• When investigating potential solutions, the biggest issue that most face is the "fear of change". We see this as well the biggest hurdle, as human nature dictates that instinctually we tend to go with "what we know" and change is never the easy option. So before you even consider “ improving” be sure to accept the concept of “change is good” and it is the only guarantee for progress
• Once you have overcome the fear factor, proceed and investigate. To begin with, simple web research using Google and other search engines will satisfy the needs of most small to medium size businesses. The results returned are of value and can reflect specific needs providing that a suitable set of keywords has been used. Speciality magazines or discussing the topic with your piers or consultants are also options and can give first hand input into someone else’s experience. Whichever method you use you will eventually end up with a pick of three or more solutions which on face value seem to fit your needs best.
• At this point the real work begins. Make not mistake, if you wish to give your business a good chance, and pick the best option for any job shop software you will need to commit time and plenty of it to fully investigate and analyse the pros and cons. Begin with identifying the “real” existing workflow for your manufacturing operation. This perhaps the requirement that needs the best possible match as it usually stands at the core of all software solutions and modification is usually difficult. Be prepared to read as much documentation as the software vendor is making available and if not sufficient ask questions. ERP systems are more often than not complex pieces of software with abrupt learning curves and the difficulty level may be a major obstacle so, fully understand what it actually takes to get this “of the ground”.
• Technical considerations are something you require to establish early in the research time frame as this also can impact the decision process. Fully understand the system requirements and asses weather or not further investment is necessary in you IT infrastructure. Database model and deployment goes hand in hand with the hardware. Selecting the correct option here can make for years of trouble free operation. Try and follow the vendor’s advice on system requirements as most definitely the recommendations were tested extensively and the proposal has the best-case scenario for your circumstances.
• Verify the claims made by the software vendor either by participating into a trial period or by discussing you concerns with other users for the same software solution. If you chose to engage into a trial period do not waste anyone’s time including yours by not dedicating the necessary resources to appropriately investigating all aspects that matter to your manufacturing business. Given the we you are looking at a ERP
for job shops you need to consider Quoting, Customer Relations Management, Purchasing, Inventory, MRP, Production control and data collection etc. This implies that multiple members of your operation will need to get involved and you need to listen to their opinions, as they understand their job scope better than you.
• There is no “one size fits all” for software in manufacturing as no two businesses are the same. We’ve learnt that lesson very early. Knowing that, find out how difficult is it to have the flexibility you need with the proposed software? Enquire about the willingness and cost of customisation. This will also give you a better understanding on what kind of company your are partnering with. The conversations you will have with the software vendor will either strengthen the believe that you are on the right track or the contrary. If you face resistance or the vendor does not inspire confidence your decision as far as this vendor goes should be an easy one.
• You have now made the decision and are confident of success. The best software solution is as good as the people using it. Diligence needs to come into your implementation process. Training for you and your staff needs to be taken seriously. Once the system becomes the driving force, regular inspection of the quality of the usage methods and procedures following need to be policed on a regular basis until such time that most tasks become second nature and all major aspects of your operation become almost instinctual.
Our customers attest to the points made above. Some have skipped some or ignored other but in the end they admit that following them had or would have been beneficial for the success of their business. The relationship with your software vendor is paramount to this success. Rely on their help and advice. “Do not be afraid to ask questions and seek help whenever you feel lost”. Smart use of technology is undoubtedly the recipe to guarantying a successful future for any business and manufacturing is no different. If you wish to share your experience with this topic and help the larger community please feel free to contact us and we will publish your story.