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About ERP Systems

As Goes General Motors by Jerry Tiarsmith

Michael Roman - Sunday, July 27, 2014

By Jerry Tiarsmith, VP Operations, Manufacturing Practices, Inc.

In January 1941, Charles E. Wilson became the president of General Motors.  The 22-year corporate veteran presided over the largest production expansion ever as General Motors shifted from its manufacture of automobiles to the production of machines of war needed to achieve an Allied victory.  At the end of hostilities, General Motors returned production once again to meet the pent up demand for automobiles. 

The popular quote, “As goes General Motors, so goes the Nation,” often mistakenly attributed to Wilson during the process of his confirmation hearings as Secretary of Defense in 1953, most likely came from news reports on those hearings.  However, one cannot refute the relevance of that statement.  Wilson understood that the economic strength of American industry overwhelmingly contributed to the defeat of the Axis powers and to the containment of Soviet aggression in the Cold War.  More importantly, healthy industries proved vital to the vigor and well-being of American workers and their shared success in achieving the American Dream. 

Wilson died in 1961.  He did not live long enough to see the hollowing out of American manufacturing, the decline in the standard of living of the American worker, or the loss of stature of America in world affairs.

“As goes General Motors. . .”  Today, a mere six decades later, this once powerful giant of industry finds itself immersed in a crisis of confidence. GM remains heavily in debt despite central government attempts at a takeover and managed bankruptcy, unprecedented recalls raise concerns about GM’s commitment to quality, management seems beset by problems of accountability, and the firm, bereft of a moral compass and compassion, practically wanders directionless.  The fact remains that GM’s credibility suffers for many reasons.  It lost strategic focus in the 1960s.  The company grew complacent, innovation stagnated, and products became stale. Management failed to comprehend the paradigm shifts that resulted from increased global competition, union pressures, and government regulation.  

In the end, global competitors outmaneuvered, outperformed, and out-classed GM.  Internally, management focused more on obtaining concessions from unions than on providing an innovative product mix to meet consumer demands. In essence, the company’s rigid hierarchy, so blindly focused on production plans, failed to innovate, improve, and grow GM strategically as related to product mix, market demographics, and plant modernization.  It appears as though GM turned a “deaf ear” to the voice of the customer.  Unfortunately, what can be said of GM can also be said of many other American companies, including those outside of the typical “rustbelt” industries.  From steel to lumber to textiles, American manufacturing lost much of its competitive edge and allure by the close of the Twentieth Century.

Isn’t it about time that American manufacturing companies listen to the voice of the customer?

Jerry Tiarsmith serves as Vice President, Operations for Manufacturing Practices, Inc., a management-consulting firm that helps manufacturers realize dramatic productivity gains through more effective use of their ERP systems.

Ready to convert your legacy data?

Michael Roman - Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Ok.  You educated the company about what an ERP System is and is not.  Everyone now knows the difference between a Master Schedule and a Master Production Schedule.  They have reviewed and addressed the non-value added activities in their processes.  They used those processes to define a set of vendor scripts and the company found the best fit for those new processes from a list of potential ERP vendors.  The contracts are signed the kick-off meeting is over and user training is finished.  Now you can convert your legacy data.  Is that correct?  Well, maybe not.

Have you cleaned up that legacy data?  How many part numbers do you have for a 12” by ½” Standard Thread Bolt?  You hope that there is only one per material type.  Nevertheless, there is also Part 11205 - 12” by 0.5” Standard Thread Bolt.  There is also Part 1205 - 12” x 0.5” Bolt with Standard Threads and also Part 112005 -  twelve inch x ½ inch standard thread steel bolt.  You also looked at your vendor list and you see Jones Plumbing and Supply, Jones Plumbing, Jones Plumbing Supplies, and Jones Supplies.  Strangely, they all have very similar addresses like 1225 Oak, 1225 Oak Street, and 1225 Oak St.  You find some of the same problems in your vendors.  You check the AP Terms and see a Net 10, a Net 10%.  Do you still think it is time to convert your data?  Where else should you look?

You can ignore those problems and choose the one Part, Vendor, or Customer most often used, but what happens if there are balances for some of those abandoned items?  Say Part 1205 has 12000 on hand, Part 11205 has 400 on hand, and Part 112005 has 400000 on hand.  You must not forget you are you are using last cost, and each of those Parts has a different inventory value.  What if there is an AR balance for a customer with three names but the same entity?  Alternatively, what if there are open balances for the same Supplier with three different names?  Do you still think it is time to convert data?  How will you be able to compare inventory values after the conversion to insure data integrity?

That is not an easy question to address and if you ask an accountant they will likely say compare the inventory value between the old and new systems.  So are you going to bring those problems into the new ERP System?  That may be ill advised.  What do you do?  Currently there are not a lot of tools available to remove data duplication for these types of problems.  Often times, companies accomplish control through a set of manual standards. 

We had this problem at a company and quickly addressed the problem for the parts file by creating a description definition template.  The client had 30 Engineers in the company and each was responsible for product development.  Our implementation time line did not allow time to spend attempting to reach consensus in that effort, so the VP of Manufacturing made a command decision.  He defined by material type for our source materials (steel, titanium, aluminum, etc.) and by function, bolt, screw, washer, nuts, etc.

We also created a set of database rules that looked at how we defined supplier and vendor addresses and applied processing rules to not allow ST, St, ST, St., Ave, AVE, etc, etc., ETC, ETC.  We spent a good portion of the conversion effort creating those database rules and new screens.  Continuity moving forward was our goal and besides, we had a huge number of Bills-of-Material that needed changing to remove the old parts and use only one version of those parts moving forward.  This whole effort required much more time on the schedule than the original implementation plan had.  Nevertheless, the company management felt that it was time well spent.

How has your organization addressed this issue?  What have you done to clean-up legacy data during the conversion process?

Consulting 101

Michael Roman - Friday, May 02, 2014

This past week, a potential client called and asked for a review of their business.  Truthfully, prior to our visit, we did not understand their operation; however, we were able to determine from that initial conversation, the business owner is “making money in spite of the manner in which the company does business” and not “because of the manner in which it does business” (his words).  This led us to believe this company could be the perfect client for our business consultation firm.

Our initial survey uncovered that their Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system was “not an effective tool for providing business and financial information” (his words).   During our conversation, the owner was candid about his dissatisfaction with their inability to get the proper information necessary to manage the business from their ERP System in a concise fashion.  Our discussions also identified at least one area that required prompt attention. 

At the client site once our observations were complete, we confirmed the business owner’s determination of the problem was in line with our initial assessment.  This generated a deep degree of excitement and anticipation at the prospect of working with this client.  The business owner understands the real problem.

During the next few visits, as the teams interact, the energy and chemistry between each reveals itself. That is an important ingredient in performing management consulting.  Regardless of how flawless the methodology, regardless of how skilled the consulting team, unless the chemistry between the two work teams is correct, there will be resistance  to the changes we (our company, and the business owners) need to accomplish.  If we cannot get the client teams to “buy-in” to the project, it will not progress successfully without major problems arising.

There is a trinity of groups at work at a client site.  One group is comprised of the consulting team and the business owner.  The second team is the consulting team and the client user teams.  The third group is the business owner and the client teams.  Consistently, we work with the business owner to help bring the system users to a necessary level of competency.  Twenty plus years of management consulting has taught us this secret. 

Our experience has given us the understanding that there is an Art and a Science involved in working with clients.  Process certification goes a long way to ensure that consultants have the science part down.  APICS, ( is the leading provider of Operations and Supply Chain Management, and our senior consultants have that certification.  The art of consulting comes from understanding people; more importantly, how to help the individual team members understand “what’s in it for them”.   

This business owner is ahead of the curve for most of our clients.  Some business owners do not understand the benefits of using an ERP System to acquire the information necessary to manage a business effectively.   These business owners drive their business by reviewing the effectiveness of actions that already have taken place (in some cases, what they review is from several weeks in the past).  A better and more effective approach is to understand where the business is today (inventory, margins, customer service, BOM Accuracy, Routing Accuracy, P&L, etc.).  Otherwise, business owners are driving the business by looking in the rear view mirror and seeing where they were instead of where they are going. 

In the real world, it can lead to a fatal accident by driving in reverse or by staring in the rear view mirror.  Business schools should teach their students the folly of driving a business by looking in the rear view mirror.  It can lead to a fatality for automobile drives as well as business leaders. Teaching students to be open to the where the business is today and planning based on current data will help keep the company healthy.

APICS and Supply Chain Council Merge

Michael Roman - Monday, April 28, 2014

An IMPORTANT message from APICS Headquarters

28 April 2014

We are very pleased to share with you that the boards of directors of both APICS and Supply Chain Council have approved an agreement under which Supply Chain Council (SCC) will merge with APICS upon ratification by SCC member vote. The APICS Board vote was conducted at the meeting on April 25. We expect the transaction to be complete in mid-July.

The Channel Partner Services team will host a webinar on Wednesday, April 30 at 11:00 a.m. CT, to discuss this exciting news with our North American Chapter leaders. Please check your inbox for an invitation that will arrive soon.

The merger unites two industry leaders with complementary offerings to create the premier global provider of supply chain research, education and certification programs. Together, SCC and APICS offer a single-source solution for individuals and corporations looking to evaluate and improve supply chain performance. The combination:

  • Creates the industry-leading portfolio of brands. The combination unites entities ranked #1 (APICS) and #2 (SCC) recently by SCM World, each holding the most respected brands in the markets they serve. The SCC SCOR® model and SCOR-P certification brands will be leveraged along with APICS’s Certified in Production and Inventory Management (CPIM) and Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP) designation brands.

  • Ensures investment, improvement, innovation and continued relevancy of training, standards, certification and intellectual capital. The combination offers greater resources and access to an expanded network of subject matter experts and volunteers intent on maintaining the organization’s reputation as the source of industry standards, benchmarks and thought leadership.

  • Builds strong a platform for growth. The combined product portfolio offers significant cross-sell opportunities including the marketing of SCC's highly respected training programs based on the SCOR® model to APICS's clients, as well as the marketing of APICS's industry-leading courseware and designations to SCC's clients.

We are very excited about what is on the horizon for the new organization and confident this merger will strengthen our efforts to advance supply chain performance.

Best regards,


Michael Roman - Wednesday, March 12, 2014

In Honor of Don Frank, CFPIM, CIRM

In 2004, when Manufacturing Practices, Inc. began, I once again called on Don Frank, CFPIM, CIRM a mentor and dear friend for guidance and joint business opportunities.  We began working on a book and several seminars to help focus the book.  Unfortunately, Don’s health very rapidly failed and I lost him to the ages.  He wrote this piece several years earlier and delivered it at an Atlanta APICS dinner meeting in the 1990s.  He told me to use it when the time was right.  After engaging in a recent discussion on LinkedIn about Part Numbering schemes, this seems the appropriate time.


Let’s go back to basics when we talk about part number attributes.

  • First, part numbers are the data elements or objects that enable us to separate each part from all others as we, in design and operations management, communicate information to each other.
  • Second, the part number enables us to access all the data elements associated with any part in our systems, validating its uniqueness and ensuring we are processing the part we intended. 
  • Third, a part number, assigned to a document, such as an inspection or test report, should appear on bills of material. 
  • Fourth, construct the part number in the simplest lean manner—a pure, sequential numeric form. A good rule for part number length is to add one digit more than the maximum conceivable  number of parts that will ever be in the system. With just eight digits, we can define 99 million unique parts!

People who object to this principle are mostly holdovers from punch card days when, because of the space limitations on the cards, putting intelligence into part numbers.  That perception was the thought that it is necessary for part recognition. Experience, which goes back more than 50 years, was that, even with the limitation of 78 usable columns in a punch card, we could rely better on good part descriptions, rather than remembering the part number, to communicate for what the part number stood.

One of the lessons learned early was to make the part number and drawing number identical, saving a critical amount of space in the part record and making configuration management via revision codes much simpler. We increased the length of the part number to 10 characters, left justified, with the format nnnnnn-nnn, where the first digit represented the drawing size (1 for A size, 2 for B size, etc., so we knew where the drawing was filed). The dash and last three digits we reserved for use with tabulated drawings where several parts represented on the same drawing. An example of this was a set of heat sinks, all made from the same extrusion, but with different lengths, hole patterns, and inserts.

Today's part master databases, with a hundred or more data elements or objects associated with any part master record, enable us to find and visually determine the uniqueness of each part right at the workstation. Original drawings are most often digitally stored rather than on paper. String searches are quick and effective, zeroing in on the part in question in a matter of milliseconds. Just clicking on the part number gives access to all the needed information. We can even hyperlink to a 3-D drawing of the part if necessary.

Highly visible good descriptions will eliminate any excuse for the extra non-value-added task of establishing and maintaining part number coding systems. Descriptions should have two segments—a generic standardized family word description followed by a modifier that differentiates each of the parts in the family. Examples: stainless steel passivated cross-recessed machine screw 10-32 x 1; film fixed resistor 1200 ohm ½ watt 1%.

The first exercise in standardizing part descriptions resulted in reducing the number of parts to support the master schedule from about 5,000 to about 450. The cost savings actually paid for the budding inventory management system.

Another lesson learned was never to use the supplier’s part number as the internal part number because it is too restricting. If you have to change supplier or add an alternate, you create another part number even though the parts are truly interchangeable. Today’s systems allow multiple entries of supplier, supplier part number, and even supplier price against any part number.

Finally, there is still a huge configuration management gap out there because engineering mindsets and product lifecycle management part master data use revision code, and our enterprise resources planning systems use effectivity by date, lot, or serial number.

Here is a word of caution. Do not arbitrarily change existing part numbers when upgrading or implementing new information systems. There is too much engineering, marketing, sales, customer, and supplier documentation out there with embedded legacy part numbers to justify making this type of non-value-added change. Set up a dual-key (alias) system so the system can respond to either old or new part numbers. However, do not allow the sins of the past to perpetuated in newly generated part numbers—use the simple, numeric, and sequential scenario.

Frankly, the only reason we have to put up with long, heavily coded part numbers today is tradition. All new parts generated should have simple, short numeric part numbers. After all, it only takes at most eight digitsto create 100,000,000 Part Numbers! Lean thinking demands we take this approach to intelligent part numbering.

Leadership Intuition

Michael Roman - Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Guest Blog by Lee Ellis

Several years ago my strategic partner and good friend Hugh Massie, Founder and CEO of DNA Behavior® International, mentioned that he was learning to trust his gut instincts more. That caught my attention since he is a CPA by training and a very results oriented, rational person.

Then as I read Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Blink, I learned about this idea of the “second mind,” as he called it. Gladwell raised the visibility of the power of intuition, but I suspect that it was only for a short time for most people.

Last summer at the National Speakers Association Convention I met a leadership consultant who was building her speaking platform around the idea that leaders (who have mostly been trained like engineers to trust rationality and disregard feelings) needed to learn to use their intuition more to make better decisions. 

Just recently I read another impressive book, THE WAY OF THE SEAL: Think Like an Elite Warrior to Lead and Succeed  and was interested to see that author Mark Divine, a former CPA and Navy SEAL, made instinct (awareness of gut feelings) a major theme of the book. His proposition is that leaders should train like Navy SEALS to intentionally use both rational (conscious mind) and instinctive (drawing from the unconscious mind) inputs to make the best decisions.

Albert Einstein didn’t read Blink, and he certainly wasn’t a Navy SEAL, but evidently he discovered this related theory early on, saying, “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”

I’m seeing a pattern from these different points on the topic of intuition, so let’s explore it a bit deeper.

So what is the gift?

Intuition is about listening to your subconscious mind (gut instincts) to pull forward information and feelings that you’ve accumulated over a lifetime. Warriors have to rely on instinct, using every possible sense from outside and every stirring from inside to stay alive. Having a good visual memory for shapes and landforms is crucial for a military pilot. Being able to store and recall patterns of logic and information is important for an entrepreneur or business person.
Emotional memory is probably the strongest memory that we have, and it’s also the one most quickly accessed. Emotional memory is the one we feel in our gut, and it helps us access the gigabytes of memory stored in our subconscious faster than any processor yet made. So, intuition is this stream of awareness that flows from our subconscious to our conscious, but it requires our tuning in to hear the signal.

Can It Be Learned?

The short answer is yes, but the issue is whether you will develop your awareness and then allow intuition to move from your gut to your mind. It’s not a problem when data is tagged with emotions; it’s ready for quick retrieval and usually easy to access. At other times, it’s as simple as stopping to ask yourself, “What is my gut telling me about this—what is my intuition?”

Sometimes data needed for intuition needs help in getting to our awareness, and this situation is where we have to be more intentional about accessing it. It usually means taking time to shut down our rational thinking and reflect usually in a quiet setting away from distractions.  Sounds a lot like meditation and prayer, doesn’t it? I believe it’s very similar and can be the same. Reflecting, waiting, and listening with our feelings for insight is a practice used by wise people throughout the history of civilization, and in our increasingly fast-paced society it’s a lost art. If we ignore or fail to cultivate the intuitive half of our decision-making abilities, we become less than our best as leaders and merely rely on the facts at hand.    

My Experience

I think that I’m a very logical and rational person, but I’ve also been blessed with a gift for patterns and a good memory. In recent years I’ve learned to value what these gifts reveal to me and trust my intuition more. I do have to be careful about not jumping to conclusions with too little rational information, but overall I’m feeling more confident in my decision-making and greater commitment to execution. 

What about you? What has been your experience? How often do you integrate your intuition in your decision-making? Why do you believe that some leaders ignore or don’t develop their intuitive abilities when it would produce better results and greater success? Please share your thoughts and comments.

About Lee Ellis

As president of Leadership Freedom® LLC, a leadership and team development consulting and coaching company, Lee Ellis consults with Fortune 500 senior executives in the areas of hiring, teambuilding, human performance, and succession planning. His media appearances include interviews on networks such as CNN, C-Span, ABC World News, and Fox News Channel. His latest award-winning book about his Vietnam POW experience is entitled Leading with Honor: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton. Learn more at

More information about the Adams and Jefferson comparison is featured in the Leading with Honor Group Training program. To learn more, go to



Executive Gemba Walk

Michael Roman - Wednesday, January 22, 2014

In years past, one of the formal tools I experimented with as a consultant was a survey of departmental managers. It didn't work very well. The information gathered had limited use, partly because the tedious process irritated the troops and fueled existing cynicism about "how things are done." Surveying managers is an impersonal way to address issues, and does little to bridge the gap between departmental managers. So forget the survey, and instead... do the Gemba Walk! Get out from behind your desk, and walk the business!

I recently read an excellent blog about Gemba Walk, and what caught my attention was the author’s comment that “Gemba is rarely found at an executive desk.” The statement got my juices going, and it begs the question as to why that is true. As a management consultant, I have learned the value to my business and for my customers of asking why at the right time.

Before we answer the question, though, let me explain a few terms so we can all be on the same page. The Gemba Walk is an outgrowth of LEAN thinking and means “going to the place.” Asking questions is an integral part of the LEAN philosophy (the source of “Gemba Walk”) because it improves understanding and helps to establish and maintain the relationship between me and you, the consultant and the user. In this relationship, as the process owner, you are the expert in that “place” and I am the inquisitive student.

I perform a Gemba Walk before I commit to working with a client’s organization for several reasons. As I walk the shop floor, I look for clutter, which is an indicator of non-value activities.  Clutter in the shop, clutter in the shipping department, clutter in the receiving department, clutter in customer service, accounting, the business managers’ offices – they are all indicators that prioritization of the business is an issue. The more that clutter exists, the greater the problems that exist in the organization.

During the Gemba Walk, many of the answers to my questions are excuses, and from those exchanges, I learn the most about the organization. Excuses instead of answers can mean a business manager is probably creating problems instead of resolving problems. Excuses are also a good indicator of the overall management style of the organization.   

When performed properly, the Gemba Walk is a much more powerful tool than sitting at an executive desk filling out a survey. The reason is simple: The plant functions under the control of the business owner. Taking the Gemba Walk throughout the organization demonstrates how the executive is managing the enterprise; and there simply is no more effective management style than “going to the place.”

Keeping Faith & The American Dream

Michael Roman - Sunday, November 10, 2013

This is not about ERP - A Guest Blog by John Del Vecchio Managing Member of Charlie Foxtrot Entertainment, LLC and a Vietnam Veteran.

On Saturday, November 9, 2013, the Johns Creek Veterans Association held a ceremonial Ground Breaking for its Veterans Walk.  John Del Vechhio made these remarks.

Wayne, John, Robby, Gerry, members of the Johns Creek Veteran Association, and town administrators, thank you for allowing me to participate in this dedication.

What a lovely memorial. I can picture it completed, see citizens coming here, walking through, or sitting, contemplating the plaques, the names, the events, the meanings.

And what a lovely country we live in. What an exceptional country we’ve inherited. Memorials remind us that this has been at great cost.

I would like to tell you some of my thoughts on The American Dream, and on Keeping Faith with those who have gone before us, with those who have sacrificed so much, with those who have made the ultimate sacrifice and from whose hands we’ve taken the torch to hold high.*

I am thinking of friends who did not make it back. Thinking of advice heard many years ago. “There is a reason why you are here and they are not. It is your duty to find the reason, and to live your life in such a way as to make their sacrifice not in vain.”

We have been given days, and years, and decades which others have not. How do we Keep Faith with them?

What responsibility, what duty, do we have--not just those of us who made it back, but we, The American Citizenry—what duty do we have to those who made it possible for us to be here today in this wonderful nation?

Does Keeping Faith mean more than saluting the flag and standing for the national anthem before a ball game? Is saying, “Thank you,” enough? Or does Keeping Faith mean something more?

Does it perhaps mean understanding our Rights and Freedoms as American citizens? Does it perhaps mean being vigilant and protecting those Rights and Freedoms when they are being attacked from without or being eroded from within?

Does it mean overseeing national decisions as to how our current military is used, and ensuring that it is not being abused?

Our troops—soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen and the coast guard, in Viet Nam, in today’s wars, throughout our history—have been the will to defend, the will to pull the trigger. Without that will no nation can survive. Keeping Faith with them requires of our leaders, and of all of us, that we do not waste the will.

Let me back up.

As you know, I am a veteran of the fight opposing Hanoi’s war of expansion which sought communist hegemony over all of Southeast Asia. In 1970 and 1971 I was an Army combat correspondent with the 101st Airborne Division (Airmobile). Our area of tactical responsibility—we referred to this as our Area of Operation or AO—was northern I Corps, below the DMZ, from the South China Sea west through jungled mountains and across the A Shau Valley to the Laotian border. Our mission was to provide security for the civilian population in the densely populated lowlands by engaging a heavily armed, infiltrating force in the sparsely inhabited mountains.

When I was writing The 13th Valley in the latter part of the 1970s, the media was filled with negative stories about American troops. I wanted to tell the story of what I’d seen, of amazing soldiers doing impossible things in this unforgiving terrain. I wished to set the record straight for the 101st. I knew the media definitely had it wrong about my unit—and assumed they were talking about the Marines. I did not know, at the time, about Dai Do. For me that came later…John Kachmar**... (Mr. Del Vecchio presented him with a copy of book)… you’ll find a story of Dai Do beginning on page 115 of Carry Me Home...   The Marines, too, were pretty awesome.

How can we keep faith if we don’t know what these men did; why they fought; what was the cause; who was the enemy, and why did we oppose that enemy? Why did we engage in the fight in the first place? Who are we, We Americans, to go on extended excursions to foreign lands?

To answer to those questions would, of course, take semesters, but allow me to mention a few seldom recalled details about the origin of the war; and let me also mention that knowledge—truthful knowledge, not politically correct propaganda—is a miracle elixir… It lifts the spirits, and ameliorates the suffering of PTSD.

Let’s go back to I Corps—before America showed up. And to Hanoi. In January 1959—more than five years before the Gulf of Tonkin Incident—the politburo of the Communist Party of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Viet Nam [North Viet Nam], met in secret session in Hanoi and declared war on the South. During that month-long meeting three logistic routes from the north to the south were authorized. These were known as Routes 559, 759, and 959, for the month and year of their inception. Trail 959—September 1959—went west from Hanoi into Laos, then south into Cambodia; 759 was a series of sea lanes and landing areas, including the circumnavigation of the Ca Mau peninsula to land men and materiel at the Cambodian port of Sihanoukville; and 559 became the infamous Ho Chi Minh Trail in eastern Laos with spurs crossing the DMZ, running south, down through I Corps, through the A Shau valley and the mountainous jungles west of Hue.

The first waves of communist fighters using these infiltration routes were political terrorists. One should make no mistake—our involvement, though not known at the time by this term, was a War on Terror. By 1960 communist terrorists from the north were assassinating between 50 and 100 South Vietnamese hamlet, district or province officials—including school teachers—each and every month! The terror grew to 100 assassinations and approximately 800 kidnappings per month by 1962. Terrorists terrorize! Hanoi dubbed this policy the ‘Elimination Of Tyrants’ campaign. Tyrants, I guess, meant to them hamlet chiefs and school teachers!

The 1962 numbers for South Viet Nam would be the 2013 equivalent of terrorists killing or kidnapping more than 250,000 American. A quarter million victims! And this was happening before the war “heated up.” At that time U.S. forces in Viet Nam numbered 900 in 1960, 12,000 at the end of 1962.

So were we right to engage in this fight?

Could anyone knowing and understanding what was happening question whether or not our forces were on a humanitarian mission?

The next six years, to Tet of 1968, received the far more, but not necessarily far more accurate, attention from our media.

Some less known but interesting facts and figures: Following the 1968 Communist Tet Offensive, the South Vietnamese citizenry, previously untrusted, was armed. Over the next three years, while US forces were reduced by 58%, communist terror attacks (assassinations, abductions and bombings) on villages and hamlets dropped 30%, small-unit attacks dropped 41%, and battalion-size attacks dropped 98%!

At the same time, rice production increased by nearly 10%, war related civilian injuries dropped 55%, and enemy defections increased to the highest levels of the war. Armed, the South Viet Namese citizenry became an effective force in protecting themselves and their property from an organized terror campaign.

Ahhh… but were we ever told this?

Or had our national focus shifted? In the pursuit of freedom errors and abuses had been made. Our attention was no longer on the pursuit, but only on the errors and abuses.

For those of you who served in later wars, feel free to extrapolate this scenario. Some things have not changed.

Critics of the War in Viet Nam called all tactics into question. You may recall Ted Kennedy condemning U.S. military operations in I Corps, in the A Shau valley, at Dong Ap Bia, at Ripcord and Khe Ta Laou. Seemingly he had forgotten that terrorists were infiltrating via this very route.

His focus, along with that of much of the media, had shifted. Recall the My Lai massacre: from exposure of that incident in 1969, to 1972, 473 nightly TV news stories focused on that one atrocity, yet not a single story was aired about the 6000 communist assassinations of South Vietnamese,  non-military government personnel in 1970 alone.

If we perceive American troops as barbarians—as undisciplined baby killers or drug addicts; or if we are ignorant of the foes atrocious acts and ultimate aims—can we say we have kept faith with those who fell?

Errors and abuses were addressed; American ground forces were withdrawn by early1972; the armed southern population carried the bulk of their own local defense; yet America’s focus remained on “the American atrocity.”

This political momentum led to the abandonment of our allies, and the people of Southeast Asia. The abandonment can be inferred by economic support. The US budget for the war, adjusted for inflation, fell by over 95% from 1969 to 1974. Weapons and ammo in the South became relatively scarce. In comparison, the final communist offensive which toppled the Saigon government employed 500 Soviet tanks, 400 long-range artillery pieces and over 18,000 military trucks moving an army of 400,000 troops down the Truong Son Corridor—that is through western I Corps below the DMZ, past Ripcord and Dong Ap Bia, through the A Shau Valley, and south. 400,000 troops!

U.S. abandonment of the South Viet Nam lead directly to 70,000 executions in the first 90 days of communist control; to the death of millions in Cambodia, to a half million Boat People fleeing the new oppression—many of those dying at sea; to more than a million people being incarcerated in gulag re-education camps; and to the communist ethnic cleansing of Laos.

Keeping Faith means knowing these things. It means remaining vigilant when the propagandists are stressing the errors or abuses that we as a nation have committed; yet simultaneously omitting the good, the honorable and the valorous we accomplished. Even worse, when they ignore the evil which we opposed.

Let me digress.

America the beautiful: it has been miraculous. Exceptional. A beacon… the shining light on the hill guiding those seeking freedom.

This is not genetic. We are the great Melting Pot, a land which has welcomed the diverse, huddled masses… a land which once celebrated the diverse aspects of all cultures, but that also subordinated diversity to unity—e pluribus Unum, Out of Many, One.

So if not genetic, could it be the system established by our Founding Fathers?  A system derived from concepts of the High Renaissance, forged in the rough environs of the new world, and perfected in conflict with tyranny?

Is it not that which we defend; which we proffer others; for which we risk our lives, the lives of our countrymen, the lives of our sons and daughters?

A number of years ago I came across the following thought, but I have rarely seen it repeated.

American Exceptionalism begins with the phrase: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of -------- Property. Yes, property! That was the 1774 wording from the Declaration of Colonial Rights drawn up by the First Continental Congress.

The concept of happiness, as you might suspect, was quite different 240 years ago… you know, back before TV, Movies, X-boxes, NASCAR or Atlanta Falcons. At the time Property and Happiness were almost synonymous. The hot topic of the day was Citizen versus Subject… A citizen could own property; a subject could only use the property of the sovereign, and then only with the sovereign’s permission.

Life, liberty and the pursuit of property: this is the American Dream. The pursuit of property means a person has the unalienable right to earn, to build, and to keep much of the fruits of his labor, ideas and diligence—without them being taxed to the extent they are taken away. This standard exhorts all to go forth and excel; it tells us that from our exertions we can, and should, benefit. The American Dream is not the house with the white picket fence, but the freedom to build, to have, to own and to be secure in that house.

This culture which the founding principles foster—through all the ups and downs and bumps and warts of the centuries—has provided not just the highest standard of living in human history, but the greatest liberty to develop self and family, ideas and ideals, associations and institutions.

Academics have interviewed infantrymen to discover why they fight. Scholars tell us that soldiers fight for their buddies, for the guys next to them, for the team. But they tend to miss the fact that motivation is not singular, nor is it always understood by the individual. The academic view, beyond a doubt, is accurate, but it is also shallow.

Protecting Mom, apple pie, and The American Way against all enemies foreign and domestic are all elements of that motivation. Yet the last may be subconscious. It is certainly more difficult to express. After all—my guys, Mom and apple pie are tangible; the American Spirit and a constitution establishing a government given rights by citizens, versus a regime in which subjects are given rights by a ruling elite—that’s a bit esoteric.

We fought and fight for all these reasons and more; but if we contemplate the sacrifice of so many, if we truly believe they did not die in vain, apple pie (and I love apple pie) comes up short.

So… when we—those of us given years others have not been given—judge ourselves, the criteria must include how true our lives have been to the great founding documents of our nation.

Without knowledge of our founding principles, without an accurate understanding of our foes and why we engaged in battle, we are at peril of losing the way—not simply for ourselves but for future generations. Let this be a challenge—a gauntlet thrown at our feet.

It is the preservation of American Exceptionalism that is worth fighting for, worth living for, worth risking life and limb for. It is the perpetuation of that Exceptionalism—built upon the dreams, aspirations and labors of free citizens—which makes the ultimate sacrifice of so many not in vain.

We have been given days, and years, and decades which others have not. Have we lived our lives in such a manner they would approve?

To those who have not had the years and decades, I wish to say: From your failing hands you threw us the torch to hold high; and you said, “If ye break faith with us who die; We shall not sleep…”*

To you, dear brothers, and dear sisters, I wish to tell you that there are many here, and millions across this beautiful land, who have not and will not break faith with you.

Rest easy. We have your backs.

*From: Flanders Fields by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD

**Kachmar: Marine, 2/4 @ Dai Do; highly decorated; Purple Heart

ED - John Kachmar is the City Manager of Johns Creek, GA

ED - Here is a link to Mr. Del Vecchio's Book - The 13th Valley

ED - You may contact Mr. Del Vecchio at



Do You Really Need a Lawyer

Michael Roman - Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Uh-oh, Mike, guess what day it is! Come on, you know… yup, like it or not, it’s…Its jury duty day. So, summons in hand, into the dark of an early Georgia morning I go. An hour-and-a-quarter in horrific traffic later, I exit the car and board the shuttle to the Fulton County Courthouse. Then it will be about 10-1/2 hours of sit, wait, listen, think, and speak… then sit, wait, listen, think and speak… and all of that again, until finally we finish, board the shuttle, and – exhausted from the day – head out into the early evening darkness for the ride home, which is now even longer because of horrific traffic.

But that gives me time to think, and that usually means I think about my work. With the complicated, frustrating legal system still very much on my mind, the thought hits me that, all too often, ERP consultants are lumped into the same category as lawyers. Both are deemed by their clients as necessary evils! The truth is, like 'em or not, lawyers do indeed serve a valuable role as adviser and advocate in the courtroom. After seeing court cases from the jury box, I assure you this: Do not try to represent yourself in court, because there are a thousand nuances to the judicial system that can only be learned only through experience. Abraham Lincoln said, “A man who represents himself has a fool for a client and a jackass for a lawyer.”

If you want your attorney to represent you well, you need to trust him or her enough to share everything! The same is true with your ERP consultant. Hiding the facts, out of embarrassment, or protecting someone, or any other reason, will only slow the process down. In the courtroom, when those secrets emerge in the cross examination, you might lose the case; in your operation, your ERP implementation could stall or fail when one hidden issue becomes known.

The reality is that Manufacturing Practices finds that company owners often do not fully understand the business system in use at their organizations. As a result, they often set goals and objectives that run counter to the goals and objectives delivered by the ERP system setup.  Education about the ERP system addresses this issue for them; and education serves as the base to understanding the button-pushing that occurs in the ERP System. Educating owners is that missing first step that prepares a company for the ERP journey, and owners do well to own up to those issues that they might otherwise keep to themselves.

At the same time, users often do not receive the education necessary to understanding why they should use the system. For the ERP system to work as it should, they must actually use the system so the business owners can review the ERP System reports and more effectively manage the organization from the input data. In an effort to get the job done, users often think they are helping by taking the short cuts that bypass the ERP System.  So educating users is also a required step for success.

In the courtroom, anything can happen, but an experienced lawyer can win the day by helping his client understand every detail of the case and prepare for anything the opposition might throw their way. The client relies on the lawyer to guide him through the complexities of the legal system. In your business, a skilled, experienced consultant can advise and educate both owners and users to accomplish each group’s independent goals. That is our role at Manufacturing Practices, to serve as mentors to both parties to guide the project to its successful conclusion.

Science of mrp

Michael Roman - Thursday, October 17, 2013

There were some interesting discussions in LinkedIn subgroups recently.  Someone asked about how to accomplish scheduling using MRP, MRPII, ERP and spreadsheets. Manufacturing Practices, Inc. has witnessed some interesting spreadsheet use over the years, but none more than a large manufacturing company that came to us for help. They were using a spreadsheet to create procurement and production scheduling for their ERP System – and it was not working.

So what did we discover? First, let me give you a little background about ERP, MRPII, MRP and mrp.

Material Requirements Planning (mrp) is part of a formal system, used for MRP, MRPII, or ERP systems. That process plans the material requirements for a shop regardless of whether that procurement is for material or service (like anodizing aluminum). Let’s call those POs. Early mrp functions also calculated production orders, and let’s call them WOs.  A Master Production Schedule fed early mrp functions and used Bills-of-Material (BOMs) and Bills-of-Operation (BOOs) and lead-time from Part Numbers (Items) in the calculation process.

In the evolution of formal business management systems, MRP came first.  MRP systems used the mrp function and had perpetual inventory, sales orders and little else. MRPII Systems were next and added functionality to the MRP System including the accounting side of the business and a few other activities to help to manage an organization with limited capability. ERP Systems came next, in the early 1990s, and they had all of the capability of MRPII and a few more bells and whistles; i.e., Customer Relationship Management, Supplier Relationship Management, Asset Management, and a few other business management aids.

Meanwhile, back at the customer site... I found it interesting that they performed mrp on a spreadsheet by exporting data from their ERP System, and the process went like this:  On Monday, on-hand balances from the inventory system were loaded into the spreadsheet. Sales Orders came to the spreadsheet on Tuesday, which now had inaccurate inventory. WOs, BOMs and BOOs were loaded into the spreadsheet on Wednesday that now had inaccurate inventory and inaccurate sales orders. Calculations for the spreadsheet ran on Thursday, which had inaccurate inventory, inaccurate sales orders, inaccurate WOs, and (possibly) inaccurate BOMs and BOOs.

The result was expected. BOMs exploded, plant personnel screamed BOO, and managers expressed their WOs to the spreadsheet creator. (Couldn’t resist… please forgive!) Everyone thought the problem originated with the calculations used by the spreadsheet user – and not with the inane application of spreadsheets.

The problem could be explained this way: Systems contain Planning, Execution, and Control activities.  Without each of these activities in place, and properly deployed, the whole thing turns to PO and the organization turns to drinking BOOs. (Dang, did it again!)

When management better understood the problem and piloted the proper use of their ERP System, the system did its job as it was designed to do and we had a very satisfied client.