Your Manufacturing ERP Investment: Part IV

Set the Sail

It’s widely accepted that ERP projects require a large investment not only in financial capital but also operationally from the internal resources that make the business run. Human resources are often viewed as an organization’s most important asset. A firm’s profitability hinges on how its workforce operates on a daily basis. Knowledge and experience of the workers can make or break a company in today’s competitive manufacturing marketspace.

Similar to the captain who depends on the experience of a well-trained crew while battling the elements on the open sea, today’s manufacturing workforce is relied upon to keep the business running smoothly through challenging times.

From my firsthand experiences within various manufacturing industries throughout my career, I have observed that some of the best advances and process improvements come from the floor; from those that produce and ship the products. ERP implementations often introduce new and different ways of doing the daily tasks and those individuals who perform them need to be engaged and part of the solution long before the switch is thrown. Who is better suited to test the new solutions than those who run these operations?

Test the Water for Smooth Sailing Ahead

Testing the waters is vital to an organization’s continued success with a new ERP system. Some companies fail to invest in the training of the workforce and testing of the new solutions upfront. Instead they opt for trial by fire as their course of action for even their most important assets. Unfortunately, most of these companies get burnt by this decision and face turbulent waters when sailing into unchartered territory with an inexperienced crew.

Determine Your Testing Plan Strategy

Testing plans vary based on the size and complexity of the project. However, good test plans contain the following essential characteristics:

  • Involve the users who perform the functions routinely on a daily basis
  • Conducted in smaller, manageable sections (process or sub-process specific topics and functions)
  • Facilitated before Go-Live and final acceptance/sign-off of implementing the solution
  • Iterative process where objections or proposed alternatives are taken into consideration
  • Involves hands-on exercises and not simply PowerPoint presentations

All Hands on Deck

It’s crucial for this test phase that all those who perform the daily tasks take part. It is now the role of the core team to help facilitate the process to insure that inter-departmental transaction processing is taken into account with subject matter experts participating from all impacted departments. This insures that the decisions will be made in light of how all parties are affected with the goal of a mutually agreeable and acceptable outcome.

Third Party Involvement & Transition

Most ERP implementations are guided by a third party consulting firm or partner. While the mentoring and direction is provided by the consulting firm, the ownership of the final testing and test plan rollout falls to the company who will ultimately run their business on the new system.

Establishing the Test Plan is the final crucial step in the transfer of ownership solution and requires a substantial investment of time from both the core team and the consulting firm. Once the test plan is agreed upon, it becomes the core team’s responsibility to engage the user community in participating in the testing sessions related to their daily routines.

As issues are encountered or objections/criticisms are offered, the core team will assess the importance of these and determine if potential alternatives are necessary. It is at this crucial point that the company begins to own the solution while the consulting firm begins to guide, rather than lead, the client to the final stages of system implementation and acceptance.

Analogous to the captain who looks for familiar landmarks signaling that the destination is not much farther ahead, the organization’s ERP project manager leads the core team to key decisions during testing that assures that the ship arrives safely into port.

(An overview of the complete series is available here.) 

– Software Delivered as Promised. No Surprises.

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