2019 ERP Trends

For many manufacturing organizations, an optimized Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)system is a key enabler for digital transformation. While implementing a new ERP system isoften one of the most difficult and challenging endeavours any organization will everundertake, it is just the first step in the ERP journey. Maintaining or increasing competitiveadvantage requires continued investment.

The overriding consideration in almost every ERP modernization discussion is whether the organization should upgrade its current system or implement a new system. The final decision is often driven by factors such as:

  • A precipitating business event like a merger or acquisition
  • An announcement from the ERP vendor that your version is about to go out of support
  • Your existing ERP system simply fails to perform as well as those of your competitors

Irrespective of the reason, you will first need to define your new system requirements clearly.

Two critical assumptions that all ERP systems make are that data is correct, and that agreed plans will actually be executed.  Manufacturing organizations that understand and meet these requirements will flourish in an ERP environment.  Those who do not will struggle significantly.

Avoiding Common ERP Pitfalls

This video explores how ERP implementation and renovation challenges are often less to do with the system and more to do with the approach.

Five warning signs of process inefficiency

One fundamental truth about all ERP systems is that they’re only as good as the underlying data and business processes that support it.  In fact, two of the most common reasons cited for the high rate of implementation failures are inadequate organizational change management and poor master data quality.

To determine if your ERP system is limited by your data and processes, look for these five warning signs:

1- Unable to reliably make and meet customer order delivery promises

If there is one thing that ERP systems are inherently good at, it is planning resources across the entire enterprise to deliver goods to customers in a reliable and predictable manner.  So, if your organization has been using an ERP system for several years and is still struggling to achieve acceptable customer service levels, that is a clear indicator that there could be underlying business process issues that need addressing.  Determining if that is the case requires a thorough root cause analysis of your service failures.

In conducting that analysis, it is critical that you drill down to the proper level to identify the true root causes.  For example, determining that many of your service failures are caused by an inability to produce to schedule is too vague to determine if the issues are process- or system-related.  You need to dig even deeper.

If the deeper analysis reveals that the issues are caused by poor equipment reliability and/or quality, then focusing on continuous process improvement stands a far better chance of improving service performance than any ERP system upgrade.  Conversely, if the issues are more on the scheduling side, then it could indicate a training issue or a true system shortcoming.  If it’s the latter, then the next logical question you must ask is: “Does a system upgrade fix this issue, or does it require a new system?”

By following a similar line of logic for each major service failure, it is possible to create a scorecard matrix to define what issues can be solved by:

  • Focused process improvements
  • ERP system upgrade
  • ERP system reimplementation

2- Inventory adjustments are frequently performed

A fundamental requirement for successful operation in an ERP system is having accurate inventory.  The ability to maintain accurate inventory records will increase order fulfilment capability, reduce costs and improve customer satisfaction.  Timely access to this information can therefore be a strategic differentiator.

Some best practices to adopt prior to going live with a new ERP system are to:

  • Implement cycle counting to track and report inventory record accuracy (IRA) routinely
  • Conduct root cause analysis of IRA failures
  • Take corrective actions to prevent failure recurrence

But even if all these practices are in place, it’s still useful to verify their effectiveness independently.  One very efficient way to do that is to analyse the system write-ons and write- offs.  When performing this analysis, be sure to measure both the number of adjustments and their magnitude in terms of absolute value.

The reason for doing the latter is because write-ons and write-offs have a tendency to balance themselves out over time, unless there is some systemic bias.  So, if you have a situation where there are $1.21 million of write-ons and $1.19 million of write-offs, a simple arithmetic analysis would show a net impact of only $20,000 which might fly under the radar.  Conversely, when looked at in terms of absolute value, the total combined write-on plus write-off quantity would be $2.4 million, which would almost certainly draw attention.

3- Production orders often have large variance

One of the key benefits of an ERP system is that is provides real-time access to costing data which enables improved decision-making.  Of course, the quality of the decisions that can be made is dependent upon the quality of the costing data itself.  So, to get the most out of your ERP system, it is important to take the proper actions to maintain good cost data integrity.

Since ERP systems are based on standard cost accounting, managers must understand when and how to react to variances.  For manufacturers, the most important variances are production order variances, of which the two main categories are:

  • Over / under consumption of materials
  • Over/ under consumption of resources (line time)

The use of standard costs naturally promotes a management by exception process.  As long as variances remain below some reasonable threshold, no intervention is required.  Conversely, if variances surpass that threshold – either above or below – management must quickly investigate and decide on the required actions.  Although it is common to have high production order variances when an organization first implements an ERP system, these variances should come down over time if management responds to them appropriately.

The primary mechanism for reducing production order variances is to adjust the bill of materials (BOMs) and routings to more accurately reflect actual demonstrated performance.  If your organisation has been on an ERP system for several years and continues to see frequent, high production order variances, it’s a sign that the underlying business process for responding to production order variance must be improved.

4- Inappropriate inventory levels

Carrying the appropriate amount of inventory can be a delicate balance.  Too much inventory ties up capital unnecessarily and can lead to waste from over-age and obsolete inventory.  Too little inventory can lead to stockouts and missed sales opportunities.

Maintaining appropriate inventory levels hinges on several factors.  Understanding what is causing your organisation to struggle in that regard is a key step in determining whether a system upgrade can help.  For instance, if BOMs are not accurate, this could lead to either over- or under-purchase of components.

Another item that is critical for setting appropriate stock levels is an accurate demand forecast.  But before looking for a system solution, first ask the following questions:

  • Is the demand planning manager viewed as an important role in the sales and marketing organisation and staffed accordingly?
  • Is the demand plan reviewed and updated at least monthly?
  • Are time fences and decision points established and honoured?

In other words, is the organisation doing all it can to develop an accurate demand forecast?  A system upgrade may go some way in providing access to improved forecasting algorithms, but it can only work well if the right organizational structure and processes are in place.

5- Inability to generate routine reports without significant manual intervention

Although tremendous advances have recently been made in the reporting and business intelligence capability of most ERP systems, do not assume that all your reporting issues can be solved by upgrading alone.

Consider the seemingly simple task of running monthly KPI reports.  Intuitively, it would appear that this type of routine, repetitive report should be easily automated.  But what if month-end happens over a weekend and your organization has the habit of waiting until Monday morning to finalize the production postings from the weekend?  The reports must then either be delayed or manually adjusted to account for month-end timing issues. 

Another common cause of manual manipulation of reports is incomplete or inconsistent population of fields used in the report.  When this occurs, someone must either massage the input data, or review the output and adjust as necessary to account for field inconsistencies.  No matter how many advances your ERP vendor has made in their latest version, it is highly unlikely that an upgrade is going to resolve either of these reporting issues.

It’s therefore important to review all routine reports and ask the question: “What is keeping us from automating this report today?”  If the answer relates primarily to technology, upgrading may help.  If the answer leans more towards organizational behaviour, then the focus should instead be directed toward fixing the organizational behaviour.


Deciding when and how to update your ERP system is a major decision for any organisation.  No matter what you opt for, the choice is ultimately a business decision based on a cost and benefit analysis with a 10-20 year outlook.

So make sure you can deliver the cost of entry before diving into the latest innovation.  Consider external advice, such as gauging your organisation’s readiness for a new ERP system implementation.  Then take advantage of the emerging technologies to place you on the road to success.

Dave Beldyk is the President and Founder of DABCO Consulting LLC, a strategic partner of Competitive Capabilities International (CCi)