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Corporate Culture, Change Management, and an ERP Implementation

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Picture this: a new project, a corporate environment, a lot of technology, and a big budget.

 

Where does culture fit into this equation?

 

Company culture is embedded within your employees, and believe it or not, projects and business depend on positive company culture. Negative culture arises when there are ‘detractors’ within your company – these are people who often complain about their tasks or duties, are not receptive of change, and bring down the overall morale of the office. These people, and the overall ‘people management’ of a project are handled via change management. This can be done with internal change management personnel, or through a consultant involved with the project. The key is to ensure company culture and change management are organized and attended to during the life of any project; having the company and its employees on board is of the utmost importance.

 

When the overall culture is: stressed, nervous, anxious, worried, or fearful, it can cause issues among employees and increase the resistance to change. If this occurs, it makes a successful implementation much more difficult. Any sort of project can cause anxiety when duties are changing, people may become concerned about job security, nervous about learning new skills, and performing well in a new role. This is where the change management coordinator is concerned; he/she is responsible for reviewing processes and ensuring that the corporate culture remains motivated and positive.

 

There are three distinct concepts that will enable you, as a company, to ensure that your corporate culture is in check and allows for a smooth transition to your new ERP software.

 

  1. Leadership

    The most important part! It is difficult for change to be implemented from the bottom up so, it’s key for the executive team/leaders to initiate the changes and exemplify the proper behavior. If those in a leadership position are being positive, flexible, and open, during the ERP project – it’s more likely that the employees beneath them will be the same. Similarly, ensure that everyone is aware of who is in charge. It’s easier to follow the leader when everyone is aware of who is at the helm. So, make it clear who is steering the ship!

    Consider creating a culture checklist – and hanging it up throughout the office. Repetition is by far the best tool for adopting a new set of beliefs; in addition, it will hold employees accountable for their actions and the culture they exude.

    Here is an example of a company culture poster:

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  2. Recognition

    Once you’ve identified the values of your company, and/or a company culture checklist, you can reward those who follow it. As humans, we naturally want to be recognized for the work that we do – we strive to achieve our goals and be patted on the back for them in one or another. Recognition can be as simple as a thank you email or as extravagant as a celebration. The key is to recognize the actions of your employees who have positive corporate culture – this will show other’s that the organization values those who adhere to the culture. 

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  3. Positivity

    It’s important to ensure that everyone is on board when it comes to change. Maintaining positivity throughout the business is crucial for multiple reasons. First, and the most basic, it helps with the aura and allows people to enjoy coming to work every day. No one likes to sit next to a ‘negative Nancy’. Second, it creates a more fluid culture, in that, the employees ability to react to change is much more successful and allows the business to flow smoothly. Finally, positivity and good reaction to changes (i.e. the ability to successfully flow throughout company changes) reflects well in the eyes of your customers; when you have happy employees, that attitude is transferred to your customers.

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It’s a pretty simple concept. Happy employees mean a positive work environment, which leads to successful projects, increases in sales, and happy customers. This can truly only be achieved successfully when people management is a priority. So, when planning the aspects of your next project – ensure that change management is involved and rest assured that the company culture will increase productivity instead of detracting from it!

 

Authored by: Jennifer Dodds, Implementation Specialist

5 Ways an Implementation Can Go Sideways and How to Avoid Them

ERP implementation – some think of it as a frightening term. It can cause anxiety for those who have not experienced an ERP implementation before. ERP – Enterprise Resource Planning – systems are built to allow an integrative way to manage the business as well as backend functions: i.e. technology, financials, and human resources. There are a bunch of applications fueling and tracking different aspects of a business and are connecting to other facets at a rapid pace. Oftentimes, every piece of the ERP mechanism is affecting another – hence the fear during implementation. With all that said however, ERP implementations can – and often do – go very smoothly. There are many points within an implementation that can cause the project to “break” so to speak; however, by identifying the main points, we can define how to avoid those breakages and have a smooth and successful implementation.


Throughout this piece we will touch on 5 different ways an ERP implementation can go sideways and how to proactively avoid them.

  1. Project Champion
    Every project – regardless of what type it is – has a champion, that one person at the company that liaises with the software company, the third-party company, or the consultants. That person is the one who manages the project internally, appoints subject matter experts, and makes all of the (sometimes difficult) decisions as they arise. The project champion position requires a specific amount of time be devoted to the given project and an immense amount of responsibility on ensuring that the project itself runs smoothly. For these reasons, it is incredibly important to ensure that the right person is chosen to be the project champion – as it really sets the pace for the remainder of the project. So, ensure you choose the right person for the job to have a smooth implementation!

  2. Blueprinting
    This is the starting point of every implementation – it is situated right after the sales portion is complete and the goals and needs of the project are identified. Proper blueprinting is really the foundation for a successful implementation. By creating a blueprint document, you can identify any and all customizations needed, develop standards to be put in place, and state the names and positions of everyone who holds responsibility in the project. This document will become the bible of your project and will allow both the project manager and the project champion to outline expectations and have an appropriate sign off to keep all parties on track. Without proper blueprinting, the project can quickly derail – and oftentimes, costs and timelines can increase and cause incredible stress on everyone involved. You can avoid this by ensuring you and your company spend time on building the project foundation to set up for success in the rest of the project.

  3. Customizations
    Rarely does a company invest in an ERP system and get the standard only version (sometimes referred to as “out of the box”). Therefore, customizations or enhancements are common when trying to tailor the system to your specific company needs. It’s helpful to identify customizations within the blueprinting stage of a project. This allows all facets of the company to get a head start on working on the enhancements needed. It also allows the project manager and project champion to devise a reasonable schedule for the project and go-live timeline. Of course, there will always be times where customizations cannot properly be identified until later on in the project – try to keep these instances to a minimum. Surprises can cause tension and delays, so by being open and communicative from the beginning about your specific needs, you can have a smoother implementation.

  4. Change Orders
    It’s almost impossible to avoid change order requests within any sort of project. As the project progresses there will almost always be things that are identified that are different than the beginning. These changes can be minor, or they can be a large change in scope (which will be avoided by following these 5 steps!). It’s important to be open and honest when needing a change. Ensure that you are filing an official change order request (or proposal) with the correct people in order to have it reviewed quickly. Also, try to identify and change orders early on in the project to allow time for shuffling and re-allocation of resources and budgets.

  5. Communication
    This is the foundation of any project – and as you may have noticed, a recurring aspect of points one to four here. The gist is, without proper communication there will be no success. We, as humans, don’t read minds – so it’s important to share our ideas with others. Implementing proper communication from the get-go will allow you to seamlessly discuss issues as they arise later on. Along with good communication – the project manager and project champion should lead with good communication. Leading by example will allow others to follow and ensure that everyone is comfortable and open.

As you can see, there are many aspects of an implementation. These 5 points are really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to a project – but simply adjusting the expectations with regard to these five points will increase the successes in your project tenfold.


To summarize: communication is the foundation of any project – ensure that project managers and project champions are leading by example with good communication. Before the project begins – choose a project champion wisely; this individual will be the representative and the liaison for the business. Ensure that the person is smart, qualified, and well-spoken to ensure that the connection goes well. Start your project with a blueprinting phase; this will allow you to properly outline the project and identify any needs and customizations early on. In addition, blueprinting is a critical phase that enables the project manager to create a timeline for successful project completion and lessen the risk of headaches that come with issues arising. Next, try your best to identify customizations and enhancements early on to avoid having their completion affect the overall go-live date – or worse, having them denied due to timelines. Finally, use change orders wisely and keep communication open to ensure that change orders are submitted to the right individuals and in a timely manner to ensure a smooth adjustment to project timelines and expectations.


Pro Tip: Develop an internal methodology for your organization with regard to project management and implementation. By creating a process that works, you can take the headache and stress out of the planning and focus your resources on the execution of the actual project! This is a simple way to train new employees in the future and ensure that all team members are on the same page.

Authored by: Jennifer Dodds, Implementation Specialist

Part Numbering

The foundation of any manufacturing system is part numbers. Yet typically, very little thought is put into setting up a part numbering system. Every purchase order, inventory transaction, sales order, invoice and all your bills of material are composed of part numbers so it makes sense to put some thought into your system.

Basically, part numbering philosophy is split into two camps. One says use non significant digits, i.e. start at 1000, then 1001 and keep going until all parts have a number. This results in fewer digits and fewer digits means faster entry. They also point out that the more digits, the higher the opportunity for transcription error. They make the argument that modern computer systems can search on partial letters in the description and this is how you can locate the number you want. They also point out that every phone number in North America can be described in 10 digits The second camp figures that the part number should describe the part as much as possible and they recommend something like PIPE-3/8-4ft for a part number. They argue that by looking at the part number you can tell what the part is.

So who is right?

I’ve tried it both ways and they both have their drawbacks. The major drawback of the first system is that similar components are not grouped together so you can have screws that have part numbers 1001, 5049 and 8978. With the second system you will inevitably run into problems, as descriptive details require long part numbers. As well, it is difficult to maintain consistent numbers when many people are adding part numbers.

So what is the answer?

I recommend you combine both. Start off with 2 to 4 alpha characters that represent the category code and then go
none significant. For example PI001 could be a pipe - 3/8 - 4 ft.

Just as important but frequently overlooked are the naming conventions for item descriptions. The simple rule to follow here is to put the most significant component of the description first. Here are a few examples:

  • Screw, 3/8, Stainless

Not

  • 3/8 Stainless Screw.

When you sort on description, all the screws will be grouped together.

  • Angle - 1.50 x 1.00 x 0.125

Not

  • 1.50 x 1.00 x 0.125 - Angle

Revamping Part Numbers

The process I use is as follows:

  1. Export all part numbers and descriptions into a spreadsheet
  2. Clean up your item descriptions. Use proper case - it is easier to read on documents i.e. Stainless Steel Pipe not STAINLESS STEEL PIPE
  3. Sort on the description field
  4. Add a new column for new part numbers
  5. Break up logical groups of parts into categories. A category should have no more than 50 - 150 items. If it has more items, use sub categories.
  6. Create a 2 to 4 digit code for each category
  7. Begin at the first row of a category and enter the category code along with 005. For example AB005. Enter the second field and input AB010.
  8. In Excel you can now highlight the two fields, grab the bottom right corner of the outline and drag down to the end of the category. The result will be part numbers in sequence.
  9. Now examine the range of the suffix. If you have 005 up to 095 you could either redo the operation with a two digit suffix or expand the range from 5 to 20 and you would get something like AB020, AB040 etc.
  10. The idea of the gaps is to allow you to add new items in the future and maintain the sort on descriptions in alphabetical order.
  11. Repeat this for all categories. When you are finished all the categories import these numbers back into your system.

I generally get very little enthusiasm for renumbering parts. But using this system a data entry clerk can produce about 500 part numbers / day from scratch. If you have already begun the exercise, you may be able to salvage many descriptions with only minor touchup. It doesn’t take too long and provides a quick payback.

What are the advantages of this system?

Using the type ahead feature found in most modern data bases like Microsoft Access, you need to type only 2 characters to get close to the part you are looking for. As you scan the list it is easy to quickly find your particular part because the list is sorted alphabetically on the description e.g. type PI you would get the following list: 

Item Description Category Code Category
P105 Pipe - 0.50" Schedule 40 Alum 6063 - T5  PI Pipe
P110 Pipe - 0.75" Schedule 40 Alum 6063 - T5 PI Pipe
P115 Pipe - 1.00" Schedule 40 Alum 6063 - T5 PI Pipe
P120 Pipe - 1.25" Schedule 40 Alum 6063 - T5  PI Pipe
P125 Pipe - 1.25" Schedule 80 Alum 6063 - T5  PI Pipe
P130 Pipe - 1.50" Schedule 40 Alum 6061 - T6  PI Pipe
P135 Pipe - 1.50" Schedule 40 Alum 6063 - T5  PI Pipe

By the way, the above list comes from a customer who has 5000 part numbers and yet with two keystrokes I have zeroed in the parts I am looking for. Note: If I need to add another 1.00” pipe I can use the item number PI16. Leave the gaps according to the likelihood that you will add more items. If 2 number digits are inadequate, then go to 4 or 5 as necessary. I.e. PI0005

Vendor Part Numbers

Should you adopt the vendor part number as your own part number?
No, and for these reasons:

  1. The computer can include the vendor part number cross reference between the vendor part number and your own.
  2. The vendors numbering system may have all the problems you are trying to eliminate.
  3. It is hard to adapt your vendor's part numbers to your own system.
  4. You may switch to a different vendor or the vendor may go out of business and you want to avoid changing all your documentation.
  5. Your vendor may hire me and I may revamp all their part numbers.

Part Numbers and Drawing Numbers

The part number and the drawing number serve different purposes. The part number is the unique identifier of the item, while the drawing number leads you to the visual aid for making the item. If Page 4 the drawing number and the part number are the same, you run into many new problems. Use separate numbering schemes for the following reasons:

  1. Shorter part numbers.
  2. Fewer bill of material errors.
  3. Fewer drawings - one drawing number can relate to many part numbers.
  4. New part numbers don't require a new drawing.
  5. Drawing revisions don't require new part numbers to be issued

 

 Authored by: Mark Corker, President

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