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Using Enterprise 21 ERP’s Integrated Training System to Train New Employees

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010 by Alex Smith

Virtually every business with whom we speak during the ERP selection process asks about Enterprise 21’s help files and how end-user training is conducted as part ERP implementation. The Enterprise 21 ERP system features help files built directly into the application, as well as an online users manual. These help files exist at the screen level and at the individual field level. In addition, when manufacturers or distributors purchase the Enterprise 21 ERP system, they receive the complete application source code at no additional cost. This enables end users (with the appropriate security permissions) to modify Enterprise 21’s existing help files to meet the specific needs of their organization.

In terms of functional training, TGI conducts end-user training onsite at the customer facility and provides online, Internet-based training throughout the ERP implementation process. In addition, the Enterprise 21 ERP system features an “Integrated Training System.” This system, which is built into Enterprise 21, serves as the foundation for initial end-user training and features answers to hundreds of frequently asked questions, training courses and certification exams, and “How-To” help. The Integrated Training System also includes a series of multimedia demonstrations that show end-users how to perform hundreds of different functions and process various transactions within Enterprise 21.

Perhaps one of the most important benefits of Enterprise 21’s Integrated Training System, however, is that it can be used to train new employees in the months and years following ERP implementation. Often times, new employees are trained by existing members of the organization who were previously trained by TGI personnel during implementation. A person who is added to the organization’s customer service department, for example, would more than likely be trained by one of the company’s existing customer service representatives. The problem with this approach is that it can lead to a declining level of ERP system knowledge throughout the organization over time as employees are added.  Using Enterprise 21’s Integrated Training System to begin training new employees ensures that each Enterprise 21 user receives the same, base level of functional training regardless of whether they have been with the organization for two years or two days. New employees can then take the organization’s certification exams to determine whether or not they are ready to begin processing transactions in a live production instance of Enterprise 21.


Two Key Questions Process Manufacturers Should Ask Themselves when Implementing New Process Manufacturing Software

Monday, March 29th, 2010 by admin

Many process manufacturers with whom we enter into discussions have a similar make up prior to implementing new process manufacturing software like TGI’s Enterprise 21 system.  Currently, their production reporting exists only on paper.  They also want to do system-enabled production scheduling but don’t have production standards documented, such as the duration of the setup and run times respectively for each product within each production process step.

So, they wonder where to start for their implementation of new process manufacturing software.  Two key elements to be considered to be able to answer these questions are what metrics the process manufacturer wants to be able to track and what they want to accomplish relative to system-enabled production scheduling.

Regarding the question about metrics, it is very common for companies to want to be able to measure and analyze a variety of things.  What is my throughput rate?  How much product is scrapped during production?  What is the yield of various ingredients going into each product?  Do we consistently have to add additional ingredients to the production of some products so they ultimately meet a customer’s specifications when completed?

The only way to be able to analyze and track these metrics is to measure and record data during the production process.  It is often comical to have discussions with potential new clients who want to be able to analyze and track key data – such as lot traceability – who in the same breath argue that they can’t possibly take the time in their operations to record such data.  It’s as if they believe a new process manufacturing system will somehow discern this information without anyone or anything recording the data.  Again, to be able to analyze and track data from a production process requires that data to be measured and recorded – either by human intervention via a keyboard, touch screen, or scanning process or directly from a production manufacturing machine via a data interface.

As for production scheduling, every process manufacturer’s business has certain idiosyncrasies or business rules by which it lives.  First, a given product must go through a series of steps or processes to be produced.  Similarly, each work center in a given production facility has a maximum production capacity or throughput rate.  Next, the amount of time to setup (the preparation time required for a given process step), run time (the actual time to perform the production of a given quantity of a product), and queue time (the amount of time a product must be delayed for cooling or other purposes before it is permitted to move to the next step in the process) needs to be known and documented for each product at each step in the process.

At a deeper level, one must know what products can be run together in a sequence (called scheduling groups) in a given work center so adverse results aren’t produced by running two products through the same work center in succession, and what scheduling groups should be run in what sequences through various work centers to minimize setup time, thus yielding a higher total throughput.  And finally, what classes of products cannot be run simultaneously on two adjacent production work centers as there will be a reaction between the two products causing resulting quality issues.

While there are a number of other details beyond the ones documented above, these items are intended to help depict the process necessary to create a series of business rules required to enable the creation of a system-generated production schedule that can be used by a process manufacturer for the scheduling of their production facilities.

By asking themselves what metrics do I want to be able to track and analyze, and to what extent do I want to be able to perform system-enabled production scheduling, process manufacturers will help define the scope and ultimate success of their implementations of strong process manufacturing systems like Enterprise 21.


Recent HVP Recall: How Food ERP Software Can Help with the HVP Recall and other Food Recalls

Thursday, March 18th, 2010 by Alex Smith

Food products containing HVP (hydrolyzed vegetable protein), an ingredient used in the manufacture of a number of processed foods, such as soups, hot dogs, and frozen dinners, have recently been recalled by the FDA due to salmonella contamination in one company’s products containing HVP. The HVP recall is yet another recent event that demonstrates how food processing software solutions with integrated food traceability software functionality can help both food processors and ingredient suppliers in the event of a product recall.

For food manufacturers who produce finished goods containing HVP, a food processing software solution with forward and backward lot tracking and traceability features can track the lot numbers of HVP received into inventory, the suppliers who provided the HVP, when the HVP was received into inventory, the HVP lot numbers consumed in manufacturing, all of the finished goods (and the associated finished good lot numbers) that were produced with a particular lot of the HVP ingredient, and all of the food processor’s customers who were shipped a finished good that contained a particular lot of HVP. In the event of a product recall, such as the current HVP recall, a food processor would simply use the organization’s ERP software system to identify all of its finished goods that were produced with a contaminated ingredient lot and all of its customers who received finished goods that were produced with a contaminated lot. For example, if a food processor received HVP with lots 123 and 456 from Supplier A and lots 789 and 012 from Supplier B, and Supplier A were to initiate a recall for HVP lot 123, the food processor would, more than likely, have to recall only its finished goods that were produced with HVP lot 123 from Supplier A rather than all of its finished goods that were produced with HVP. This can result in significant cost savings for the food processor should a recall need to be initiated.

Similarly, HVP ingredient suppliers can benefit from food ERP systems with integrated lot traceability features. Should an HVP ingredient supplier discover that one of its HVP lots was contaminated, the supplier would be able to identify all of its customers that received the contaminated HVP lot and notify them that a recall for that particular lot has been initiated. Again, assuming the ingredient supplier has the necessary lot traceability and quality control mechanisms in place, the supplier would only have to recall the contaminated lot of HVP, rather than all HVP lots that were shipped to customers over a period of time.

TGI Traceability Resources

For a demonstration of Enterprise 21’s forward and backward lot traceability features, please click here.

To download TGI’s Five Critical Software Requirements for Improved Product Safety and Traceability white paper from the TGI Resources Library, please click here.


ERP Software Evaluation: What Customers Want from ERP Software and What ERP Vendors Want

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010 by admin

Let’s examine what most customers want from new ERP software and what most ERP vendors want from an ERP selection and implementation.  While there are many layers to the topic of what customers want from new ERP software, the core answer of what businesses want from new ERP software is business results – business owners want to reduce costs, increase revenue, improve operational efficiencies, and make it easier for their customers to do business with them.

Beyond business results, companies also want the following from new ERP software:

  • Efficient software evaluation leading to a successful result – companies want to make excellent decisions in the most efficient manner possible (unfortunately, when businesses aren’t aware of how this process should work, it rapidly becomes very inefficient).
  • Efficient, successful implementation – companies want their new software to deliver the functionality they expect and for the implementation process to be delivered on-time, on-budget, and on-scope.
  • Good long-term customer/vendor relationship (“win-win”) – companies want to be able to work with their ERP vendor, have continuity of the software vendor’s business, continuity of relationships with personnel at that business, and be able to understand how best to utilize their software and to resolve issues as they arise.
  • Ability to grow with the solution – companies want a solution that will last them for an extended period of time, in many cases this is 10-15 years or more.  To be able to do this, the software must be flexible, robust, and have sufficient functionality to be able to be leveraged as the customer’s business continues to grow and evolve.

So, what do ERP vendors want?  Probably not surprising, they likewise want business results.

Additionally, ERP vendors also want the same things the customers want:

  • Efficient software evaluation leading to a successful result – while ERP vendors would love to bat 1.000 by winning every deal they touch, they know that’s not practical.  They want to compete in deals in an efficient manner where they can compete on a level playing field, can win, and it is worthwhile to win.
  • Efficient, successful implementation – vendors want their customers to receive the business benefits they desire from their software and want the implementations to be delivered on-time, on-budget, and on-scope.
  • Good long-term customer/vendor relationship (“win-win”) – vendors want to work with customers who are easy and fair to work with, have continuity of the customer’s business, continuity of relationships of personnel, and are able to understand and internalize how best to use the software they’ve acquired.
  • Ability to grow with the solution – vendors want customers to continue to leverage more and more of their software’s capabilities over time.

While said somewhat under the covers above, I’ll also explicitly state the following which ERP vendors also want:

  • Efficient sales cycles (winnable deals, no “tire kickers”) – again, vendors want to focus their time on evaluations where decisions will be made and customers will move forward.  There is no time to be spent with perennial prospects that go through the same evaluation once a year and never decide to move forward to do anything. Additionally, vendors don’t want to be in a position where a potential new customer has orally committed they are going to move forward with the vendor only to take an inordinate amount of time to make the final commitment and sign contracts.
  • Happy, referencable customers – there is nothing better from a vendor’s perspective than having happy customers who are willing and able to act as references on their behalf.

You’ll note that to this point in time I’ve mentioned these things apply to most customers and most ERP software vendors.  That is because there are still people, including those who set the cultural tones of their businesses, who believe the only way for them to “win” is if the other party with whom they’re working is to “lose.”  This “win-lose” mentality unfortunately still exists frequently in the customer/ERP vendor intersection.

Speaking from an ERP software vendor’s perspective, when it is determined that a potential customer is focused on establishing a “win-lose” relationship, we walk away from those deals as rapidly as possible.  Likewise, if potential customers determine that an ERP vendor is attempting to establish a “win-lose” relationship, those customers need to eliminate that vendor from further consideration as rapidly as possible.

The most prevalent situation in which ERP vendors attempt to establish a “win-lose” relationship is where the functional and cultural fit between the vendor and potential customer is low, and the vendor is so hungry for new sales (i.e., business results are far more important than any of the other desires) that they continue to press on to close the sale.  In doing so, the ERP vendor knows the implementation is going to hit the rocks, but their objective is to get the customer so deeply invested in the project (both time and money) that they cannot turn back.

Those who are unfamiliar with how to structure and perform an ERP Software Evaluation are most highly susceptible to be bitten by a vendor attempting a “win-lose” transaction.  In cases in which the company is unfamiliar and inexperienced in orchestrating a software evaluation on its own, those companies are highly encouraged to find and engage experienced, independent assistance to help with the evaluation.

Here again I want to stress that the most critical word in this statement is “independent.”  There are tons of individuals and businesses that tout themselves as independent.  However, they may be software resellers in a consultant’s clothing or have biases to specific products because they have established implementation practices built around those solutions.

If, for whatever reason, hiring an independent consultant is not feasible, companies are encouraged to adopt a structured, analytical process they can follow on their own.  To help companies establish and manage a structured, analytical evaluation process, TGI offers free software selection tools via our Web site for the do-it-yourself software evaluation.

In closing, through this point in time, I’ve had the opportunity to work with well over 2,000 end companies and roughly 200+ independent consultants in ERP software evaluations since Q4/2003. During that time, I’ve seen some firms and individuals who were very good at performing their roles in their respective evaluation processes, while others were at best ill-prepared. In the end, when participants in the process are unable to successfully play their positions – whether intentional or unintentional – nobody wins.

In an effort to draw upon these experiences to help the various stakeholders of the process learn from these activities, I wanted to summarize those situations into a single statement. In doing so, I was drawn to a famous quote by noted Swiss Psychiatrist and founder of analytical psychology, Carl G. Jung, who said, “The world will ask you who you are, and if you do not know, the world will tell you.”

Here is what I call “Litzenberg’s ERP Software Corollary to Carl Jung’s Statement”…

“The world will ask you what you want in new ERP software, and if you do not know, you’ll likely be sold something you don’t really want, can’t really use, will spend a lot of time, effort, and money trying to get it to do something it was never intended to do, and ultimately, won’t achieve the desired results.”


ERP for Small Businesses: Taking Advantage of all Your ERP System Has to Offer

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010 by Alex Smith

Many small businesses with whom I speak, generally, want the same basic functional features in an ERP system. Fully-integrated order management, inventory control, warehouse management, purchasing, manufacturing, financials, CRM, and business intelligence are critical elements to any ERP selection project. That being said, many small businesses also question how they can take advantage of all the software functionality a small business ERP software solution has to offer given their relatively limited internal resources and their desire to complete ERP implementation in a timely, cost-effective manner. How, then, can small businesses take advantage of the complete set of software functionality inherent in their ERP system while still completing ERP implementation in a relatively short time frame?

When going through ERP implementation, a small business should work closely with its project manager in determining the project scope, which consists of those core functions, rules, and processes that the system must deliver by the project go-live date. At the conclusion of the implementation process, the business must be able to perform all necessary transactions in the ERP system to conduct business on a daily basis in a manner that is faster, easier, more cost-effective, etc. than prior to implementation. The small business, should, in turn, begin to realize a return on its ERP investment.

Following software implementation, the small business should continue to work closely with its project manager in developing a post-go-live plan to roll out additional software functionality, such as leveraging wireless warehouse management with RF and barcode scanning devices, paperless AP functionality to operate the AP department in a completely paperless environment, and/or using automated supply chain processes to continue to streamline the organization’s purchasing, inventory, order entry, and manufacturing departments. Again, this will allow the small business to continue to realize a return on its ERP investment in the months following ERP implementation while taking advantage of incremental software functionality that is already built into the ERP system.

As mentioned in a previous article by Dave Litzenberg, TGI conducts six-month ROI workshops with our customers. These workshops, which consist of the customer’s core team and a combination of TGI’s executive, project management, and sales teams, are designed to initiate plans for the customer to take advantage of additional functionality in Enterprise 21 so the customer can continue to realize an increasing return on its investment in TGI and Enterprise 21.

By closely working with the ERP vendor in the months and years following ERP software implementation, small businesses can develop post-go-live plans to take advantage of additional software functionality and continue to realize ROI without having to purchase additional software, modules, features, functions, or bolt-ons at a later date.