A recent conversation with an instructor at a local post-secondary school made me think about the many ways that ERP software can help a business manage the entire breadth of its supply chain. The world has become a smaller place, and supply chains have become longer. Managing your supply chain effectively gives you a competitive advantage (ask Walmart and Apple).
People often assume that ERP systems are only for larger companies. But, consider this – if you run a small or medium sized business, do you lie awake at night worrying about the following things:
- Is there a way to improve our inefficient processes?
- Can we grow without growing pains?
- Will the business remain viable or successful in the long term?
Last week I was at the supermarket in the very long queue at the “12 items or less” checkout station, when I glanced over at the adjacent self-checkout station. The store had installed it a few months ago but I (and most other shoppers) had never tried it – thinking it looked a bit confusing and not worth the hassle of learning how it worked, perhaps due to fear of not picking up quickly enough on how to use it. But the queue was so much shorter there, so I decided to try it. Although there was a learning curve to understand the process, for example to follow the on-screen instructions and to also get the knack of scanning barcodes properly, it wasn’t as bad as I thought. I’ll definitely use the self-checkout again.
While on vacation recently, I visited an interesting restaurant with a large group of relatives. At the table a few clearly marked buttons were provided to request waiters to bring more water, clear used utensils, bring the bill, etc. I had never seen this back home in Vancouver. What a great idea to improve efficiency!
I have a friend who works at a large home improvement retailer. He often tells me stories about customers who buy expensive and sophisticated tools, yet have no DIY experience or knowledge on how best to use them.
Often these customers come back a few days later, hoping to return the tools because they “are not working” when in fact, there is nothing wrong with them; they are just not being used properly. One customer, for example, returned an expensive “defective” chainsaw. The problem was that he never bothered to read the manual, which instructed mixing lubricant oil into the petrol. As a consequence the chainsaw’s motor was permanently damaged.
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).