of its being. And that product is…

RB-ERP® (ok, this is an unabashed pitch for our products, but it is true).

“Role- Based” Workbenches- Not only can you change the screens, but you can create new screens that match the exact task you want to accomplish. You can even take the information from five screens and build the one screen that drastically improves your productivity. Clutter doesn’t work in your house, why would it work on your screen?

“Smart Flow” Technology- You can now match the production flow type to the structure of your customer orders. Have some demand that is quite steady? Use lean or kanban. Have some supplier availabilities that are fairly erratic? Use MRP to plan the erratic components, then use lean to manufacture the smooth flowing common assemblies.

“Mixed Mode” Choice- Now you can choose the best mode to satisfy your customers exact needs. Does your customers want a wide variety of options, but won’t pay for obsolete finished goods? Use CTO or ATO. Have an order for a one off order, use BTO. WorkWise and RB-ERP supports BTO, MTO, ATO, CTO and MTS: and all simultaneous in the same plant. You now have choice.

“InControl” Monitoring-You can now set an environment to control each critical point in your organization. From custom performance management KPIs, to “Heads Up” alerts and exceptions, to real time dashboards, to automatically generated reports, WorkWise puts you in absolute control of your business.

“AllView” Reporting- A key secret to crisply managing your business is to learn of problems early, and then to dissect the root causes quickly. WorkWise’s “AllView” reporting makes penetrating all the information in every part of the system an easy step. And, once the problem is found, it is equally easy to drill into the pertinent details. Don’t fall prey to standard reports. If all problems were standard, wouldn’t everyone have solved them by now?

Gray Hairs and Be-speckled Geeks- We are quite proud of the mix of people that we have assembled. We have plenty of people with 25+ years of experience to solve the tough production problems, and a healthy mix of young people to keep the IT technologies up to snuff. Never again will you be stranded with a greenie that knows less about ERP than you.

An ERP system, for today and tomorrow, requires the versatility and flexibility to meet all your needs. Modifying software is a thing of the past (thank God), but you need the ability to change more than ever. WorkWise RB-ERP is the most versatile, flexible product in the mid-sized market. We can help you to execute precisely, improve your flow, and raise your productivity. Take a look at WorkWise today.

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