If you’ve taken steps to implement an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system for your job shop, you know it was no small undertaking. You’ve likely taken steps to mitigate the risk of disruption for your organization and are working with a provider that’s helping you streamline processes, create efficiencies and improve workflows.
Your investment in time and money was not a small one, so it’s important everyone in the organization understands and gets the most out of the system’s functionality. Here are some basic tips to help you get off to a good start and continue leveraging the impressive benefits of the ERP system.
1. Communicate Benefits with Employees
Hopefully this step began long before the system was installed. Clearly articulating all the benefits to specific user groups will minimize any reluctance they might have to embracing the new system. For example, you’ll want to explain to both sales and customer service teams that the abundance and depth of data available related to customer purchases can help them both: it will assist sales in both upsells and their ability to secure future purchases, and will make it easier for customer service to manage and even enhance customer relationships.
Perhaps your inventory system was one of the reasons you implemented ERP; but does everyone in shipping and in the warehouse understand how the system can streamline processes by creating electronic records of deliveries, shipments, damaged goods, part locations, accurate quantities and more? Do those who work remotely understand that being able to access order information and production schedules means that customers will get immediate answers and more timely resolutions to their issues? Fully articulating specific functionality and benefits to every group within the organization will smooth (and speed up) the transition period from your old system to the new, and get people using the new one to its fullest.
Remember that talking to your teams is important, but listening is even more so. Solicit feedback from users to help gauge their experience with the ERP, and encourage them to offer ideas for improvements in how it’s being used. Not only will they appreciate being involved (versus being “forced” to use the system), but you may find their input helps smooth some rough spots you didn’t know existed.
2. Continue to Rely on Your ERP Vendor
Your ERP provider has likely guided you through the process of implementation, but each job shop is different and has unique needs, workflows, processes, and desired outcomes. An ERP system is a complex and sophisticated tool and can take time for team members to consider its use “second nature.” In the meantime, it’s important that you continue to leverage the expertise of your ERP partner; they’ve undoubtedly dealt with issues similar to those you’re facing—from the very smallest “how do I…?” questions to larger issues, like the need for customization—and can provide seasoned advice, the most appropriate solution, or answer your questions. The best vendor partners are not interested in selling you a system; they want to help your business grow profitably, and will continue to engage and contribute value to ensure that you’re getting the most out of your ERP.
3. Provide Training
Like any software solution, an ERP system’s value is ultimately dependent, at least in part, on users’ grasp of its capabilities. For those used to doing things “the old way,” a new system can seem disruptive, and there may be a fair amount of pushback, but you can overcome most apprehensions with proper training to help employees understand how the system benefits them specifically and the company as a whole.
Your ERP provider should be able to provide a number of training options that give employees the tools and knowledge they need to get the utmost advantage from the system. The most effective will come from a vendor that has a deep understanding of your industry and your job shop’s unique needs.
Instruction can be provided individually or in a classroom setting, which is ideal for larger groups. Targeted instruction, feedback, and hands-on learning help users feel more confident and, in general, results in greater enthusiasm about implementing the system to its fullest to gain the best results.
4. Analyze the Data
Are you sitting on A/R that have gone unpaid for more than 90 days? Are employees on second shift more productive than those on first? Are packing and shipping times taking longer than they should? Do you have the data you need to identify exactly how much it costs to secure a new customer? It’s not uncommon for a company to have to calculate these types of data by hand from different spreadsheets and multiple software programs. With an ERP solution, key business metrics can be extracted from a single system, saving considerable time and providing more accurate results. Custom reports and dashboards for various departments (e.g., sales, accounting, inventory, HR, etc.), so your employees can quickly access relevant information in real time. Data remains visible and readily accessible so you can identify areas that need improvement and respond more quickly to the evolving needs of your operation.
Focusing on these steps will help you and your teams maximize the functionality of your ERP system and ensure your workforce is equipped to take full advantage of its capabilities. If you’ve got questions about your ERP system or simply want to learn more, please reach out to one of our Wipfli experts.