Monday, November 25, 2013

ERP and Tattoo Decisions

Well, congratulations you have made the permanent decision to get a tattoo.  Hopefully it was a sound mind decision, because they tend to be permanent.  Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) decisions can have the same lasting effect, especially if not made well.


Unfortunately people are not required to be of sound mind when they get a tattoo nor are they required to consult with a trusted advisor or have a required waiting period.  Most of us have seen the person that seems to just keep looking for open patches of skin to get another dose of ink.  Perhaps we have also seen someone who has a plan.  The results are quite different to look at and appreciate.  This is not to say that both types of people do not enjoy their ink.  Typically each tattoo tells a story and has its own meaning to the owner. 


From an outsiders impression there is a difference.  A well executed plan, a vision of the future, what the whole body will look like in the future and the realization that the decisions we make today really do make a difference. 


Each ERP solution had meaning to the business owner when the decision was made.  Each has perhaps a new meaning now.  Remediation and corrections are possible, but each has its associated costs.


What is involved in getting a tattoo? 


Given a little thought, then it might be comparable to what a business might go through to make the sound decision to implement or change an ERP solution. 


Really?  Let us take a closer look.


You start with a decision.  You want a tattoo and it is to be part of a whole body plan.  You want a working ERP solution and it should incorporate the entire organization.  What you have does not satisfy anyone’s needs or work.


You gather ideas.  What would the image look like?  What would operations be like with a working ERP solution.  How will this decision affect the future?  What about what you have now?


You make plans.  Where will you get the work done?  Do they have a good reputation?  Are they clean and sterile?  Do you feel safe working with them?  What support services and fixes will you likely need after purchase?  What kind of experience do they have?  Have they worked with anyone like you or your business?  What if you do not like the results?


You get a consultation.  Get some advice, check qualifications, verify pricing, find out what happens if you are not happy, what happens afterwards, how do you recognize if there is a problem, what are your support contacts?  How do you care for the new artwork?  The ERP solution?  Do they have referrals?


You make a commitment.  Decisions, decisions.  What will you do?  Do you have the resources, are you willing to go through with “it”?  Once you decide to move forward, is there a back door escape route?  What remediation options are there?


You get a design.  Review and approve what the end result should look like.  Trial run, check scale and apply pattern to the area to make sure the fit is right.  What colors, what business impact?  Does it seem right? 


You start with an outline.   It does not happen all at once.  You start with the outline and even though it too is permanent, it does offer an opportunity for check and review.  How is the pain level now?  Will it get better or worse?  Will you be able to tolerate the transition from before to after? 


You fill in the open spaces.  You have the outline, now comes the color.  With any change comes pain.  Nothing that requires this type of commitment is pain free.  Regardless, the image starts to take shape.  The ERP solution is implemented one department at a time.  It might not all get done in one sitting.  Good work takes time.


You get a chance to appreciate the investment.  What was the idea that drove the original decision?  Hopefully it is still relevant.  How did it turn out?  Did you follow the plan?  How long did it take?  How happy are you with the person that performed the work?  What will you be able to do now?  How has it transformed your operations?  What else needs to be done?


You make tweaks to what you have.  What you have is great, but was it a onetime stop that fulfilled all of your needs or was it a stepping stone to a bigger picture?  Sometimes a single image or solution is all you need.  Sometimes you know you need to start by stepping in and fulfill a current need and then add-on to address future needs and growth. 


Tattoo or ERP? 


Both require commitment.  Both are decisions with a long life span.  Both have remediation steps if things go terribly wrong.  Hopefully that will not be necessary, because you took the time to do your research, plan the outcome and secure the resources needed to achieve the desired results.  Both also have great benefits if done right.


More than likely you have or will consult with a trusted advisor.  Someone that has experience in what you are planning.  Someone with experience that can guide you through the process you will likely encounter.  Someone to help you look at what you have with new fresh eyes and supply you with the resources needed to not only make an intelligent decision, but also implement a successful solution.


At Dolvin Consulting we have the experience and partnerships to help you make better informed decisions.  Decisions that will help you to streamline your operations, reduce costs, and increase profitability.  Decisions you will not regret later.  Contact us today to see how we can help.

* Tattoo photograph courtesy of Vincenza (C) 2013

Monday, November 18, 2013

How Bad Does it have to Get?

When was the last time you called the doctor?  Were you barely breathing, having trouble talking, did you have aches and pains?  We know we need regular check-ups and we sometimes actually get the appointments made and actually make the appointment.  Then there are the emergency appointments.  Those do not get missed as often, but only once we realize they are actual emergencies.


After all even if you do take the time to take your temperature and it is higher than normal, how bad does it actually have to be, what impact on your life is significant enough for you to contact a doctor or go to the emergency room?

Budgets are tight all over.  Not that budgets have ever been unlimited, but in recent years the allocation has been challenging at best.  This translates into postponed and scaled back decisions that ultimately can cost more in the long run.  If the impact was only cost, then that might be so bad.  After all money grows on trees, right? 

What happens if the impact is more than just money?  What happens if the regular maintenance or checkups are postponed?  How bad does it have to get before you call for help?

Bert Lance believed that he could save Uncle Sam billions if he can get the government to adopt a simple motto: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." He explains: "That's the trouble with government: Fixing things that aren't broken and not fixing things that are broken."

How do you tell if something is broken and needs fixing or if you are fixing something that is not broken?

An example is using older computer equipment well past its designed lifespan.  It is working after all, why not keep using it?  Never mind security updates, never mind ever increasing maintenance costs, never mind the impact that dependence on a single-point-of-failure would have on operations.  When that piece of equipment goes down, what is the productivity and financial impact to the company when employees cannot perform their duties? 

Hint – The impact is big and has long term implications.

I have had a Return on Investment (ROI) conversations with a company CFO in the past about replacing some older workstations.  He would debate the expense giving the current budget, which was never robust to begin with.  They were on a break-fix model.  As it turns out the new equipment would easily be free based on the return.  The slow speed in which the existing equipment started and took to load programs and to process information was painfully slow.  A new workstation would be so much faster increasing employee productivity that it would pay for itself in labor/time savings.

What about other more complex equipment like servers or network infrastructure?  The security risks alone should be justification, but then I am not the one writing the check.  On the other hand given that data breaches are more easily prevented than remediated, who should make it a priority?  A post breach situation will always be more, a lot more.

So when is it time to contact your doctor? 
When is it time to contact your trusted advisor to get help with the relationship between your employees and your equipment?  How bad does it have to get before you address the issues that increase costs and ruin productivity and operational efficiencies? 

What about your Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution?  How do you tell if it is too old and past its prime?  Good question.  After all you are still processing orders, you still have the customers you always had, your suppliers like doing business with you, there is no competition for your services, you are still making a profit, well, you hope that is the case.

Things change.

Failure to keep up almost always ends up costing more.  The quick catch up needed when you can no longer process what you used to.  The scrambling to find the needed resources when you have equipment errors and you are so far behind there are no fixes available and the only solution is to rush through an upgrade instead of planning and implementing the changes on a schedule that is manageable. 

Sometimes this happens when a vendor says they are no longer supporting your release.  They will still take your maintenance payments and fix any known errors or should I say errors that have known solutions.  Sometimes it is just coincidence, but this seems to happen often.  Companies ignore the out-of-date warnings and then they have problems with real impact.  They go into a panic mode and want to know what they should do.  What can they do? 

It is like the tires on your car. 
You drive around and really do not think about them much until one day you realize that it took way too long to stop or that turn went a bit wide.  Then it occurs to you.  Your tires have become worn or bald while you were concerned with everything else that you have to deal with and the thought occurs to you that you are taking your life in your hands.  It is at this point you make getting new tires a priority. 

The tires did not just go bad in one day.  It happened a little at a time.  You still need tires, you just do not need the worn out ones.  They just cannot meet your needs now.  Did your needs change?  Probably not, but tires wear out and you do not always drive the same route.  Sometimes you need to be prepared when the weather changes for the worse.

What impact does using older technology have on business when we live in an environment of constant flux?  We would like to know what you think.  What impact has ignoring up-keep had on your operations?

Contact Dolvin Consulting today to see how we can help.


Monday, November 11, 2013

Trends in Distribution Management

An overview interview of distribution management software trends in Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solutions.  Five key areas that are a driving concern of any wholesale distributor, distributor or manufacturer are highlighted in this five minute video.


SupplyChainBrain Interview with Joe Scioscia


Interview highlights:

1.       Utilization of Sales Force Tools

o   More information is needed besides just contact management to maximize every sale at the point of customer contact.

o   Product information at the point of contact

o   Order status to provide customer feedback.

o   Customer account information readily available.

2.       Analytics

o   Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems can generate massive amounts of data. 

o   It can be a challenge to spot trends, anomalies or business issues within that data.

o   Present data in a more easily digestible format with charts, graphs and flagging data.

o   Creation of Key Performance Indicators (KPI) to make better and faster business decisions.

3.       Cloud Computing

o   Established already in some industries like payroll and Contact Relationship Management (CRM) and gaining traction in core distribution solutions.

o   Generally a better fit for companies with diverse locations without a need for a heavy Information Technology (IT) infrastructure.

o   Reduced IT management infrastructure.

4.       Warehouse Management Solutions (WMS)

o   Managing their biggest asset, Inventory.

o   Receiving, picking, shipping, and physical inventory benefits.

o   Cut costs, increase productivity and improve customer satisfaction.

o   Locate products more effectively, pick and ship items more rapidly, reduce errors, improve accuracy.

o   Benefits of automation.

5.       Top business requirements

o   Grow business.

o   Increase sales.

o   Reduce costs.

o   Sales force automation to increase effectiveness and maximize sales.

o   Warehouse management to reduce costs and increase accuracy and productivity.

o   Forecasting and purchasing applications to manage inventory levels to have the right products at the right time to satisfy their customers.

The consensus in the interview is not news for those involved in the distribution and supply chain.  How can these organizations optimize their inventory levels in order to provide great customer service and fulfill customer demand in a timely and responsive manner?

These challenges have not changed over time.  What has changed is the way processes can be automated to increase productivity and reduce costs.  New tools provide opportunities if implemented correctly with an ERP solution to fully integrate the organization. 

Whether the tools are in the cloud or on premise, what matters is having a system that fits the culture of the business and is actually utilized.  Typically a few modules at first and then more and more are implemented. 

The goal should be customer fulfillment and satisfaction. 

You get there by utilizing the resources available in the solution you have or are implementing.   That might include analytics or warehouse management and include automation tools like bar coding and scanning, count back inventory picking, shipment verification or physical changes like conveyors and robotics. 

Each organization has its needs and budget to address those needs.  What any building needs is a strong foundation that can support the future needs and growth of an organization. 

How is your organization utilizing its ERP solution to drive efficiency?  We would like to know.  Please share your thoughts here.

Dolvin Consulting works with manufacturers, distributors and specialty retailers to help them streamline their operations, reduce costs and increase operational efficiencies.  Contact us today to see how we can help you look at your organization with a fresh set of eyes.  Many opportunities for improvement are right in front of you and collectively they can be combined to achieve big savings.


Monday, November 4, 2013

When to Upgrade your ERP Solution

The pain associated with upgrading or replacing an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system can often be equated to open heart surgery without anesthesia.  It is not a comfortable situation.  No way around it, there will be a lot riding on any new implementation.   Carriers can rise or fall on the success of a project of this magnitude.    Upgrades can be a little less strenuous, but that too depends on the amount of time passed since any maintenance has been done and number or releases skipped.


In contrast if your organization has picked a solution that matches its enterprise processes and has minimized its modifications, then you are in an enviable position.  It means that you found a good solution, have a great relationship with your ERP vendor and embrace change.  I am not saying any of these things are easy.  When they align with your organization’s mission it becomes easier to stay current.  The work does not go away, but the dues have been paid and the results of staying current are the benefit.  Do you want to work now, upfront or later on an ongoing basis?


Staying current is a critical component to great customer service. 


In what way are you letting your customers know that you value their business?  Saying thank you is a good start.  Showing them that you recognize their changing needs by keeping current is putting your money where your mouth is.  It is one thing to say you value your customers and it is another to show them.


So, when is a good time to upgrade? 


Upgrading only for the sake of upgrading is not a very good reason.  The component to consider is the vision of the future of your particular industry.  What is the Star Trek future vision of your industry?  What would go beyond really-cool and actually make doing business with you an opportunity to grow a relationship. 


Customer satisfaction goes beyond making it easier to do business with you.  It is all about the relationship. 


Ask yourself if you would still purchase from one of your suppliers if their price was a little higher than a new vendor that showed up at your door.  What if the price difference was a lot?  Would the supplier you have used for the last decade work with you to be more competitive, perhaps in ways other than just price, like availability?


Upgrade and new installation projects do not exactly have stunning success rates in general.


Successful implementations do have a common theme.  A project manager, a lot of planning, research and a tough-love approach.  The last thing that you need is a yes-yes person.   It takes a willingness to get out of your comfort zone and to be willing to look at what you are doing with a new set of eyes.


I remember years ago when a friend bought a new red compact pickup truck.  He made sacrifices to get the truck.  I was generally aware that they existed, but it was not until he bought it and was customizing it that I started seeing that type of truck all over the place.  I was now “aware” that there was something else out there.  He wanted a customized solution that represented his vision.  He had vision.  He did not change the truck, it was still a truck.  He changed the way the truck met his needs.  I was now aware of how his customized solution took the basic and tailored it to his needs. 


Other indicators of the need to change. 

·         It takes too many steps, and in particular, manual steps to complete a task.

·         There are too many separate systems. 

·         There are significant differences between book inventory and perpetual inventory values.

·         You have a sense that it is takes too many people to complete simple tasks.

·         You spend too much on technology support.

·         Your customers are doing more business with the competition.

·         You signed on to your own web site and could not figure out how to place an order, could not find a phone number to call or you could not find reach a human being that would listen and let you know that they understood your challenge (regardless of how trivial).

·         Is your ERP solution the solution that supports the majority of business applications and is the repository for the corporation’s information?



When was the last time you called your own customer service department and pretended to be a potential new customer to see how your customers are treated?


The decision to upgrade or implement a new solution is not an information technology decision.  It has to be a business, a business process decision.  Senior management must take ownership of the decision process.  Too much rides on the outcome.


Upgrades should be periodic and deliberate. 


The upgrade decisions must be aligned with the strategy of corporate vision.  The costs must be justified.  They need a project plan and general consensus.  The resources needed must be identified and available.  The alternative is rapid technological obsolescence.


ERP solutions are a critical component of any organization on a growth path.  As many business processes need to be incorporated and integrated in the solution.  The more fully an organization is integrated, the more operational efficiencies can be obtained.  Automation and integration is how you stay competitive.


ERP changes are also a great time for companies to evaluate their current processes and look for opportunities to eliminate custom software, unneeded modifications, and third-party or legacy systems in order to simplify their environments and lower costs of ownership.


Making the decision is not always easy, but the benefits are worth the effort if the process is done right.


What are you doing to streamline your organization?   We would like to hear what you have to say and learn what you are doing.  Contact us today.  We are here to help.  Dolvin Consulting works with manufacturing, distribution and specialty retail companies to help them streamline their computer operations, reduce costs and become more profitable.