Recently, an ERP forum I was reading had an active conversation started by a new employee who was attempting to understand the ERP system utilized at his company. This new CFO wasn't part of the initial implementation, training or decision process. He was feeling frustrated because, he concluded, the ERP system wasn't providing the information he needed. He posted his concerns over the lack of seemingly common requirements that weren't being met and his frustration that all ERP systems are the same. The replies to him were unanimous and offered a resounding plea for this new CFO to get training and a reminder that just like all companies are not the same, all manufacturing ERP systems are not the same.
The individuals replying were in no way indicating that this CFO was not educated or did not know how to do his job. In fact, it was quite the contrary. He did know his job. He did have great questions. He did see that something was amiss in the data being delivered to him. However, because he wasn't privy to the initial setup and process instructions for his ERP, and received no real training or tutorial, he was unaware of how potential mistakes in the entry of information could wreak havoc with him now.
Let's diverge from our CFO for a minute: What about the statement that all ERP software packages are the same? The short answer is no. Ideally, they all have the same principles: enter BOMs, process sales orders, get production orders, ship product, invoice and receive cash ... with about a hundred little tasks in between. Manufacturing ERP packages are a tool to help companies do business, but all are completely different and individual in their processes. Put it in terms of Excel. Many people know how to create and enter information on a spreadsheet. Some more people know basic mathematical formulas. Even more know pivot tables, calculations from other worksheets, macro formulas and more. The concept of the Excel product is the same, but its uses vary greatly by user. ERP systems are the same. Some are industry specific, some require third party assistance and some are for a specific annual sales range. The variance in these areas translates to system and process variations as well and should be appreciated in companies that utilize them. Therefore, just because a previous ERP system did warehouse management "this way" doesn't mean that is the only way or the right way with another ERP package.
Back to the importance of training for our CFO. For training, immediately one thinks about cost. At least I know I do. How much will it cost me? Is it worth it? Shouldn't I be able to learn this on my own? These are all valid questions, but the answers will vary by company. Think about training like you think about other things in life such as assembly, delivery or installation charges. How much time is saved by getting professional assistance? For example, I remodeled a house a couple of years ago. Yes, I can probably install hardwood floors myself, but what are the materials, as well as my time, effort and sweat worth? Do I have the time to take three times as long as a professional would? Can I spare the extra cost in materials so I can "practice" a few times to make sure I am doing it right? What if I get halfway through and realize I missed a critical step and need to rip it out and start all over?
Professional manufacturing ERP training is very similar. ERP training specialists know the subtle nuances of the software and have experience with many companies. They can guide you and train you how to extract the information you need by making sure other information is entered properly. Training in accounting in ERP (for the CFO who originally asked the question) isn't just about finding a report for debits and credits, but rather knowing how an inventory adjustment in the warehouse will affect the financial reports at the end of the month. Paying a little more up front to a training professional can save more money in the long run in the form of time, dollars and frustration saved.
How has your company saved money in the long run by investing in thorough training or the "right" ERP software in the past?
Solid training is essential to fully utilize all that your ERP software has to offer (Check out an earlier post: Has that button always been there?). IQMS just posted their training calendar for the second half of 2011. Check it out!