99% of the companies that bring us on board for consulting projects can accelerate bottom line business results by better utilizing their ERP system. The typical 80/20 equation holds true – at least 80% of companies underutilize their ERP system by a significant amount. Even the 20% that utilize their ERP system to a better degree than most have opportunities.

In almost 20 years of consulting, we have found only 1 client that couldn’t utilize their ERP system to a greater degree as their manual work around processes would fall apart. They required an ERP upgrade before they could utilize their system to a greater degree. Every other client could make progress (improve customer service levels such as OTIF on-time-in-full, reduce lead times, increase efficiencies, reduce waste, automate manual functions, reduce inventory, etc.) by better utilizing their ERP system. It didn’t matter if they had a tier 1 ERP system such as SAP or Oracle, or a tier 2 or 3 system such as Epicor, SAP Business One, Microsoft Business Central, Sage 100 etc. It didn’t matter the industry – aerospace, building products, life sciences/ healthcare products, or food and beverage. These statistics apply across the board. To learn more about how to better utilize ERP, read our article, The MacGyver Approach: Leveraging Your Underutilized Asset.

Building Products Manufacturer Case Study

A building products manufacturer struggled to get the “right” inventory to the “right” distribution center at the “right” time to service customers successfully. There were four production facilities supplying around 12 distribution centers across North America. Each production facility also functioned as a distribution center for their region. This consulting client used SAP, and although they were on an older version of the software, the system could support a complex distribution network. However, they were underutilizing the ERP system.

There were various levels of expertise at the production facilities, different processes at different facilities, and different use of the ERP system and different data integrity at different sites. This is not uncommon. In 80% of clients, the employees using the ERP system are NOT resistant to change once they understand how it works, how it will help, and how what they do fits into the big picture. Until they understand how to perform their daily tasks to successfully serve customers and accomplish their goals, they will do whatever it takes to do what’s needed including developing manual processes, updating spreadsheets, etc. That is exactly the situation as we entered this client.

We started by understanding the current business processes and use of the ERP system. By documenting the high-level processes, we could identify gaps and opportunities. We quickly addressed quick wins. There are typically a few quick wins at every client; however, to make sustainable progress, the key is to review how the business processes connect with and interface with each other. Once a full view of the business processes and interfaces emerges, the current use of ERP will also become apparent. Finally, the use of data, integrity of the data, and reliability of the data for decision-making will also emerge during the process review.

In this client situation, we started by sharing best practices among production facilities. One production site had a more advanced use of planning functionality, and so we worked with the second priority site to set up the appropriate system settings, update data, and roll out upgraded planning processes. This use of SAP in conjunction with upgraded planning processes and coordination with Sales and Operations propelled service levels to jump from low 60%’s into the 80%’s within a few months. Next, there was additional SAP functionality that could upgrade the planning process across both sites, and so we worked with SAP experts to test and roll out additional SAP functionality to further automate what made sense. This resulted in a solid production plan.

From a replenishment standpoint, it started with a solid production plan. Beyond a solid production plan, the replenishment process to supply the distribution centers with the appropriate product to satisfy customers required a directionally correct forecast. The forecast was the trigger to supply the distribution centers. Thus, we worked to better utilize the advanced planning module of SAP to whatever degree feasible on an accelerated timeline in addition to upgrading the business process for reviewing the demand plan with the Sales Team. This step was incorporated into the monthly SIOP (Sales Inventory Operations Planning) process to gain executive alignment and to ensure the forecasts passed the smell test.

In addition, we reviewed the current replenishment process including the MRP and replenishment or transfer order settings. We performed inventory analysis to determine optimal settings for safety stock, minimum orders, etc., and rolled out process improvements in conjunction with SAP functionality. These process and ERP utilization improvements allowed us to improve our service levels greatly and rectify relationships with customers. As the process smoothed out, we started to look at ways to optimize inventory levels while maintaining higher levels of service.

Results with Better Utilization of ERP

Results followed the rollout of improved utilization of SAP in combination with process upgrades and associated education. Most importantly, service levels improved from around 40% to the 90%’s. Lead times were also shortened in a critical site that produced a core product line. This made a dramatic impact on customers’ perception and and turned unhappy customers into customers looking for opportunities to expand business with our client.

In addition, the critical site increased output and capacity as manufacturing got in front of what was needed to support customer requirements. Manufacturing efficiencies improved as the production schedule transitioned from reactive to proactive.

From a replenishment standpoint, as upgraded replenishment planning was rolled out, service levels improved. And, as MRP settings were updated with optimized variables, inventory levels were reduced without impacting service levels negatively.

Finally, as the process and system upgrades were rolled out, the team was educated and gained confidence with their core tasks. Additionally, as processes were automated, the team could spend more time on exceptions and less time performing mundane tasks. This freed up time for additional improvements to grow revenue and profitability.

The Bottom Line

Pay attention to your business processes in conjunction with your use of ERP. The better you utilize ERP in a smart way to accomplish your goals, the more focus will go to exceptions, bottlenecks, and additional process and technological upgrades. If you are interested in talking about how to better utilize your ERP system to drive superior customer service, customer growth, profitability and cash flow, contact us.

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Better Utilize Your ERP System