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Understanding ERP

Posted on 20 October 2011 by Steve Bassaw

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Years ago I worked as a junior procurement officer at a medium sized Canadian manufacturing company. Within my first year, our production scheduler resigned and to my surprise, I was promoted to her position. I was terrified because I didn't have a background in operations management and I didn't understand its mysterious jargon. Acronyms like MPS, MRP, BOM, and the like were foreign to me. I also did not have a good grasp of our ERP system (SYSPRO).

And yet, after two weeks of rushed handover training from my predecessor, there I was: the new production scheduler of a busy 24/7 plant. As the operations manager used to tell me: "You're the driver of the bus now, and the rest of us are your passengers." Although his comment was intended to inspire me, I was also worried because I felt I didn't have the necessary skills to "drive the bus".

I knew that I needed practical education in planning and scheduling. I enrolled for a Manufacturing Planning and Scheduling workshop at a local technical institution, which seemed to be a good way to get some education in this field quickly. The workshop was excellent. The facilitators taught me the basic concepts in a practical, hands-on way that made it relevant to my daily work. They also helped me to understand how our planning and scheduling software worked. The training I received from our ERP consultants suddenly made much more sense. The newly acquired knowledge even allowed me to figure out some parts of the software on my own. I felt much more confident that I had the basics to become a better production scheduler.

The moral of my story is that getting training on functional industry concepts and best practices was even more important than getting training on the ERP system itself. Over the years I continued to attend courses on different aspects of manufacturing management. These collectively served me well, both at the manufacturing company and when I later went on to join SYSPRO Canada.

Industry education and training is one of the most overlooked critical success factors in getting value from an ERP system, not just in manufacturing but in all aspects of the business, including financial management, supply chain, human resources, inventory control, etc. All good ERP systems are modeled after industry best practices in terms of concepts, terminology and business flows. It therefore makes sense that industry education leads to a better understanding of your ERP system – and to getting more value from it. It is not unlike the bookkeeper who cannot really apply a bookkeeping solution in their work unless they also understand the basic principles of bookkeeping.

Now working for SYSPRO and frequently training our ERP users, I experience it from the other side of the fence. It’s much more difficult when users don’t understand basic business concepts. How do you explain the use of an MRP module when the user has no inkling what MRP (Material Requirements Planning) is? Such a user will not get immediate maximum value from the module, nor will they be able to value the process in its full context.

In Canada, SYSPRO is involved in industry education in several ways. We work with Canadian educational institutions such as British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) where we helped develop curricula to train operations management students on ERP and manufacturing concepts.

Over the years SYSPRO has hired many BCIT graduates to staff our support team. You might think we would look to hire “computer software” people, but in fact we look for people with a sound foundation in business principles. They have the basis on which we can teach them the true value of our software.

There’s that humorous old saying… “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance!”

Learn how to apply inventory optimization to your business

 

Topics: Business software, ERP systems, Education, training, certification


Steve Bassaw

Steve Bassaw has been with SYSPRO for over 17 years, starting as a Support Analyst where he learned the SYSPRO product in depth. Before joining SYSPRO, Steve was a SYSPRO software user at a manufacturing company in the role of production planner and materials manager. To paraphrase a well-known TV commercial, Steve says “he liked the software so much he joined the company."

One of Steve’s core talents is the ability to translate software jargon and concepts into layman’s terms. This makes Steve a natural at training SYSPRO partners and customers on fitting SYSPRO manufacturing modules to their business processes.

Steve has been a member of APICS for 15 years - APICS is the global leader and premier source of knowledge in supply chain, operations management, production, inventory, materials management, purchasing, and logistics. He has also achieved the APICS Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP) designation.

Steve also works closely with one of Canada’s leading technology schools, BCIT (British Columbia Institute of Technology). Steve helped develop curriculum to train students on ERP/manufacturing concepts for the Operations Management program. Steve is also Chair of the Advisory Committee for BCIT’s Business/IT program, contributing his knowledge on how Information Technology is actually used to support real world business requirements

 

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