Friday, 25 June 2010

Keep on movin' on

So after having made a few posts about what I've seen eleswhere, I'm back to writing about our project.

As you might expect, things have begun to settle into place. Most of the staff are now beginning to know what the processes are, they can generally carry them out most of the time and we are now starting to see some of the benefits of the SAP installation project.

We are seeing far fewer mistakes with the purchasing which had previously been very high. No-one has quantified this yet in detail, but it appears that we may see some savings in that area of about $100,000 per year due to fewer errors. Although this won't cover the cost of the project, it was an unexpected side benefit that will be very welcome. There is also evidence that it has reduced the work load on the purchasing staff by an amount which will also be beneficial.

The finance department still have some issues with analysis, but the data is going in the system, and with the ability to attach scanned copies of documents, they have significantly reduced the problems they used to get with missing files. Again it is not something that we have tried to put a value on, but the accounts manager has estimated that it is saving her staff 2-3 hours work per week. This may not sound a lot, but the time benefit does mean that they are able to concentrate more on the actual work they are paid for, rather than simply chasing down bits of paper.

Sales still have quite serious issues - I'm convinced that we have not got the right approach to pricing which makes it too complex. They are now looking at changing part of the process which I think will help. Customer feedback has been mixed with some people seeing fewer errors, but unfortunately also some fairly major failures due to a problem in the system. It appears that if someone places an order, and then a few days later changes the order, the due date for the goods is automatically pushed back a few days, and this has caused some delivery issues and this problem has yet to be resolved.

Shortly after our go-live, we added in an electronic fax server service which can supplement the email transmission of orders, invoices etc. We did this ourselves without the assistance of the consultants (they wanted to charge us $25,000 in consultancy fees to do the work!). Customer comments are that they appreciate the new feature - there were a few issues back at the beginning of the year, but they mostly seem to have been resolved. The only problems we get are down to inaccurate data regarding email address or fax number - sales staff were supposed to have cleaned up the data way back, but it appears that they could have done a better job.

Distribution have also seen some benefits, although they have had a few major problems caused by the orders being pushed back incorrectly. There were also some inventory issues for several months, probably due to faulty data at the beginning, but these now seem to have been corrected. For some years, we have wanted to implement bar code scanning and this is an area that we think will benefit from this - the staff are quite positive about the concept, and I think that they would make good use of it.

The production area generally is also seeing some benefits with the use of the technology - previously everything was on paper. Again, the details have yet to be accurately quantified, but the production manager suggested that we have seen reduced waste and a slight uplift in productivity. Nothing to set the world on fire, but enough to suggest that the process change is beginning to make a difference.

Unfortunately tho' the project system area is still struggling. About 40% of the work is repeat business and that seems to be generally OK, but the rest is all bespoke and we are still seeing far too many issues. We've had one particular consultant working on that are from the beginning and although I accept that the requirements are quite complex, I think that he seems to have taken a very long time to address some of the simpler issues. The scheduling of work has been one of the biggest issues and it still isn't working as it should which has an affect on so many other areas.

So pretty much a mixed message overall - definitely some benefits in time and cost savings, but some issues yet to be fixed that still frustrate everyone. We have a little bit more time to try to address these, but soon the company wants to start rolling SAP out across the rest of the group. We have a couple of sites in this country and a few others elsewhere and I think that we really need to try to get these problems sorted before rolling it out any further. However, I am a bit concerned that we won't get the time, as pressure is on to try to standardize across the group.

Still; as the man says, "keep on movin' on". We will get there, it may just take longer and require more effort than perhaps it should.

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