Developing a concept of how to implement a system for a client is a difficult and demanding process. Over the last few years, I have participated in dozens of such projects, as an analyst, project manager and product manager. They had different processes ended differently but what most of them had in common was the specificity of the organisations I met. This got me thinking. Are individual companies that different? Are certain industries really specific? Can the purchasing, sales and warehouse processes in each company be different? I also thought about what most companies repeated: We are a specific company; We have a different specificity; It works differently at our company; and It will not work in our organisation. Are they really justified, or is it simply fear of change?
ERP system vs. specificity of the organisation
Giving a clear answer to the above questions is difficult. The way in which any business operates is very often based on years of experience, many failures and successes, which have helped to make a company that works, produces and generates profits.
Why the consideration of organisational specificity at all? In fact, probably from the temptation to say that there must be a golden mean that will work in every company, regardless of its characteristics. Back in the not so distant past, many companies believed that the solution that would streamline processes in the company was to implement an ERP class system. It was supposed to meet the needs of the business in the areas of trade, accounting, human resources and payroll and production management. However, my observations show that ERP systems work and perform very well where processes are repeatable and similar. They do not cope, on the other hand, when the specificity mentioned before is of great importance. We are, of course, talking about production management processes.
Production management in ERP does not work: what next?
Excel is a tool that everyone knows. Need to do a report/list? Let’s use Excel for that. Need to handle the process which does not exist in ERP? Let’s add a macro, connect a view, a procedure, and Excel… will handle it. Production planning? Let’s create a schedule in Excel. But what if it turns out that sheets and tables are slowly insufficient to plan production? At this point, there is a need to do the process differently. How? Preferably with an IT system which will deal with this issue better and faster than an experienced planner.
APS is a solution to the problems: is it really?
The efficient implementation of an APS (Advanced Planning and Scheduling) class system is quite a challenge for any enterprise. Before the implementation work begins, it is necessary to develop a concept which will enable the achievement of business objectives and gaining of real benefits for the organisation. Here we get to the bottom of the matter, i.e. process modelling and corrections which will translate into effective management of the production process. It is at this stage that I most often encounter statements that certain processes surrounding production planning cannot be changed. Why change something that works? Why should the procurement department now have more work to do in terms of setting precise delivery dates? Why should the sales department now have to close unfulfilled sales orders?
In the above elements, the fear of change which will affect the current course of events in the organisation plays a key role. People are by nature reluctant to agree to any change unless they see real benefits for themselves.
APS: benefits of implementation
The difficulty is to see the benefits of implementing an APS class system which appear in various areas and very often are visible only from the right perspective. It is precisely the need for a broad view that makes it impossible for all participants in the process to see them. It is well known that production planning and scheduling acts as a link between the majority of processes occurring in the company, from purchasing, through warehouses, technology, production, sales, HR, to the strategic objectives of the board.
It is the responsibility of the board and senior managers to transfer the vision of an orderly and well-functioning factory to the operational staff. If this is successful, the participants in the processes surrounding production planning start to follow the same direction as the Production Planning Department. This, in turn, has a positive impact on the introducing changes in even the most “specific” organisations.
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