The System Design Will Make or Break ERP

November 17th, 2015
ERP Design

Take extra care to design your ERP system to make certain it works with every functional area of your business and to involve key people in the developmental decisions to ensure success.

As several of my clients are building their systems infrastructure to better support their aggressive growth, it just so happens I’ve spent quite a bit of time thinking about design lately. Design will make or break your ERP success. Today’s systems have come a long way — they have a more simplified “front” with extreme complexity and flexibility built in behind the scenes. Thus, it is important to start with the optimal design in order to avoid serious complications down-the-line.

System design is similar in concept to the foundation of the house. If it isn’t solid, no matter how pretty the accessories, you’ll still have an issue. Worse yet, it is much more expensive to fix the foundation later. For example, one of my clients didn’t put enough thought into the system design upfront, and so they called me to see how they could best move forward. Once they figured out that there were changes they’d like to make, the problem was that it was going to be quite costly to make the changes — double the price. And, it was a challenge to figure out how to make the changes without negatively impacting other areas of the operation. Of course we determine a plan forward; however, it would have been much better if they were able to design these in upfront. It isn’t that anyone sets out to skimp on design; however, it requires thinking several steps ahead, knowing what you might need several years down-the-line, having a cross-functional team involved and spending some money upfront to ensure complete information and review of options — each of these elements at a minimum should be incorporated. It is also the best time to design in best practice processes.

A current best practice that achieves results while keeping speed and flexibility in mind is to review how the ERP system works for each functional area while discussing requirements. That way, it is a hands-on view to options and possibilities and stirs thoughts. It is also good to involve a cross-functional team as you’ll want to consider needs and impacts across the organization. I cannot think of a system transaction that affects only one department or functional area. Make sure to involve all key people in design decisions and supplement your process expertise if possible to ensure success.

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Supply Chain Skills

November 12th, 2015
supply chain skills

Supply chain professionals with technical and communication skills are in high demand as business booms and complexity grows.

I just talked with several recruiters who see significant growth potential in supply chain management jobs. Thus, they have launched a concerted effort at mid-level supply chain management jobs. They were curious as to what companies need, which types of positions are most prevalent, what types of skills are needed, etc. This compliments what Jack Welch said at APICS 2015.  Supply chain professionals are in demand!

What we both saw is that supply chains are increasingly important to executives. Supply chains are becoming more complex and require higher skills levels technically – along with robust communication skills.  A few of the emerging roles and skills include:

  • Planners
  • Buyers
  • Logistics analysts
  • Import/export
  • Operations managers

What are you doing to make sure you KEEP your top notch talent and to continually have an eye out for what talent you’ll need to stay ahead of the curve? Your competition is starting to think about it. Those with top talent will thrive and have vast opportunities to leapfrog the competition.

Did you like this article? Continue reading on how to be the Strongest Link in your supply chain:

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Why the Best of the Best Use Eagle Eye Focus

November 11th, 2015
eagle eye focus

The most successful business people keep an eagle eye focus on a top priority or passion.

As I’ve been thinking about what my most successful clients have in common, I continually see the value of eagle eye focus. Tonight I attended the Spirit of the Entrepreneur, which is the premier awards ceremony for businesses in the Inland Empire, and so I heard quite a few of the stories behind the nominees. Eagle eye focus emerged as a common theme.

The key to having eagle eye focus is to pick a priority, passion or goal and stick to it. It can be as simple as that. Several of the clients that call me in to address problem areas have trouble staying focused whereas the most successful ones have a clear set of priorities and follow them. A few tips to remain focused:

  • Be clear when you start whether the item is a priority.
  • Remain vigilant in the importance – don’t let the day-to-day deter progress.
  • Communicate widely and frequently about the importance.
  • Ask your peers (if you have them), employees and colleagues to “keep you accountable”.
  • Write it down.
  • Start your day by reviewing your calendar – are the items on your calendar aligned with your focus area?
  • End your day by reviewing what you accomplished – was it aligned with your focus area?

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Why My Best Clients Focus on Responsiveness

November 10th, 2015
accelerate cycle times

As customers continue to demand shorter lead times, it becomes imperative for manufacturers and distributors to become more responsive and improve order fulfillment cycle time.

I’ve been working on my book The Amazon Effect lately, and it brings to mind the critical importance of responsiveness. There is no doubt that a large part of Amazon’s success is due to responsiveness – quick deliveries, Amazon Prime within 1-2 days with no freight, Sunday deliveries, same day deliveries and now they are even looking at options to deliver in hours or minutes.

I work with a cross-section of manufacturing and distribution clients. Aerospace and building products industries have been a focus area of late as both are growing. I work with the best and help make them even better. What I’ve seen is that these clients prioritize responsiveness. Speed matters!

For example, one client in the building products industry turns around a vertically-integrated manufactured product within 24 hours as a worst case scenario. The vast majority leave their facility on the same day they are ordered. This is one of the reasons they are #1 in their particular industry. Another client in the building products industry delivers within 2 days, and 80% are actually shipped within one day. It is obvious that one of the reasons their customers continue to order from them is their rapid delivery. Everyone is geared to this end. In a third example, another building products industry client also ships within 24 hours. In their case, they are upgrading their system to better support this continued focus as they continue to double their business every few years.

My aerospace clients sing the same song yet lead times are longer with these more complex products. For example, in one aerospace manufacturer of items in the cockpit, customers are demanding quicker deliveries. Although their lead times can range from 13 weeks to 9 months, demands for radically reduced time frames continue to occur. In another aerospace client that produces door frames and larger parts of the plane, they won new business partially because customers knew they could support increased volumes on quick lead times for their industry. The aerospace industry is quite collaborative; thus, supply chain partners work together to reduce the overall supply chain lead time.

What metrics can we use to measure responsiveness? Typically cycle time metrics rule the day in this area. I find that order fulfillment cycle time is the best measure of success.

Did you like this article? Continue reading on how to be the Strongest Link in your supply chain:

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The Value of Thinking about Calendars & Schedules

November 9th, 2015

supply chainSince I was largely away for a few weeks during my dad’s stroke, hospice stay and funeral, I moved all non-essential meetings during that time frame.  Now that I am “back”, I have been trying to reschedule the meetings, follow-up on the ones I never planned as I knew I couldn’t add them in during that time frame, etc. My strength is organization and yet I am struggling with schedules as there are so many parties involved and so much is up in the air. Thus, I have a new appreciation for the value of schedules!

If you have a good idea of what you’ll be doing and when, it makes it FAR easier to plan other meetings/events. Since one of the themes in today’s marketplace is volatility, it certainly carries over to schedules. I started with the urgent, sent out notes on just the top few and slowly added the rest as I was able to confirm time frames. This process typically works really well; however, as meetings move around, it leaves me with a new appreciation for the value of scheduling in creating efficiency.

One tip to implement this week:

My clients typically have a lot of events on their daily calendar; thus, it is worth thinking about time management and how it can be improved. Start by looking out a week at a time and see how you’ve filled your calendar. If you’ve scheduled back-to-back meetings, you’ll likely “fail” somewhere along the line as perfection doesn’t exist in meeting start and end times. Instead, schedule into your calendar time in-between meetings. I realize this could be a real challenge but since you’ll have to prioritize anyway when a meeting veers off-schedule, it is a good idea to think about it upfront.

Also, take a look at transition points between one day or one week or one month to the next. Simple things can be very confusing depending on how you review your calendar. Are you looking to see if you have to be in another facility, state or country next week? If so, you need to plan in travel time. Is there anyone you need to communicate with prior to, during or just after a transition point?

Following just these two suggestions can give a lift to your efficiency as your calendar falls into place. With that said, we are all dependent on other meeting participants, and so remember to communicate!

Looking for more ideas to keep your supply chain connected? Access more tips and resources on my blog. And keep connected by subscribing to my newsletter and email feed of “I’ve Been Thinking…”