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All business leaders want to take their organizations to the next level. In an effort to do so, many have invested heavily in ERP implementations and have suffered through associated business disruptions. Notwithstanding their good intentions, most companies haven't come close to realizing the value achieved by those featured in various ERP case studies. Revenues haven't leapt 20 percent. Operating costs haven't been slashed by 15 percent. And on-time deliveries haven't reached record highs of 95 percent. So, what's holding them back?
InterWrap Industries manufactures and distributes plastic and paper products for packaging and industrial use. You may see its product wrapped around a stack of lumber, a hay bale or a roll of steel. The company has a reputation for relentless research and development, innovative value-added services, and the strategic adoption of technology. Its dynamic personality and commitment to continuous improvement have raised the bar in the industrial packaging industry.
With all of the recent marketing hype surrounding SaaS ERP, you might be surprised to learn that it only commanded seven percent of the 2011 global ERP market share by software sales. According to a July 2011 report by Gartner Research, this translates to a roughly $1.7 billion US slice of the $24.3 billion US ERP software pie.
Operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week with worldwide partners and suppliers, Avid, a creator of the technology that people use to make the most listened to, most watched and most loved media in the world - from award-winning productions, to music and movies made at home - needed to create a unified environment for its global product development teams to easily find and share product information in real-time.
Faced with shipping errors, inventory accuracy issues and weak supply chain management, Lakeside Plastics, a mid-sized Canadian plastic injection moulder, implemented Solarsoft iVP to solve its issues and strengthen enterprise-wide control.
Autodesk previewed a cloud-based product life cycle management product at its Autodesk University 2011 conference in Las Vegas at the end of November. Watch the video to learn more.
Autodesk previewed a new solution designed to transform how manufacturers manage the entire life cycle of a product - from its conception, through design and manufacture, partner and supplier management, procurement, quality, compliance, service and more - at its Autodesk University 2011 conference in Las Vegas at the end of November.
Manufacturing AUTOMATION editor Mary Del Ciancio recently attended Autodesk University 2011 in Las Vegas. She and more than 8,000 customers, partners, media and employees gathered at the Venetian November 28 until December 1 to learn about the latest Autodesk offerings and industry trends.
Cosma International, a wholly-owned operating unit of Magna International, is one of the world's premier global automotive suppliers providing a comprehensive range of body, chassis and engineering solutions to OEM customers. Unsatisfied with the lack of functionality and support for its legacy business management system, Cosma’s operation in Victor, Iowa, searched for an integrated ERP system that allowed for real-time shop floor reporting and inventory management. In 1996, Cosma selected Solarsoft’s flagship ERP system for manufacturing and distribution, iVP, and has never looked back.
Whether businesses like it or not, they have to be agile to succeed. If managing extreme economic volatility wasn’t challenging enough, businesses also have to contend with shifts caused by natural disasters (e.g., the Japanese supply disruption), faster cycles of technological innovation and obsolescence, and structural shifts in the labour market.
Smart grid technology is being newly incorporated in all kinds of products and devices. Various software and integration methods are coming into play whereby new products can be brought to market faster and more cohesively to work with smart grid infrastructures. Cutting edge companies who have been able to utilize technologies such as PLM, SCADA and ERP early on to develop clean technologies for the smart grid have benefited from early adoption. In addition, the communication standards created for the smart grid have helped to make devices and products more relevant in this market.
Autodesk, Inc., a provider of 3D design, engineering and entertainment software, recently introduced Autodesk Cloud, a collection of more than a dozen web-based capabilities, products and services designed to enable customers to extend their desktops with greater mobility, new viewing and sharing capabilities, and more computing power.
When it comes to software, management too frequently underestimates the complexity of the selection component. Too often, they approach selection with the view that it's an administrative project that's easily completed. This approach, unfortunately, couldn't be more misguided. According to our 2011 ERP benchmark survey of manufacturing and distribution leaders, a mere 32 percent of all ERP selection projects succeeded. This means that 68 percent of all ERP projects were doomed to fail before implementation even started. One interpretation of these statistics is that that the majority of business leaders underestimate the complexity of ERP selection - and arguably software selection, in general. Minimizing sales bias risks According to the survey results and my interviews with business executives, most leaders understand that enterprise software projects are, at their core, business improvement projects. However, a big problem is that most leaders don't do a good enough job of ensuring that their business' requirements drive the software procurement process. By failing to do so, buyers give the vendors an opportunity to turn the purchase process into a sales process. And, once the vendors are given a chance to set the agenda, they have an opportunity to influence the outcome. This type of vendor-driven influence is called sales bias. It manifests itself when there's uncertainty about what the buyer needs and how it intends to satisfy its needs. There's nothing inappropriate about sales bias - it's how good sales people succeed at selling. Though a biased sales process is good for the seller, it's usually not good for the buyer. A buyer doesn't want to purchase a particular system because he's somehow been influenced. Rather, he wants to buy a system because it's the right fit - and fit is far more difficult to achieve than most companies realize. Regardless of how standard a company thinks its requirements might be, it's unlikely that an arbitrarily chosen system will be able to handle them. The point I'm driving at is that it's very dangerous to make an assumption about fit based on a perception of one's own requirements. Fit is like a puzzle - no matter how simple the piece may be, the puzzle can't be completed without the right connector. What a software buyer has to do, therefore, is first understand the shape of the company's puzzle piece before looking for a solution. Once buyers understand their business requirements, they'll have put themselves in a position to control the procurement process from both procedural and substantive perspectives. Setting the purchase agenda Software selection procedures are very important to a buyer's decision-making process. They enable the buyer to control the flow and content of the information they'll be required to evaluate. Defining the procedures also allows the buyer to establish an authoritative - or psychological - advantage over the seller. In many ways, the buyers use procedures to send a message that they are in control of the purchase process because 1) they know their own requirements, and 2) they know how best to evaluate proposed solutions. To establish effective procedures, it's important for the buyer to elicit meaningful participation from vendors. Usually, this involves giving the vendors enough time to prepare useful responses. It also usually involves giving the vendors insight into the evaluation process. Our experience is that procedural transparency can yield better responses. Benchmarking against actual business needs Proper procedures are only part of an effective procurement process. It's also important for buyers to define meaningful substantive requirements. The buyers use these to inform the vendors what a successful solution should be capable of accomplishing. They should also use these requirements as benchmarks to evaluate proposed solutions. The requirements should be clear and unambiguous. Since ERP, for example, is intended to manage a company's informational flows and transactions at the business process level, it's important that the requirements be defined at that same level. (An example of a process-level requirement is that an ERP system be capable of tracking and valuing work-in-process throughout the manufacturing cycle.) A final point worth discussing is the importance of user participation. No one knows their department's business processes and requirements better than the users themselves. This puts them in the best position to help define the requirements and evaluate the systems against them. Involving the users also acts as an important change management tool. By giving users a sense of ownership over a portion of the project, they are more likely to buy into the system during and following implementation. Considering oft-ignored, but critical substantive requirements It's important to highlight a few additional substantive areas that a software buyer should evaluate. The first is implementation. In many respects, the assessment of software functionality represents the evaluation of the potential for benefit. However, it's the implementation component that translates that potential benefit into an actual benefit. When assessing implementation capabilities, it's important for management to remember that people - not firms - implement systems. Thus, management should ensure that they are evaluating the proposed consultants, including their experiences and capabilities. Finally, a company should take steps to do its due diligence from the perspective that software is intended to be a long-term investment (e.g., 10 years is the average for ERP software). Management will want to take steps to ensure that the software will be capable of meeting the company's future needs. To that end, they should evaluate the vendor's commitment to long-term product development and support. As a corollary, they should also assess the vendor's viability, since the product's future is tied to the vendor's future. To conclude, successful software selection partly depends on management's ability to avoid falling into the potentially fatal sales bias trap. To do so, they need to assert control over the selection project by defining appropriate procedural and substantive requirements. This will help to ensure that their business needs drive their purchase decision, as opposed to a vendor's sales agenda. Jonathan Gross is vice-president of Pemeco, Inc., a consulting firm specializing in ERP selection and implementation. He can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . This article originally appeared in the September 2011 issue of Manufacturing AUTOMATION.    
The Company: On October 23, 2008, NASA caught the attention of the world by announcing the detection of snow on Mars. The discovery was made by Canadian-made lidar (light detection and ranging) technology aboard NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander, which touched down near the Martian North Pole on May 25, 2008.

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