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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.

 

What Makes a Good Client?

Michael Roman - Wednesday, September 30, 2015

By Jerry Tiarsmith, VP Operations

I have three rules: Do the right thing, do the best you can, and always show people that you care.

 -  Lou Holtz 

Earlier this month, Mike and I went to a potential client site. During discussions with Mike, the company president said he read Mike’s comments on ITToolbox and a recent blog I wrote. That blog was, “ What makes a Good Consultant”.  We were eager to do our look around to learn whether we could help.

Our no-fee Gemba Walk took several hours and initial assessment findings coincided with the president’s undisclosed beliefs. The president then hired us to present a five-day ERP education program to the management team. Additionally, we held two days of informal education for employees to explain the importance of an ERP system implementation and their involvement. Clients who see education as the critical first step to improve operations excellence for their organization enjoy greater success. 

C-Suite commitment helps increase employee engagement as a basic rule.  This company’s employees enjoy that level of support. Initial skepticism quickly gave way to active involvement early in the education process. 

  • On day two, the group asked questions, clarified concepts, and began to speak a common language 
  • On day three, they challenged us and engaged one another non-stop for more than 45 minutes 
  • On day four, the team shared process improvement ideas and redefined their roles and responsibilities 

We discussed Policies, Processes, and Procedures as well as performance metrics on the fifth day. At Manufacturing Practices, Inc., we use the expression Keeping People Involved™ when addressing Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and this management team really understands that. 

 As part of the Keeping People Involved™ presentation, I introduced the Lou Holtz quote. It generated significant and impactful discussions. The management team whole-hardheartedly adopted itMore importantly, the company president reiterated it at each employee session! 

As a veteran owned and veteran staffed organization, we continue to support those we work with; only now, we call them successful clients! 

What Makes a Good Consultant

Michael Roman - Wednesday, July 15, 2015

By Jerry Tiarsmith VP Operations, Manufacturing Practices, Inc.

Peter Block, author of Flawless Consulting, describes consultant as “a person in a position to have some influence over an individual, a group, or an organization but has no direct power to make changes or implement programs.” I am relatively new to the world of consulting. I have over four decades of varied experience in a number of organizational settings and cannot recall one time when I actually used a consultant. However, in certain situations, due to my position within an organization, I acted as an internal consultant on matters related to the support of strategy and operations to the organizational management team. Too many clients and prospects with whom I interact often express negative sentiments about consultants. Even my mentor, with over thirty years in his field, describes his role as a Business Capabilities Architect, preferring that distinction to one of mere consultant.

At a recent breakfast meeting with my mentor, I began asking a series of questions to which he responded, “Excellent question! Now go write a blogpost.” So here I am.  Many blogs offer advice on methodologies, the importance of adopting new technologies or modernizing plant equipment. All of these represent a valuable exchange of ideas and foster significant discussion. I am writing to invite discussion but I offer no new insight or solutions to difficult themes. Simply put, I ask the question, “What makes a good consultant?” I would like to hear from experienced consultants but only those who operate in a similar space of working with closely held, small- to mid-sized manufacturing and distribution companies. By that, I mean companies with $35 - $500M in annual revenues. Business owners in that space can provide a unique (and much valued) perspective on what they think make a good consultant. Beauty, after all, is in the eye of the beholder.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am the Vice President of Operations of a small veteran owned and veteran staffed firm in the Greater Atlanta area. Our consultants hold APICS certifications in Production and Inventory Management (CPIM) or Supply Chain Professional (CSCP). The logic systems of ERP System platforms incorporate the APICS Body of Knowledge (BOK). With extensive understanding of that particular BOK, we help optimize client’s business management systems. It is a competitive, cluttered, and confusing space full of bogus claims and a trail of broken promises. We get it. Our prospects have spent countless dollars and hours in attempts to seek a competitive advantage by installing ERP Systems, the vast majority with little success. Of course, they remain skeptical and wary of consultants.

We remain very aware that these problems described above often prove self-inflicted. Clients focus too much on cost verses capabilities (and specific needs). They lack a strategic focus to their business and decision-making processes, and, all too often, they allocate inadequate resources to ensure the successful implementation of their business management systems. We certainly can help resolve those situations and, if not prevent such developments at least reduce the negative impact on the company. 

So, what makes a good consultant? Please respond to me at either my LinkedIn page (linkedin.com/in/jerrytiarsmith) or e-mail: jerry.tiarsmith@manufacturingpractices.com.