A recent article in the Jan/Feb 2016 issue of APICS Magazine by Dave Turbide (pg. 20, “What’s In a Name?”), an APICS instructor and independent consultant reminds us that while ERP vendors may play games with names and nomenclature, the important thing is to cut through that clutter and keep your focus where it should be: on planning.
As Turbide points out, for several decades there have been “continuous strident voices in the marketplace declaring that material requirements planning (MRP) and enterprise resources planning (ERP) pursuits are worthless, antiquated and obsolete.”
Ironically, many of “latest and greatest” offerings are in reality information systems that are still built around an MRP core (in other words, ERP as we know it).
While MRP systems were originally created to meet the needs of manufacturers in a world considerably different from today’s “faster, better, cheaper” imperatives, it remains a fact that the software functionality first designed a half-century ago remains in widespread use and offers very real benefits. Because the simple fact remains, as Turbide says so concisely: “Manufacturers still have to acquire materials and components, add value through the application of employee equipment and time, and sell and distribute the fruits of their labors.”
Not to say that MRP/ERP systems haven’t evolved. Many of today’s systems offer extensive item drilldowns to quickly identify problems, as well inventory control and planning tools, even kanban replenishment or planning algorithms. It’s software that’s evolved, to be sure.
But at the core of it remains… planning. While software vendors have marketing initiatives that cause them to tout something new and different – and who can blame them? – these are not replacements for the tried and true. And it’s confusing, as Turbide points out, to promote something as a replacement for an existing solution when it is inherently the same technology, evolved.
As we tell skeptical clients all the time: it’s not the software that matters most, it’s the advice and counsel and planning assistance that you and your provider or consultant(s) work on together that ultimately delivers the most bang for the buck. There’s plenty of good software out there (we should know).
But the software has been around in its base form for decades. The trick is: who can best help you implement it?
As Turbide concludes, the important message here is not to be distracted by labels and acronyms. The planning tools manufacturers need are evolving and advancing, but the basics remain the same.