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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! 

Dream Big

Michael Roman - Monday, September 07, 2015

Here is one from the archives...

We Stopped Dreaming

The driving force that led me to become a Management Consultant was a simple idea: Dream bigger. The big moment of realization for me happened at a rather comical lunch meeting with my boss at the time, the company’s owner, who wanted to discuss a problem we had with missing shipping dates for a new customer. The Chinese restaurant where we met was a favorite of mine and not far from the plant, and my boss had reluctantly agreed to go there even though he was leery of eating “different” food, especially Asian.

We arrived just as a supply truck passed by and pulled around to the back of the restaurant. We entered the establishment, and I introduced my boss to the owner. She directed us to a quiet area not far from the kitchen, and my boss was noticeably nervous about the place. I assured him not to worry because their food was fresh and delicious. We focused in on the discussion, and I explained the engineering problem that caused the order to ship late, as well as the best way to avoid the problem in the future. Satisfied with my assessment, he acknowledged how much he appreciated my ability to get to the point quickly and explain the situation in a simple and concise fashion. He then added that my work ethic was inspirational, especially in light of the fact that I was not really a part of the “wealth stream of the business.” I asked him to explain what that meant, and he replied, “You are not family or one of the company’s lifelong friends, so you will never get to share in the wealth that we have planned for our retirement years.”

I was speechless for a moment, and then said, “I thought there was enough opportunity to include all of the company’s employees in the wealth stream”. He replied that it was simply impossible to do so, that it was his mission to ensure that this small group of stakeholders had a comfortable future.

At that moment, the server came through the kitchen door with our meal, followed by the chef who was chasing a cat with a meat clever and shouting at it in Chinese. The look on my boss’ face was priceless. He immediately arose and said, “I’m leaving. Fresh cat is not in my diet.” He headed for the door, and I stifled my laughter as I left money to pay for the meal and followed him out. The owner stopped me to apologize and explain that the cat snuck in while they were unloading supplies from the delivery truck. I told her it was okay and suggested she may want to institute a policy not to accept supplies during the lunch or dinner rush.

I was reminded of this true story a few days ago while I was watching Neil deGrasse Tyson’s videos on YouTube. It is entitled “We Stopped Dreaming Part 1” and “We Stopped Dreaming Part 2”and is worth a few minutes of your time to watch and consider. I left that company shortly after that incident, because I realized that the owner’s dreams for his company were too small to include rewards for the very people who were most responsible for his success.

Today, my goal when working with companies is to help them dream big. The odds of properly implementing an ERP System increase proportionally with the commitment of C-Level people and with dedicated involvement of the user community. As my business adviser so often and simply states, “A company can't stop dreaming. It has to take bold steps. It has to become a team with a bold mission. It cannot rest on its laurels and wait to see what everybody else does before taking a new step forward.” And he is absolutely correct!

In my opinion, the best motivator is to help everyone see a bright future. Let them know that the future is brightest when the organization unites around a common goal and all the players are doing their part to focus the company around that goal. That is what ERP systems are all about, helping people in different departments of an organization come together to manage the business better and build the business to the point that everyone can reap the rewards.

Don’t stop dreaming, and don’t let your dreams be small. Dream big, and include everybody in that dream.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Smile2

Michael Roman - Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Smile when you do that!

Recently reviewed improvement opportunities on the website and came across this blog from several years ago. It is time for a re-broadcast.

Most of our engagements are tactical. Sometimes we assist in Strategic events like an ERP System implementation or re-implementation. When we do, we understand that we are there to assist in creating a “new” cultural focus for their organization. Here is how we approach those types of very political undertakings. This approach took genesis under the direction of a dear friend while working at an ERP Software firm. What follows is Bob Green’s sacred work.

Start Every Meeting with a Smile

Smiles become contagious with time. Smiles are disarming and most often met by returned smiles as well. You never know when a smile is just what someone else needs. Bob started every conversation and meeting with a smile regardless of the point of the conversation. Even when Bob was upset with a client, a colleague, he started the conversation with a smile. Part of Bob’s success was due to his smile.

End Every Meeting with a Smile

Closing is a skill. Whether the closing is for a sale, an educational lesson, or a conversation, the most important closing activity is to have the participants feel good about the activity when it is over. Smiles go a long way to help ‘close’ the activity. Bob sometimes upset people for things he did, but seldom for what he said. That smile at the end of the conversation made you think that there might be some grain of truth in his comments.

Have People Tell People Two Things about Themselves

Manufacturing Practices holds an introductory meeting with the management and project team when we do implementation and selection projects. The meeting has three main functions.

1.       We use it to introduce the teams from our organization

2.       We use it to get to know the team from their organization

3.       We set the tone for the work that is to follow


The “I am such as such and I do whatever” speech is a standard activity when consultants work with companies. We get to know them and they get to know us. Nevertheless, that is not how we work. We have all parties tell one of their most embarrassing moments and one of their greatest accomplishments. We do our introductions and stories first. This tells the client that we are all in the “same boat,” that we will never ask them to do something we would not do ourselves, and it lets everyone understand that we intend to have ‘fun’ while we perform this very important work for their company. The advantage is that it gives us the opportunity to set the tone for what is to follow.

Appoint a Person at Each Meeting to Tell a Funny Story

At the client site, we start each meeting on a light note. At each meeting, someone is responsible for telling a funny story. It takes a few meetings for everyone to remember to do that, so we have a number of stories ready to tell in case someone forgets. Again, the point here is to have fun and not to take ourselves too seriously.

Have a Contest to Create a Funny Tag Line for the Project

This one requires the help of the management team. The company sponsors a prize for the best ‘slogan’ or "project tag line.” The rules are simple, people in the company submit the slogans to our team; we work with the management team to pick the “best” slogan. Management usually awards a “Dinner for two” certificate to the winner and we throw in a gag gift like a “Pimp my Cube” kit. 

At one company, the head of engineering won the contest with a picture from a Gary Larson cartoon. The picture was of some fish standing outside of the fish bowl that was on fire. The caption read, “Of course, you now realize, we are equally screwed!” The Head of Engineering was the only person in the organization who wanted to keep the previous software. As such, he had a little fun with the team with his tag line.

Appoint a Person to be Responsible for Taking Weekly Pictures of the Project Team as They Work, Post it in the Lunchroom and Allow People to Post Funny Comments

Everyone has fun with this one. Of course, there are rules, like no profanity, or suggestive tones. Some very funny comments appear and even management contributes to this one. One of which was of a picture of yours truly walking away after a meeting. The president of the company commented, “Here’s Mike Roman, presenting his best side to the camera.”

At each weekly Status Meeting Award a “Can Do Trophy” to the employee with the best attitude

One company warned us about working with “Coni.” Everyone said she was difficult, short tempered, and the reason she worked in Accounts Receivable was that she “liked” being mean to people. 

Coni won the attitude award every week for the 15 weeks at that company. We are still friends and she sends jokes at least once a month. Coni was a real delight! At the last meeting, whoever won the award gets to keep it. Manufacturing Practices usually sponsors this award, and we present a flashlight with the words, “Follow me” on it.

Find the humor in everything

Now, back to Bob. Bob talked about starting a consulting company when we left the software firm. Sadly, that never happened. Bob died during quintuple bypass heart surgery. He had begun to create our charter for our company.

Bob did not want the traditional funeral or remembrance ceremony after his death. Instead, we gathered outside of his favorite park in the hills just outside of Las Vegas and scattered his ashes. It was a somber affair, no wind and a little warm. Just as we began to spread his ashes, a breeze blew those ashes over every one present. Christine, Bob’s widow commented that Bob wanted everyone to take part of him home. We did, in our eyes, in our hair, on our clothes, and most importantly in our hearts. Christine’s laugh and comments made everyone else laugh as well - a nice send off for a dear friend.

 

But Your Duck is STILL DEAD

Michael Roman - Tuesday, May 19, 2015

There is a page on the Manufacturing Practices website that has been there for about five years. It tells the story of a company that called asking for an opinion about interfacing their "Job Management Tool" to an ERP System. Their goal was to use the accounting piece of that system. Here is the link: I'm Sorry But Your Duck Is Dead.

I won't drag out the issues involved, but suffice it to say that they contracted for remote custom education to help them better understand what an ERP System is and is not and what the ERP System will do for them and TO THEM. The effort was a success. The son and the feisty business owner who thought the proposal was "outrageous since I did not EVEN know their business" (his words, not mine) signed the note.

During the education, we explained why KPIs were more than Key Performance Indicators and why we refer to them as “Keeping People Involved®.” Many benefits were automatic outcomes of that education including, proper Forecasting, Forecast Error measurements, Cycle Counting efforts, On Time Shipments, Throughput Improvements, Project Management considerations, and Leadership requirements during and after the ERP Implementation. You know, those things that make manufacturing companies competitive in the marketplace instead of, “oh yes, by the way, we also make things.”

The thank you letter did not come immediately after the class; it was months after they started using that ERP System that the letter came. By sending the letter, they were saying that we truly helped make them successful.

I remember my first argument about the role of education; it came when I was a programmer at Control Data, writing an MRPII System for mini-computers. The education effort involved having other peers (programmers) review the LOGIC, produced before the code writing. What a stupid idea, I rationalized, I’ve been programming for more than 6 years, why should I have to think about what I am about to do before I do it. The ANSWER came when management asked us to write a program to put a Bill-of-Materials and put all the parts in a table arranged by Low-Level-Code.

Half of the group just wrote code for the request and half the group did it the “new way.” My program was 100+ lines of code long, which was about half way between the upper and lower number of lines of code for others in the first group. The ‘other group’, as a team, wrote the program in ten lines of code after creating the proper logic to deploy to write the code.

The real shocker really came with our tests. Where our group did not have a “successful” first run attempt with test data, the other group did. With that, both groups saw the reasoning behind management’s desire for us to think first, and only after that, act. Our “ready, fire, aim,” quickly became, “ready.., aim.., fire.” When Manufacturing Practices, suggests that companies understand what ERP is before they look for, implement or re-implement an ERP System, we teach them the lesson of “ready.., aim.., fire.”

Here is a take away. Business owners and C-Suites must constantly monitor the expense of education against an investment in their people. Businesses have no way to measure the accumulative costs of remaining complacent. However, by failing to invest in people, leaders assume absolute business risk and at best, the possible loss of any competitive advantages. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "The mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions." 


Who is Leroy Smith

Michael Roman - Wednesday, April 08, 2015

People have various success drivers. Money, fame, being the best, and wanting to make a difference are a few examples. On a ride to a recent civic function, the Manufacturing Practices’ team had chitchats about several topics. Sports became a topic. That discussion morphed into several questions about different sports personalities. Jerry Tiarsmith, the 1099 VP of Operations, with his keen understanding of such topics, gave answers to all our questions and gave some additional information, as he usually does, he being the didactic team member of the company.

During one of the discussions, I asked what drove him toward success and Jerry said “I just want to do my job, to the best of my ability” one thing that all our team members share.

At that point, Jerry launched into a discussion of Michael Jordan and asked us, if we knew who Leroy Smith was. Joe LaMere, our 1099 VP of Sales, answered quickly, “Mrs. Smith’s son” - you know how down-to-earth sales people are.

At that, Jerry explained that Leroy Smith was the reason that Michael Jordan got into the Basketball Hall of Fame. Leroy was the last man to make the High School varsity team that cut Michael. Jerry said that Michael stated in the speech for his induction to the Hall of Fame, he wanted to let “Leroy and the varsity coach know that they made a mistake by choosing Leroy and cutting me.” Being cut from a varsity position became the driving force that made Michael Jordan the Hall of Famer he now is. He made a decision to sharpen his skills in college and in the basketball profession. That discussion led to another discussion and the reason for this blog.

Motivation to succeed is a necessary characteristic of all successful people, including, those who sit in the C-Suite at manufacturing companies. However, it is not sufficient to possess just that characteristic. A deep and fundamental understanding of people, of systems, of policies, and ‘motivation’ usually completes the circle that leads to success.

At Manufacturing Practices, we know, we understand, and we are the conduit that connects that motivation and a company’s policies to the toolsets of systems and processes. Our consultants have been doing it for more than 30 years!

What distinguishes us from a majority of consulting firms is our depth of understanding of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP). ERP’s body-of-knowledge (BOK) comes directly from the APICS BOK. Our consultants are required to have APICS Certification and keep that certification current. As the leader of the firm, I have maintained APICS involvement for more than 30 years. Manufacturing Practices continues to serve APICS and this year marks our ninth year as a member of the team that writes certification exams. Few firms in our space can claim that involvement with the APICS BOK.

Our ability to focus People, Processes, and Policies to increase the company’s competitive advantages is unique in the industry. Many successful companies have hired us to assist them realize their visions for success.

If you are interesting in hearing questions for your answers, or for the free MPI Gemba walk, contact us at 770-380-1033 or completing a form to send to our “Ask the Expert.”

Keep People Involved

Michael Roman - Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Keep People Involved™

Years ago, as Operations and IT Manager for a small company, I was charged with finding a consultant to help us through an improvement project. One thing we learned that was entirely counter-intuitive was how easy it was to change the corporate culture – in less than a year! The consultant implemented a process to measure individual performance within the company, and the positive transformation in the organization was truly remarkable.

The process was a deceptively simple, inexpensive, and powerful tool called Key Performance Indicators (KPI). KPI help change the way people do their jobs, approach their day, and deal with daily roadblocks. KPI help people focus on the BIG PICTURE. KPI help people distinguish the important from the trivial, the “must be done” from the “could be done”, and allow employees to set their own priorities. When the boss reviews performance charts, questions follow. People begin to learn the importance of those measures. When people focus on activities and apply what they learn from the KPI, good things happen.

KPI differ by industry; and KPI are not just for individuals.

  • Inventory Turns is a very important KPI for manufacturing and distribution companies
  • For telemarketers, the number of phones calls made is an important KPI
  • For retail, the average dollars per sale is a good KPI
  • For accounts payable departments, the number of AP Days outstanding is important
  • For accounts receivable departments, the number of AR Days outstanding is important
  • For managers, employee turnover is an important KPI

Using KPI reaps great rewards, and the secret lies in its focus on the business scorecard activities of revenue, costs, and cash.

Displaying KPI results is a vital part of the process. For example, some companies post the results of inventory accuracy counts with several positive results: 

  1. People understand that the activity is an important company function
  2. People take pride in their work, because everyone knows how they are measured
  3. KPI provide a level of control that is not apparent when those values are not measured

During our implementation, everyone including the president had KPI, and we posted performance to those KPI. The fact that the “person at the top” reported measurements had a unifying effect on the entire company. We all understood that everyone had a role to play and our measurement criteria. Everyone did! We felt that since the “BIG GUY” showed us his, we would show him ours, and we accepted the fact that things were changing. We wanted to join the crowd; consequently, the corporate culture changed almost overnight.

KPIs reflect the performance to company policy. The easiest way to implement KPI is to start slowly. Choose a couple of performance measurements that are important to your industry and make sure that they produce the desired outcome. You can always add additional KPIs after this simple tool demonstrates its value. The most important idea to remember about KPI is that they Keep People Involved™