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About ERP Systems

ERPOrchestrationII

Michael Roman - Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Re-introduced from an old blog…

A long, long time ago, William Congreve, in The Mourning Bride, (1697) wrote:

Musick has Charms to sooth a savage Breast,
To soften Rocks, or bend a knotted Oak.
I've read, that things inanimate have mov'd,
And, as with living Souls, have been inform'd,
By Magick Numbers and persuasive Sound.
What then am I? Am I more senseless grown
Than Trees, or Flint? O force of constant Woe!
'Tis not in Harmony to calm my Griefs.
Anselmo sleeps, and is at Peace; last Night
The silent Tomb receiv'd the good Old King;
He and his Sorrows now are safely lodg'd
Within its cold, but hospitable Bosom.
Why am not I at Peace?

Three hundred and fifteen years after their penning, these soulful, pleading words have application today, even in consulting work.  I frequently work with small and mid-sized manufacturing and distribution organizations facing the lack of “Harmony to calm my (their) Griefs.”  I hear less poetic words from company owners and managers who are attempting to re-implement a business management system, but the sentiment is the same: Why am not I at Peace?

In my never-ending search to find the best way to describe the challenges of any ERP implementations, I have used comparisons as obscure and varied as death and dying or growing tomatoes. What would a successful stress-free implementation look like? My business adviser suggested we needed a better way to paint that picture, something that explains how there can be synergy and harmony among all the players. A couple of days later, when I was discussing analogies with a colleague of mine, I digressed by talking about the fact that when we weren’t fighting, my brother and I enjoyed a remarkable harmony when we played musical instruments together.

At an early age, when we were not fighting in the back yard, my brother Dan and I learned to play musical instruments. We practiced hard, and it did not take long for us to become skilled enough to play duets at the yearly church festival. Those duets were very intricate works, arranged by our father, and the experience taught Dan and me a lesson about how important learning your individual part is to the success of the group as a whole. Unlike playing in a band or an orchestra, having only two of us in the group meant there was no place to hide if one of us hit a dissonant note. Of course, even during an orchestral performance, a good conductor will recognize who hit the dissonant note. The lesson here is that, in any organization, everyone should learn, practice and perform their part without introducing dissonance into the mix of work. When we played well together, my brother and I found a peaceful harmony that was a sharp contrast to our tussles in the back yard. We made beautiful music.

Unfortunately, we don’t see that very often in many small and mid-size manufacturing operations. Dominant personalities (the squeaky wheel gets the oil), tend to rule the workplace, which leads to more disharmony through the organization.  What an organization facing that kind of challenge needs are:

  1. Leadership
  2. A business management tool that provides the leadership team with “state of the union” information

An ERP System is that proper business management tool, but just as an orchestra needs a good conductor, a properly managed ERP implementation needs a strong and capable leader, a conductor with a good ear who can identify where the dissonance originates. The orchestra conductor orchestrates playing of the notes, and at what tempo or volume. Likewise, the business owner needs to make sure his “musicians” are all well-informed, proficient with their “instruments,” and working in harmony with other departments and individuals in the organization.  The ERP System represents the notes on the sheet music.  Just as musicians play the notes written on the musical score, company employees must understand the roles defined by the ERP System, under the leadership of the conductor.

The benefits of a harmonious ERP system are numerous. Some of the specific successes I have witnessed include reducing the quote process time; increasing inventory turns; increasing plant throughput;  reducing the quote-to-cash cycle time; increasing percent-fill on customer shipments; and increasing the on-time customer shipments. In a properly implemented business management system, even the time given to creating management reports is reduced, simply because all the pieces are in place to get the reports directly from the ERP system instead of creating spreadsheets that pull data from various and independent sources into a reporting scheme.

So think of your organization as an orchestra, and know that regardless of personalities, internal squabbles, or tussles in the backyard, a well-orchestrated operation will flourish as long as leadership keeps everyone focused on their individual assignments and roots out any dissonance before it ruins the performance.

 

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