In our prior post we talked about the metrics often applied in manufacturing to determine whether a company is best-in-class, or merely adequate, that companies use to identify and then improve their strategic performance. We noted how manufacturing education associations like APICS and MESA have created metrics guidelines to help companies analyze their own strengths and weaknesses. And then, because after all we’re all about ERP, we noted the difficulty in making the leap from identifying key metrics to actually implementing improved operations, controls and workflows through ERP.
Today then, a quick look at a couple examples drawn from the experiences of manufacturers, as identified by some consultants at a firm called Edgewater.
One company was a biotech firm headquartered in Kentucky with branches worldwide. Possessed of an entrepreneurial spirit, the CEO was known as a “go, go, go” style of leader. Their greatest challenge was to use technology in ways others had not. They needed to bring global acquisitions into the family in quick and agile fashion. They were a big user, as are many others, of Microsoft technology, from “the stack” through ERP (Dynamics). They chose to employ a global infrastructure (via Azure) to minimize the investment within a specific country – where they’re opening several outlets per month – and crank up hundreds of servers quickly to speed the process. Here, the platform goes hand in hand with ERP to ramp up quickly and cost-effectively on a common platform.
Another company was an Arkansas based poultry processor (of five millions chickens a week!) with challenges very specific to their business processes. As their I.T. director notes: “In each of our independent processing locations we consider how they perform, accounts payable or accounts receivable, and ask each one: Is this a market differentiator for us? Is it something that sets us apart? Specific business process owners must justify keeping a process at an individual location; if they cannot, we eliminate those processes and standardize them across the organization.”
Here, it’s all about those ‘best-in-class’ competitive differentiators that a SCOR metric (noted in our prior post) helped them to identify and address.
But above all in these and other cases, it’s always about the results. To do that, the CEOs had to be sold on the idea that a lot was going to be asked of their team. As one I.T. director pointed out succinctly in speaking of his firm’s ERP project:
“In order to be successful, we had to make some assumptions about the level of effort required from non-IT people. Fortunately, our CEO bought into that completely and committed those resources, making it really clear to all the VPs that whatever we needed to do to make it successful was what we were going to do. I didn’t have to spend a single minute trying to convince anyone about what was required of them or what we needed from them. Having that full buy-in from senior leadership down made a huge difference.”
It’s a lesson well-learned and hard-won – one even we as implementers today must remind ourselves of from time to time. ERP is hard. As providers, our job is just as stated above: to convey to our clients how committed their team needs to be to owing the process. It’s a lesson we never can learn well enough.