ERP System Supply Chain Integration: 5 Lessons Learned

A few years ago, one of our largest clients asked us to help them implement an ERP system supply chain integration. The main goal of the project was to achieve seamless integration between their enterprise resource planning, supply chain planning and scheduling applications – i.e. create one global solution on a single platform – one single source of truth. While this may seem like a fairly simple goal, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to technology integration. In this case, the client had a manufacturing system with nuanced requirements that presented an additional challenge to seamless integration.

We all learned on the job together, but Profit Point was able to bring unique value to the client with our decades of experience managing manufacturing and ERP system supply chain integrations. Using this experience, we were able to implement new supply chain planning and scheduling tools to meet the client’s requirements for day-to-day scheduling needs.

What follows is a recap of lessons learned and best practices created by Profit Point to help our clients get to success faster when it comes to supply chain planning and scheduling integrations.

 

Lesson #1: Create a clear and agreed upon scope of work for your ERP system supply chain integration program.

One tactic we often take with clients at the beginning of new projects is to begin with a pilot project. In this case, we looked at two pilot sites and used our experience from implementing other scheduling tools to develop a task list and timeline. The idea was to use the pilot sites to prove out the timeline and confirm that all the major implementation steps were identified for a successful implementation. Some of the key elements of the timeline included an agreed scope, complete and clean master data from the ERP system and trained end users.

Through the pilot implementation, we demonstrated that there were additional fields in the ERP system that needed to be reviewed and updated to make the scheduling implementation successful. Based on what we learned in the pilot, we also determined that more attention was required for master data cleansing. This was started early in each scheduling tool implementation and was continuously reviewed, tested and improved throughout the duration of the full project.

 

Lesson #2: Determine clear tasks and responsibilities for each planning and scheduling system.

One key step to our success was taking inventory of existing systems and identifying the role and benefit of each. For example, this client handled capacity utilization in their ERP system, but in order to achieve seamless integration between their ERP and scheduling system, we found that it was best to move capacity utilization responsibility to the scheduling system. This required a major change management communication and education effort to get company-wide buy-in to make the change.

 

Lesson #3: Take every opportunity to fix old mistakes and eliminate workarounds.

As we progressed through the client’s planning and scheduling implementation project, we questioned existing processes and why they were there. If we found that no one knew why things were set-up that way, or we came across a workaround that was fear-based, then we tested possible alternatives. We involved finance and any other impacted groups to conduct trial runs of any changes in the testing system and identified any potential negative impacts. The finance team became an invaluable partner to us in this stage, and they advised us on the best time of the month or year to make necessary changes.

 

Lesson #4: Eliminating spreadsheets with ERP system supply chain integration is easier said than done.

During each phase of the implementation, we gathered spreadsheets that the schedulers would use and have them explain how it worked. We then found the best system to move those spreadsheet tasks to.  Sometimes it was the ERP system, and sometimes it was the scheduling tool. During the training and testing phase of the project, we made sure to show the scheduler their new way of working. However, as much as we tried, sometimes we couldn’t completely eliminate the spreadsheet because the functionality didn’t exist in the scheduling tool yet. In that case, we added the requirement to an enhancement list that was worked on over time.

 

Lesson #5: Understand the supply chain technology needs of each business unit from the outset.

It’s imperative to understand all of the business units that may be impacted by tool integration efforts. This will help you troubleshoot any functionality and usability issues as soon as possible. In this client example, we were focused on building-out reporting capabilities within the scheduling tool for only a certain subset of business units. Further along in the project, we learned that other business units were using a manufacturing software in order to connect with the company’s ERP system. These teams were seeing insufficient details communicated between the scheduling tool and ERP, leading us down a new path to sanitize the client’s master data.

 

Profit Point’s ongoing commitment to supply chain planning and scheduling success

We are extremely proud of our supply chain integration accomplishments this year. The COVID-19 pandemic added complexity, extended timelines and added new challenges to remote working. While we are celebrating this milestone, we aren’t resting on our success for too long – our clients are busy identifying the next phase of their implementation sites for 2021 and we are eagerly preparing to begin. This extends to ERP system supply chain integrations for systems including that of SAP, Oracle, Infor and custom tools, manufacturing software and a broad scope of scheduling tools.

If you are considering new a planning or scheduling implementation, Profit Point is here to help. You can contact us directly by emailing Eric Deahl at edeahl@profitpt.com.

About Karen Bird

Karen Bird is a Senior Planning Analyst for Profit Point Inc. She has over 25 years of Engineering and Supply Chain Planning experience working in the Specialty Chemicals, Consumer Packaged Goods and Wine Industries.

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