Making the decision to implement an ERP system is a “no brainer” for most job shops; they quickly see the potential to pave the way for profitable growth and understand the value of the investment. We’ve discussed many of the benefits of ERP systems in previous posts, including “How an ERP Can Help You Grow Your Job Shop
So what happens once you decide to make an ERP solution part of your business? What are the next steps and what will be expected of you and your team? Not every implementation is the same—each is a reflection of the type of business for which it’s being implemented—but they all have a few steps in common, the first of which is to select a vendor partner. But then what?
After selecting a partner you’ll have a few “assignments” to complete with the help of your consultant:
- You’ll identify someone who will manage the project from your end. It’s important that you have someone dedicated to this project. It’s not a role that can be completed in just an hour or two each day; it’s a full-time (or close to full-time) job. This person will act as a conduit between your project stakeholders and your consulting team, finding the information the consulting team needs in order to successfully move you from current to optimized processes. Ideally this person will have strong project management skills, credibility within the company, a fair amount of insight into the “inner workings” of your business, and the fortitude to handle pushback from coworkers who may introduce obstacles during the implementation.
- You’ll be asked to review and detail all current processes. In order for a consultant to recommend the most appropriate ERP software for your needs, he or she has to know how and why you do what you do today. Most of your processes will be self-explanatory (or so common that no explanation is needed), but undoubtedly you have a few that are understood only by those within your company.
- You’ll select a software platform. This is arguably the most critical step after choosing your vendor partner. Let your consulting partners lead the way here—there are a number of solutions available today and they offer similar features and functionality. Only a team with manufacturing expertise will fully understand how they differ—and how those differences could affect your business. The consultant will help you choose the solution that is the right size for your business, today and in the future. Too big a system and you’ll be paying for features you don’t need; too small and you won’t have what you need to pave the way for growth.
- You’ll discuss customization. An ERP is designed to manage business processes, but every company has its own unique needs (and quirks) that must be accommodated for thorough customization. A good consultant will avoid a software solution that requires significant customization, but some is always needed to align the system with the company’s needs.
- You’ll determine what data to migrate from current systems to the ERP system. Your consultant will recommend that you migrate the minimum amount of data from your current systems and ignore old information you don’t need access to, like references to products you no longer make, customers you no longer have, and vendors you no longer work with. You can always add them back later, but streamlining for the actual implementation will help things go smoothly.
These are the primary steps you’ll take after selecting a consulting partner, and the right decisions here will have a domino effect on those that follow, helping ensure that the implementation process stays on time and on budget.
The most important piece of advice we can give you when it comes to these steps is to take advantage of the expertise of your consulting team. This is what they do for a living, so their recommendations about software selection, customization, migration and other considerations come from years of experience. They know what’s practical and what’s possible, and they have your job shop’s best interests in mind.