Monday, February 25, 2013

It is Supposed to Work

A new solution, regardless if it is an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution or a new desktop workstation, smart phone or any other piece of technology for that matter, has an expectation from the owner of a working, productive condition when it is new. 

After all, that is usually why older equipment is replaced.  There comes a time that the risk of downtime and inconvenience, support, maintenance and liability is outweighed by the replacement costs.  Most new hardware has increased performance and reduced energy consumption along with included initial warranty, that the Return on Investment (ROI) is quickly achieved.

Another reason for change is a switch in platform that necessitates different equipment.  Or, a new version that has new requirements that are not met easily with older equipment or would not run at all.  For example, how quickly did your new smart phone become obsolete after you purchased it?  Now do you consider yourself “stuck” in a two year contract?

New equipment is not immune to problems.  Especially in technology.    

For example, servers are tested thoroughly for compatibility, but even they are not immune to problems, even out-of-the-box.  As for computerized systems, it is why we add antivirus solutions as one of the very first steps.  We want to protect the equipment from getting corrupted from external influences. 

Workstations are even more prone to problems.  They have such varied sources of components that each one will work and operate differently.  Some will work fine until an operating system patch is applied that fixed a different system and now breaks another one.

Larger organizations have grown accustomed to the one-in-a-hundred systems not working as designed.  They average it out among all of the equipment and chock it up to the cost of technology.  Larger organizations also typically have in-house personnel to handle the deployment.  They have the resources to absorb the additional cost.  Averaged out, it is not too bad on budget and becomes part of the operating budget.

What happens to the small company that simply wants a new workstation to replace one that has grown old an unreliable and that new computer is one of the one-in-a-hundred?  They do not have an in-house person and rely totally on external help. 

There is so little margin on new equipment that installation, setup, configuration, testing, and deployment are charged services.  A long time ago there was money made by selling equipment and a vendor could throw in setup.  Today, there is too little margin and unless the vendor has a bunch of low paid people sitting around with nothing to do, they have to cover costs. 

Granted, a lot of new workstations set themselves up fairly well with a limited number of questions.  That is until there are so many patches that have to be initially applied that they fail due to incompatibility with themselves.  Microsoft comes to mind here.  I have personally worked on several machines lately that have had this problem.  The magnitude of updates have to be grouped and applied a few at a time.  Taking a lot of time to deploy.   You could ask why the vendor has not created a service pack to group all of the fixes properly.  Why are they creating an operating system that needs so many patches in the first place?  What is so hard about making a secure operating system that the world does not want to hack in the first place? 

There is no error free code, none, but when there are so many fixes, you start to wonder if the technology is based on faulty building blocks.

Apple is not immune to problems either, but due to their market share and proprietary systems, problems seem to be less frequent.  It makes a case for proprietary systems.  A consistent user experience that is reliable, stable, and works as designed.

Ultimately we get through the updates and get on to business and the inconvenience and expense is written off, but at what cost?  Is that customer satisfied that you did all that you could and did your very best.  Do they blame the manufacturer or the installer?

Who takes responsibility?

Usually, the client support person/company assumes the risk, reward, blame and success or failure.  Sometimes it really is just a spin of the wheel.  You get a good machine, you get a bad one.  You can write as much legal-ease as needed to cover yourself, but once the trust is gone, it is gone.

It is important to manage expectations.

Part of the trouble with technology is that people expect it to be like a blender or something less complex.   If technology worked the way it was designed, the first time, every time we would all be out of business. 

Regardless, it is not a matter of being right or wrong, it is a commitment to make things right that matters most.  A customer wants to know they have an advocate they can trust.  It goes back to a the theme I repeat weekly.  Customer service is and should always be the first priority.

We hope that your investment is worth the effort and you achieve the results you expect at a cost that is both predictable and manageable.  At Dolvin Consulting we are here to help.  We are human and have the same expectations that you do that new equipment should work as designed.  We also work hard to make things right when they do not go as planned.  Contact us today, if you feel the same way.


Monday, February 18, 2013

Striking a Balance

“Striking the perfect balance between achieving operational efficiency while maintaining customer satisfaction and reducing costs is an ongoing challenge facing all companies,” said Pete Zimmerman, manufacturing segment manager of VAI. “Kwik Goal is ahead of the curve in terms of implementing streamlined and cost-effective manufacturing processes.  We are proud that Kwik Goal has been using S2K Software for nearly 20 years to grow its business, minimize costs and maximize profitability, and this is evidence of their commitment to customer excellence.”



There may not much need to read further if customer satisfaction is not part of your company’s goals.  Everyone in the Enterprise Resource Management (ERP) solution arena, including me, is talking about operational efficiency, reducing costs and increasing profits.  After all that is one of the chief reasons for implementing or changing/upgrading what you are using now. 

What only a few in the industry are keying in on is the concept that without happy customers an efficient operation is relatively worthless.

The result for Kwik Goal with VAI is that they have automated and integrated operations across all key functions including accounting, inventory and warehouse management, order fulfillment and distribution.  This has resulted in reducing costs, saving time and improving overall customer service.

Do you think their customers appreciate the effort?  Would you, if you were their customer?  What about your customers?

“We needed an ERP solution that seamlessly integrated within our existing IT infrastructure and enabled us to scale as our business grows,” said John Huhn, manager of information services, Kwik Goal. “With VAI’s S2K Software, we have a system that allows us to have complete visibility and control of our entire business processes including inventory, ecommerce, order tracking—which in turn, enables increased up-selling and overall sales. Our partnership with VAI has been a success from day one and we’re looking forward to further developing this relationship.”

The more fully integrated your solution the better communication and efficiency of operations. 

Imagine your brain separated.  Left brain, right brain.  In the 1960s, there was no other cure for people who suffered from a special kind of epilepsy than by cutting off the connection, corpus callosum, between the two hemispheres.  After surgery the patients were able to lead a somewhat normal life, but often it resulted somewhat odd behavior. 

How effective would your operations be if none of your departments talked to one another.  How “odd” would that be?

As a result, Kwik Goal has realized significant business benefits from this installation including:
 •Reduction of Human Error, Manual Processes and Employee Resources.
 •Rapid Implementation.
 •Seamless Integration of VAI S2K.
 •More Efficient and Up-to-the-minute Inventory Management.
 •Integration with Varsity Shipper for International Shipping.

I am a real fan of any process improvement that reduces manual processing. 

I remember talking to a friend about his business several years ago.  I was asking about how his systems talked.  He said that he was actually in the process of building an interface which would integrate two systems.  He said one was relatively inexpensive in which his staff could create a batch and import it to another system.  It would help and not require a big investment.  The other solution was more involved, cost more upfront, but would not require any intervention. 

We both nodded identifying what we each thought the other would value most.  He thought that I would like the idea of cheaper solution.  After all I too run a small business where every penny counts.  I thought he would appreciate his operations running without having to worry about who was in the office, if they were having a good day or who would cover if they were on vacation or out sick.  The return on his investment would easily cover the manual processing, let alone the benefit of being able to concentrate on his business, not running the daily operations.  More time for customer interaction and service!

In what areas would your business flourish with streamlined operations? 

What more could management do if they had real-time information at their fingertips.  Snapshot views that allow drill down capabilities for in depth analysis when needed.  All departments communicating efficiently?

At Dolvin Consulting we work with industry experts like VAI and IBM to help organizations like yours look at what you are doing and how you are doing it, with the goal of achieving better operational efficiency, reduced costs and increased profits.  Profits that can be used to further improve customer service.  And yes, the best possible customer service.   

Contact us today.  No false promises, just a commitment to do the very best we can to help you move forward to help your customers.


Monday, February 11, 2013

Seamless Integration, High ROI

With Agile and VAI working together, Berk has gained a seamless transportation and ERP system. As Dan Bivona, Sales Director at VAI, says; “VAI strives to incorporate innovative solutions such as provided by Agile to help our customers become more profitable. We believe the Agile solution interfaced to VAI S2K Enterprise enhances our offerings to existing customers and prospects considering an ERP Solution.”


Ø  Key words here are “working together”, “VAI strives”, “help customers”, “enhances our offerings”. 

Ø  VAI is a company that is always looking to improve operational efficiency which drives profitability for their customers.  A win-win.  If there customers do well, then they do, but the key is the customer comes first.


The integration of AgileElite and VAI’s S2K has so far vastly improved rating, routing, planning, optimization, execution and reconciliation capabilities. This has resulted in a reduction of employee resources and errors in invoice reconciliation, and has provided transportation visibility and control that will set the stage for renegotiation of their carrier contracts providing a 10-20% reduction of transportation costs.


Ø  “Vastly improved…” is an indication the results are significant.

Ø  Reduction of employee resources and errors is a good thing.

Ø  Greater visibility and control resulting in reduction of costs is also a good thing.

The return on investment is estimated to be less than one year.

Berk’s old approach involved manual processes such as using carrier-supplied systems and third party freight brokers.  There was no method of comparing transportation options across multiple modes of delivery and no routing to determine the best cost or time in transit.  All processes were previously conducted offline from VAI’s S2K ERP application.  After consulting with VAI, Berk identified Agile Network as a prime candidate to provide a comprehensive transportation solution.


Ø  Manual anything is a gap that will increase costs, errors and overhead in any operation regardless of the solution.  This is an industry constant.

Ø  Having more information to compare improves decision making.

Ø  Comprehensive, in this case, means we are looking at more information in a consolidated way.

Agile was selected based on their best practices approach to measuring, controlling and reducing transportation costs by leveraging their AgileElite transportation management system. Close attention was also paid to Agile’s ability to implement rapidly and provide seamless integration to VAI’s S2K ERP application.


Ø  I would select them too, if they could actually deliver consolidated industry information, offer seamless integration and great ROI.


·         Manual and offline processes used.

·         No control or visibility of transportation costs.

·         No method of comparing options across multiple modes of delivery.

·         No method to measure, verify or contain carrier costs.


Ø  These are common traits distribution and manufacturing companies deal with.

Ø  None of them are good.

Ø  All of them increase costs, errors, and overhead.



·         Rapid implementation.

·         Seamless integration to VAI S2K.

·         Reduction of transportation costs.

·         Control and standardization of processes.

·         Accurate freight quotes up front.

·         Reduction of employee resources and errors in invoice reconciliation.

·         Eliminated the need for an LTL freight broker.


Ø  Rapid implementation means a greater and quicker ROI (the money you invest is returned with interest).

Ø  Seamless integration means your people do not have to do anything to make it work.

Ø  Reduction in costs means more profits.

Ø  Control is good.

Ø  Accuracy is good.  Customers get what the expect, when they expect it, at the cost quoted.

Ø  Reallocate employee resources to areas that need more manpower.

Ø  Eliminate unnecessary resources also controls costs and increases profit.s


CAPABILITIES REQUIRED (Berk identified the following key system requirements):

·         Tight integration to VAI’s S2K ERP application, residing on the IBM iSeries.

·         Deployment of Agile software as invisible components behind the scenes of VAI's S2K application.

·         Control and visibility of transportation costs using a best practices methodology.

·         Ability to control the parcel life cycle process.

·         Ability to identify late and lost shipments and provide complete reconciliations.


Ø  Tight, seamless integration means less overhead, a system that works and has great return potential.

Ø  Behind the scenes means someone has done their job.  It means that a coordinated effort has resulted in positive growth.

Ø  Control and visibility are key components that management needs to make quicker more accurate decisions.

Ø  Increased accuracy and observability of the inevitable errors means the profits stay in house.



It is obvious why VAI has highlighted this success story.  What may not be so clear at first glance is what happened behind the scenes.  Berks has a true, trusted partner with VAI.  This is an invaluable business relationship.  Who do you work with now that you consider a trusted advisor?  Do you trust them to give you solid advice or to point you in the right direction, even if they cannot help? 
Berks took the time to identify an area in need of improvement and worked with their trusted advisor to come up with a solution that did not increase their operational overhead and did what was promised.

Who are you trusting now? 

At Dolvin Consulting we cannot promise the world or that you can even achieve results like what was noted in this article.  We can promise to do our very best to connect you with the resources you need to move forward.  Remember that the result is evident in the return on investment and that there will always be upfront costs, but in the end should you should be able to sleep better at night. 

Contact us today to see how we can help.


Monday, February 4, 2013

Flexibility to Drive Greater Productivity

Companies hope and pray that they will prosper and grow when they empower their employees to drive results.  Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems today provide a wealth of applications and functions that can sometimes overwhelm the user and hinder productivity.  So what differentiates helpful productivity and being overwhelmed?

You have to ask yourself first and foremost is what my company is investing in, is it something that empowers the employees to deliver better, quicker, more accurate customer service? 

All the technology in the world will not improve a bad attitude.  It is akin to so many other industries.  30 years ago you would see a dozen or more guys swinging hammers to frame a house.  Today you see two or three using pneumatic nail guns.  These few guys do more work in less time, because they have the right tools.  Someone, somewhere figured out how to build a tool that would increase their productivity.  The first Salesrep had a challenge convincing the contractor that this “expense” was really an “Investment”.  Yet today you do not even consider it an option to equip the people working with the right tools.

Businesses tend to run in various degrees of one or two camps. 

The first is- show up to work, sit at your desk, answer the phone, key orders, do not talk to anyone else, keep to your break times and go home when your shift is over or later in case they need more from you.  These workers are not very inspired to do little more than the minimum.  If the customer is happy great, if the customer is unhappy, oh well.  What incentive do they have other than their own self esteem to do little more.  Where has this organization empowered them?

The auto industry faced similar challenges.  What they ultimately found out was they had people working the assembly lines.  When you treat people as intelligent humans they respond in kind.  The auto manufacturers added pull-stops along the assembly line.  Any worker, at any time could halt production.  Pretty scary.  What happened is the workers felt they made a valuable contribution and their opinion counted.  Productivity and quality both went up.

So in the second camp, what happens when you give your users the ability to configure their own screens with the exact applications and information that is important to their role?  Employee productivity increases which allows the user to react quickly to business demands. 

Who has not seen this when you call customer service at some company and the person at the other end of the phone says, wait, let me check on that for you.  Are you not impressed that you do not have to wait on hold, get forwarded to someone else, pray that they actually do call you back?  You respond in kind as does the customer service person.  How likely are you shop there again, even if you did have a problem.  Did you say thank you to that person, even though you called with a problem?

What happens when your ERP solution enables your people with:

·         Anytime, anywhere access?

·         Access from any device with a Browser?

·         Seamlessly integrates with other Web Applications?

·         Enables Social Possibilities?

·         Configurable to meet the user’s needs?

Ask yourself this basic question:  In business today does growth just happen?  Or, do you make it happen.

A key part of any organization's growth strategy should involve leveraging technology to transform the business.  With the right technology, you can improve operational processes, create efficiencies throughout the organization, expand relationships with suppliers, and continually improve customer satisfaction.

Staying ahead of your competition should not be just a wish. 

By providing a superior level of service to your customers, you let them know you care and their business is important.  If there is any doubt that this is the right strategy, just look back and think about how you have been treated, whether for a personal transaction or for business.  Who would you do business with again?

At Dolvin Consulting, we pride ourselves on doing the very best we can.  Every day we work harder, because like everyone else we are human.  We are here to help.  We have access to great solutions from key industry providers that will help you take the next step forward.  Contact us today to see what options you have.