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Archive for May, 2009

Despite a Troubled Economy, the 2009 International Dairy-Deli-Bake Show Should be a Fruitful Event for Exhibitors and Attendees

Friday, May 29th, 2009 by Alex Smith

For the past several years, TGI has been a consistent exhibitor at the International Dairy-Deli-Bake (IDDBA) show. This year will be no different, as we will be exhibiting at the 2009 IDDBA show held in Atlanta, Georgia June 7-9. Surprisingly, it looks as though we will be one of the only, if not the only, food processing software suppliers exhibiting at this year’s show.

Given the current state of the economy, it is certainly common for companies to scale down their normal trade show calendar. It is also highly likely that in addition to fewer exhibitors, overall attendance at trade shows across the country will be lower in 2009 compared to prior years. Trade shows require a significant investment in employees’ time and company money for both exhibitors and attendees; however, unlike many industries, the food and beverage industry has been largely unaffected by the downturn in the economy in 2008 and 2009. If you think about it, food is one of life’s absolute necessities – people are always gonna have to eat! Unlike new cars, flat screen TV’s, and other “luxury” items (like my girlfriend’s weekly, and unnecessary, manicure and pedicure), food is a must no matter what the state of the economy may be. In fact, numerous studies have shown that in times of economic downturn, people actually eat more! I recently read an article in the May 2009 issue of Food Processing magazine that stated that despite the economy, food processors are increasing their overall dedication to new product development compared to prior years, a clear sign that food companies are making strategic moves to differentiate themselves from the competition.

As I result, I anticipate attendance at this year’s IDDBA show to be relatively strong despite the existing economic climate. The IDDBA show provides an ideal avenue for cheese, dairy, deli, and bakery companies to showcase their new products to thousands of attendees at a time when food consumption and new product development is on the rise.

For more information on the 2009 IDDBA show, please visit www.iddba.org. If you are attending the IDDBA show, please feel free to stop by and visit us at booth 4070.


Find a Proven ERP Software Selection Process and Execute It

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009 by Alex Smith

One of the keys to proper ERP selection is finding a proven ERP software selection process and then executing that process. Many times, manufacturing and distribution organizations start their search for a new ERP system with little understanding of what selection process elements will provide them with the best software solution for their respective businesses. Furthermore, even if the organization has committed to a specific selection process or methodology at the initiation of the selection project, the software selection process is frequently executed incorrectly as the organization gets further along in the project. Fortunately, TGI provides free software selection tools to aid manufacturers and distributors in selecting the best software for their individual business operations. TGI’s proven software selection process can be easily followed, and, more importantly, executed in a timely, efficient manner. TGI’s ERP software selection process consists of five key phases: (1) Project Preparation and Planning; (2) RFI and Introductory Demonstrations; (3) Requirements and Request for Proposal; (4) Scripted Software Demonstrations; and (5) Reference Calls, Site Visit, and Supplier Selection.

While I will not expand on these steps in detail, it is imperative that the organization searching for new ERP software adheres to these five phases and does not initiate the next phase of a selection process without first completing all activities of the prior phase. For example, an organization should not move into the RFP phase of the selection process without first completing the RFI and Introductory Demonstrations phase for all potential ERP software vendors. It is astonishing the number of times we see prospects send Request for Information (RFI) documents and conduct initial remote software demonstrations and move into the RFP phase only to have another software vendor enter the mix of potential software suppliers without conducting the same detailed software analysis for the new software supplier as it did for all other software suppliers in consideration. To provide the most comprehensive, quantitative analysis of each ERP software vendor and solution, the same standards and requirements must be applied to each software vendor at each phase of the selection process. This strategy will give the organization the best apples-to-apples comparison of each software vendor and will ultimately lead the organization to make the best software selection decision.

Again, find a proven software selection process, follow the process, and execute it in full at each step along the way. For more information on TGI’s proven software selection process, click here. You can also request TGI’s free software selection tool kit CD by visiting our online request form.


Training Before and After Go-Live – Critical Success Factors to Gaining Desired Benefits from Enterprise Software Systems

Friday, May 22nd, 2009 by Alex Smith

Training is an integral part of every business software implementation. End users must be trained in the software application’s processing of all transactions and functions they perform on a routine basis. Customer service and order management personnel need to learn a new process for not only entering but tracking both existing and past customer orders; warehouse managers and operators must learn what could be a completely new warehouse process focused on improved warehouse productivity and inventory accuracy while reducing inventory levels; and business executives will learn to use new business intelligence tools for improved visibility and analysis of key business performance metrics such as days supply on hand for a given product, gross sales on a product-by-product basis, and sales margin on a product-by-product basis.

The overriding principle is that training is an important part of the implementation process regardless of a given software user’s role or organizational level. Without training in the business’s newly selected manufacturing software or distribution software package, the capabilities such software provides cannot be utilized to their fullest potential.

During the Enterprise 21 implementation process, training can be conducted in one of two ways. First, training can be delivered to all software users in a given functional area simultaneously. For example, business executives and accounting personnel will be trained in the software’s financial management tools; warehouse workers will be trained to receive and putaway materials and pick, pack, and ship products to customers using Enterprise 21’s fully-integrated warehouse management system; customer service and order management representatives will be trained to utilize Enterprise 21’s order management and CRM ERP software functionality; etc.

A second form of Enterprise 21 training that can be employed during software implementation is a train-the-trainer approach. Using this approach, TGI personnel would train each business department’s functional leader or super user, and those functional leaders would in turn train other software users in their given functional areas. No matter which training methodology is employed, adequate end-user training in the new business software package is essential for a successful go-live experience.

Following go-live, management and software users must remember that the training process is not over. Training should be an on-going effort. TGI offers integrated training tools that include multimedia-enabled presentations, how-to help, screen help, and field help. These tools can be updated and altered to meet each organization’s specific requirements. Furthermore, TGI’s integrated training services enable existing users to refresh the knowledge they learned during implementation and new employees to receive a level of training consistent with all other employees in the organization. This approach to training enables organizations to maintain consistent system and process knowledge across all of the organization’s departments and functional areas.

Both during and after implementation go-live, adequate training in an enterprise software solution is essential to increased productivity and on-going business process improvements.


Process Manufacturing Made “Simple” with Formula Management and Scalable Batches

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009 by Alex Smith

Process manufacturing is frequently referred to as “simple” by those in the discrete manufacturing camp, yet if you ask any food, chemical, or pharmaceutical manufacturer if process manufacturing is truly simple, the manufacturer will quickly provide many examples of the growing list of challenges faced on a day-to-day basis.

For process manufacturers, two of the most common challenges are formula and recipe management and scalable batches. Experienced processors recognize that regardless of the product produced, one size does not fit all. A can of soup, a box of detergent, and a bottle of cough syrup are all packaged and sold in multiple types of shapes and sizes. The need for flexible units of measure, formulas, and batch sizes have united food, chemical, and pharmaceutical companies into a process community focused on improving the capabilities and processing options at all steps of the production process. This unification has taken the historically discrete-focused ERP software industry and brought about a number of strong process-based ERP software packages.

A key differentiator for process manufacturing software is the ability to take a standard bill of materials and craft it into a sophisticated and scalable formula that is comprised of a variety of ingredients, units of measure, yields, and by-products or co-products. This formula or recipe can be dynamically scaled to match the ideal batch size, thus meeting current demand levels, optimizing vat and ingredient usage, tracking all ingredient costs, and blending in the appropriate manner to facilitate a finished good that is within specification and acceptable for final sale.

While the idea of a scalable batch may appear rudimentary for ERP software packages, it is not functionally feasible in the original, discrete manufacturing ERP software solutions. In fact, it is not even feasible in all of the ERP software solutions that are marketed to process manufacturers. A recipe with ingredients, yields, and instructions is not the same as a discrete bill of materials. The recipe needs to accommodate ingredient-based instructions and be able to scale up or down based on a given demand level. The recipe or formula needs to be able to manage intermediates, ingredient level yields, and support private label requirements if necessary. The software needs to provide operational control while allowing for a high level of flexibility and scalability.

How does a process manufacturer select the right process manufacturing software solution? The most reliable means of doing so would be a thorough evaluation of potential software packages demonstrated with real data via an onsite scripted demonstration. Even with the advancements in process manufacturing ERP software, not all software packages can perform at the same level. The best technique for separating and comparing one package from another is through reviewing the definition and processing of a sample formula that is scaled for a specific batch or production run. If the ERP vendor cannot demonstrate the software’s ability to manage this process, the software will struggle in a real production environment.

TGI offers free software selection tools and resources for both process and discrete manufacturers. Please visit TGI’s available online resources or TGI’s online request form to order the free Software Selection Tool Kit.


Gaining Visibility to Key Performance Metrics in the Distribution Industry

Friday, May 15th, 2009 by admin

In a recent survey research paper titled, “Technology in Distribution: Trends and Future Challenges,” Adam J. Fein, Ph.D., founder and president of Pembroke Consulting, Inc., discusses, among other things, how many distributors across various industries lack the ability to track key performance metrics. The specific key performance metrics evaluated in Dr. Fein’s research include gross profit by customer, average order size by customer, operating profit by customer, delivery performance by customer, and profitability of fee-based services.

While executives from various distribution industries report mixed and, in some cases, disappointing results in their abilities to access such information, distributors using TGI’s Enterprise 21 wholesale distribution software can readily gain access to these and other key performance metrics. While Dr. Fein’s research paper focuses on the distribution industry, manufacturers who run the Enterprise 21 system can also leverage its business intelligence software capabilities to gain a competitive advantage.

By leveraging Enterprise 21’s business intelligence functionality, executives and all system users can have their own personalized dashboards consisting of the information that is most important to their day-to-day operations. Each individual’s dashboard in Enterprise 21 can consist of an infinite number of tabs with up to four information panes per tab. The information panes can include data displayed in graphical and tabular formats. Some of the graphical views available include pie charts, bar charts, area charts, and gas gauges, which allow executives and other system users to enjoy rapid access to key performance metrics.

Furthermore, while individuals can view summarized data in their dashboards, Enterprise 21’s business intelligence capabilities enable individual dashboard panes to be opened in full analytical drill-down mode, so users can slice-and-dice the information for further analysis purposes. This slice-and-dice capability enables executives to start with a broad brush view of their operations while being able to drill down in detail to pinpoint opportunities for continuous improvement within their organizations. In addition to being able to review and analyze operational data within Enterprise 21, executives can also have financial reports delivered to their dashboards, providing them with a consolidated electronic management book with easy access.

Through the use of Enterprise 21’s business intelligence functionality, executives can efficiently manage their organizations by gaining immediate, consolidated visibility to key performance metrics through individualized dashboards. By leveraging Enterprise 21’s analytical slice-and-dice capabilities, executives can readily identify opportunities for improvement which can lead to increased bottom-line results.

For additional information about Enterprise 21’s business intelligence capabilities and to further review how distribution and manufacturing executives can gain improved visibility to their organizations’ key performance metrics, please view an overview demonstration of Enterprise 21’s business intelligence functionality by clicking here.


The Scripted Software Demonstration: Making an Enterprise Software Decision on More than Gut Feel

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009 by admin

The great majority of companies with whom we work perform their own software evaluations without the assistance of an independent consultant. While independent consultants bring a variety of benefits to the table during the ERP selection process, a key element that strong consultants offer which is commonly missing when companies perform their own enterprise software evaluations is an onsite scripted software demonstration.

So, what is meant by a “scripted” software demonstration? A scripted software demonstration is one in which the company has documented a series of its key business processes that it wants to see all potential ERP vendors demonstrate in a consistent manner. While the scripted demo would generally touch all functional areas of the business, the most important areas of focus would fall into three main areas:

  • Customer-facing (i.e., quote to cash, customer service, customer self-service)
  • Operational (i.e., demand to pay on the procurement side, inventory management and warehouse operations, manufacturing planning and execution)
  • Compliance and control (i.e., financial management and reporting, lot traceability, quality management, industry compliance)

In addition to the script which describes the specific processes, good scripted software demonstrations will also include select sample data and instructions that tie this data to specific processes reviewed during the demo. The sample data should be sufficient while not excessive – 2-3 customers, 2-3 suppliers, 2-3 purchased items, 2-3 manufactured items with associated bills of material or formulations and routings, and sample customer pricing scenarios.

Some companies with whom we’ve worked performing evaluations have merely dumped complete sets of data from their existing legacy database of products, customers, vendors, pricing, etc. In these cases, vendors will cherry pick the data yielding inconsistencies as to which processes show which data or even how much of the data is used, if any.

The script should also have an accompanying scorecard which will be used by company personnel to score each of the processes on two scales – one that defines whether or not the vendor showed the specific process performed by the software, and the second defining how easily the process accomplished the desired task. There should also be an explicit scoring scale (i.e., 1, 3, or 5), where exact wording is associated with each of the scores and communicated to all participants during the scripted demo process. That way, there is an attempt to make the scoring processes as homogeneous as possible, and allows for a true “apples to apples” comparison.

The facilitator of the demonstration needs to constantly nudge the participants to score the process. To use a sports analogy, there are a lot of people who keep score of the top of the first inning of a baseball game, become distracted or bored, and stop. There are very few who keep score of the entire game. Make sure your participants score each process of the demonstration as it occurs.

Once a given section of the demo is completed, the finalized scorecards should be collected immediately to help minimize the risk of a misplaced scorecard. When the demonstration as a whole is completed, the scores should be compiled for each software vendor and added to a summary for all of the demonstrations.

Without a scripted demo, many software evaluations become a “beauty contest” where people make decisions strictly on which solution looked the best. Don’t be fooled by glitz without substance. Dig under the covers and make software vendors show you real transactions being performed in their systems with your data rather than just showing you sample screens with pre-populated data which may or may not work in a production environment.

By following these practices, a scripted software demonstration should yield a quantitative measure as to which software solution would best align with the key business processes and would be easiest to use by a given company. This will help you narrow down the field to your preferred solution so you can move into a final due diligence process with that vendor.

For additional information about the overall ERP software evaluation process including more detail about scripted software demonstrations and a sample scripted software demonstration template, please review TGI’s free ERP Software Selection Tool Kit.


Integrated Lot Traceability: A Critical Ingredient for Today’s Small Business Food Processor

Thursday, May 7th, 2009 by Alex Smith

I received a call recently from a small business owner who made a statement that I found to be quite profound, alarming, and unfortunately, characteristic of far too many small business food manufacturing and distribution companies. He said, “This whole situation with the peanut epidemic has really woken everybody up around here and made us realize it’s time to get a lot tracking software solution that will protect us in case of a recall. Is that something you guys might be able to help us with?”

This small business owner, despite being in the business of processing various nuts and fruits, was fortunate enough to have avoided the existing peanut crisis and was not forced to recall any of the company’s products. Nonetheless, he did say that the current peanut situation had made many of his existing customers call and inquire as to the company’s ability to manage any unforeseen recall. These customer inquiries, then, led the small business owner to call TGI.

My conversation with this particular small business owner only made me more aware of what many of us who develop and sell food manufacturing software have been aware of for some time now – there are a lot (no pun intended) of small food processing companies who do not have an adequate lot tracking software solution to protect themselves in the unlikely possibility of a recall. Smaller food processors frequently resort to entering raw ingredient and finished good lot numbers manually in Excel spreadsheets. Aside from the obvious problem of an employee entering a lot number incorrectly, the task of tracking the specific raw ingredient lot numbers used in specific manufacturing runs to produce multiple products that were eventually shipped to multiple customers is a near impossible feat to accomplish without data entry errors using Excel. Consequently, organizations of all sizes turn to food ERP software solutions with complete forward and backward lot traceability, such as Enterprise 21, to arm the company with the management and tracking tools necessary in the event of a food epidemic and subsequent product recall. While this type of software functionality is a must for any sizeable food processor, more and more food processing companies of all sizes are recognizing the need to migrate to a software solution that can account for the company’s lot tracking needs. As the small business owner I spoke with told me, “If we had been hit by the peanut recall, we would have gone from a small business to out of business.”

In Enterprise 21, lot traceability occurs for both raw ingredients and finished goods. Enterprise 21 tracks the receipt of raw ingredients and their associated lot numbers from suppliers, the use of these raw ingredient lots in manufacturing runs, and the lot numbers of finished goods (and the lot numbers of the raw ingredients used to produce those finished goods) that were shipped to end customers. This software functionality provides food processors complete lot traceability that begins with the supplier and ends with the customer. Enterprise 21 goes one step further to provide complete recall management, tracks the receipt of recalled goods back into inventory, and allows for any necessary accounting entries to be made for expenses incurred to the business as a result of the recall.

With rising levels of competition in the food processing industry and continuously changing compliance regulations in a global economy, complete lot traceability software functionality is becoming increasingly critical to smaller food processors’ sustained business growth and longevity. For the small business owner, lot traceability is worth more than just peanuts.


Wholesale Distributors Enjoy Flexibility When Implementing Enterprise 21 Warehouse Management Functionality

Monday, May 4th, 2009 by admin

A common discussion we have with wholesale distributors revolves around how they can best implement Enterprise 21’s warehouse management system. The great majority of these distributors envision moving to a completely paperless warehouse environment where warehouse workers are prompted via handheld and fork lift-mounted devices to perform the next highest priority task in their work queues.

Prior to moving to Enterprise 21, all of the distributors with whom we work were using some form of paper in their warehouse operations. Most of these organizations had their warehouse personnel writing on paper pick tickets as they went through the picking process and had the data electronically entered into their existing legacy systems hours later. Others may have been using a combination of paper and some scanning when they initially approached TGI.

In the case where there was manual recording of results, a paper pick ticket was printed and associated with each given sales order. Warehouse personnel would take the paper pick ticket, walk through the facility, and pick the items associated with that order. As the workers picked the order(s), they wrote the results of their efforts on the paper pick ticket, especially noting any places where there were discrepancies in the number of items picked or locations from which they picked. Some time later (and in many cases, much later), warehouse operators gave their hand-written picking results to an administrator for keying this information into their legacy system.

This paper-based process presented several challenges. First, there were delays between the time the physical transactions occurred and when those transactions were recorded into the system. Second, the one who recorded the data into the system was frequently not the same person who performed the physical transactions. In this case, there were opportunities for recording incorrect data when the written results were illegible and the data entry person made his or her best guess as to what was recorded. Because of these practices, the information in the computer system was inaccurate and generally not trusted. By moving to a real-time inventory system, such as Enterprise 21, where transactions are recorded in the system at the point and time in which they occur, inventory data becomes more accurate and timely.

In addition to improving inventory accuracy, distributors can take advantage of more efficient warehouse processes in Enterprise 21. One of the major advantages that organizations who ship a lot of small package deliveries can gain from Enterprise 21 is moving to a cart picking process. When doing cart picking, rather than performing picking on an order-by-order basis, warehouse personnel can perform a consolidated picking process for multiple orders concurrently, thus reducing labor consumed compared with picking each order on its own. Once a cart picking process is completed, the cart is moved to a packing location where the various orders on the cart are packed and prepared for shipment. Enterprise 21 can also enable warehouse operations to take advantage of other warehouse efficiencies including zone picking and wave picking.

The warehouse management software functionality in Enterprise 21 is fully-integrated with the entire Enterprise 21 ERP software application. Since this functionality is built into Enterprise 21, TGI customers do not have to try to keep separate systems in sync with each other or have to worry about what will occur to their ERP to WMS interface when they upgrade one of these systems.

A major advantage of Enterprise 21’s warehouse management system is that new TGI customers can elect to start their initial operations at system go-live at any point on the functionality continuum, from printing of paper pick tickets and manually recording the data to fully paperless operations. Over time, distributors can continue to streamline their operations and take advantage of more and more of the process efficiencies afforded by Enterprise 21.

By implementing the warehouse management functionality in Enterprise 21, distributors can improve inventory accuracy and gain operational efficiencies in a manner that can best be assimilated into their warehouse operations.


Capturing Multi-Level Training Opportunities at the Annual Users’ Conference

Friday, May 1st, 2009 by Alex Smith

In a few days, the Enterprise 21 user community will gather in Chicago, Illinois for TGI’s annual users’ conference, Enterprise 2009. Without question, attendees from all organizational levels will find Enterprise 2009 an educational and rewarding experience.

TGI’s annual conference is suitable for technical employees, functional end users, and executive level staff members. The conference is designed to educate, foster networking, and provide an avenue for open, two-way dialogue between TGI and Enterprise 21 users. While attendees enjoy the less formal evening events over dinner and socializing, the conversation typically flows towards best practice usage, functionality questions, and future software enhancements.

Each year, TGI hosts and facilitates an event that is a must-attend conference for Enterprise 21 users. TGI’s customer base, however, makes each year’s conference a true success. As the software developer, TGI spends substantial time preparing for the workshops and training sessions. The conference agenda is simply the foundation, however, as each conference session is enhanced dramatically by those in attendance; peer-to-peer interaction and participation provides the greatest learning opportunities.

TGI’s executive staff and senior development team members attend the conference each year. This creates a powerful three-day training session for users. Although interaction with this resource pool is extremely valuable, it is the interaction between users that tends to show the greatest rewards. From discussions on testing and in-house user training to custom reports and functionality usage, the users share and discuss their company’s experiences and best practices with Enterprise 21.

Thankfully, TGI has recognized and embraced this phenomenon and built time into the conference to encourage and foster peer interaction. When the conference was in its infancy, we attempted to fill every minute of the event with TGI-led user education. The conference has since evolved, and we have opened the floor to users more and more each year. TGI-led instruction and education is still the staple of the agenda, and the conference is driven by training and the exploration of Enterprise 21’s newest functionality. That being said, as the years pass, the mechanism of content delivery and the opportunities for user interaction and discussion become more fluid and more available. As the agenda adapts, the conference provides more value to the user community as CEO’s speak with other CEO’s, and accountants learn from other accountants.

Any educational opportunity offers an avenue for learning, skills development, and enrichment; an ERP software user conference is no different. The event benefits a wide range of individuals regardless of their position or functional focus. For these reasons, TGI customers continue to participate in TGI’s annual users’ conference year after year.