Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Problem: Picked/Shipped Wrong Product. Result: Charge-Backs.

Wholesalers move toward intelligent warehouses.  Automation increases inefficiencies.  No matter how modern a warehouse, if it includes overhead costs, paper processing or manual processes, there is room for improvements.  Evidence would be workers sent to the wrong bin slots, picking the wrong products, or shipping the wrong products.

More accurate shipping means less returns and more customer satisfaction.

Intelligent, instrumented and interconnected warehouses enable the ability to respond to supply and demand from market fluctuations.  Purchasing can be done at a more accurate level, which results in not holding on to inventory for extended periods of time.  Something food processors are keenly aware of. 

Monitoring customer needs, having inventory on hand and available, knowing what is happening in real-time.  These are key concerns for any distribution operation.  Automation through bar codes and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags enable automated tracking and inventory processing much faster and accurately than manual paper processing.

Other automations include portable printing systems, such as belt printers, which save time and increase accuracy.  Voice response units enable hands-free picking increasing safety, saving time and energy, and increases accuracy of orders.

How much nicer would it be if your orders were accurately picked and shipped?  Easier on the workers in your operations, easier for customer service, happier customers who receive what they ordered on time. 

The alternative is not attractive:

·         First you get the call from an unhappy customer, resulting in time taken away from production.  Hopefully your customer service people are in a good mood that day and can reassure your customers this is not typical of your business. 

·         Then add the time and effort of the computer entry of the return and replacement orders and resulting paperwork. 

·         Do not forget to add in any time for investigation of what went wrong and supervisor or manager approval of the credit.  Your finance team probably has lots of free time anyway. 

·         Then you end up paying for the return and expedited replacement shipment.  Was this one box or a pallet or entire truckload?

·         Add in the time someone takes to pick the replacement order.

·         Add in the time for someone to receive the original incorrect order, inspection, and restocking efforts. 

Your team has spare time, right?  Your business has grown in this economy and you have extra time and personnel to deal with these issues.  You did not have any overtime situations, because of the extra overhead of incorrect shipments, did you? 

Are you saying that this is just a part of doing business?  This does not happen often enough to worry about.  Nothing can be done about it. 

Would adding automation really help?

Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) that are fully integrated with an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system solve these issues.  Especially if it is the right solution.

Too soon to tell, but is it not worth an investment of some time to know you are doing the best you can?   Maybe you do not solve all your issues today, but you put a plan in place to tackle your challenges so that over time you become more efficient. 

Maybe today is the day you pick up the phone and call Dolvin Consulting to confirm you are already doing everything possible in the area of warehouse automation.  Contacting us is the first step.  It is only a phone call.  Hang up if you like.  Stay on the line to move forward.  No promises, just conversation.  We are not out to sell you anything.  We are here to see if there is a match between your challenges and our solutions.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tips for Improving Warehouse Productivity

Here are a few ideas that you can look at to improve your warehouse operations and how a comprehensive Warehouse Management System (WMS) can be utilized to help.

Challenges and metrics:

·         Transition time between functions.  This can topic can be wide ranging, but an example is how much time exists between the last stage in picking before the next pick operation begins. 

·         Manage lost time.  This would include time between breaks.

·         What physical steps are taken?  Is your warehouse laid out in an efficient pick order?

·         Equipment use?  Do your pick or put-away operations require mounting and dismounting of forklifts?  Could long range wireless scanners record the information?  Are there empty trips from one location to another?

·         Physical inventory?  How often do you count?  How accurate is your inventory (Book versus Physical)?  Do you cycle count?  Are you using automation such as bar codes and wireless scanners?

·         Staging of received or ready-to-ship product? Are there unnecessary steps in your processing?  Is it more efficient to pick one at a time or in batch?

·         Paper trails.  Are your workers waiting in line for paper work?  How many pieces of paper are involved in a single order?  How many orders per day?

·         How is your workforce managed?  Is it a manual process with spread sheets or does your system automatically record and manage your resources?  Find and eliminate non value added activities.


·         WMS will help you determine exactly how long a task takes and how much time lags between steps.  All transactions are recorded automatically (by worker).   

·         Bar coded locations and products will enable automated picking and put-away operations. Voice picking systems will also direct the worker to the next location and verify the pick.

·         Shipment verification.  While this at first seems to add time, it will increase shipment accuracy and reduce the overhead associated with returns and return processing including the finance department, expedited replacement shipping, return shipment costs and lost time to process everything.

·         Count-backs.  When your worker picks 10 boxes and there is supposed to be 15 in that location, are there 5 left?  If not, it is an exception that is flagged immediately and the problems are identified and resolved more quickly.  Increased inventory accuracy results.

·         Increased physical inventory accuracy.  If you are not 99 plus percent accuracy there is room for improvement.  This area has the single biggest Return on Investment (ROI).  Even a small reduction in physical inventory due to increase accuracy and handling translates to big savings.

·         Communications.  An organized environment where everyone knows what they are supposed to do.  An environment where management has the information to make key decisions are the foundation for less frustration and savings.  Get employee/worker feedback.  The best laid plans can fall short if no one understands what they are to do or why they are doing it.

Bottom line.  By establishing key metrics and implementing automation in stages you enable management to go after tasks that are inefficient and pull waste from those functions.  These are the building blocks to lean processing.  Tracking, measuring and reporting needs to become a philosophy in your organization. 

Dolvin Consulting works with Manufacturers and Distributors to help them implement more efficient warehouse processing.  We often do this in stages and the results pay for themselves.  Contact us today for a no-charge initial evaluation.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Without Trust there is Little that can be Accomplished

Is it possible you and your company are not taking advantage of the latest technology to drive efficiency in your operations?  Has the economy parallelized your decision making?  Are you suffering with outdated, non or barely functioning systems?  Have news stories about failed implementations and the associated fallout, job loss, and financial nightmare made it impossible for you to trust anyone.

Trust.  Without it you have nothing. 

Bells and whistles mean nothing on the unemployment line.  You do not need technology.  You need solutions that make running your organization easier.  Your left hand needs to know what the right hand is doing.  All areas of your business need to be tied tightly together with an integrated solution that utilizes an integrated database, that integrates your supply chain, internal operations, and customers.

You know and understand, perhaps agree with the above statements, but is it really true? 

Ask yourself what you did when you last made a significant purchase.  Something out of your own pocket.  You, personally, not your organization.  Each of us has our own threshold of financial significance.  For some new tires for the car is significant.  For others it is a new roof for your house, for some, it is the entire house.  Regardless, when you last had to sign papers, take out a loan, cross your fingers, sweat a little, what did you do before that moment?

Chances are you asked advice from someone you trusted. 

Perhaps a coworker in the case of new tires, perhaps your neighbor who just had his roof done.  Maybe your parents.  What did you ask?  What did you ask first?  In the case of a new roof was it: How did you like the contractor or does your roof leak anymore?  Did they show up on time, work professionally, and complete the job on time?  Did they take the time to prepare you about what the normal steps in the process would be?  Did they review where jobs like yours typically go wrong and what methods they use (with you) to resolve any issues?

What really was most important to them and what is the most important aspect of any solution?

Depending on the project there will be many questions.  Do you even know what you do not know?  I suggest that the relationship you have with your advisor, regardless of the project, is the most important piece of the puzzle. 

People do business with people they know, like and are like themselves and they trust.  It takes time, energy and effort to build a relationship with an individual or organization that can guide you through the maze and constant flux of the change in Technology.  Everything changes quickly.  Equipment seems to be out dated by the time it is out of the box and the wrapper is off.  It does not seem to matter if it is an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution or a new printer for the Finance Department. 

How will it work?  Will my people be able to understand it?  Do they care about me?  Does it matter to them that my reputation and job are on the line?  Every decision I make or take to committee to review reflects on and affects my career?  The economy is too tough for me to take unnecessary risks.  I do not want my consultant to embarrass me.  I need to look good and prove my worth every single day.  I sincerely want to help my company.  Our future depends on it.

How long until I get a complete Return on Investment (ROI)?  What will the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) be?  How do I even calculate something like that? 

I need help, but do not want to be taken advantage of.  I do not mind investing in a consulting firm if they save me from making a big mistake.  The time savings alone of them doing all the leg work would be a load off my mind.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Gain Superior Inventory Management

Gain Superior Inventory Management, Increased Internal Efficiency and Greater Customer Satisfaction.

Sid Harvey’s is a leading wholesaler of refrigeration, air conditioning and heating equipment and parts, operating 75 outlets in 18 states. The company maintains a huge inventory of more than 50,000 items that includes HVAC equipment, refrigerating equipment, ice machines, valves, motors, pumps, controls, instruments and numerous other components that are used by the comfort industry to keep its customers warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

We do not buy technology, we buy solutions that run the company.  We think of it in terms of our customers.  The system will be running when they come to us.  The system is transparent to our employees as well as our customers.  It is friendly to both.

We needed somebody we could talk to, that would listen and understand our needs.

We were looking for a new solution to consolidate our branches.  The choice was to deploy multiple systems throughout the country or one centralized system in our headquarters.  We reviewed our operations and management responsibilities and decided that one system that ultimately gave us better response time was the answer.

It used to take more than eight hours each night to upload, process and download data between our headquarters and branch offices.  Now we have a real-time system.  We get alerts when stock levels reach certain levels.

The IBM I-Series solution has been so reliable.  We really do not have to worry about the system.  We can devote our efforts to our customers.  We needed a fully integrated system including an E-Business solution and the IBM solution integrated everything.

Our conversion was seamless.  We now have greater internal efficiency, higher support levels which have resulted in increased customer satisfaction and loyalty.

We have tighter control of inventory, high demand products are more readily available, and the elimination of some paperwork has freed us up to focus on our customer’s needs.

We hear these concerns from so many people.  You read about these concerns in numerous articles.  It is top of mind.  Companies need solutions.  IBM itself has reinvented itself again to focus on solutions, not hardware.  The hardware is like a bus.  It comes along for the ride and gets you from Point-A to Point-B.  It has to be reliable, but most importantly, it has to let the business focus on their customers, not the technology.

Companies have a lot invested in their current solutions, and might be taking a big risk changing all of that.  Most would rather struggle with the inefficiencies than take advantage of new solutions out of fear of failure.  If a new solution does not work, you might end up out of business or at least out of a job.

If you ask this company if they are happy, they probably would say that they wish they had changed so much sooner.  This is one of the highest complements a solution provider can hear.  It does not mean there was no risk or that there were not issues along the way.  It means they had people with a vested interest in their success working with their team to make sure the solution was a good fit that addressed their concerns and fit their budget. 

There had to be good, if not great, communication and collaboration between the various parties involved in the solution.  This type of interaction is the goal of Dolvin Consulting.  No false promises. Let us look at your challenges and define your needs, then find the best solution available that meets your budget. 

We will help you plan the solution and work with you every step of the way.  Contact us to see how we are different.  No one wants to spend unnecessary funds, however, most will agree that investing in a consultant is far less expensive than canceling a project that has run out of control, over budget, and caused the company to lose market share.

The ball is in your court.  You need to take the first step.  We feel that we can help and want to hear you say that working with Dolvin has been the best part of our solution.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

US Manufacturing is Not Dead

That is the title of a recent article I read online from Forbes (Lara Hoffmans contributor).  The article goes on to state that obviously there has been a decrease in manufacturing that coincides with the economic conditions affecting all of us.  It also points out that US manufacturing is still out produces the rest of the global economy and that industrial production is percentage wise a smaller part of the total US economy than in other countries like China.

The real gem in the article and why it relates to Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, is the efficiency new enterprise solutions bring to companies willing to take a hard look at their current processes.  The article points out that while the jobs associated with manufacturing have fallen, output has actually increased. 

Rising manufacturing productivity means a smaller share of manufacturing employment.

This posting is not intended to be an economics lesson or complete in any other related aspect.  Far smarter people that I have done enough damage to the economy to last several lifetimes, you do not need my analysis. 

What I would like to suggest is that technology solutions have played an integral part in the productivity gains.  The gains alternate between better equipment, better software, better hardware, smarter workers, better management, all of which utilize these improvements, and the process repeats. 

Think how more efficient you are with your own online banking.  You used to get a service, receive a bill in the mail, write out a check, find a stamp, put everything in an envelope, mail it back to the supplier all while hoping the postal system did not have a bad day.  Now you sign on, select the bill to be paid, and click process.  Often this can be set to automatically function.  Please, no judgments of the detail listed here or how many steps are required.  It is obviously much easier and more efficient to process bills electronically today than the manual processing done in the past.

There have always been general improvements and milestone improvements to manufacturing order processing.  The driving forces of milestones are more memorable, but the process and processing have always been in place.  Recent milestones would include opening the Internet to business communities, Y2K preparedness, Dot-Com buildup and of course the recent economic setbacks.

After you squeeze the last bit of productivity out of some equipment, you start throwing people at the problem.  The problem might be a good one, like a new contract for your products.  Then you might try more equipment if it seems like the demand is not a one-time issue.  When this only has moderate effect positive or negative, you start to think more or better management is the solution.  Your organization becomes top heavy with too many layers of management and not enough people producing. 

Sometimes these actions might work for a while, but inevitably you start looking for new technology to drive new efficiencies in your operations.  Improvements in hardware enable affordable improvements in software (ERP solutions). 

Better integration of data processing and manufacturing processing tightens the loop. Say, for example, bar coding, RFID, or wireless communications.  These technologies increase productivity while at the same time reducing the manpower needed to capture and process the information.

You might say at this point that I have bar codes, I have wireless devices, I have implemented conveyors and automated my warehouse with voice picking.  I utilize shop floor data collection.  I capture transactions automatically. 

Maybe you have the pieces, but they do not play well together.  Sometimes it is not what you have, but how you use it.  Were all the parts designed and integrated for the way you are doing business now, today?  Or did you piecemeal the parts bolting them on as you grew. 

I get the picture of the Beverly Hillbillies car right about now.  It had a lot of functionality, got the family from here to there, but is that transportation as efficient as something more new?  After all the roads would support faster transportation, new tires are designed for modern roads, more efficient engines power more aero dynamic vehicles. 

The ERP solution you are using today is just like this example.  A trusted advisor like Dolvin Consulting can give you fresh eyes and perspective to look at your operations.  This does not mean you are doing anything wrong.  Sometimes you just need a fresh opinion.  Sometimes you are doing the best you can with the resources you have and you want to confirm that fact. 

It is rare that the people we talk with need what we have when we contact them or they are in need of a solution, but do not have the budget.  We understand.  We help to educate your team on their options and when the time is right, when you do have a challenge develop or you can allocate monies from your budget, we will be ready to help.  We leverage our knowledge and industry resources to help you achieve your goals. 

There is no one-size-fits-all solution nor is there a one-size-problem.  We are here to help, but you must contact us first.  Reach out today to find out what options you have.  Get a fresh perspective.  Both of our futures depend on it.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Looking for an ERP solution - with interface to a Retail Food POS

Okay, I admit I wrote about a similar type of LinkedIn posting several weeks ago, but somehow I cannot resist adding my unsolicited opinion on this one too.  Mr. R. is taking advantage of social media forums to vet his inquiry about a new solution.  Apparently they have a working POS system and want to replace the back end system to bring that up to speed as well.

With what is no doubt information overload his idea to tap social media to at least get a direction makes sense at one level.  Unfortunately it prompts a Sales-101 type of response from otherwise well meaning people hungry for a sale.  Lookout, it is a Feeding Frenzy for the sharks. 

You see postings like:
·         Let me be the first to tell you how long my company has been in business.  Unless you just incorporated last month, this is irrelevant.  What counts is evaluated experience, not how long you have been doing your job.  Like the sales person in business for two decades and tells you he has twenty years of experience.  By that statement alone, you know he has one year of experience twenty times.

·         Contact me or look at this pretty web site.  Really?  A web search has already overloaded him with 3 million matches.  That is why he is reaching out to social media.  A web site can provide information which you have to sort through, but the marketing information cannot tell you if this solution meets your challenges.  That takes several conversations after which he is then prepared to wander through your web site.

·         Our solution does this or that.  Who cares, when did you ask me if that was a concern?  Who likes the sales person that shows up and then throws up?  I have talked for an hour about myself, now it is your turn to talk about me. 

·         Wait.  Someone actually asked a question.  Congratulations!  Now we might learn why he is even looking in the first place. 

·         Wait again.  Too soon, our question asker gets an answer, then starts giving a solution.  Way too fast.  I know he is trying to be helpful, but by suggesting that some solutions can be integrated with CSV files is a certain recipe for disaster.  The whole idea of an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution is to have integrated systems.  Not one that has to pass information back and forth and who knows how much human intervention that will take.  Okay, you might be able to automate it, but why bother.

·         Great, more information.  Mr. R is responding to the question.  Good, no bad, wait, he wants to update inventory and sales data from the POS to the ERP system.  Do I really need to expand about how bad an idea this is.  Call me if you really need help with this one.

·         We have a proven system.  Great, but has your proven system worked in my industry, with my volume, my customers, my payment types, my anything?  Sounds like he sells cars, run (quickly) or at least change your contact information and hide.  Sorry, no offense to the auto industry, it is just that most of you guys never seem to learn.   Maybe that is where this software company is getting their sales people now.

·         Wait, we not only have a proven system, we can customize it for you.  Glad to know it is flexible.  I am sure it does not matter to you what happens to me if your customizations get me fired.

·         Hey we have an integrated system that includes a POS system.  Great, this is actually a really good idea.  Instead of trying to integrate separate systems, let us start with one that is integrated.  Only problem is, did you ask me any questions about why I was looking in the first place?

·         I represent (insert big company name here).  Wow, I am impressed.

·         Thank you for your inputs (part 1).  This means I am overloaded with worthless information.  I tease you with a statement that I will follow up only certain people that replied.  Maybe you will be one of them.  Maybe everyone will stop replying now.

·         You may want to look at this too.  Okay, so you are late to show up and throw up, so let me mention my company name.  Who knows, after all what does it hurt to buy a lottery ticket?  You cannot win if you are not in the game.

·         Go to this web site and make your own comparisons.  Okay, not a bad idea, but does this site include all solutions or just the ones you get commissions on?  Do I as an end-user have any idea of what questions to ask?  I do not even know what I do not know yet.

·         Thank you all for your inputs (part 2).  This translates to: now I am convinced that I made a bad decision and am totally confused.  I tell myself that I should not have ever tried social media.  I wish I had not run over my kids bicycle this morning on the way into work.  I am looking for the extra caffeine they took out of the decaf stuff to add to my 32 ounce cup.  I think I have a headache, maybe I can get into a small accident on the way to work, nothing too serious, no bodily injury, just enough to turn around and go back home.  Somehow I should have known this was going to be a bad idea.

Okay, I have to admit that writing this was fun.  I do hope Mr. R. finds an appropriate solution.  After all, his job depends on it.  Do you think he would be wasting his time and/or money with a consultant?

Now I hope you understand, I am not a cynical person, but I see this all too often.  I see it online, I see it at networking functions, I see it at the supermarket.  I just thought someone was listening when they outlawed answering unasked questions.

No promises.  No magic wand.  Let us talk about your challenges and see if we can find a solution to match that fits your budget.  If you are looking for perfection, keep looking, because we are not it.  Dolvin Consulting works hard to be a trusted advisor to their clients.  We have a vested interest in your success.  Contact us today if any of this makes sense to you.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

ERP Solution to Improve Efficiency Included Automation

BP Industries, established in California in 1989, is a distributor and exporter of home goods. The S2K Warehouse Management system, along with a portable conveyor system, allowed products to be received more efficiently.  An automated shrink wrap system and RF technology created a complete solution for their business.

Let us start with the end in mind:
·         BP has a dedicated project manager with their solution provider to take care of any issues that come up.
·         The project manager really understands our business.
·         We used to have a difficult physical inventory.  It used to take a full week of shutdown to complete the counting and reconciliation.  Now it takes a day and a half to complete.
·         Customer creditability has increased.  We can now let them know exactly what can and cannot be shipped and when.
·         Our operations are streamlined. 
·         Our employees are cross trained and can fill in where and when needed.
·         We have observability at every step of our operations.

What factors influenced our decision making process:
·         We needed a stable system that could handle the volume of transactions we processed and was scalable for the future.
·         We needed an accurate system.
·         Our previous system had not observability on the warehouse or orders.
·         We could not plan properly.

What contributed to the success of the new system?
·         It took a lot of serious planning to implement automation, including bar coding and warehouse layout.
·         We have fewer errors when replenishing, ordering, and counting.
·         Picking is so much faster. 
·         Receiving is much faster.
·         Put-a-ways are much faster.
·         Processing is much faster.
·         The system is user friendly which makes it easy to transition employees without downtime.
·         It typically takes less than a quarter of the time to do what we did previously.

The story told here is typical when organizations are willing to take an honest look at their current operations, no matter how well they “think” everything is running.  What does it hurt to get another opinion?  Try not to let the thought of having to deal with just another salesperson cloud your view of the big picture when that next salesperson knocks on your door to drop off a business card or when you shake hands with someone at a networking event.  Hopefully that person will ask questions to understand your challenges and how they relate to your operations and profitability. 

It is a shame when someone shows up and throws up.  So much time is lost and a potentially good solution is never tested.  Of course that interaction could be an indication that you do not have the right organization. 

The relationship you have with your solution provider is one of the most important factors when considering a new solution.  There is a real need for communication.  They really have to know and understand what it means to you if orders cannot be processed or a piece of equipment is not functioning properly.  It takes time to build a trusting relationship.  People do business with people they know and trust and who know them.   People do not care until they know you care about them.  This means of course that you need to be honest too.  It cannot be a one-way street or exchange of information.

Dolvin Consulting is different in our approach.  We care.  We may not have a solution for you and we will be the first to tell you that.  We cannot promise anything, except to be honest.  If we cannot help you, then we will do our best to refer you to someone who can.  Contact us today to see if our solutions are a good match for your challenges.

You deserve a competitive edge in today’s business world.  A new ERP solution fully integrating all aspects of your business in one of the wisest decisions you can make.  Let us help you make it a good one.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

What Aspects of an ERP Solution should you look at First?

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system solutions are designed to streamline computer operations so that you become more efficient, reduce costs, and become more profitable.  That is the ultimate goal.  How close you come to realizing that goal will depend on a number of factors. 

Many times this is where a Trusted Advisor adds value and earns their keep.  Many companies will start looking for solutions on the Internet and that is okay.  What did we ever do before Google (or insert your favorite browser name here)?  An advisor helps by streamlining this process.  They should ask lots of questions, begin looking at how you are operating now, find out what could be different, why are you looking, what is your competition doing, etc. 

Are your goals realistic?  Will this or any solution actually help you achieve your goals?

You can certainly narrow down the field of possibilities by doing your own research, but you should keep your mind open.  Your advisor may know valid reasons why the solution you were sure is not a good fit actually solves your challenges.

Regardless of the path you take to narrow your list of potential candidates, there are questions that must be answered.  If you have outgrown your existing system, how soon will the system pay for itself or what is the Return on Investment (ROI)?  Do you have the metrics to make a comparison?  Do you have benchmarks from your existing system?  Have you considered the initial and recurring costs that factor into the Total Cost of Ownership?  What actually makes that up?

Is this going to be your last system?  That may be unrealistic, but perhaps you should act as if it will be.  Does the system have the ability to grow and scale with your growth?  You are planning on growth, right? 

Is this your dream or have you shared your company’s future vision with others in your organization?  Getting acceptance and buy-in is critical.  Those in your organization do not have to like change, but they need to accept it.  How will you gain support for the extra time your people will have to invest during the transition?

When there is a good fit between your challenges and the solution, there is often the remark six months later that “we wish we had done this conversion years ago”.  You goals should include this statement.  It means that the turmoil your organization has transitioned through was worth the effort.  Your systems should be fully integrated.  Management should have the information they need to direct operations in a timely manner and to be responsive to the constant flux in your business.  Floor workers should say something to the effect of “at first we did not see how these steps would help, but now it is so much easier and with the accuracy we have achieved there is actually less work and worry”.

So you have a solution in mind.  You have buy-in from all of your departments.  You are effectively managing everyone’s expectations.  Your people “see” your vision of a more streamlined company where the left hand knows what the right hand is doing.  A world where your customers are happy or at least happier or at least know that you care about them.  Really, a happy customer refers new business, because they like being on a winning team that includes you.  An unhappy customer tells everyone, and I mean everyone, how unhappy they are with your customer service and responsiveness, the wrong shipment items, the late orders, how strained it is talking with your unhappy staff.  This alone is reason for change if your customer relationships are strained.  Not sure?  Ask them.  An absolute great way to find out how good a job you are doing.  What to ask?  How about asking them how they are doing and you are concerned, enough so that you are considering a new system to better serve them and instead of guessing what they might like, you are taking the time to ask them.  What could make doing business with us any easier for you?  Then shut up and listen.

Your advisor should be doing the same with you.  Ask questions, probe like a doctor to find the pain and then find out what you like to do about your challenges.  Say you go to your doctor, because you have some pain and he looks at you and says I know exactly what is wrong, take these pills and call me if the problem does not go away.  Or, would you like the doctor to ask some questions, find out the circumstances and effect of the pain, maybe run some tests and then work on a solution with you that you can actually achieve?

You should know that you may be with this ERP solution for a while, but plan on reevaluating at the three and five year mileposts.  Is the system meeting your fiscal goals?  Have you (when have you) achieved a complete ROI on your investment.  Are your ownership costs in line with where you expected them to be?  If not, why? 

Are you more productive now?  By how much?  Are you shipping more orders, more accurately?  Hopefully this was part of your analysis before you signed the contract. 

You may have to do some homework analysis of your current operations before you begin.  You may have known what happens at some point in time, but how is it working now?  If you do not know how your business functions now, how will you know what to fix and by what measurement will you know if you are successful?

One of the goals should be to minimize the gap between what you company needs and what any ERP solution will provide.  Will you change operations to match the software or update the software to match your operations?  Modifications are truly a twin edge sword.  Plan carefully here.  You do not want to destroy your business, but you also want to take advantage of the new solution.  You should give it a serious look.  This is where you will find so many cost overruns and failed solutions where no one is happy.

Remember that change is inevitable, growth is optional.

Contact Dolvin Consulting today to see how we are different.  We cannot promise you anything, but we feel strongly that we can help.  We do not know who you are so you have to take the first step.  We are not here to sell you anything.  We are here to help you find the best solution to your challenges.