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About ERP Systems

Q and A with Mike and Jerry

Michael Roman - Thursday, March 19, 2015

A few weeks ago, Jerry Tiarsmith, VP of Operations at Manufacturing Practices, Inc. and I sat down for a Q&A session.

Q. Mike, Manufacturing Practices, Inc. (MPI) recently had its 10th anniversary. What were the reasons for initially forming the company?

I saw a number of fundamental flaws in the manner that ERP Software companies sold their products. Their strength is that they explain what ERP Systems will do FOR companies. The major flaw is that ERP Software companies do not explain what ERP Systems will do TO companies. Manufacturing Practices, Inc. (MPI) explains to companies what ERP software will do both FOR and TO a company, how to use the ERP tool to manage the organization, and helps clients integrate their ERP System INTO the business. A recent client found success with our efforts and in gratitude, wrote the Preface to our book, The Turnaround.

Q. We often learn from our mistakes – what do you consider to be your biggest mistake and what did you learn from it?

I have made several mistakes, some from ignorance, some from omissions, and some for being unable to “reach” clients. It is hard NOT to make mistakes from ignorance but those are rectifiable. It is forgivable to make mistakes from omissions and those too are rectifiable. Nevertheless, I take being unable to reach people as a weakness in me. To counter that short-coming, I stay current with the consulting industry, with the Supply Chain and Operations Management Body of Knowledge, and have weekly conferences with clients to assess progress, address issues, and to ensure we are all in agreement with the course we are taking.

Q. On the other hand, what do you consider to be your greatest success and why?

This might sound strange, but the greatest pride comes, not from the successes that the owners or the C-Level teams achieve, but from the people that do the grunt work for these clients, their employees. Walking through a plant, seeing the benefits of everyone’s hard work, and hearing those machine operators, inventory people, production people, planners, buyers, and supervisors, say, “Mike we really did something wonderful, didn’t we?”, fills me with pride. A great satisfaction is that they helped their organization improve, and they now know how to create a project and continue to improve the company’s profits and reduce the stresses associated with performing their day-to-day activities.

Q. How long have you been involved with APICS, in what capacity and why should that be important to your clients?

I have been ‘involved’ with APICS since 1981. I have been a member of APICS since 1984. In those 30+ years, I served as a chapter member, a member of the chapter’s management team, as President of the Chapter (Atlanta), and as an instructor for the Body-of-Knowledge (BOK). I also served as a member of the team that helped create the ‘awareness’ of a missing piece of the BOK, the Basics of Supply Chain Management. I now serve as a writer of the test questions used on the certification exams (my second committee). I feel honored to have been able to serve this group of professionals. More importantly, I am thankful for being able to sit at the feet of the founders and BOK developers like George Plossl, Hank Jordan, Don Frank, James Cox, and Eliyahu M. Goldratt and the Oli Wight organization. It is said that you only get out of an organization what you put into it. That is not a correct statement. The opportunities I received from my association with these giants and the APICS organization pale in comparison to what I have learned and can share with my clients.

Q. How have your relationships with such industry giants as Oliver Wight organization, George Plossl, and Eliyahu (Eli) M. Goldratt, among others helped shape your approaches to consulting?

Though I never met Oli Wight, who died in 1983, I have had dealings with his organization. In my opinion, they are probably the best education company with whom, I have ever had the pleasure of doing business. They are superb at creating an understanding of what business management systems are all about. I model my classes along their successful approach path.

My relationship with George Plossl was very different. George was a consultant’s consultant. George was a contributor to the APICS BOK and to the development of the APICS Society as well. I was fortunate to have George as a mentor for a number of years. During tenure and as President of the Atlanta APICS Chapter, we did a roast of George, recorder the experience for them, and George and his wife Marion both told me it was the “highlight” of George’s career. A comedian and double-talker presented himself as a protégé of George from early in his career. Attendees at the event were actually rolling on the floor with laughter. George helped me to understand that the APICS BOK is what is created in ERP Software. George also helped me with my first “successful” implementation, in 1989. His business partner, Don Frank started that mentoring process and introduced me to George.  Don and I were developing a textbook and an ERP Seminar when he died, in 2004. I am still unable to finish the book and the seminar. Regardless, Don was one of those mentors that saw more promise in me than I did.

Dr. Goldratt (Eli) was a challenger. It seemed that he took delight in making me feel uncomfortable and comfortable at the same time. In one sentence, he could both challenge and complement me and he did several times. A sentence he said, drove me to write the ERP book, The Turnaround. He said to me, to paraphrase, ‘you have a lot of knowledge in you. Just when are you going to get off your lazy butt and show someone what you got?’ Unfortunately, I missed completing the book before he died. Now, procrastination is a pet peeve, something that, at times, puts a sharp edge to my dealings with customers who also procrastinate. 

Hank Jordan taught the art of Inventory Management and tempted me to become a consultant before I thought I was ready. Neville May, worked with me to understand MAPICS, an IBM mrp system. There were also mentors who taught operations and supply chain management when I worked in their facilities, early in my career.

I am fortunate to also have had family-member mentors. My father and his father (both Ford Motor Company employees) were my earliest mentors. Both taught the art of question asking, a very necessary characteristic for a consultant.

These mentors formed me into what is necessary helps others succeed. They paved the road to help me understand what I know. I believe this is my strength as a consultant. By the way, I hate the word consultant. It implies something that is not true. People think that consultants are ‘experts’ that have the right answers. These giants taught me that that is a fallacy. These hero/mentors taught that consultants have the right questions. That is why my title is “Business Capabilities Architect.” 

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