Companies that purchase a new manufacturing information system do so to better manage the business, cut costs, and improve customer relationships – i.e. the “strategy”. However, when it comes to implementing the system – the “art of execution” – many companies settle for a less than fully-functional solution. An audit, or gap analysis, of your existing system may yield substantial opportunities for improvement, especially if your company:
- Does not have an IT manager or other personnel intimately familiar with the system.
- Is upgrading an existing system but wants to pinpoint the potential benefits first.
- Experiences disruptions because of underutilized or incapable systems.
- Is in an industry where customer requirements or regulations change frequently.
- Is on a lean journey.
- Has concerns about system fault-tolerance and/or disaster recovery.
- Is experiencing very large year-over-year growth patterns.
- Customer or supplier information exchange interfaces have changed.
To begin optimizing your IT system, think about the following factors for success:
- Review initial software requirements and how well your existing system is meeting those needs. Why did you purchase the software in the first place? In other words, does your system fulfill your initial objectives? This is the first place to measure the value of your initial implementation.
- Identify new requirements, issues and challenges. We talk to the people who use the system most. Discover what they like most, what they like least, and what they wish the system could do. This exercise looks at the system as if you’re starting from scratch to establish what your company needs today, and anticipates for the future, to fulfill its business objectives and maintain its competitive edge.
- Determine what existing issues are costing your company, and what it could cost to fix them. Are the challenges mere inconveniences or are they requiring significant man hours and rework leading to late deliveries or other missed business opportunities? Quantify what each problem is costing your company and then compare it to what it would cost your company to implement another module of the system to correct it.
- Prioritize opportunities and tasks. Prioritize your opportunities based on the potential cost/benefit return of each system solution, how well each solution meets your company’s objectives, and the feasibility of implementation. Establishing a connection to a business objective creates a clear and measurable path for you to follow, in addition to creating the foundation for the implementation plan and timeline.
- Prepare a team to champion a new implementation and change management approach. A vital component to implementation planning involves the selection and preparation of a team to champion your efforts. This cross-functional team should include management, department heads and other every-day users. Facilitate and project manage the team to ensure their full understanding of the process.
- Develop an implementation plan. Now that you know what you want to accomplish, how you will measure success, and what might stand in the way, create a structured plan for implementation. Utilize a planning method that delineates tasks, responsible parties, timelines and milestones according to each opportunity.
- Examine other business or manufacturing processes that may further the degree of success of each goal. As you work through the planning or even in the implementation phase of your project, consider other business improvements that could enhance the benefits of your system implementation. Are there lean manufacturing, quality improvement or product redesign opportunities that would further your business objectives?
- Establish time frames for future audits. IT systems implementation is a continuous process. Create a schedule to re-validate your requirements and measure the success and ability of your system to meet your needs.
ERP systems offer the ability to tie accounting with sales and production management, inventory and production control, engineering management, electronic data interchange, web-enabled customer interaction, e-mail, workflow and other applications. Optimizing the performance of these integrated systems can be a challenge, especially for smaller manufacturers. Utilize resources to help integrate the technologies that will yield a solid return on investment, bottom-line results, and facilitate organizational transformation and growth.
Learn more about recent Illinois manufacturer successes in ERP implementation:
Drawing Technology: https://www.imec.org/client-successes/drawing-technology/
The Caldwell Group: https://www.imec.org/client-successes/the-caldwell-group/