Women in ERP – November 2022
Katelynn Hosni, Carly van de Pol, Jill Wiggins and Andrea Brown
Welcome to our Women in ERP show. I hope everyone is having a great start to the week. For those of you new to Women in ERP, this is a show hosted by Sarah Scudder from SourceDay, and I host the first Tuesday of each month to bring women together in our industry to talk about what really happens in the world of ERPs. I’m Kris Harrington, president of GenAlpha Technologies and today’s show host. I’ve spent the last 20 years working for and with industrial manufacturers, leveraging the ERP system to deliver better business outcomes. So, I’m intimately familiar with all the craziness that happens with ERPs, and I just love learning from all these conversations. I’m joined by Carly, Andrea, Jill, and Katelynn. They have a wide range of ERP experience, and I’ve asked them to share their wisdom and stories with us today. To kick off our show, I want to send a big shout-out to our sponsors: SourceDay, WBSRocks, and GenAlpha Technologies. I also want to ask you to engage with us in the comments throughout the show and post your questions anytime. Please say hello and let us know where you are joining us from. So, let’s get started.
Carly, I’m going to start with you. Please tell us a bit about yourself and share one fun fact about you.
Yeah, hi Kris and Andi, Katelynn and Jill, and everybody who’s participating. So, my name is Carly van de Pol. I am located in Grand Prairie, Alberta, and as you see, it’s a very nice sunny here. It’s also pretty cold by the way, but we are inside. I am a consultant and the president of High Peak Improvements, and we help startups and small companies improve their supply chain processes but also help with selection and implementation of ERP systems. So, yeah, a third fact. Well, one of the fun facts is that I actually got a speeding ticket in Egypt, which I found remarkable because I have no idea where they actually got me. Because, you know, on one end you have the desert and on the other side, there is the Red Sea, so there are no trees or anything. So, I have no clue where they actually spotted me. Yeah, I thought I got a speeding ticket and, first, I didn’t realize that there was a speeding ticket because I couldn’t read what actually was happening on the paper. But, anyway, so yeah, I guess I did speeding in Egypt. I don’t do it here, of course. I keep to the speeding limit anyway.
Yeah, all right. Thank you. Well, that’s good. We know you drive fast, especially in foreign countries. So, that’s great. Always good to know something interesting about somebody. So, Carly, I’m going to also start off with the first question for you.
You know, we often talked about how ERP systems are used by large companies, and can you really share with us, are they useful for small companies as well?
Yeah, I actually think it’s beneficial for a small company to get an ERP system implemented in an early stage. I think a lot of companies struggle a lot when they change software systems, and especially ERP systems. And small companies that start to grow, you know, and then often they work on QuickBooks and they have some Excel experts working for them. And, like, you know, they get all these small computer systems and try to make them talk to each other. And before they know it, the company starts growing and then it’s like, ‘Oh my goodness, now I have to get an ERP and we don’t have time.’ Well, you kind of know the drill, right? So, I think if you start with an ERP in an early stage, that can really help, because it’s probably easier to implement, and especially in our days, ERP systems aren’t only for large organizations. You have some really nice ERP systems for smaller companies on the market. And they are also much easier to implement, so you don’t have to spend a lot of money, you don’t have to spend a lot of time, and companies can grow into the ERP. Then, once they really start taking off, yeah, they are ready for whatever is to come. So, yeah, I think it’s beneficial.
Yeah, I would certainly agree with that as well. And I think that as I think about manufacturing organizations who, you know, we work with typically, if you get into that 10 million dollar range and you’re building things pretty regularly, it’s probably time to make sure that all of the different businesses are using one common system to make the processes between these business units more efficient. So, thanks for that.
Andrea, I’m going to move over to you next, and certainly, your nickname is Andi. So, I’m going to continue to call you Andi after this. But can you tell us a little bit about yourself and one fun fact?
Sure, so I’m Andi Brown with Monroe Truck Equipment in Monroe, Wisconsin. We manufacture municipal equipment, mostly snow removal equipment, and then upfit trucks, the municipal trucks that you see plowing the snow. As well, we have two lines of business: municipal and commercial. So, we also fit small trucks as well. A fun fact about me is I actually went to college for agriculture. I grew up on a dairy farm and ended up starting my career here at Monroe Truck and Manufacturing sales. And I fell in love with manufacturing and operations, so I haven’t left.
All right, well, I was the reverse of you, so I fell in love with manufacturing and then I also fell in love with chickens and have those today. So, you know, right, whole things can be true, right?
All right, first question for you today, Andi. When implementing an ERP system, what is something you would consider very important?
Okay, so this is gonna be a little bit cliche and probably go along with what Carly had said as well. The most important thing that I believe is to document your processes. And I don’t just mean process steps in boxes in a simple flow diagram. I mean critical inputs and the outputs of that step and then how that output is usually a step into the next, a critical input into the next step. But also along with those critical inputs and outputs are kind of what Carly alluded to was the workarounds. There’s a lot of critical information that gets done on Word documents or Excel files or in smartsheets maybe. There’s so much that gets done outside of the system that it’s really important to understand those inputs because those often get overlooked when you look from your regular or from your current ERP system to your new one that you’re going to… Yeah, yeah, I’ve definitely… I think that’s great advice. I know that, I would imagine that having just gone through an ERP upgrade in your own business at Monroe Truck, that was something that you either recognized beforehand and potentially even after you went live that maybe some things weren’t recognized and you might have had to go back and correct, which certainly would be the case with many companies when they’re initially going into that ERP, is that any of the things that are done offline on spreadsheets or in Word documents or through emails or an outside process, it’s sometimes so hard to capture that just because it’s a part of your standard process, right? Yep, good. All right, Jill, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and one fun fact about you?
Sure, I’m Jill Wiggins. I work for CNH Industrial, so we make Ag equipment and construction equipment. Case IH, New Holland, Raven, a few other brands as well. So, I’ve been here about 14 years, and right now I’m responsible for Global Digital Dealer tools and product support development. So, basically taking really emerging tech like extended reality, remote assistance, and scaling it up for our dealers all over the world. And then I’m the business owner of our dealer-facing learning management system. Um, this is a new role. I just took this year, so… So, I guess my fun fact has to be that I’m a Lego maniac. So, my whole family is really… I think COVID maybe accelerated a bit, you know, gave us permission to really lean into that. But I do landscapes and lettering, so I brought a little fun sign because ‘comfort is the enemy of growth.’ I… You know, I like to keep my inspiration in Lego format in my office… Yeah, that’s cool. It’s even almost like 3D, so yeah. Definitely can relate to that. All right, so the first question for you, Jill, is you just mentioned that you’ve been at CNH for 14 years, and for most of that time, you know, you were a consumer of ERP information and data. In your new role at CNH, you’re a direct user of SAP. What have you learned from this change?
Well, I think it’s great. This kind of picks up from the last answer because I always supported the actions that maybe take place in ERP but never in the tool. So, you know, helping do analysis, you know, spreadsheets, all those types of documents that don’t live in ERP but all the analysis you need to actually go in and do the work. And I think now that I’m in there actually doing purchase requisitions and POs and invoicing and working with suppliers, I’ve realized that both parts are important but when it comes to SAP, it’s like it’s a very specific software tool, right? So, you really need to take the time to, you know, learn the flows, learn the screens, take all the training that you can. But I think what I’ve learned is a lot more about my company. Like, even after 14 years, I feel like I’m better understanding our organization through my work in SAP. I used to wonder how everyone stays aligned, right? I’m on a global team, we have multiple regions, segments, brands, corporate functions, and you know, we’d be in these big meetings and I would see like my boss talking to someone in finance, and I’m like, ‘How do they…how does that happen?’ You know, like that’s not part of my normal job. And then you get in SAP and you realize that like it’s actually making those connections for you, right? So now I have contacts in finance, I have contacts in purchasing, you know, and you’re… You’re creating alignment that way as you go through the process. Let me see. Yeah, so I think I have to say it’s really just kind of taught me how everything comes together, right? Because it’s where the actual business part of it takes place.
Yep, and I, you know, all of the connecting of the dots is something that you can certainly learn, especially if you’re a person that gets a chance to volunteer for an ERP project. I always say that it’s such a great opportunity to understand how other people in your company are using it because you guys, you know, we’re all dependent on each other and the information that goes into the ERP system. So, I think what you’re learning is a real critical piece of that. So, thank you.
All right, Katelynn, I’m gonna move over to you. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and one fun fact?
Yes, I am Katelynn Hosni. I work at GenAlpha in customer success, so I help our customers implement their e-commerce platform and manage it after that. Fun fact about me is I am trying to check off all of the national parks, and this year I checked off Hawaii, so I feel like that’s a big one. It’s hard to get to, so very exciting.
Oh, very nice. I don’t know if I had shared this with any of you guys, but I was stationed in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii when I was in the Navy, so I spent time in Hawaii early in my young years. I feel so many years ago that I don’t even remember. So, we wanted… I didn’t know that.
All right, first question for you is, what are some recurring issues you see amongst your customer base when it comes to how they utilize their ERP for aftermarket parts sales?
I actually see quite a bit of commonality amongst customers, similar challenges as they work through the implementation phase for an e-commerce platform. And one thing that I see come up over and over is inventory. Customers have a hard time displaying their aftermarket inventory because they don’t separate it in their ERP system from production. So how I’ve seen it handled a lot, and I think every single person has touched on this in their answer, is that there’s a lot of background information and knowledge that the people at the company know that are handling that inventory. So when an order comes in, they know whether or not it’s available for aftermarket or production. But when they go to display that information online, they realize that it’s a little bit tricky to standardize all of those rules and all of that previous knowledge that an employee is doing to be able to just lay it online. So different customers come up with different solutions and how to do that, but that is something that I see happen over and over as customers go through that process.
Yeah, that’s a great point. You know, what we’re finding as you know, you listen to buyers, and buyers have more control than ever before because they have the ability to search for things online. Availability is something that they want to be able to see, and if there isn’t stock availability, when can they get it? When is it going to be replenished? Or when can they get it? So not having inventory for aftermarket parts easily accessible can certainly be a challenge. So, I think that’s a great point. Thanks for bringing that one up.
All right, Carly, I’m going to move back to you. How do ERP systems help your supply chain?
Uh, well, yeah, it can help in many, many ways, actually. Well, if you take, for example, a manufacturing company, if you set everything up properly, then a buyer can basically press one button and just know exactly what this person has to buy, you know, for the next week. ERP systems, you know, you can put in a lot of parameters that can help you with the planning. Right, so in an example of a manufacturing organization, you set up bill of materials, you set up what the lead times are for the product to come in, what your min and maxes should be, your minimum inventory level, your maximum inventory level. You can put in safety stock information. You can even put in information about the packaging, you know, so that you always have to order a certain amount. It can just make it really easier, and ERP systems will calculate a lot for you, right? So with the demands that are out there, lead times, etc., it will tell you what to order when. So that is one way of help, right? Also, an ERP system collects a lot of data, and you know, data is very well liked these last few years, but it’s also, of course, you know, what you do with the data. But for people in management, the data can really help in determining your strategies for the coming years, and you know, yeah, it’s just a lot of information there also. You know, whatever supply chain is doing in our organization, other departments can right away, you know, see that as well. For example, a salesperson in the field could check on their mobile phone, you know, if a product is in stock, right? And if it’s not in stock, they might see actually when it’s getting replenished, when it will arrive. So, you know, you don’t have to call, you don’t have to send emails, everybody can see right away what’s there. So, yeah, there are actually many, many ways that an ERP system can help. Yeah, yeah, something that comes to mind that I know when I worked closely with the purchasing department in my own manufacturing days, we used to run on-time delivery reports out of the ERP system to know how our suppliers were doing. And then when our suppliers would come in, we’d have those on-time delivery information. We’d know the line items specifically that we’re having challenges, so we could address those very quickly and easily with the suppliers when they came in. And I think that’s key, you know, in making sure that your suppliers are performing for you. So, thanks for that.
Great, Andrea. I’m going to move back to you. What role does configuration management come into play for a custom manufacturer?
Okay, a couple things that come to mind when we talk about product configuration, the two things that are biggest to me, that stick out, are delighting the customer and running orders seamlessly through your ERP system or through production. Configuration management is really mass customization, and it’s a business initiative, right? It’s not owned by purchasing and sales any more than engineering and operations. It takes the entire value stream. Imagine being able to align your BOM structure in a way that customers can feel like they’re solving their problem by being able to configure a product, by customizing it, and being able to flip that bill of material. And when it gets released to production, it flows through the value stream flawlessly. I know that sounds like a dream, but when things can become predictable in production, it will drive seamless orders from quote to cash without rework. And when I say rework, I don’t mean like we gotta bend and cut a piece of metal again. That happens, but I mean that starting and stopping. That happens all the time in production. That is when there’s not steady progress. It’s independence and tribal knowledge. There tends to be a lot of starting and stopping, which can lead to anything from late deliveries to maybe margin disappointment. And it just helps, I think it helps alleviate all those things when you have that predictability and that build in less queue time and get things through production without that opportunity for interpretation. So it not only delights the outside customer, the external customer who configured their product, but the internal customer too, because they’re able to do their work without wondering if they have all the information or needing to get that information. Yeah, oh, such valuable points. I think for anybody that builds anything, they can really take this one as a best practice. When you are standardizing what you’re offering, is even going through that exercise to make options available for customers to select from, and that to have an output that then feeds into the factory, and there is no interpretation. To your point, you know, there’s no nobody has to go into engineering to estimate something new that has to be created and done, which, you know, slows everything down and creates some challenges. And sometimes you end up not delivering to what was originally expected if you don’t standardize and put that all the way through. So, excellent points there for sure.
Before we move on, I just wanted, there’s a question from a LinkedIn user here. It says, ‘One of my questions I have for an ERP is, I am a small business and been looking into something that is workable to meet my needs. Now, that isn’t so expensive and can grow with me. Any recommendations from that standpoint?’ So, I will certainly open this up to everybody. And maybe, Carly, if you, you know, you had answered a question about small business, do you have any recommendation for this person?
Well, yeah, it depends a little bit, of course, on what your business model is and what you require. But I just see that my battery is gone, actually. But one that comes to mind that kind of serves a lot of business models is Odoo. Sorry about that. So, yeah, sorry, can you repeat the name? I didn’t catch that one. It’s Odoo. It’s A-O-D-O-O. Okay, okay, yeah, that is one that, the reason why it is good for small businesses is because you buy little modules, basically, or you implement later modules. So, let’s say if you’re interested in e-commerce and inventory and buying, right, then you just buy those three modules, and you can even still work in QuickBooks because QuickBooks can integrate with that particular ERP system. So, that is one that could be a reasonable choice, and that one is not so complicated to implement because you don’t buy the whole big system. You buy parts of the system, so it is not as massive to implement. Sure, sure, yeah. And it does say this person said that they’re in procurement in medical supplies, PPE, sanitation, diagnostic supplies. I personally had never worked with Odoo, but it looks like Sam has put that into the comments as well. So, I would certainly say to this user that you could reach out to Carly to discuss potentially any options for future ERP and what your needs are. I do agree that determining the requirements is really important. Also, our sponsor, WBS Rocks, would be a great resource for that as well. As they said, thank you. That’s great.
All right, Jill, I’m going to move on to you as well. In your experience, how does inaccurate data in the ERP impact users downstream?
Well, I think I’m going to kind of pick up on Andi’s last comment because this is a great order of questions, Kris.
So, definitely to Andi’s point, the data in ERP really is like a foundational enabler for delightful customer experience. So, in my world, if we go back to that configuration data that Andi was talking about, we also have our production data for our machines and down to the specific product identification number, like your car has that BIN. Same thing for tractors or wheel loaders. We want our customers, whether that’s a technician from the dealer partner or end user, when they enter in that PIN number, we want to make sure that every piece of information that we deliver to them is applicable. So, to that point, we started using the SAP data to enable that. It also, once we started with the PIN data, then we added in the configuration management. And that’s where, as an internal, we saw a lot of efficiency gains, which are important for you to be able to deliver at scale. But one thing I learned was that systems are almost like humans, right? They’re not perfect, garbage in, garbage out. So, if you’re designing something that’s using data from ERP, look at the data first. You know, like we designed certain rules for our authoring tool that basically helped us check for what we call PIN range. So, this model year is PIN one to PIN 17. And we based it on the actual ISO standard and Company standard for these PIN numbers because we thought, ‘Oh, there’s a standard, the data is going to match the standard.’ That’s not always true, right? Especially depending on your company size, like with us where we have a lot of acquisitions over time, it doesn’t all follow that rule. And if you aren’t really, if you haven’t really reviewed all the data, not all the data but at least the representative sample, then you might be redeveloping a feature or reworking it every time you come across a new data point that doesn’t match that model. So, I think it’s really important to do everything that you can as an organization to help the people that are inputting data, you know, give them the tools to put it in correctly the first time. And then you can use it in all other parts of the business, and not just technical information, you know, there are so many systems now that leverage that data structure from our control rooms to warranty to, like I said, the technical information itself. Yeah, no, those are great points, and I’m so glad you tied it into what Andi had said on the configuration because I think, yeah, when you just keep connecting those dots, you understand how things impact other areas of the business as well. So, great.
All right, Katelynn, back to you. What is one of the challenges customers face when integrating their ERP system to an e-commerce platform?
I think my answer is just going to be kind of a third point into what Andi and Jill were saying. One thing that I’ve noticed is that usually, most times, the ERP system comes before customers are thinking about an e-commerce platform. So, a lot of that data was inputted and was managed in a time before the customer was thinking about, ‘This is going to be displayed on an e-commerce platform.’ So oftentimes, when the data isn’t created with the intention that it’s going to be shared outwardly, there are things like notes and a little bit of lack of standardization. So, when customers then get to the point of implementing an e-commerce platform, they kind of have to go back and do some data validation and clean up and try to standardize all of those things. And to Andi’s point earlier, a lot of times those processes and those thoughts aren’t documented very well over the years, so it becomes a little bit of a challenge. And I think one of the important steps as customers are integrating their ERP with an e-commerce platform is to find that indicator in the ERP of what parts are going to be displayed, what information is going to be displayed on the site. Yeah, great point. We often call it a flag, right? What is the flag that’s going to tell us that these parts should be exposed externally? Because for those of us who use an ERP system every day, it’s that internal facing, and we all feel very comfortable using it internally and whatever our information is to each other internally. It can be a little messy, it can have a little question, which we reach out internally to other stakeholders to get answers to. But now, once you expose that information to your external user, whether that be a dealer or distributor or the end customer, you want to be thinking about it in that end customer’s terms. Right. And I always think about engineering descriptions as a really good example. In most manufacturing companies that I’ve worked with, the people who create the part number are that engineering department, and they have all kinds of different abbreviations that they use. And one engineer might use one abbreviation, and it’s not consistent across the other engineers. So you have varying little bits of information, abbreviations for things. But when your customer goes to actually utilize a search in a digital commerce, a customer-facing tool, they’re usually searching by complete phrase or something that they would describe it. So actually having complete descriptions of your products and then offering synonyms of your products can be really critical as you go from that ERP environment to that customer-facing. So, lots of things to think about there. Thank you for that.
Yeah, definitely. It’s a whole new layer when you open up ERP to that external facing. That’s right. It’s important and it’s necessary, but it also needs thought. So, I love that. Great.
All right, Carly, we’re going to come back to you. Does there exist a perfect ERP system? We all want to know.
Well, I don’t think there is. No, they’re… If you go to companies, you know, people complain a lot about the weather, right? But the other thing that people complain a lot about in every office is their ERP system. It just seems that, you know, no matter what a company chooses, there is always something that a user doesn’t like or many users don’t like. But yeah, I don’t think you can get pretty close.
You know, it is very important when you are going to look for the ERP system to understand, you know, very well your own business practices, and just like what Andrea was talking about, you know, know your processes. You know, that will really help in your selection of the ERP system.
And also, what you will be doing actually in the future, right? Because, as Katie just also explained, you know, with e-commerce, I mean, maybe now you’re not thinking of e-commerce, but maybe in a few years, you are. So you know, if your system is actually compatible to do that, right? The great thing about the ERP systems that are out there at the moment is they are cloud-based, and that makes it actually really so much easier. I mean, yeah, it’s, it’s, you know, they get updated, you know, actually automatically, right? So you always have an up-to-date ERP system, and it actually will grow with new business practices as well, right? Anyway, but also, if your ERP system isn’t perfect, then, you know, you have companies out there that might have created an app or another tool that can integrate really easily with your ERP system, and that is a way to solve your problem, right? That could be, you know, that could be a pretty easy way to solve a problem. Personally, I’m not really a big fan of starting to customize your ERP system because it can be very, that can become expensive in the long run. Because if you start updating your system and then all of a sudden your customization doesn’t work anymore, you know, you keep going back to the developers to, you know, to make sure that it’s still working, right? So yeah, customization, personally, I’m not a big fan of it, although a lot of companies really are like, ‘Oh, can I customize it, can I customize it?’ But yeah, I don’t think I would, you know, look for other companies that are able to solve your problem by offering an app or another piece of software that can integrate really easily with your ERP system. So yeah, long story short, yeah, if you are really looking for your perfect ERP system, you know, be prepared to, you know, see things in your ERP system that aren’t perfect, you know, that might need a little bit of help, or maybe you just, you know, adjust your business practices a little bit towards it so that it works fine. But yeah, no, I don’t think there is a perfect ERP system out there.
Yeah, yeah, I would open up to the group, does anybody think there’s a perfect ERP system, any comment on that? No, yeah, I think many of the people that I’ve either interviewed through the show or talked to, they would remind us, right, people, process, technology, so there are really three components to success, technology is just one of them, people and process are always before technology. So there’s really no perfect solution, but identifying your requirements is really critical to getting to the right solution to meet your needs. So good stuff.
All right, Andrea, what is your favorite thing about working in manufacturing? Can I have a caveat? May I ask Carly a question to her? Yes, okay, so what would you say to someone or a company that was looking to invest in an ERP system and understand that they need to modify their processes to match the ERP system? So they don’t customize it, but they struggle to think outside the box to do so. Because sometimes it’s hard to think outside of what you know. How would you approach them and help them think outside the box? Yeah, yeah, it is very complicated. The thing is what I sometimes realize is that, you know, although every company is unique, but a lot of business processes are actually pretty standard. So I sometimes think that some companies make it more complicated than it actually is, right?
So, so that’s what I kind of try to do, right? To bring them, you know, a bit back to Earth, kind of thing. Like, you know, basically what you’re trying to do is this, this, and this, and you know, the system is able to do that, right? So, you know, yeah, that is kind of how, how I would approach it. But, because basically, if you think about it, you know, most ERP systems can do everything you want. I mean, it’s amazing, you know, what I, what they all can do, right? But it’s just sometimes, you know, people have something in their head, right, that you have to do first this and then you have to do this, right? But the ERP system actually can do it the other way around, for example, because that is, you know, more common. So yeah, then it’s just a matter of, you know, seeing like, you know, it is also possible if you do it the other way, right? But, but yeah, it, yeah, it’s, yeah, that’s how I would approach this. So I don’t know, Andrea, if you would be my customer, would you appreciate that or no?
Yeah, I would, and it was more of a sometimes when you’re in it, you struggle to see it, and so it’s yeah, that’s somebody outside of it to show you that it can be done, you know?
Yeah, yeah, yeah, correct. We yeah, we have somebody on our team that always asks this question, and you know, it’s brilliant every time. But what problem are we trying to solve, right? And then get down to the nuts and bolts of the problem that you’re trying to solve. Usually, there is a solution in the ERP to help with that, and it can work with whatever process we’re trying to achieve. So all right, Andi, back to you. What’s your favorite thing about working in manufacturing?
Yeah, so not not entirely ERP-related, but I can tie it back into ERP because I started in manufacturing sales and then product management and worked with Kris’s team a lot, and then I had the opportunity to go work in operations, in our shipping and logistics department for about eight months. So I got to work through the whole value stream, as you see the equipment coming through manufacturing. So I understand some of the constraints and the issues that they’re facing, right? And when you get to work with those people one-on-one every day, you can see my favorite part is seeing the pride in every part of the value stream, meaning like from cutting and forming metal, those guys have a lot of pride in how they do their part, and then the welders have a ton of pride in how they do their part, and all the way through to paint and wash and assembly, and then the product is done, and then sometimes it gets put on a truck, and just seeing the pride at every level and working with all of those people, it is my favorite part of manufacturing because everybody is so engaged and does their part of it. And when you see the final product, it’s really, really cool, and seeing everybody’s reaction. And then taking, I love to take all of their ideas and issues, I guess, and problems, and try to work through that process. I like problem solving through process and feeding that back into the ERP system. So it’s my favorite thing is problem solving, but working with the people at every level. Yeah, that’s great. There’s always a lot of opportunity to do that inside the ERP too, but I just I love your answer, couldn’t agree more. All right, Jill, you have two ERP systems in place today, and we’ve certainly met a lot of manufacturers who are running multiple ERP systems. This usually happens through acquisitions, you know, if a company is going through multiple acquisitions, they might be purchasing companies in different locations, they’re running different ERP systems, they might be on different CRM systems, different e-commerce systems, it can go on and on and on. But in your organization, you have two ERP systems. What are some best practices to be successful for other users in a similar situation?
That’s a great question, and I’m gonna I have a list in front of me, but I’m gonna add the thing I think I forgot as item one on my list, which is understand the difference between them, you know, what is the purpose of each for your company, and understand which one you need to go to for which, whichever process. So in my case, ours is more of a geographic split, so for some of my projects, I’m going to one version, I’ll call that the European one, and then all the rest of my projects are going to the other, which is the North American one. But you really have to, like, that was something I took for granted, was understanding which one to go to, right? I had to learn for each project which one I needed to go to. So I think that’s my first one, is really understand how many you have, because now, I’m now in questioning, do we only have two? And know the purpose of each and the limits of each, and maybe how they, if there is any link between them, if there’s any shared data, is it truly shared, is it entered oh into each one, or is it actually passed back and forth? You know, these are things that, you’re designing your processes that use that data, that’s important to understand. But I think the first thing I would say, and this was a piece of advice I received as soon as I took this new position and knew I was going to be actually in SAP. I heard it at work from our purchasing organization and finance organization, but also it was my father’s first words of advice about this new position. So he comes, he’s an engineer, he works for several manufacturers as well, and he was always working in SAP. And he said to me, ‘Find a friend in finance.’ And at the time, I thought, ‘What? Why? I don’t understand.’ You know, because he just kept repeating it, and I just thought, ‘Well, I get it, Dad, but why is that such a big deal?’ You know, I’m in parts and service, like I’m in aftermarket. Why do I need to, like, have a buddy in finance?’ And then I went to a training session with our indoor purchasing group, and step one on their list of things to do if you’re stuck is ‘phone a friend.’ That’s exactly what they said. I mean, especially if you’re a larger company like my company, those one-on-one relationships, I think, can be your first line for support and help your organization kind of transfer knowledge as people are moving around or retiring. So I think that’s my first or second piece of advice, find a friend. Then I’d say, know where the job aids are. And if your company doesn’t have them, maybe that should be your first project. But I think those job aids are critical. Everything you’re doing in SAP is critical for your business to function, so it’s really important that you can find them quickly, but they’re accurate and that they’re well-designed, so that you can really kind of jump right in and step-by-step, screen by screen, field by field, be confident that you’re putting information in in the correct way. And then I think you gotta know your organization and how different parts of the organization would interact with one or the other ERPs. So knowing who to talk to depending on the system you’re in, and most importantly, once you’ve found the job aids, use them every time. Every time I think I can go in there blind, I realize no, and then it’s, you know, you’ve got to stop what you’re doing, break your train of thought, go get that job aid up. So I would say just keep them at the ready, and there’s no shame in using them. They’re there to help everybody. These can be complex tools, and someone like me who’s doing mostly project management, I’m not in it every single day. My role is not really centered on ERP. It’s one of several systems that I’m in and out of. So I think that’s where the good process documentation and job aids can really help reduce the confusion.
Yeah, yeah, you know, frankly, there aren’t a lot of companies out there that have those job aids available. So the fact that CNH has them, that’s fantastic. We have a tremendous collection, I have to say. Like, I have been on those areas of our internet so much this year. There is a we do a really great job of sharing that information across the organization. Yeah, no, that’s great. And you know, the reality is that most ERP systems are just not intuitive, right? They are very difficult, there’s a lot of screens, typically there’s a lot of inputs. Until you’ve done a process routinely, having the job aid near can be a great resource. So that’s great, thank you for that, Katelynn.
Back to you, what is something that surprised you about how customers utilize their ERP systems?
One thing that surprises me is that oftentimes there isn’t a local resident expert in how the ERP system is used.
This plays off of Carly’s point about customization. There’s often so much uniqueness and nuance to how an individual company is using their system, and like Jill said, there’s different people with different specialties. But it oftentimes surprises me that there’s not one department or person kind of in charge of regulating how the ERP system is used across those different teams. And that makes it a little bit of a challenge when things aren’t standardized to get that support. You know, we often have customers who have to reach out to third parties for support, and those third parties don’t have the intimate details of their business process, so it sometimes takes a little bit longer to get that support that they need.
Yeah, and I think it’s a great piece of advice for companies out there that might be listening. Make sure you have a master user on the team that can be a resource for people. Establish that early and make sure that everybody knows who that person is so that they can be that person to reach out to to get the answers. Such a critical point, thank you for that.
We do have 10 minutes left, and I know we didn’t discuss this in advance, but I thought it might be fun to just kind of go around in the last 10 minutes here and share a bit of advice for anybody that might be in ERPs today. You know, it can be tied to anything that you’ve learned in the history of working with an ERP system, and I can kick it off while you guys think about your idea.
But I guess my advice would be the same advice that I was given many years ago when I didn’t even know what ERP stood for—enterprise resource planning, for anybody out there that is still wondering what does ERP stand for. But I had gotten into the business, and they told me I would be using BOND as my ERP, and everybody kept saying ‘BOND, BOND, BOND,’ and I was like, ‘I just got out of university and I can’t believe I don’t know what BOND is.’ So, but the advice I got was, ‘Use it as a tool. It is your best tool in your toolbox, so learn it so that it is a tool for you, because it’s going to assist you in doing your job.’ So that’s the best advice I have. I’ll just kind of go around here the way everybody’s shown. So, Andi, do you have a bit of advice that you’d like to share with everybody?
Yeah, cross-functional problem solve. Don’t break down the silos if you have them in your organization. Just get everyone. I’m a big believer in everyone from the value stream should have input and just solve your problems and establish your processes cross-functionally, so you understand how it works for everyone. Love it. Thank you, Katelynn.
My piece of advice would be using open notes sparingly in your ERP system, especially when they’re externally facing. Like having a customer fill something out, X on, like, an e-commerce platform and having that going into your ERP system, that’s sometimes hard to work with. And have actionable steps that follow downstream to information put in note fields. Great, thank you, Katelynn. Good advice.
Alright, Jill. I think this goes back to an earlier point, but check the data before you decide to expose a field to your customers. If it was previously only internal, you could find literally anything in there, and you would probably want to find out about that before it’s up on, like, an e-commerce platform or some other customer-facing tool. That’s right. Thank you, Jill. That’s a good one too.
And then, Carly, last bit of advice?
Well, personally, I think, you know, if you are still a company that has an ERP system or other type of software running on your servers, if you are at all possible, go to the clouds and get cloud-based ERP or software. Because I think it’s so much easier to manage. Yeah, cloud is the future, and that’s the way you’re going to integrate with other things easily. So, great advice.
Alright, well, we’re at the end of the show. I want to thank you, ladies. You did an awesome job. I know that this was incredibly insightful, and I thank you for sharing the knowledge and your experience with everybody. I want to thank everybody who’s attended today, and I do hope that you would join us next month. I believe December 6th is the next show at 1 pm Eastern, and my lovely co-host, Sarah Scudder from SourceDay, will be the host of that show. So, go and have a great week, everybody. Thank you for joining us.