Customer success with Infor CloudSuite Industrial
Infor CloudSuite Industrial (Syteline) ERP is specifically designed for manufacturers. The greatest benefit, as well as differentiator of the system, is that it can address almost all business needs. Providing a complete, integrated, and single-sourced application is an important—and rare—asset to have as an ERP provider.
Measuring performance in a manufacturing environment is critical
How manufacturers measure their performance varies from company to company. We often see companies using manufacturing metrics or KPIs that are not necessarily what they need, but rather what they know can be measured (and trusted). That is a big difference. When the critical determinants for collecting data are largely based on technical infrastructure, discipline, and existing processes, that data might not be exactly what you’re looking for.
Everything you need in one place
Over the last few years, we have created a ton of content about ERP implementations. This blog brings our most popular articles together for you in one place! In no particular order, here are our 20 best resources.
How should small manufacturers address their ERP needs?
Small manufacturing companies are often caught in the conundrum of aligning business needs with sometimes arbitrary budgets. Over the past 20 years, I have worked with many small manufacturers looking for ERP solutions, and it is always an interesting balance between the functionality they want, what they can actually utilize, and what they are willing to invest financially.
It’s really no contest
If you are looking for software to manage your small to medium-sized discrete manufacturing business and don’t know if you need MRP (material requirements planning) or ERP (enterprise resource planning), let me make this easy for you. You should look for an ERP system. Read on to learn why.
A little background
When I started as a plant manager, we were running the business with two software systems. One was a well-known accounting package that did what it was designed to do. The other was a home-grown production system and we had no access to the source code. It was a constant problem. Our IT person spent half of his time keeping it running. For all that effort and cost, all it did was produce various lists of orders we had. We didn’t know our costs, our bottlenecks, or our open capacity. (That’s the short list of information we were missing.) Every decision we made was based on gut feel and inaccurate/bad data. The company knew how to make their product, but they didn’t know how to manage a production floor.
Some background before we begin
I speak with many companies and a number of those conversations revolve around ERP software evaluations. Recently, I’ve had quite a few conversations with companies who are running Sage 500, or MAS 500. They ask me whether the rumors about a Sage 500 end of life are true and if so, what the future holds for their ERP system. To be clear, I represent Infor ERP and that is where my expertise lies. I am not an expert in any competitive solutions, but my views are shaped by what I hear from the people I talk with. In this article, I’ll give a quick rundown of what I think you should expect with your Sage 500 ERP.
Manufacturing is our passion
At Visual South, we create a lot of content for our website. We publish at least 52 blogs each year, along with videos and white papers. Our passion is to help manufacturing companies become better, more efficient companies. Not to brag, but we are good at what we do; we know a great deal about our industry and share what we know.
What is machine data and why does it matter?
Machine data is feedback that comes directly from the operational resource on the production floor. It is true, real-time data of run rates and cycle times that can provide exceptionally valuable information for companies where managing capacity is critical and actual costs need to be accurate.
A scheduling pressure cooker
I used to be a plant manager, an operations manager, and a supervisor. I understand the importance of on-time delivery. If a company I worked for wasn’t tracking it, I started to. Anyone who reported to me also knew the importance of on-time delivery.
“Software first” is the wrong strategy
If you search the term “manufacturing erp,” the results show many articles that tout the best, or the top [insert number here] manufacturing ERP packages. I understand that this is advertising and there is only so much space to proclaim, “Look at us!” However, I see this “software first” mentality live through the sales cycle and even drive manufacturing ERP selection decisions. A software’s functionality should not be the first criteria when selecting a manufacturing solution. At best, it’s the second criteria. (In fact, I will make a case it’s actually tied for second.) I’ve spent over 35 years using, implementing, or selling manufacturing ERP, so I’ve learned a few things along the way. Read on and I’ll share them with you.
Some background before we begin
I work with all sorts of companies and many of them already use an ERP, but many more do not and are evaluating solutions. You may think a lot of my conversations revolve around the software itself, explaining its functionality, the technology, how it’s licensed, etc. While I do have many detailed conversations about those things, most of my discussions center on what challenges businesses are having and how an ERP might benefit them. There are all sorts of reasons to implement and use an ERP, which vary from company to company. But one of the main benefits of ERP that is close to being universal for all companies is being able to control overhead costs.
There’s a method
Creating an ERP implementation timeline can be a difficult process. There is no standard template that will magically fit all projects, as every one is unique. No two businesses, even in the exact same industrial segment, are alike. Each has a different scope, team, and availability. However, what’s typically the same for just about all small to medium-sized ERP implementations are the core phases and tasks to get from purchasing your new solution, to going live with it, and beyond. This blog will discuss Visual South’s methodology for an ERP implementation project plan.
What is Infor SyteLine enterprise resource planning (ERP) software?
Infor SyteLine (recently rebranded as Infor CloudSuite Industrial or CSI) ERP software is Infor’s ERP offering for small and medium-sized manufacturers and distributors. For more than 30 years, SyteLine has been used by manufacturing-centric companies for managing their business activities. SyteLine scales from as small as a 15-user single site up to hundreds of users across multiple sites, divisions, and multiple companies.
What is a work breakdown structure (WBS)?
A WBS is a framework that defines the deliverable or outcomes of a project. The WBS is a hierarchical view of what can be considered 100 percent of the scope of desired deliverables—all desired results—of the project.
Some background before we begin
I want to give a little background before we jump into the meat and potatoes here. I have been selling Infor ERP products since 2002 and spent 5 years as an SAP consultant prior to that. I’ve helped implement SAP from beginning to end in many companies, ranging from service providers and distributors, all the way to manufacturing companies. I’ve worked in small, midsize, and Fortune 100 companies in my different roles as a consultant, trainer, and project manager. I think my perspective can be helpful to someone currently running SAP who is faced with the forced transition to HANA by 2025.
Infor CloudSuite Industrial is integrated with many business systems
Infor CloudSuite Industrial (CSI) /Syteline ERP is already integrated with many of the common systems used across most enterprises. So, there is minimal effort (if any) to make CloudSuite Industrial work with your existing complimentary business systems and tools. CloudSuite Industrial/Syteline benefits from having thousands of customers and decades of development; the application is built to be deeply integrated with many popular programs.
What is it?
VISUAL Shop Floor Mobile (SFM) is a solution that provides mobile functionality in the areas of Labor, Attendance, Materials, and Scheduling from a web application that allows you to deploy it on mobile devices such as scanners, tablets, and mobile phones. It takes the existing VISUAL functionality in these areas, and gives them a technology overhaul which provides a variety of benefits. Better yet, there is a licensing option that gets you UNLIMITED licenses. These exciting new developments allow you to become more efficient by putting the solution in the hands of more users. The technology uplift allows more cost-effective hardware options, and provides a streamlined, modernized user experience.
What is a KPI?
A KPI (key performance indicator) is a measurement of value that manufacturing companies typically identify and track to determine how they are performing in a particular area of operations. KPIs are ideally presented in a dashboard format, giving the user the ability to quickly answer questions like, “How are we are doing?” and “What is causing performance issues”? Think of KPIs as a company or department’s scoreboard showing how well the team is playing in the game.
Manufacturers need specific software to support their operation
There are many software systems available to help companies execute various functions. For example, our team at Visual South works with many businesses that use QuickBooks and Excel to handle day-to-day operations. However, we often find that these companies—along with similar businesses running legacy systems—are looking for a better way to manage all their processes, especially if they have some form of manufacturing or production requirements.
No works orders, no production
For a discrete manufacturer, work orders are the lifeblood of production. The work order authorizes the development of a product—it provides the production team with a method to create the product to meet the specifications for the demand it is fulfilling.
Everyone schedules, but not everyone does it well
It’s a universal truth that every manufacturing company schedules. You may not do it well, but you do it. It’s simply the nature of the business—customers request an item and you must look into the future to predict (and commit) to when it will be done…before you even start working on it.
A little background first…
ERP software is a tool that supports business processes and workflows. Some ERP software systems are generic while others are designed for particular industries. Visual South focuses on the manufacturing industry and our ERP solutions are designed for manufacturing companies—more specifically, order-driven manufacturers. Our customers are typically make-to-order, configure-to-order, engineer-to-order, make-to-stock, or a combination of all of the above. So, the ERP processes and workflows I cover in this article are primarily targeted toward manufacturing companies and their software.
A shift for EDI
EDI is an often overlooked business process that rarely gets a fresh look, especially in the context of established systems like Infor VISUAL and Cloudsuite Industrial (CSI). Like most industries, however, EDI has undergone a shift as a result of competition for steadily dwindling resources and early-generation technology reaching end-of-life.
Overlooked costs when implementing ERP systems
The Visual South team has over 25 years of experience with implementing ERP applications. We have basically seen it all when it comes to ERP implementations and come to recognize the characteristics of successful implementations, as well as the warning signs when an implementation is at risk. The good news is that the typical implementation goes as planned and is successful. But a common challenge that can derail the implementation process is a failure to identify hidden costs. Companies must have a plan to manage those hidden costs.
Infor ERP products
Visual South sells, implements, and supports two Infor ERP products: CloudSuite Industrial (formerly known as SyteLine), and VISUAL. We are commonly asked, “What are the differences between the two?” That’s a reasonable, straightforward question, but the answer is much more nuanced because these ERP products are used to run manufacturing businesses, which are not simple and straightforward. At a high level, the two products feel similar; they are both ERP products with deep functionality. Also, at a high level, two manufacturers feel similar; they both make stuff. As you look deeper into the manufacturers, differences emerge and the same is true with the Infor ERP products. For this article, I’ll start by comparing what is similar between the two products and then work through the differences.
A little background first…
I want to start by telling you a little bit about my background because I believe it will give some context to this blog. I proudly represent Infor ERP products and have been at Visual South since 2002. Five years prior to coming on board here, I was an SAP consultant. My specialty was the sales/distribution module, along with the variant configurator. I was part of quite a few full implementations in a variety of industries, taught training classes, and helped with presales efforts. My first implementation was on R/3 version 3.1G and my last was on version 4.6.
Benefits of having accurate job costing
Given that many of Visual South’s customers and prospects are “to order” manufacturers, one of the prime operational areas they are typically looking to improve when we speak with them is costing. Additionally, many companies we work with are engineer-to-order, configure-to-order, and project-oriented manufacturers, so job costing is critical.
Inventory management is critical
I visit companies all the time that are looking for an ERP software solution. In almost all cases, these companies mention that they need to manage inventory better. Solid inventory management for manufacturing companies is a result of solid processes, but solid processes are difficult to execute if you do not have a tool like ERP software (Cloud Suite Industrial or VISUAL) to support them. Below, I list some of the inventory management issues I hear about all the time and how ERP can address these issues, which will hopefully help you determine if your current solution measures up.
Budgeting for an ERP purchase
Budgeting for an ERP purchase can be a significant challenge. There are many cost factors to consider when replacing your current system and choosing an arbitrary dollar amount as your ERP budget is a mistake. But it is a mistake that many first-time ERP shoppers make.
Things to consider before customizing ERP software
Visual South has helped hundreds of manufacturers implement and optimize operations with their ERP systems. Often there are functional gaps between the ERP software and the business requirements of the customer. When this situation arises, we have a couple of options to close the gaps, such as using the development toolset to add functionality or develop a bolt-on application. Some consider this approach customization.
A simple concept
Measure what you want to improve. Six simple words, but put together they convey a powerful concept that can transform manufacturing companies. (Point of reference: Visual South works with small to medium-sized manufactures that use work orders.) It’s a basic concept that’s hard to argue with: Collect data, see where the data leads you, and make changes that have a positive impact on the data. Repeat often.
QuickBooks & manufacturing have inherent problems
QuickBooks is an accounting-focused application that’s built for small businesses. Offering a lot of great features, it is one of the most commonly used accounting programs for all types of small companies. However, it is not an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. There’s some improved functionality available with QuickBooks Enterprise, but companies tend to outgrow that functionality quickly—especially work-order-driven manufacturers. We have seen many companies struggle when trying to determine how to use QuickBooks for manufacturing.
Before we get to the three questions…
This blog is written assuming that you are following some sort of methodology for managing your ERP evaluations. The following questions are geared toward helping you decide which vendor to work with, not the mechanics of the evaluation itself. If you don’t have a methodology, my suggestion would be to first download our ebook to get some fantastic advice on how to carry out your ERP evaluations. You can download it here.
The difference between standard and actual cost
Before I get into the best costing methodology for a work-order-driven manufacturing company, let me define both methods. With standard cost versus actual cost, the discussion centers around how the ERP system values an inventory or labor transaction. Here is how the different costing methods calculate the value of the transactions.
How to Successfully Apply ERP Training
ERP users run the spectrum in regard to their ability to properly use their current system. Some are Jedi masters, many are proficient, and others know only the basics. Oftentimes, a user’s ability is directly related to their role in the organization and amount of training they’ve received on their ERP system.
A little background
I have been in the ERP industry for over 21 years and have worked with companies of all sizes and industries, but primarily have experience with small to medium-sized manufacturing businesses. I am currently in a sales role, so I frequently talk with companies that are interested in one of our Infor ERP products. One of the questions I always ask is “What are you using today?” A lot of times the answer to my question is QuickBooks.
Aerospace ERP must have traceability
Aerospace and defense customers need ERP with industry-specific functional attributes to help them comply with mandatory regulations. For that reason, ERP for the aerospace industry includes the standard functionality provided in general manufacturing systems, plus additional tools. In this article, I focus on one of the most important functional areas for those who are evaluating or seeking to improve their aerospace ERP software.
Production performance metrics
Visual South works with manufacturers who use work orders, so this article focuses on job shops and discreet manufacturers. In this type of environment, production’s job is to deliver a certain quantity of a certain product. There is a defined start and a defined finish. Maybe production has made it before, maybe they haven’t. They may make it again, they may not.
What does it consist of?
An ERP implementation in the manufacturing industry typically consists of two companies—the company that provides implementation services and the company that procures them—working together to successfully bring the ERP implementation live.
Spreadsheets are cool
Let me start out by saying I like spreadsheets. I use Excel to analyze data, create different scenarios, communicate ideas, etc. Excel is on every computer I own. I really can’t imagine not being able to use Excel in my daily life.
Engineer-to-order manufacturers are unique
Engineer-to-order manufacturers seldom make the same product twice, which makes them unique when compared with their make-to-stock and make-to-order counterparts.
These engineer-to-order manufacturers are project oriented and manage front-end loaded engineering efforts. They handle manufacturing processes, actual costing environments, potentially unique revenue recognition requirements, and installation and potential after-market service requirements.
Shop floor execution for to order manufacturers
Infor CloudSuite Industrial (SyteLine) is a purpose-built ERP application for those in the discrete manufacturing sector, with specific focus on To Order manufacturers and mixed-mode manufacturers that build to order and to stock. If your company fits within these categories, there are many benefits of using Infor CloudSuite Industrial (SyteLine) ERP on the shop floor, as well as throughout the entire organization.
What is Business Intelligence?
The software industry has no shortage of terms and acronyms, so before we talk about Infor’s Business Intelligence Tool (that’s called “Birst”), what is Business Intelligence (or “BI”)? Business Intelligence refers to solutions and processes that support the gathering, analysis, integration, and presentation of business information. Business Intelligence tools help companies understand their business better, and enable their employees to make better decisions because they have the information they need. At its most basic level, Business Intelligence is what is commonly referred to as “reporting”, like a bookings report, a purchase orders due for receipt report, for example. Business Intelligence solutions take reporting to the next level by making the data easier to consume for end users, easier to analyze, and easier to get answers to difficult questions.
What functionality does it have?
The Infor Quality Management system is a robust and complete platform. It can run standalone or integrate with Infor ERP products. The system comes with a plethora of functionality modules:
Production planning definition
ERP production planning can mean many things to many people; so, let me start out by explaining what it means to me; and therefore, what I’ll be writing about. ERP production planning is the coordination of people, machine capacity, and raw materials all coming together, so you can make what you make when you need to. “…when you need to” is based on a customer demand or an internal demand (sub-assembly, forecast, etc.). The need for better production planning is usually a major driver for the search and purchase of an ERP system.
It’s all about the data
I’m a big believer in measuring what you want to improve. Measuring gives you data and you’ll see trends (good or bad) emerge. Figure out what is causing the good trends and keep doing that. Maybe you can even find ways to make the good trends better. Figure out what is causing the bad trends and find ways to stop doing that; or at least, minimize it.
Where do I start?
With the continuous evolution of modern ERP software solutions, there is a growing number of manufacturing data collection and analysis options available to you. In this article, we’ll discuss a few manufacturing data points that provide a good overall view of your performance and how they fit together.
We use the tools we know
I have been to a lot of companies and worked with a lot of people over the years, and I've come to the realization that we all use the tools we know to deal with issues we face. If you ask an assassin to fix a problem, someone is going to die. If you ask a programmer to fix a problem, a new program will be created.
Just what is digital transformation?
For a while now, I’ve been hearing the term “digital transformation”; but I never really thought about it. Usually, when I hear the same term over and over, I can figure out its meaning by the context in how it’s used. That was not the case here. I never asked the person using the term because I didn’t want to look stupid. Of course, pretending you know something when you don’t is the ultimate in stupidly, so I Googled it. Here is the definition according to i-SCOOP's website:
Pushing out faster releases and new functionality for VISUAL ERP
Infor has released more functional enhancements for VISUAL ERP in the last 24 months than we normally see. Infor VISUAL ERP Product Manager Rich Lagoy and the VISUAL ERP steering committee are driving out new functionality at a faster pace than before, delivering quarterly updates to the large VISUAL ERP user base and new sales customers.
Which one would work better for you?
If you've read any Visual South blogs, you know we like to focus on solving problems. This article will help you think through which deployment option (cloud or on-premise) would be a better fit for your company.
Measure what you want to improve
There are many opinions as to what key performance indicators (KPIs) should be monitored at a small to medium-sized manufacturing company, but the on-time delivery (OTD) KPI is on everyone’s list. It doesn’t matter if the company is build-to-stock, a job shop, or something in-between; there are many steps in coordinating the production of a product and OTD is a nice summation of manufacturing performance.
What is capacity planning?
Capacity planning is almost always involved, whether directly or indirectly, with the work Visual South does with manufacturing companies. Over the years, we’ve learned the best processes for capacity planning, but let’s first define the term, so we all begin on the same page.
It ain’t easy
Managing a shop floor is no easy task. Your employees make mistakes, equipment breaks, rush orders slip in, jobs ship late, and days are long. On top of that, there is the constant demand to reduce costs and increase quality. It’s a real pressure cooker.
The case for having documentation
At Visual South, we always recommend that our customers have solid business process documentation templates. Companies often have written procedures for quality control, human resources, safety, and the like, but not always for enterprise resource planning. Not having processes documented for your ERP software creates risk that can have disruptive effects and negatively impact the bottom line.
Infor VISUAL ERP Training
As with any modern ERP software solution, getting the proper training on specific functional modules is necessary for initial and continued success. During implementation, you should be trained in all areas of the application. However, for companies that have been using the VISUAL solution for some time, there are certain modules that we at Visual South recommend you take refresher courses on every so often.
Reducing Manufacturing Lead Time
Many of the manufacturers our team speaks with have put improving lead time at the top of their priority list. That’s no big surprise—lead time can be a determinant in winning new customers, driving business growth, and achieving on-time delivery.
ERP production planning options
All modern ERP manufacturing solutions contain planning modules to assist in managing your inventory, supply chain, and production scheduling. But how each solution helps you perform these functions can differ. To begin, let’s review two of the common modules you would likely use for ERP in production planning:
Why only two?
Dozens of modules are used in just about all manufacturing ERP implementations, so why would we only focus on two of them? Of course ALL modules are important, but these two have the greatest impact on the entire ERP system.
Important decisions take thought
Your ERP forms the backbone of your company. It is the platform that people use to support and execute the processes that make your company work. ERP software is a “tool” for a job, but how you use that tool is what separates good companies from great ones. ERP is also a large, often one-time investment. The partner you choose to help you bring this tool to life and apply it to your business to get the most out of your investment is of vital importance and should be carefully considered. Of all the Infor Channel Partners, here are some reasons we think Visual South is the best.
Times they are a changin'
A quick review of ERP history and the evolution of ERP systems will show there are three primary, interrelated drivers: technology, functionality, and usability.
Attitude isn’t everything
I’m a fan of a “can-do” attitude. Having a positive attitude helps you overcome obstacles and get through anything life throws at you. If a new ERP implementation in a manufacturing industry is something life will be throwing at your organization, a can-do attitude is the right attitude for the implementation team to have.
Chances are good you don't need to hire someone
I have a certain passion for helping companies manage their capacity by scheduling properly. In this blog post, I’m going to discuss a common thought process companies go through to finally get to the point of using ERP to schedule their shop floor: They need to hire a Scheduler. Put someone in charge and have them get the company to the promised land of scheduling properly. It sounds reasonable, but in my experience, it’s a misguided strategy. Let me explain why.
I used VISUAL ERP scheduling
When I was a Plant Manager at a rotary die manufacturer in 1994, I bought an ERP system. The biggest problem I was trying to solve was scheduling the shop floor. We were in an industry that demanded 2-4 day lead times. Everything we did was custom; each work order had around 20 operations. It was rare for me to get a question about our ability to produce a die, because we had all the right type of fabricating equipment to produce a die. The real question was if we could produce it in the lead time the customer provided. In other words, did we have enough open capacity to do what the customer wanted us to do?
As an ERP vendor for small and medium-sized manufacturers, we see a wide variety of tactics when it comes to managing information technologies. Some companies have a dedicated IT staff whose sole responsibility is keeping all servers, clients, networks, applications, and other related systems up and running. These companies typically also have a database administrator who insures all critical databases are properly backed up and maintained. However, we also commonly see manufacturers put less emphasis on IT. In other words, someone has been designated as the “IT” person, yet that is not their primary role.
Knowledge is power
The power of an ERP solution is highly dependent on the knowledge of the company using it. One company can use the software really well, while another company, well, not so much. We often use the analogy of an airplane; the airplane is built to fly, but it only works if there is a pilot sitting in it that knows what he is doing. Is your company flying the plane, or figuring out how to open the cockpit door?
What is big data?
The term big data may mean different things to different people and organizations.
Google’s dictionary defines big data as “extremely large data sets that may be analyzed computationally to reveal patterns, trends, and associations, especially relating to human behavior and interactions.”
Infor CloudSuite Industrial Enterprise Resource Planning Software
Infor CloudSuite Industrial Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software is Infor’s leading solution for small- to medium-size manufacturers. If your manufacturing company has an annual revenue ranging from $10 million to $250 million, then CloudSuite Industrial may be a good fit for your business requirements. Thousands of customers use the Infor CloudSuite Industrial (formerly known as Syteline) worldwide. In fact, it is often independently ranked among the top three ERP solutions available for SMB manufacturing companies.
Planning for success
Capacity planning in manufacturing is a big job and sometimes an even bigger headache. The methods we’ve seen used to perform this task include spreadsheets, whiteboards, pencils and paper, a big stick, and ERP software. In many cases, it’s a combination of any of the above.
In this article, we will explain how to structure your manufacturing capacity planning to work in any software. Our goal is to eliminate the need for using the “non-software” options listed above (although the big stick can usually be reassigned elsewhere effectively).
Some quick facts first
VISUAL ERP Version 9.0 is an underlying technology upgrade. When an entire technology platform is upgraded, the version will change by a whole number (like 7.0, 8.0, or 9.0). When updates are made on an existing technology platform, it’s considered an intermittent release and will use decimals for the version, such as 7.1.2.
ERP software evaluations provide answers to your questions
Visual South assists companies with ERP system evaluations and implementations every day, and has since 1993. It’s what we do and we have been through the ERP evaluation process hundreds of times.
However, many customers may only evaluate ERP software every 10 to 15 years. The ERP selection team members may have never evaluated software, or may have done so only once before. This leads to the development of many different processes -- some are good and others not so good. The Visual South team can help regardless.
Enough ERP articles to compose a novel
We published a lot of blog posts over the last 18 months—85 posts and over 75,000 words, to be specific. (Just for context, the average novel is about 90,000 words, as long as it’s not Harry Potter.) We had a lot to say, and we tried to keep everything relevant and helpful. This is the bar we set for ourselves and I’m proud of the content we published last year.
Planning for success
Material planning and scheduling are perhaps the two most difficult processes for any manufacturing company to perfect. While the processes generally live in two different departments, the success of one is highly dependent on the success of the other. In this article, we will discuss Visual South’s methodology for implementation of the Advanced Planning and Scheduling (APS) functionality in manufacturing. I will use Infor CloudSuite Industrial as the ERP software of reference.
Infor provides options
Infor provides ERP solutions that help manufacturers with all order modes, including assemble-to-order, make-to-order, configure-to-order, engineer-to-order, build-to-stock and forecast, and mixed-mode production. Some Infor ERP solutions are manufacturing-centric—such as CloudSuite Industrial (Syteline) and Infor VISUAL—and manage all manufacturing modes, including assemble-to-order, very well.
If you had to travel from New York City to San Francisco, what’s faster, a jet or a car?
♩♫ Jeopardy music ♫♩
Right now you’re thinking, “The obvious answer is “jet”. But if that’s the right answer, this wouldn’t be a riddle.”
Experience in manufacturing
Visual South’s number one criterion in hiring consultants is experience in manufacturing. Almost all of our customers are responsible for making or repairing something, and the entire business usually revolves around work orders. With this being the case, our consultants have to understand manufacturing. Typically, they held a leadership position in a manufacturing company, such as controller, CFO, plant manager, CIO, COO, or other similar titles.
Include IT for the best results
The role of Information Technology (IT) in an ERP implementation project is very important. The IT manager should always be part of the project as their department will be responsible for assisting during the software evaluation, installing the software or connectivity, and providing the ongoing infrastructure support needed for an optimum-performing ERP system and environment.
ERP implementations need a leader
For any project to be successful, it requires a leader, and an ERP implementation is no different. Projects involve people who take on roles, responsibilities, tasks, and decisions. They are a true team, and everyone’s actions (or inactions) affect the team and project. The ERP Project Manager is the leader of this team, and is ultimately responsible for the success or failure of the implementation.
If only I had known…
...the “Top 10 Things I Wish My ERP Implementation Partner Told Me About.” This was the title of a session at a recent ERP user conference I attended. Naturally, as an ERP implementation vendor, I wanted to sit in and gain some perspective from a large group of customers.
The benefits of training
CloudSuite Industrial (SyteLine) is a sophisticated, robust ERP solution with a full complement of functionality that provides solutions to enterprises of all sizes. ERP software depends on processes, and tools to support those processes, along with people who understand how to do their jobs. Think of the software as an airplane—even the newest, best model still needs a pilot, so training is key. A plane is no good if the person commanding it does not know how to fly it.
Why have ERP without manufacturing analytics?
If you use work orders to produce goods and aren’t getting manufacturing analytics out of your ERP system, you have an important resource that’s untapped. The good news is this can be fixed. The other good news is fixing it will lead to a smoother operating production floor with a more predictable output. There is no “easy” button, but there is a proven method you can follow to mine manufacturing analytics. Companies that use this method find managing production is easier, because they have data. They know what to fix, and just as importantly, what to leave alone. Data leads to focus, which leads to better results. It’s not magic, but it does work.
Oh, you’ll want a custom report
In 1789, Benjamin Franklin wrote, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” I think he got it mostly right. He should have said: “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death, taxes, and the need for custom reports from your ERP system.” In Ben’s defense, computers and ERP systems weren’t invented yet, so he did the best he could...
What do you sell?
In the job shop machine industry there is a funny answer to the question, “What do you make?” The response is, “Chips. We make metal chips. The faster we make them, the better we are doing.” (Metal chips are made with a metal cutting tool removing the material you don’t want. The tools are used on equipment like a lathe or a mill. Want to know how they work? Read this.)
It seems that “manufacturing data analytics” is the popular buzz term in every facility these days. Management concludes they must collect and analyze as much data as possible to identify trends and opportunities within the manufacturing process. Every sample of data should somehow equate to an ability to gain a competitive advantage. And yet the most common result is analysis paralysis.
Why do you need employees to get on board for your ERP implementation?
Visual South has spent over two decades doing ERP implementations and we’ve learned more than a few secrets to success along the way. Our project leaders and implementation consultants have managed customer teams that were cooperative…and others that weren’t so cooperative. The success of the project greatly depends on getting your implementation team members on board and employees to buy in. An ERP implementation is a team activity. As with any team, if one person fails to do their job, there will be breakdowns and mistakes that not only affect that person, but the entire team. One person can cause a phase or entire project to fail. It is as simple as that.
ERP implementation takes a village, and the village needs a leader
ERP implementations can – and have – failed. We have written many blogs about how to avoid that, how to build the right team, how to succeed, and even what to do post-implementation to stay successful. Here are some examples:
Could your ERP (and you) be performing better?
Companies put a lot of time, effort, and money into evaluating, purchasing, implementing, and maintaining ERP systems. They are worth the effort, but if managed incorrectly, you can slip backward and revert to being the company you set out to correct when you initially purchased your ERP.
Change the way you think
A lot of focus is put on how to evaluate, select, and implement ERP. But once the implementation is over, how do you keep things running as smoothly as possible?
An ERP implementation is a high risk, potentially disruptive project that takes up time and resources for a typical manufacturing company. It can be difficult for employees because many are asked to take on additional ERP project responsibilities, along with the current roles they fill to run the business on a day-to-day basis. A mentality develops that as soon as you go live on the new system, the project is OVER and everything can go back to normal. In fact, the opposite is true—the project is just BEGINNING.
Floss your teeth, don't eat junk, document your procedures
My guess is the headline above didn't tell you anything you don't already know. There is a difference though between knowing and doing. You don't need me going into detail of the benefits of flossing your teeth or eating right, so I'm going to focus on the benefits of documenting your ERP system procedures. I promise you two things: This won't be a finger wag if your procedures aren't documented. Also, I will reveal an easy way to document your procedures. The third point isn't a promise, but it is a goal. I'll try to make this interesting, so keep reading.
ERP software free trials
Visual South is often asked by potential customers if it’s possible to try the Infor ERP software. The answer to that question is yes; we’d be happy to arrange a test drive of the software for you. However, we do ask that you complete a few steps prior to the ERP trial to ensure our software would be a good fit for your functionality needs and budget.
Understand what you are evaluating
Before I go into the right and wrong ways to run your enterprise resource planning (ERP) system demo process, let’s establish what it is you should be evaluating during the entire selection process. Obviously, it’s ERP, but it’s not only ERP. You will also be entering into a long-term relationship with the company providing implementation and ongoing services. Your implementation provider is as important to the success of your ERP project as choosing the right software. That may sound like a bold statement, but think of it this way: Buying a plane doesn’t make you a pilot. Training, practice, and passing certification tests does. Buying ERP doesn’t implement it. Developing new procedures, training, practice, and successfully completing real-life scenarios does. Who assists you through all this? Your implementation provider. ERP is worthless if it’s not implemented properly, so don’t overlook the importance of your implementation provider.
What do they do?
Searching for and evaluating ERP software is difficult. Really difficult. There are so many different terms, products, markets, deployment models, and technologies, that it can be hard to narrow down your choices to a select few. I talk with people all the time who have undertaken this challenge, and clarity is a challenge. Occasionally, companies pay a selection consultant for help figuring out which solutions to learn more about.
Does this describe you or your company?
It seems like managers involved in the manufacturing production process never have enough reports or data. It’s not uncommon for our consultants at Visual South to get requests that begin with, “It would be great if I could get a report that…” Truth be told, the requests usually make a lot of sense. So, we develop the report and our customers start using it.
How do you measure success?
Simply surviving an implementation and going live on your new solution is not enough. A true ERP implementation success means that all objectives originally defined in the scope of the project were met and exceeded.
What is the difference between ERP and CRM?
There is no shortage of three-letter acronyms in the software industry. Sometimes it can be confusing to try to figure out what they mean, much less what the solutions do. Let’s take a closer look at both.
A better strategy leads to better results
Back in the late 80s, I was an Operations Manager at a job shop manufacturer. I was responsible for all aspects of the business group I ran (except sales) and had seven supervisors reporting to me. The data I used to measure how we were doing was our on-time delivery; because that was the data Senior Management used to judge me. I'm proud to say my group consistently outperformed the two other business groups in the company.
First Step: Prepare
Create an ERP comparison committee
The first step is to create a ERP comparison committee. The members of this committee should be made up of a select group of decision makers in the organization. There are no hard and fast rules here, but there are guidelines:
Is the solution hidden in plain sight?
When I talk to Visual South customers about using their ERP system to guide them to manufacturing process improvements that could be made, I always ask who is responsible for the variance in estimated vs. actual costs in a completed work order. In some cases, I get a quick answer with a name. That speaks volumes to me because it means they are proactive in looking at cost data. Companies who do this become comfortable with the accuracy of the data. This doesn’t mean they like all the data; but that’s the point. If there is an unacceptable variance, they find out what caused it. Perhaps the standard was wrong (in either direction). Perhaps the execution was flawed or exceeded expectations. The important thing is they know about it, and can do something about it.
ERP implementation challenges
Clear signs of risk and unavoidable challenges can usually be identified from the start of every ERP implementation. Similarly, challenges that are completely unanticipated almost always arise throughout the implementation. Every issue, big or small, should be identified as a risk to the project that might lead to failure.
Choosing field service management apps can be easy
The Visual South team frequently discusses the need for a foundation and process to ensure success when choosing enterprise systems. The same is true with field service management apps – if you have a plan, then it’s easy. If you don’t, then not so much. One way to hit that easy button is to learn how to select service management software as it will give you guidance on the steps to create a process and a plan.
A shop floor can be out of focus
I created the image used in the header of this blog about a year and a half ago for another project I was working on. Since then, it's also become the main image the Visual South website's homepage. I like the image because it tells the story of who we are as a company, and how we work with our customers to help them become more efficient. You've seen the image, now let me tell the story in words.
ERP accounting requirements are like cars
Let’s talk about the Porsche 911 and Chevy Spark. While both are cars, there is a big difference between the two. The 911 is a refined sports car with a base price of $91,000. The Spark is an economy car with a base price of $13,050. Both will get you safely from point A to point B; both have an engine, doors, windows, breaks, airbags, etc. Clearly though, they are not the same and aren’t even in the same market. They appeal to different types of buyers and are designed with that buyer in mind. If you go no further than category of vehicles and only look at price, you could end up buying a Spark, going to the racetrack, and being on the receiving end of a humbling experience.
Unintegrated field service management systems are costly
Visual South engages with many clients simply because these businesses recognize their non-integrated systems are costing them a bundle to manually integrate and maintain, and limiting profitable growth. Typically, companies use an accounting system, and some combination of Excel and small stand-alone, third-party applications to address immediate needs, but those “Frankenstein” systems are costly and limiting. It would be easy to say this is hurting the user’s field service management process, but in many cases, there are no firm processes to hurt because there is no supporting infrastructure. However, there are many non-related and redundant tasks performed to manually tie information together.
Do your homework
Often times I get asked by potential CRM customers what CRM system they should buy. My answer is usually, “It doesn’t matter.” If you are going to choose the CRM system without doing your homework, any system will work equally as well, or as poorly, so just pick the cheapest. However, if you are going to do your homework and make the decision that best fits your company, you have a long way to go before choosing the CRM system that makes sense. So if this is the case, then what should you consider before purchasing a CRM System?
Focus on the Solution
I’m not a golfer. How do I know this? Because I tried to be. Practice, regular play, lessons – I tried it all. What I heard over and over again as a professional tried to correct my version of a golf swing was this: The swing I’m teaching you is going to feel funny at first.
Why InforTM CRM
Customer relationships are essential to your sales success. Whether you're identifying new leads or staying current with existing customers, you need a complete view of customer interactions across your sales, marketing, customer service, and support teams. With these insights, your teams can collaborate more effectively and respond promptly and knowledgeably to sales opportunities and customer inquiries—both in the office and in the field.
Guidelines for when integration of your ERP with a 3rd party application is appropriate
The upside to buying enterprise resource planning (ERP) that is not custom-written exclusively for one company is the economy of scale. Since it is written for the masses, the cost per user plummets. Microsoft Office certainly costs much more to develop than the few hundred dollars it costs to license. One of the other upsides is thousands or tens of thousands of users create a robust community that quickly flushes out weaknesses in functionality, helping the software become stronger.
A variety of personalities make a good team
In a previous article you can find here, I discussed ERP Roles & Responsibilities, and how to build your team. In this article, we will get into the kinds of people that form an ERP team. Rather than re-explaining the different titles and responsibilities, let’s talk about the personalities and types of members you’re likely to have in a “common” structure.
Know what ERP can do for you
Every month, I talk with people looking to buy an ERP system; and I also talk with customers who have been using ERP for years and years. I am exposed to the entire ERP spectrum. At one end are potential customers who articulate the issues they are experiencing by not having an integrated ERP system; and what they want the new ERP system to do for them. On the other end are customers who have an integrated ERP system that is working very well for them. In the middle are customers who aren’t getting the most they could out of ERP because the users either don’t understand what ERP could do for them, or they don’t know how to set it up to give them what they want.
ERP and CRM integration benefits and issues
It’s not as simple as one may think for companies to execute an ERP and CRM integration. In many cases, there is no strategy as internal departments do their own thing. For example, accounting may adopt QuickBooks and production may use a non-integrated system or supplement QuickBooks with a plethora of spreadsheets. This scenario is one we commonly see.
CRM testing and emotions
Before I explain what goes into CRM testing – which is basically all logic – I’d like to review the emotional side of testing. I’ve never met anyone who disagreed with the premise of testing. After all, what is there to disagree with? The logic is pretty straight forward: The company makes a substantial investment in CRM; new processes are developed to take advantage of what CRM can offer; let’s test it before we use it.
ERP training does not end after implementation
During implementation, ERP training primarily focuses on how the company will utilize the software to perform its daily functions, as well as processes necessary to replace the current system. Key users and team members work with their implementation partner to develop a plan and define the training requirements for the new ERP solution.
Post-implementation ERP training is just as important as the initial training to achieve continued success. Every company needs an ever-evolving plan for continuous improvement. Ongoing ERP training should be a significant part of that plan!
Can a configure price quote software solution help me?
If you aren’t sure about what configure price quote (CPQ) software is, or you want to improve your baseline understanding, you can check out my other blog, “What is CPQ?”. If you are specifically looking for Infor CPQ software, you can read a review here.
There are a lot of benefits provided by CPQ software, but probably the biggest one is the ability to make it easier for non-engineers to correctly configure a complex solution. As simple as it may sound, a lot of companies struggle with the issue of salespeople, customers, resellers, and others designing a solution (a part or material) that engineering cannot create, and one that manufacturing departments cannot manufacture. When there’s no CPQ solution in place, it creates very long lead times, and complex back-and-forth discussions due to the difficulty in managing all of the emails, drawings, and conversations that have to take place before actual manufacturing can occur.
What functionality does CPQ have?
Before we jump into specific functionality, get up to speed on what CPQ software is by reading my blog on the subject.
Infor CPQ (Configure, Price, Quote) is a solution that has five distinct modules:
- Infor Product Configurator
- Infor Customer Portal
- Infor 2D Design Automation
- Infor 3D Design Automation
- Infor Document Automation
You can learn more about each module below.
What does CPQ stand for?
The software industry has no shortage of three-letter acronyms, so let’s get right to answering the question. CPQ stands for configure, price, quote. More specifically, CPQ is a category of software that helps enable the business processes of configuring, pricing, and quoting a product or service.
An Exhaustive Look at VISUAL ERP's Functionality
Why would any manufacturing company want VISUAL ERP?
Actually, that’s an easy question to answer. There are three reasons:
- Value: You will not find an ERP product with more depth and breadth of functionality at the same price point.
- Ease of use: VISUAL is built by software developers, but the interface was developed by designers to focus on ease of use. The screens are simple and intuitive, yet answers to your next question are in a secondary (child) window or are a simple click away.
- Focus: VISUAL is designed for small-to-medium sized manufacturers who create work orders to make or repair items. If this doesn’t describe your company, Infor VISUAL will not be a fit for your manufacturing company. If this does describe your company, keep reading—VISUAL may be exactly what you're looking for.
This isn’t just about functionality
If you are in the market for a new enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, don’t just focus on the software’s functionality. Limiting your search criteria to just the ERP is like shopping for a new house and not factoring in the location. Not paying attention to, or discounting the importance of other critical factors can narrow your choices, but increase your chance of being unhappy with what you ultimately choose – whether that’s a nice house in a bad location or new ERP that isn’t working for your company. The good news is this can be avoided. In the case of ERP, it comes down to closely evaluating the ERP implementation consultants you’ll be working with just as much as evaluating the ERP itself.
Implementing a new enterprise resource planning (ERP) system can be a humbling challenge for any company. Four critical factors will determine the success of your new ERP implementation:
Inventory count is complete
So, you’ve done your annual inventory count and probably thinking you’ve survived another one. Write-offs weren’t so bad and the big bonus is that you ‘found’ extra inventory that you didn’t think you had.
But before you call this year’s count a wrap let’s take a moment to consider what your count is really telling you.
You need a plan
When was the last time you thought about your data strategy? I hear people talking about data almost every day, but I rarely hear people articulate their data strategy. If there is no strategy for your data, that leaves hope; and hope isn't a strategy.
There aren’t only 3…
Listing all the benefits of VISUAL ERP would be a book, not a blog post. But you didn’t come here to read a book, so I’ve chosen what I think are the most significant benefits that manufacturing companies will get out of using VISUAL ERP.
Everyone needs a plan
Every organization should have an ongoing plan for continuous improvement. In a competitive environment, any chance to improve upon a process can provide the edge a company needs to survive—and ultimately thrive. A good Business Process Review template is a valuable first step in that plan.
Infor Service Management is a Comprehensive Application
The Infor Service Management solution is an ERP application for service companies, field service companies, and manufacturers and equipment companies that provides service including installation, both preventive and emergency maintenance, warranty, service contracts, inspections, and both internal and external operations. Infor Service Management can be categorized as an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution due to the abundance of functionality provided with the core offering. This vast functional footprint is a differentiator for Infor Service Management, as few other field service management systems have the same broad reach.
As a technology barcoding has been around since the 70’s which puts it on par agewise with the IBM 360 mainframe, the Ford Pinto, and these TV shows: Happy Days, Charlie’s Angels, and the Brady Bunch. Yet unlike these icons of the 70’s, the humble barcode is still very much in use and growing. Here are 5 reasons why the barcode is still around.
Why not a complete list?
There is no doubt ERP can bring many benefits to a company. I’ve used ERP to bring benefits to companies I’ve managed; I’ve helped many other companies implement ERP with great results. My experience tells me creating a complete list of ERP benefits & features would be impossible. To understand why it is impossible, let me lay a list of the high level problems companies without an integrated ERP face, along with how ERP addresses these issues, leading to the benefits & advantages of ERP. Then I’ll explain why a complete list is impossible.
ERP solutions don’t have everything
Evaluating Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems is not an easy task. Naturally, your focus will probably be on finding a system that is a good match for your company. Much of the criteria used to judge the software will likely be based on what features and functions it has or doesn’t have. That’s reasonable, but limiting your evaluation to features and functions will not give you everything needed to make a great ERP decision for the company. To make a great decision, you also need to consider factors outside the ERP system.
Not all service management companies are the same
Experience shows that the service management industry is diverse and has varying business functionality requirements. The diversity can make selecting service management software challenging due to this complexity. Service management software is also part of the ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) family as the software selected can impact all aspects of your business.
Infor vs. SAP
SAP is arguably the most recognized name in Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software, and it is ranked number one in ERP revenue. Its ERP product is designed to serve the Tier 1 market. The best way to define the Tier 1 market is to think in terms of a Fortune 1000 company. The revenue of a company that makes this list is defined in billions, not millions. In 2016, the company that ranked last on the list was Briggs & Stratton, with revenue of $1.8 billion.
Infor is arguably the least recognized name in ERP software. At one point its marketing campaign used the tagline, “The largest ERP company you never heard of.” Large it is—its annual revenue is $3 billion making it the third largest ERP company in the world. It serves customers in the Tier 1, 2, and 3 markets.
The planning begins
I spent the first two days of November working with the VISUAL Focus executive committee developing the agenda and breakout sessions for the VISUAL user conference organized and hosted by Visual South, Synergy Resources and BizTech. The conference will be held October 21-24, 2018 at Disney's Coronado Springs Resort in Orlando, FL.
Equipment rental companies manage assets and customer service. Infor Service Management (ISM) does the same.
At a very high level, the goals of an equipment rental company and ISM are the same: to manage assets and customer relationships. The company needs to have assets customers want to rent; it’s also important for those assets to be maintained properly to reduce downtime. If either of those needs are not met, valuable sales opportunities may be lost forever.
Infor Service Management’s functionality is aligned to help companies meet these goals. Let’s start with the most important aspect of ISM: It’s one system, one database.
What should I be thinking about?
If you are in the process of choosing an ERP, it’s important to consider the company you could be partnering with. An ERP selection is a big decision in many ways, one that will affect your company for years to come. But it’s not entirely about the product itself (although making sure it has a is important). The partnership you enter into with the vendor must also be the right move for your company. You should be comfortable on a variety of levels with this partnership, but here are the top three things to consider as you shop around:
ERP modules and functions through the years
The roots of today’s ERP systems were pretty humble. They were originally designed to take and ship orders, figure out what had to be made and bought, track who owed who money, and produce financial statements. Today, an ERP modules list covers all of that and so much more.
What does ERP stand for?
You may have been asked to find ERP software for your company but are still wondering, “What is an ERP system?” An internet search of the term “ERP” will yield quite a bit of information, and not all of it is helpful. So let’s start with an ERP definition: ERP stands for Enterprise Resource Planning, which refers to the management of business processes in an organization. These processes typically include:
- Production planning
- Shop floor control
- Inventory management
Things to consider during an Infor VISUAL ERP Implementation
The question of what to expect during an Infor VISUAL implementation usually comes up when a company has already decided on Infor VISUAL ERP as a solution, or when it is on the final list of contenders. It’s a good question to ask before you decide to commit, as you must consider the entire solution, not just the software. In any ERP project, I would suggest that the implementation methodology is even more critical than the software itself. Let’s look at a few reasons why….
CRM project planning reduces CRM problems
Customer relationship management (CRM) software can be extremely beneficial in streamlining the sales process for manufacturing companies, providing the CRM project is structured properly. You probably don’t deal with buying and implementing software every day, but we do. Or experience in assisting hundreds of other companies in the selection and implementation of CRM allows us to guide you through this process. Here are five CRM issues and problems you need to be aware of so you can make the most of your efforts.
Searching for ERP
In my years of working with companies looking for Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, there is usually a lot of emphasis placed on buying the right system along with declarations on how the new system is going to help run the business better. Other companies have achieved this, your company can also.
If you are a small- to medium-sized manufacturing company that is growing, you are likely experiencing growing pains. Those pains can come from a lot of different directions, but in our business, we hear about growing pains as they relate to software. As a business grows it becomes more sophisticated and complex, and in turn, the software tools used to manage processes need to match that level of sophistication.
Knowing isn't doing
One of my blogs dealt with problem solving. In a nutshell, I discussed the need to fully understand what the root of the problem is before trying to solve it. Once you know the cause, get ideas on how to fix it. Talk to people. Google it. Figure it out.
The manufacturing problem solving traps
I've always remembered three lessons I learned trying to solve problems at my manufacturing job back in the 80's. I was a Supervisor at a manufacturing plant and I took over two departments that were in desperate need of leadership.