Adding Value to your ERP Requirements

ERP Requirements Refinement

When you start a system selection, you first need to determine which business process are the “value add” processes. In other words, which processes in the business add to the value of the service or product you are providing to the market. The customer is only willing to pay for those activities that help you produce, ensure quality, or account for your product or service. All other activities are waste.
ERP Requirements

When defining your ERP requirements, you need to be cognizant of these “value add” activities. These are the activities that should be captured in your requirements. Non-value-add activities should not be included in your ERP requirements. These do not produce results that create additional value to the product/service and these are only distractions when it comes down to the actual implementation.

ERP Requirements and Lean

All of this comes from Lean Manufacturing or the Toyota Production method. Essentially, as stated above, you want to eliminate “Muda” or waste in the process. Many firms have successfully implemented this in their manufacturing processes, but a smaller group have implemented this Lean system in their business office processes.

Consider this example. When defining your ERP Requirements you determine that there is an accounting process that has people spending 2 man days per month reconciling the cost of keeping track of the tools used in manufacturing. Does this process add any value to the actual production of the product? Possibly, but it sounds like this process can be reworked and possibly using the new ERP system you can eliminate this process and drive the data down to the actual transactions on the shop floor. You don’t need accountants researching the transactions. What you might need is a system that tracks the tools and their usage as part of the production process and can give a report on what these transactions cost. These transaction costs can then be factored into the pricing of the product, without the overhead of 2 man days of reconciliation.

The time when you are defining your new ERP Requirements is the perfect time to start looking critically at your processes and keying in on what brings value to the process. Then you can design your new system (both process and software) around those items that bring value to not only the customer but also the bottom line.

Lean Thinking: Banish Waste and Create Wealth in Your Corporation, Revised and Updated

Mapping your ERP requirements

When you are cataloging all of your ERP Requirements, you should write down all of your requirements (perhaps on a spreadsheet) and then give them an identifying number (such as R1, R2, R3, etc.) You can then evaluate each of these requirements with the business team to determine if the requirement is one that you want to carry forward into your deliverable of requirements that will be provided to the ERP software vendors. There is an excellent article on how to do this mapping, by author Brett Beaubouef, that describes this process.

He advocates that “Starting with the desired business results ensures that we drive to only those requirements that directly support true business value. First, it is an exercise that really puts into perspective the purpose of a business model (results). This exercise is not only useful to the project team but also the business stakeholders. Second, it is an approach that can help you justify why certain existing business activities are not being carried forward in the new business solution. Third, taking a business results oriented approach enables your project team to be more successful at focusing on the right business requirements and not wasting time on capturing requirements for non-value-add activities.

Another useful article that you may want to examine is the article 7 Ways to Fail in an ERP Selection

Keep in mind that some ERP Requirements that you identify may not seem valuable at first, but you need to review these requirements with the functional user team to ensure that key processes are not eliminated by mistake. There may be requirements that are a requirement because of a legal concern or perhaps a health and safety issue.

In the end, if you have successfully mapped out your business processes and defined these in your ERP Requirement list, then you will be a lot closer to selecting a system that actually functions in a way that brings value to everyone.

We hope that this will aid you in better defining your ERP Requirements.

ERP Software Solution: A Closer Look at What It Is

ERP Software Solution: A Closer Look at What It Is
Mike Piotrowski
ERP Solution

Information technology has not only transformed the way we live in modern society, but also the way in which we do business. Enterprise Resource Planning, often referred to as ERP, is becoming one of the most commonly used software systems in several industries and organizations. The object of this article is to provide pertinent highlights about exactly what ERP is.

The definition of Enterprise Resource Planning refers to not only software but also the business strategies employed as part of the implementation of ERP systems. This implementation makes use of various software applications in order to improve the performances of organizations in resource planning, control of operations, and control of management.

ERP software contains several software modules that work to integrate vital activities across operating departments. An ERP System not only includes the ERP Software but also the business processes and hardware that make this system work. These systems are more than the sums of their parts as the many components work together in order to achieve one common objective-to provide an organization with a greatly improved and streamlined business process.

History of ERP

ERP has been well over 20 years in the making. This system is the result of the trial, error, and growth of Manufacturing Requirements Planning (MRP) during the 80’s. MRP was the evolution of Inventory Management and Control, which was conceived during the 1960’s. ERP has grown beyond the coordination of manufacturing processes into the integration of back end processing on very large scales. From its origins as a legacy implementation ERP has morphed into a new and improved client-server architecture.

Benefits of ERP

This software attempts to bring all aspects of the business into one single enterprise-wide database or information system. This allows instantaneous information and communications to be shared between multiple departments. The primary benefit of this is a greatly improved efficiency in business operations. Implementing this system will not only help communications between departments but in day-to-day management functions as well. ERP is an ambitious design that also supports the resource planning part of corporate planning as this is often the weakest link in strategic planning as the result of the inadequate integration of ERP software with Decision Support Systems.

ERP Failures

It would be quite rude to conclude without at least mentioning the fact that failures in this system are occasionally reported in one of the four components of an ERP System. These systems are: ERP software, Business processes supported by the ERP System, Users of the ERP Systems, and the hardware and/or operating systems upon which the ERP applications are actually run. The failure of one or more of these components has the potential to cause the entire ERP project to fail.
Ontech Systems of Milwaukee Wisconsin, is committed to making a difference in your business through the productive use of computers, networks, software and the vast array of products and services we offer. Contact Mike Piotrowski, President of Ontech Systems to discuss a new ERP business solution for your company today.
Provided By: Computers and Technology

ERP Packages Feature Comparison

ERP and Lean

Chris Shaul

Today, many ERP vendors are offering Lean Manufacturing modules in their solutions. These modules propose to assist companies in their lean effort. The real question is to what degree will these modules be used. Can a traditional manufacturer going to a lean model utilize a lean software tool immediately? When implementing an ERP system, process redesign is a must. The change that must occur in order to support an ERP system can be tremendous. But can a company bite off and digest all of the changes? Which should be done first, lean or ERP? These are all some of the questions that a typical manufacturing manager who is about to embark on an ERP implementation might ask.

First, lets define a few things. Lean is the removal of waste within a process and the concept of pulling items to a demand. It is also known as the Toyota Production system as it was developed and refined by Toyota in Japan. ERP is a business process enabled by software tools. It is not a software project! ERP streamlines your information flow such that it parallels your process flow. ERP works to build product to a forecast and then execute a production plan and inventory purchases synchronized to meet the predicted and actual demand. Lean, on the other hand, uses a pull system to meet an actual customer requirement. Lean uses the philosophy of smaller batches and reduction in non-value-added activities to create a much shorter lead time, thus delivering faster to a customer. ERP does not by its’ nature drive efficiencies in the production process. It only provides planners with information on what is going on and allows them to plan faster. If the process is broken, then automating it with the use of ERP will only highlight the problems.

What is the answer? The answer for many is to implement lean as part of an ERP intiative. Some would say that it should be a predecessor to an ERP initiative. Lean purists will argue that you do not need MRP and MPS to drive the production. ERP folks will argue that MRP and MPS are essential to having parts in-house and suppliers coordinated with the production. The answer for most companies is a hybrid solution, where lean is driving waste from the production and supply chain process (although also in the above-the-shop-floor activities too), while ERP is being implemented, such that you are automating value added processes and not trying to replicated waste processes in your new system. MRP can be used to plan longer lead time items, or items with higher value, whereas a Kanban can be setup for the faster turning and less expensive items.

Working from the perspective of a hybrid model, lean principles and practices can be implemented just prior to the ERP initiative. Then during the ERP implementation, the lean concepts must be considered and utilized in the setup of the new system. Tools such as Value Stream Mapping can define areas for quick improvements. Then once those improvements are made, a process flow based on the future state model can be applied to the ERP system. For example, a production cell might be setup for a particular product line with kanban inventory control. This would change how you would define your production process in the ERP system. Better ERP systems can run in this hybrid mode of traditional MRP and modern Lean concepts. Some product lines might be more suited to the MRP/MPS method because of supply chain issues or because of the long lead times that are associated with the products. Other product lines might be easy to immediately switch to flow manufacturing. Because of this, you want a system that can handle both methods.

Using a hybrid model, you select and position the ERP system to work alongside your lean initiatives. By leaning out processes (above and below the shop floor), you are avoiding “automating the mess.” Doing so will shorten lead times, reduce inventory, reduce production costs, improve employee moral and streamline your ERP implementation. Be sure to choose an implementation partner that is familiar with lean and is able to work in a hybrid manner. What order should these two tranforming intiatives occur? It might be best to have the lean initiative lead the ERP intiative by a few months. Then begin to implement the system. But do not stop the lean transformation. That should now be an ongoing philosophy of continual improvement. Use it to your advantage during the ERP implementation. Doing so will only help you on go-live day.


Chris Shaul is a Sr. IT Consultant and specializes about ERP selections and implementations.