In the first installment of ERP Management Implementation Tips Every Manufacturer Should Know, we spoke in detail about the importance of having a tight implementation group and personnel within that group. We will now take a hard look at what limited work flow is and, more importantly, how it can help with your particular agenda.
Limited Work Flow Review
The first step in any implementation is a limited work flow review. This is a process by which an applications engineer (AE) from your ERP software provider will visit your facility to make a detailed study of your procedures and processes. ProfitKey’s methodology is described here, and will likely differ from those of other ERP software providers. Substantially, however, all ERP providers offer similar services.
Typically, the AE will spend two days at your site. During this time, the AE will interview personnel and observe your work flow. This includes discussing your reports, spreadsheets, off-line databases and other tools you use to run your business.
The work flow review included in your implementation is a limited version. Its intent is to give the AE an understanding of your business flow, processes and procedures sufficient to allow them to best implement RRM at your facility.
Following the on-site period, the AE will prepare a project plan using Microsoft Project, and deliver it for the team’s review. The AE will be scheduled to return to your facility about a week after delivery of the plan, giving the team time to digest its details.
During the AE’s return visit, the team and the AE will discuss the plan. Your team will have questions and will need clarification of some points. You may also disagree with some of the details. These disagreements will be resolved. Ultimately, the result of this meeting will be a plan for your team members to use as they manage the implementation project.
ProfitKey does offer a complete work flow review. This service is chargeable. The complete work flow review is not limited to the best implementation of ProfitKey’s ERP software, but looks beyond into all aspects of your manufacturing enterprise. In addition, to the Microsoft Project plan, the complete review delivers a detailed report containing the AE’s observations and recommendations and can be invaluable as the team moves forward in the implementation and beyond. These reports are necessarily candid and can often bring to light situations which can be disturbing.
Following is what you can typically expect during the two-day on-site portion of your work flow review:
Individual operators and administrative personnel will be interviewed. Questions will be asked that are designed not only to discover specific procedures, but also to understand the underlying reasoning that went into developing those procedures. This helps the AE picture the overall process. Often times, it also brings to light outdated or counterproductive activities.
These reviews work best when they follow the actual flow of work; beginning with the estimating process, and going through to A/R invoicing. The AE will ask questions like, “How did you know to do that? Where does that document come from? Where do you send the order next? What information do you log?” and so on.
It is difficult to specify which personnel the AE will need to see. Generally, the AE works with people from Estimating, Order Entry/Customer Service, Planning, Scheduling, Purchasing, Receiving, Inventory Control, Production, Quality Assurance, Shipping, Information Technology and to a limited extent, Accounting (Accounts Receivable). The process works best if the AE interviews people at their work stations when possible. They should have any routinely-used reports, spreadsheets, databases and such available to illustrate their procedures.
You know your people and processes, so it is best if the team decides if the AE will see one person or several from each discipline. Consider there are some instances where having more than one representative simply muddies the water, while in other cases the group feeds off each other and provides more useful information than would have come from any one person.
Also, there are sometimes people who either cannot or will not cooperate in this type of venture, and the team should keep this in mind when selecting representatives for interviews. Remember, too, that some personnel are intimidated by this kind of activity. It is therefore vital that these people be assured that this review will not result in anyone losing their job or having their function curtailed. On the contrary, they should be made to realize that this project will likely make their job easier and the company more productive and profitable. These concepts should be communicated by the various supervisors.
The work flow review usually begins with a meeting of managers and supervisors. In the meeting the AE will discuss the upcoming interview process and stress the importance of open communication. This is an excellent time to discuss intricacies of the company’s various products and for personnel to point out issues of major concern. A tour is helpful following the meeting so the AE can develop a feel for the overall process. After the tour, the AE will begin their interviews.
It is also important to have an escort throughout the interviews – someone who is knowledgeable enough to know when an interviewee is missing a pertinent matter, and respected enough to coax out the missing information. The right escort is also vital for calming any anxiety, and facilitating open communication.
Installation and Training
The installation and training methods vary dramatically from one ERP software provider to another. The variances are so great that any attempt to include details here would only lead to confusion.
Suffice it to say that the initial training of key personnel is the single most important step you can take toward ensuring a successful implementation. This is not the area to address when you start looking to trim your implementation budget.
Keep your eyes open for installations 3 & 4 within the next few weeks.
For more information on ERP software, implementation, and what it can do for you specific challenges and goals, visit the ProfitKey website and feel free to contact our team directly.Posted by Craig Schrotter, CPIM, Senior Applications Engineer ProfitKey International