Never underestimate the importance of design when upgrading or implementing supply chain systems.

I find that design is often undervalued. We seem to blindly follow systems and business processes yet don’t take the time to think through design. Purchasing and maintaining an ERP system is considered a big-ticket item for most companies. Why would we leave design to chance and not fully leverage our investment?

If you are upgrading or implementing a new system, start thinking about design prior to implementing – you cannot start too soon. My best clients ask for their processes to be reviewed, documented and improved upfront. This way, they are familiar with them and can better sync up their system and process design to deliver results. Even more importantly, those clients typically have a much smoother implementation – less customer disruptions, less cost, less confusion.

If you are not upgrading or implementing, do not despair! Anytime you make a commitment to design, you’ll gain a benefit. Start by asking your employees about what is working and not working. Listen to their feedback. Review configuration options of the software. Get familiar with the functionality and business needs. Join user communities. Ask for ideas. Develop plans for design improvement. Significant results can be achieved without significant investment.

For example, one of my clients wanted to bring inventory levels down to free up cash without affecting service levels. We reviewed the people, process and systems. There were opportunities to re-design aspects of each – within 6 months, the re-configured and re-allocated people, process and system was able to deliver a 30% reduction in inventory.