5 Questions on Technology Selection

Posted in: Uncategorized- Feb 28, 2018 No Comments

By SYSPRO USA Distribution, Manufacturing, Miscellaneous

I am a great believer in moving with the times and making sure that I use the most appropriate and up to date technology when delivering solutions to my customers. So I read with interest an article that mirrored my philosophy almost exactly.

I para phrase but in essence the article was warning against choosing ERP systems with ageing core technologies and modern flashy front ends. I couldn’t agree more. Where my views differ slightly is that I believe no single technology can cover all aspects of an ERP system and that it is essential to use a blend of technologies applying the most appropriate to the task in hand. I am also very wary of the next “latest and greatest”, our industry is littered with products written to the latest craze only to find the fashion has been dropped a year later.

Choosing an ERP system is probably the most important decision a board of Directors will do in their careers. They will be choosing a product and a supplier that will be with their company for the next 10 to 15 years (and often longer) and if implemented successfully will provide significant benefits to the business.

So whilst the technology decision is an important one there are a few other areas you should consider.

Does your intended supplier have a track record of enhancements and technology migration that doesn’t require you to buy the software again at a later date?
Is the product based on sound industry standards and not any weird proprietary database or programming language?
Does the product work “out of the box” requiring little modification but flexible enough for you to change business processes without needing changes from the author?
Does the software have the ability to be easily customized to your unique business needs? And will you need to reapply these customisations when migrating to the next version of software?
Is the product you are contemplating buying one of a stable of conflicting products. Are you being sold the correct one? Can you migrate from one to another at a later date without being charged? What guarantee have you that the product you are contemplating won’t be dropped in favour of another newer and shinier one?

Despite the interesting technology arguments the most important component in your decision is a partner that can implement systems successfully. Without an implementation partner that has a proven track record of implementing systems that actually work you can have the best technology in the world and it will do you not an iota of good.

Do you know how much your inventory is costing you?

Posted in: Uncategorized- Feb 27, 2018 No Comments

By SYSPRO USA Distribution, Manufacturing

Some people like cars, some have an affinity for sport, while others can discuss the sheen of their pet’s coat for hours on end. We all have our own weaknesses … or strengths depending on where you stand on dog fur. My passion is food. Sometimes healthy, occasionally cholesterol-inducing, butter soaked sheer indulgence.

This infatuation has got me thinking about what’s in my pantry, how it got there and how the costs are split up during the process from creation to consumption.

From a supply chain perspective, here at SYSPRO we often find that our customers only know the value of their inventory that is tied up in capital. This makes sense as it can be the largest asset on the Balance Sheet.

Customers do not always recognise the expense of ‘holding’ inventory. This expense includes the lesser acknowledged expenses such as storage, insurance and security to mention a few.

Let’s look again at my pantry. The pumpkin seeds like the cool dry environment but the flax seeds are best kept in the fridge to maximize their shelf life.

It is evident that my flax seeds will attract more overheads insofar as electricity usage in order to keep them fresh and prevent spoilage. If I grind the flax seeds to a flour in my nifty coffee mill (much to the disgust of my partner), I need to take further care of this valuable resource. I now need to place it in an airtight container in the fridge and, besides the additional direct cost of processing the raw material, a further indirect cost is added with the use of a special container and the continuous storage in the fridge.

In most ERPs the effort is in identifying these costs and attributing them to the product to initiate specific action. The goal can be to manage and control your inventory levels or, alternatively, exploit the combined costs of acquiring and carrying inventory into deriving order quantities.

Ultimately, there is not only one answer and the inventory in my pantry is my risk and my responsibility. I need to identify acquisition costs which include counting stock on hand now, and then deciding on what my stock levels should be in order to bake a loaf of bread and, of course, how much my expenditure will be when I have to visit my friendly grocer to replenish stock.

I also need to identify my carrying costs, which include various containers for storage and controlling the environment by keeping it cool or cold depending on the product itself.

Lastly, I need to decide on the form of my stock. It could remain in the raw material state or it may be suitable to rework it a bit into a partially complete product or just store it as a finished item ready for consumption.

5 Traits of a Great ‘ERP-centric’ CIO

Posted in: Uncategorized- Feb 26, 2018 No Comments

By SYSPRO USA All Industries

A great CIO is a rare hybrid: one part businessperson, one part computer geek. We so often see in ERP implementations, success requires a CIO who is willing to stand behind the process and drive the necessary organizational change.

The modern business cannot afford to run its information technology as an ad hoc sidebar to its business processes. Its CIO must take responsibility for implementing and sustaining a technology infrastructure that is consistent with growth and strategic objectives.

Leveraging knowledge of technology to meet the needs of the business is the name of the game. A great CIO really understands operations, and can relate professionally and personally to senior management.

If you’re a CEO looking for that perfect CIO to take your business forward, or a CIO wondering if you have what it takes, below are some critical characteristics every great CIO should display proudly:

Always learning and growing

To be successful at any level of IT, you must always be learning. If you don’t, you’ll be left behind. This is even truer for more senior personnel. A great CIO ensures they stay ahead of emerging trends and be able to harness the optimal infrastructure for company growth.

Master of communication

Establishing and maintaining your communication and relationship-building skills is essential. A great CIO knows how to work with internal groups (developers, support techs, senior management, database administrators, project managers and every department head) and external vendors.

Business and industry knowledge

Knowing the ins and outs of all your hardware and software is where the job starts. What separates the good from the great is knowing your company’s business well and all the details that surround the industry.

Ability to market ideas and influence people

A CIO has to be effective at getting people on board with vision and solutions. CIOs need to be able to articulate the value proposition of any given project and align various people, departments and vendors around a common goal.

Recognizing and growing talent

One of the most important skills is the ability to recognize, secure and retain good people. It’s impossible for a CIO to know and understand everything there is within the range and scope of technology. Surrounding themselves with talent and brains is the best move a CIO can make.

Great CIOs are constantly looking for ways to increase ROI on ERP and other technology investments, and should be able to clearly articulate a path forward for the infrastructure of the business. This means a strong focus on technology, deployment, innovation, and cost reduction within the company’s infrastructure. Knowing this, an effective CIO creates the platform for business growth and is an essential part of the executive team.

Protecting Your ERP Data

Posted in: Uncategorized- Feb 25, 2018 No Comments

By SYSPRO USA Distribution, Manufacturing

Protecting Your ERP Data

When the subject of corporate data security comes up, the conversation usually turns to outside influencers such as hackers, malware, internal espionage and high-profile breaches. Those are issues that every company should protect against, but they are not the topic of my blog today. What I’d like to address are basic security measures that will protect your data (and your ERP investment) from the mistakes of well-intentioned employees.

It may seem difficult to believe, but I have a customer that continues to allow its employees to log in to their ERP software without a password. Why? It’s faster and easier, they claim, they trust their employees, and they have a strong firewall to protect them from external threats. Besides, their data is backed up regularly, and not interesting or high-value enough to attract attention from the criminal element. So what’s the big deal?

From the support-desk perspective, it’s potentially a very big deal. I have seen it happen in the past, and I will no doubt see it again: a user can’t complete his job because some admin task hasn’t been done. Thinking that they’re being clever and helpful, they simply log in as Admin and make what they believe are appropriate changes.

Some users have gained a little ERP knowledge over the years – just enough to make a little change and create a very large and often complicated problem. With the best of intentions, they’ll commit an admin faux pas, such as changing the module setups or invoice numbering while other users are still on the system. It takes, typically, a deeper level of knowledge to know that there are tasks that need to be performed when users are not logged in, and that some setup options, once selected, should not be deselected. You often need more-than-superficial knowledge to make the setting change without impacting on the whole module.

Administrator rights for accessing a change of settings should not be gifted to just any old Joe. Placing all of your users into the Admin group is never a good idea. Make an investment in security and efficiency by setting up your users in groups that match their tasks. In the long run, doing this will save you time, and it will also make it harder for accidents to happen. If users have multiple roles within a company, they can always be setup with sub-groups that allow them to complete their appointed tasks.

You can easily take this one step further, by setting up customized “Roles”. This makes users’ screens less cluttered, allowing them to focus exclusively on the fields they need.

Role-based security is an optional feature that consolidates existing security functions within SYSPRO, allowing them to be configured by role. Enabling an administrator to assign an operator to a role provides a much simpler mechanism for managing security – especially when dealing with a large number of users, or when adding new ones.

Role-based security consolidates the following ERP features:

User Interface
eSignatures (previously configured by system, company, group or operator)
Program Access (previously configured by group)
Activities and Fields (previously configured by operator)
Access Control (previously configured by operator – this includes items such as warehouse, branch, bank, job class, account and contact properties)
Workflow settings

SYSPRO ships with a list of standardized roles within Role Management. When Role Management is set up for the first time the option is provided to import this list, which contains generic roles that SYSPRO has identified as part of any organization which purchases, manufactures and distributes items. The list can be imported and maintained in the organizations structure as required, and will help with the speed of setup and administration. Importing the standard roles does not delete or overwrite any roles you may have previously defined.

Knowing When (And How) To Purge

Since we’re talking about internal security and well-intentioned mistakes, let’s spend a moment on the “Purge” function in all the sub-ledger modules. Purge means delete. Definitely an Admin-Only function! Once purged, your data has been wiped away – it’s gone forever, unless you have a vital, valid backup. Some users may not realize the irrevocable nature of the Purge command, and that is why security around purge programs needs to be exceptionally tight.

For legislative and tax purposes a company needs to keep a number of year’s records on file. Within the Module setup, on the History Tab, you may select the number of months to retain records. This should be double checked before the Purge function is run. And when the time comes to purge I always recommend that the company be copied into a “test” company before the command is given – this access should also be an Admin Only task.

10 Good Reasons to Automate your Supply Chain

Posted in: Uncategorized- Feb 24, 2018 No Comments

In recent years, manufacturers across the globe have felt the painful pinch of contracting economies. This trend looks set to continue in 2016 and on into 2017 with expectations of further downward pressure casting a pallor on the future of the sector.

But all is not lost. As a result of currency weaknesses and economic challenges, manufacturers have been forced to identify the factors that increase productivity and provide a significant competitive advantage.

This leads to the obvious question: where are the areas of major productivity improvement? One immediate answer is through supply chain automation.

A large number of manufacturing execs are taking steps towards increasing productivity through supply chain automation. Supply chain automation can accelerate the rate at which products and services move from suppliers to customers, while reducing costs and growing the bottom line.

There are several compelling drivers for COOs to implement supply chain automation. These include:

Decreasing operating costs

Supply chain automation helps reduce labour costs. It can also reduce inventory, warehousing, and overhead costs associated with inventory storage, including rent, labour and energy costs.

Increasing productivity

By optimizing current resources, including enabling the ability to work around the clock, companies can gain up to 20 percent more productivity in areas that have been automated.

Improving accuracy

Automation can reduce errors associated with manual processes, as well as help plan cost control by providing accurate, real-time information on inventory levels.

Increasing volume

In a manufacturing scenario, automation can increase the volume of product that can be produced. Automation will incorporate the skills of trained workers with the accuracy of automated equipment thereby increasing productivity.

Improving workplace safety

With a reduction in labour-intensive work, automated equipment has the added benefit of reducing worker injuries.

Integrating with large suppliers

The ability to integrate systems with that of large suppliers is a huge advantage of automation, and a strong foundation upon which to partner with conglomerates.

Improving time savings

By streamlining business processes, supply chain automation boosts time savings by reducing the time associated with implementing labour-intensive tasks like accounting. This reduction in manual processes can save manufacturers vast amounts of time and money.

Improving compliance

Depending on the industry, automation can greatly help your organization’s ability to comply with industry standards. Compliance can be maintained via automation by standardizing pricing, products and vendors.

Decreasing operating costs

Supply chain automation helps reduce labour costs. It can also reduce inventory, warehouse, and overhead costs associated with inventory storage, including rent, labour, and energy costs.

Reducing environmental footprint

Automation can impact the environment in a positive way, especially if your organization’s objective is to go paperless. By eliminating the paper and energy necessary to print documents, automation can help reduce a manufacturer’s carbon footprint.

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) is key to an automation project. ERP software automates and integrates core business processes such as customer orders, scheduling operations, inventory records and financial data. ERP software can drive huge improvements in the effectiveness of any organization, including manufacturing, distribution, finance and reporting and analysis.

In my next blog I will take a look at how to efficiently automate your supply chain.

Keeping Business Solutions Innovation Simple

Posted in: Uncategorized- Feb 23, 2018 No Comments

By Kevin Dherman All Industries, Distribution, Manufacturing

Why shouldn’t you let a Pokémon shower with you? It might Pikachu.

Apologies. I couldn’t resist.

Love it or hate it, Pokémon GO has become a global phenomenon. Bigger than Candy Crush, less useful than Gangnam Style, and unfettered by generational barriers, this location-based augmented reality mobile game has become the most talked about app on the planet.

The relentless fascination with these little digital monsters immediately gets me thinking about innovation and how it impacts on our society.

Whether we’re talking cars, digital games or even enterprise software, innovation is often thought of as the process of adding features or substituting new functionality with old. But some of the best innovations come from subtraction or the prudent removal of features from a product that has become too complicated or expensive.

It’s counterproductive, perhaps, but many of the problems we wrestle with daily exist because products have become over-engineered for their purpose. This is especially significant with digital products like mobile apps, websites, and software. Many have become Frankenstein’s monster, built from pieces of functionality sewn together and bolted onto what was once a simple and elegant solution.

Before Cloud and mobile apps, “bloatware” was fairly common due to professionals throwing everything (including the kitchen sink) into a product spec. Solutions were measured on the total functionality they could deliver – whether relevant or not. Today’s development requires deep insight and ruthless focus, which often means stripping away the bells and whistles and focusing, instead, on core intended purpose.

Overly complex products negatively impact both the company that makes them and the people that use them. Supporting or manufacturing a feature that only a minority of people need can be an expensive drain on resources that could rather be used to improve the user experience.

In fact, the more features there are, the more potential points of failure there will be. From the user’s perspective, complexity makes the product more difficult to use or more expensive to buy. Another problem lies in the fact that a multifunction product may not be as good at each function as an item specifically dedicated to that unique purpose.

In the software and business solutions environment, the shift towards minimalist features is one outcome of the move to the Cloud. The old approach of creating complex, multi-year product roadmaps that tried to provide for every conceivable user case is over. Software engineers should be focusing on creating and rapidly delivering simple, usable products that deliver the essential functions and a great user experience.

As users’ needs change and evolve, it’s wise to consider chopping features that no one likes or uses. Of course, the ideal is not to get caught up in feature-creep in the first place. For example: if ten people were all trying to create the best Cloud accounting solution, you would be flooded with ten sets of different ideas about which features the product absolutely must have. The trick is to focus instead on the features the product can’t possibly do without.

We have found this particularly true of ERP technology where the majority of our customers are looking for sound and practical guidance when implementing business software. But cloud, mobile and big data analytics have completely shaken things up; and with things like IoT, RFIDs and geospatial context awareness becoming part of our reality, the future looks set for exciting innovation.

We just need to remind ourselves that anyone can add complexity to a product, but stripping it down to its essence requires skill and genius.

Using Forecasting to Streamline Sales and Operations

Posted in: Uncategorized- Feb 22, 2018 No Comments

By SYSPRO USA Distribution, Manufacturing

The disconnect between Sales and Operations in manufacturing companies is so common that it is almost a cliché. I’ve experienced it myself and I’ve met plenty of people at other companies going through the same struggles. Maybe you see some of this in your own company.

Sales perceives Operations as incompetent, unable to deliver the right products at the right time. Operations perceives Sales as unpredictable, overly demanding, and unreasonable. And customers are unhappy because they’re being shorted.

I lived through this when I worked in Operations at a food manufacturing company. Life was reactive and chaotic. Our production schedules were constantly and unexpectedly changing, which was really inefficient. Purchasing was always expediting purchase orders. Paradoxically the plant and warehouse were jam packed with inventory and yet we were still shorting customers – because it was the wrong inventory.

Eventually we evolved to a better situation where life became more predictable and happier for everyone. Sales and Operations actually got along with each other and worked together to fulfill customer orders. Imagine that!

How did we do it?

One of the tools we used in SYSPRO to bring Sales and Operations together in a way that made everyone happy, including Finance, was Inventory Forecasting. The system can generate forecasts based on past sales, and Sales can easily review and edit the system-generated forecasts if desired.

These forecasts give more predictability to Operations departments such as Production and Purchasing. Thus they can produce the products that customers require more efficiently and less reactively.

How does a forecast help Operations?

SYSPRO passes the forecasts through Requirements Planning which crunches lots of supply and demand data and recommends what Production and Purchasing should make and buy.

By using SYSPRO’s inventory Forecasting and related modules better, it eventually dawned on Operations people that if we produce to the forecast, Sales (and customers) will be happier. This resulted in fewer last-minute production schedule changes and enabled us to do longer production runs and work more efficiently.

It also dawned on Sales that if, with SYSPRO’s help, they provide a half decent forecast, then Operations can fulfill more customer orders. With fewer orders shorted, the Sales team were cashing bigger commission checks.

Finance was happy too because we carried less inventory and did less expediting.

One day, a senior Sales manager was in my office and gazed through the window into the plant, where the workstations were running very smoothly – predictably, and almost boringly. In a nostalgic voice he said “I remember the exciting old days when we were always fighting fires and I would go into the plant and give orders to change the production schedule like a General on a battlefield! Sometimes I almost miss those days.”

I laughed and said, “I don’t!”

The Perfect Partner in ERP

Posted in: Uncategorized- Feb 21, 2018 No Comments

Regular readers of the blog may remember my post “owning change” written just after my wedding in November 2013. It doesn’t take a maths genius to work out that it took me a few more years than most to find my perfect partner. Fortunately finding the perfect partner in ERP wasn’t so difficult. I first saw SYSPRO in 2001 and have been a dedicated fan ever since.

Investing Time and Effort

Just like any marriage, you have to invest time and effort in your ERP system. The more you put in, the more you get out. Time spent cleaning up your ERP data will reward you with faster processing and more accurate business analysis. Effort spent selecting the right executive dashboards and organizing them into a customized screen will help you understand the performance of your business and make the right decisions to maximize value. Time spent customizing SYSPRO’s power-tailored solutions, will reward you with operational time savings and higher data accuracy rates.

Staying True to Core Values

You want your partner to mature as time goes by, adapting to the different phases of your life, however it’s also critical that you both stay true to your core values. SYSPRO understands that change takes time and so provides upgrade paths and legacy programs even in the very latest version: SYSPRO 7. This enables you to maintain your business processes through upgrades to SYSPRO, ensuring you can improve your non value-adding processes but retain any processes that support your competitive advantage.

Reliability

You have to be able to rely on your partner to be there when it matters. Your ERP vendor must provide that same piece of mind; not just the software but also support, consultancy and development teams behind the software. With SYSPRO’s 35 year heritage and worldwide network of service personnel you can be sure that you can rely on someone being there when you need them.

Keeping Things Fresh

Finally, you want new ideas to keep your relationship fresh. With the introduction of SYSPRO Espresso from SYSPRO you can now access SYSPRO 7 from anywhere in the world, any time, from any device. New tools in recent years such as workflow and DataSwitch allow you to automate the mundane and focus your team on core value adding activities. Modules such as Inventory Optimization and Sales Order Entry program ensure that with SYSPRO you can keep making improvements to your business year after year. Serverside printing and changes to the SYSPRO client communication technology make SYSPRO the perfect Cloud partner. SYSPRO Process Modeling enables you to keep your processes and SYSPRO solution aligned, so you never outgrow your investment in SYSPRO.

What else would you need from a perfect partner? Let me know if there’s anything else you think should be added.

Why the Food and Beverage Industry Turns to Tech

Posted in: Uncategorized- Feb 20, 2018 No Comments

By Mark Wilson Distribution, Food and Beverage, Food and Beverage, Industry Insight, Manufacturing, Miscellaneous

Tough conditions see the Food and Beverage industry turn to tech

There are few professionals who could say that missing a deadline in a strictly controlled work schedule would end in disaster – the kind of disaster that could result with the end customer in the hospital.

But as a food and beverage specialist this is your day-to-day reality.

And it is just one tough reality out of the myriad of food and beverage challenges that SYSPRO uncovered in an industry survey conducted alongside Demographica.

There is No Off Button

The findings paint a picture of individuals who operate in a high-speed environment where there is no off button. Because there are constantly orders coming in and out, there always needs to be someone available to process these requests.

Adding to the pace of this environment is the constant race against time. Because food and beverage professionals work with perishables, products can easily expire, become damaged or contaminated. The importance of timing cannot be emphasized enough.

Customer Demands are Relentless

There is simply no room to get comfortable. Customers are demanding, and very often unforgiving, meaning you constantly need to be innovating and bringing new ideas to the table in order to keep consumers excited about your products.

A Case of Constant Crisis Management

In fact, it quickly became clear, based on the findings from our survey, that the demands placed on food and beverage professionals are different to anyone else operating in the manufacturing industry.

Why?

Because managing food and drink products adds a much deeper layer of complexity throughout the entire supply chain process. When things happen, they happen in real time.

As one Application Manager pointed out the job might as well be crisis management. And to ensure everything runs smoothly, you likely rely heavily on your technology. Things are chaotic and food and beverage managers simply can’t be at multiple distribution centers all at once, so you use technology to monitor the situation on the ground.

Tech will play an Increasingly Important Part

In fact, increased focus on digitization was identified as a key trend in a recent global survey of 120 food and beverage industry leaders.

The survey which was carried out by IT specialist, CSB-System, indicated that continued pressure on pricing across the globe would likely result in necessary cost reductions. And to reduce costs without compromising the quality of the product, digitization would be looked to as the solution.

Not only did respondents see IT systems as critical to the reduction of costs, but also to the more effective management of complex operations.

Specialized Systems are Key

But, one important point, which became evident through our research into the local food and beverage industry was that it’s important for these systems to consider the differing complexities of each sector and company.

ERP solutions should not be generalized according to the size of a company, but rather according to the complexity of the business in question and the nature of the industry in which it operates.

Because the future success of a food and beverage business is so closely linked to the success of the ERP system it uses, companies need to invest in holistic ERP solutions rather than packaged products.

This why SYSPRO has always placed such significant emphasis on where the future of ERP technology is headed and on developing its solutions accordingly.

In the midst of the day-to-day chaos you face, you need to know your ERP system is working for you and that you have the ability, not only to play the role of ‘crisis manager’, but also to find new ways of exciting your clients.

8 Reasons ERP is a CEO’s Best Friend

Posted in: Uncategorized- Feb 20, 2018 No Comments

Some CEOs may regard ERP as just a business management tool that keeps things running in the background. However, today’s more savvy CEOs are fast recognizing ERP’s ability to significantly transform their businesses and add exponential value and earnings. Here are some of the reasons CEOs are turning to ERP to innovate:

Control

ERP means greater and more efficient controls. This ensures the entire organization has accurate and real-time information, and assists management to maintain a firm grip on operations.

Dashboards

Every CEO needs a consolidated and comprehensive quick and easy reference of where their business is currently standing with drill-down capabilities. ERP provides critical information fast and effortlessly. Stats such as weekly sales, employee performance, and inventory levels are all examples of items quickly available, showing real-time growth or changes in the business.

Reporting

What CEO doesn’t want immediate and accurate information available around the clock? When sharing information to groups like management, shareholders, boards of directors, ERP provides easy access to all information, making fielding even the most advanced questions simple.

Changes

ERP delivers a single source of truth and a clear view of exactly what is going on in the business. This is vital for any CEO implementing changes, regardless of the circumstance. When integrated with CRM, the ERP-CRM capability gives a 360-degree view of the business.

Decisions

ERP gives a single integrated view of the business and provides transparency across all departments. This means consistency and coherence in all operations, and assists in faster decisions in response to challenges, opportunities and market trends.

Cash Flow

ERP greatly improves efficiencies, specifically in areas of the business like supply chain management, inventory control and forecasting. Access to this information can help free up vital capital that can be better used elsewhere to fast-track growth.

Customer Experience

A happy customer is a loyal customer. ERP streamlines your business, resulting in improved service levels, accelerated response times, and ultimately a more satisfied customer base.

Scalability

The real-time information ERP provides increases an organization’s capability. This can mean scaling operations up or down in response to demand, making it easier to plan and ensure the business performs as efficiently as possible.

ERP is a toolset that goes beyond management – it helps everyone in their individual roles and day-to-day operations. A well implemented ERP system will provide benefits that can support overall goals and objectives in running a business.