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Companies evaluating ERP solutions may find themselves ensnared in a net of vendor confusion. Selecting the right ERP software from among 15 or 20 seemingly good candidates is a difficult project. So, how does a company go about comparing, contrasting and ranking the various ERP software alternatives? How can it determine which software package best fulfills its various needs? Answering these questions - and cutting loose from the net of ERP confusion - requires a strong analysis within a well-built methodological framework. Below is a three-stage framework that a company can use to assess its needs and find an ERP package that has the functionality to meet those needs. Stage 1: Identifying functional specifications Your system selection journey should not start with an assessment of various ERP packages. Starting the selection project with an external analysis pushes a company into an awkward restructuring project that could lead to failure. Using this ill-advised approach, a company becomes more likely to try to mould its own business processes to those defined by the ERP software. The problem is that those ERP-defined business processes were established by an ERP vendor that had little or no knowledge of the selecting company's unique business needs. As a result, the selecting company will likely find itself trying to squeeze its business processes into the wrong-sized box. Rather, your ERP journey should start with introspection. Starting with an internal analysis puts your company on a path to finding a system that fits its needs - and helps it avoid changing itself just to fit a specific system. Business process mapping is key to this internal analysis. The fruits of this exercise include a set of diagrams that show the precise steps that the various business transactions take to wind their way through the company. Consider, for example, a relatively simple business process (a.k.a. workflow) relating to the Chinese sourcing practices of fictional company, ACME Co. An ACME procurement employee conducts a daily review of purchase orders and extracts only those parts that are to be sourced from China. The employee then enters the relevant parts information into a spreadsheet and e-mails that spreadsheet to the Chinese supplier. Though this workflow contains relatively few steps, it highlights some significant operational inefficiencies. For example, the job of manually combing through purchase orders and populating a spreadsheet is time consuming, cumbersome and costly. Also, manual data transcription introduces significant human error risks that could delay purchasing and jeopardize timely delivery. If sourcing efficiency is a key business objective, ACME might decide that it wants to acquire an ERP system to perform part or all of this workflow. Ultimate automation, however, will depend on ACME's ability to select a system with the right functionality. To evaluate whether an ERP system has the requisite capabilities, the selecting company must first define the functional components that make up this business process. In ACME's case, it would want to ensure that the ERP system is capable of segregating purchase order parts by part code, among other things. A failure to identify this and other functional specifications could cause ACME to pick the wrong system - one that would be incapable of fulfilling its sourcing needs. Once a selecting company has defined all of the functional specifications, it then has to prioritize those specifications. The prioritization exercise is key because each system has its own strengths and weaknesses. The selecting company wants to make sure that it picks the system whose strengths match its most critical needs. Stage 2: Weighting functional specifications Functional specification weights should be assigned relative to the importance - or business value - of the underlying business process. In ACME's case, let us assume that Chinese sourcing is a key business driver. ACME would, therefore, give heavy weights to the functional requirements that are necessary to execute the related business routines. For our systems selection clients, we typically use the following four-point scale to weight functional specifications: 4.    Required and cannot be worked around; 3.    Required, but can be worked around if missing; 2.    Nice-to-have; and 1.    Future use. Once priorities have been assigned, the functional requirements list should be sent out to the vendors for completion, along with the other elements of a request for proposal (RFP). Upon receipt of the completed RFP, the company must then score the vendors' responses. The scoring process must include an analysis of how well the candidate systems meet the company's functional requirements. Stage 3: Evaluating the ERP software One purpose of a selection methodology is to help a company put itself in a position to pick a system whose strengths align with its high-priority needs. Another purpose is to help a company avoid picking a system that would fail to deliver on any of its high-priority needs. This latter category of unfulfilled, high-priority needs is what we call the "Danger Zone." Avoiding the Danger Zone largely depends on how well the company completes the definition and prioritization stages of the analysis. Failing to identify or prioritize functional specifications creates a risk of acquiring an inadequate system. For example, let us assume that ACME failed to identify purchase order parts segregation as a key sourcing specification. Let us also assume that ACME only first discovered this omission during implementation. As a result of this late discovery, ACME had to try to rectify this mistake during implementation by customizing - or programming - the software to deliver the missing functionality. In the end, the customization process delayed the implementation project and caused cost overruns. As this example shows, a methodology is a necessary but insufficient tool for running an effective system selection project. The methodology must be supplemented by a high-quality analysis of functional specifications. Remember, your ERP project is a 10-year investment into operational improvements. If your business does not have the internal skills that are necessary to run a proper selection project, it should look outside its walls for those skills. 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 .
Siemens PLM Software, a business unit of the Siemens Industry Automation Division and a global provider of product life cycle management (PLM) software and services, has promoted Charles C. "Chuck" Grindstaff to president, effective October 1, 2010. Grindstaff is the current executive vice-president of products and chief technology officer. He has worked in increasingly senior positions with Siemens PLM Software over 32 years. He succeeds Dr. Helmuth Ludwig, who Siemens Industry Automation announced would head its global communications team. Ludwig, who has served in increasingly senior positions with Siemens since 1990 and who joined Siemens PLM Software as president in 2007 soon after its acquisition by Siemens, will focus on working with each of the division's four business units to provide a range of strategic communications services. His appointment is also effective October 1.
THE COMPANY: Just as water is always in motion, so is the Ontario Clean Water Agency (OCWA). Since 1993, OCWA has operated in a competitive market, providing a comprehensive array of water and wastewater services to municipalities, private sector companies and First Nations. Each day, OCWA produces more than 700 million litres of drinking water, and treats about 1.2 billion litres of wastewater at 502 facilities across Ontario. THE CHALLENGE: When it comes to water, delivering a clean, consistent and safe product to all citizens is paramount. After protecting public health and the environment, priorities turn to delivering value through outstanding service and cost-effective operations. THE STRATEGY: OCWA has kept these goals in sight as it has made strategic moves forward for its customers. In 1999, the agency developed its first Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system. Called Outpost 5, it was designed to work across large geographic areas to provide monitoring, reporting and security. Outpost 5 provides support to more than 750 OCWA locations, and is the largest such system in the North American water and wastewater industry. But OCWA's commitment to innovation did not stop there. As part of its promise for continuous improvement, the agency recognized an opportunity for progress. What if Outpost 5 could be enhanced through the integration of an off-the-shelf software solution with the current network base? Enhancing Outpost 5 with such a resource would enable the agency to operate more efficiently by taking advantage of templates and redundancy scenarios to roll out new locations more quickly with fewer staff. As envisioned by OCWA, the right solution would also improve their competitive advantage. Customers who choose OCWA as their provider today would have the option to take control of their system - without re-engineering - if they wished to do so in the future. They would simply purchase the necessary licenses to continue to run the application. And finally, this new approach would also provide greater continuity of service and quality control to meet regulatory requirements across the province. The R&D and IT departments at OCWA converted these ideas into specifications and sought out possible partners. Through the process of evaluations and presentations, it became clear that a Wonderware solution from Invensys offered critical advantages based on the similarities it shares with the Outpost 5 model. A transition to a Wonderware software solution would be eased because of scalable configuration and template structure, as well as strong web-based capabilities. Plus, Wonderware Canada East, the local Wonderware distributor for the project, added applicable experience and outstanding service capabilities. For OCWA, economies of scale are imperative. With more than a million square kilometres of territory to cover, the agency's teams are highly co-ordinated. Skilled technicians travel to remote locations for installations. Then they rely on colleagues working at the Toronto office to perform the programming, and still other groups in OCWA hubs around the province monitor and maintain the systems. THE RESULTS: None of this would be possible without a versatile solution that enables standardization. OCWA's Instrumentation, Automation and SCADA Group is responsible for deploying all of the installations. This team found that the Invensys Wonderware highly flexible System Platform and InTouch Human Machine Interface (HMI) could be integrated with Outpost 5, as well as OCWA's existing asset management system and Process Data Collection (PDC) database. Plus, with Wonderware software's template capabilities, the system could be replicated consistently and quickly at new installations. Ciprian Panfilie, SCADA developer team lead, explains, "It's easy because everything is developed as a template. We have a template structure at the Wonderware System Platform level, the reporting level, the security level, the graphic level, and we have templates that integrate with other packages as well. We have them all here in our lab so everything is fully tested and we maintain our standards." This brings a major advantage when new stations are added. Before integrating the Invensys Wonderware solution, OCWA required a complex, interdisciplinary team to work for six months to a year on new deployments. Now, they can do the same work with one person in about three months. And in the case of installations where the hardware is already in place, projects are even faster. Bringing the system online in large plants has gone from months to days. Along with these deployment advantages, the new solution also provides extensive measurement capabilities that are necessary for regulatory compliance in Ontario. Both OCWA work teams and emergency response teams rely on the system for real-time data about pump pressures, power consumption, piping systems, chemical levels and other performance factors. The data is used to respond to immediate needs, but also to compile reports that are required by the Ministry of Environment. George Terry, vice-president of operations and maintenance, says, "It's not enough just to do an excellent job in ensuring compliance at all times. What you have to ensure is that you are recording and documenting that work." It's also critical for OCWA to be able to defend its reporting. The agency is required to provide regular information to the Ministry of Environment. This data, collected from numerous sources - such as the pumps that deliver the water, the regulators that manage the chlorination and the labs that test the effluent - is reviewed, checked and rolled up into quarterly reports to prove compliance. Robert Simpson, manager, asset management and operational system support, elaborates: "We have to do this so that people are aware that they have a system that's working properly and providing them with clean, safe drinking water and properly treated wastewater. It's a continuous process." That's where the Wonderware Historian comes in. It enables each hub to record data in real time and convert it into reports that are submitted to the Ministry of Environment. And because of the extensive communications connections built into the system, staff throughout the operation can access the data instantaneously. In eastern Ontario, where severe weather is part of the picture, protecting OCWA's data is another area where Invensys Wonderware can help. Historian Forward is a sophisticated capability that maintains system data even if communications lines are temporarily down. Performance measurements - some taken as frequently as every five minutes - are stored locally, if needed, then forwarded to the central database once communications are re-established. Previously, OCWA had been hampered during power outages because remote staff members were not able to access records when connections were interrupted. Now access is optimized and data is protected. As the data is being collected, it is being monitored by OCWA's maintenance management system. Programmed with guidelines and allowable ranges for operations, the system automates the generation of alerts and work orders. Of course this benefits customers because it helps OCWA deliver a consistent product and a high level of service. But it also brings advantages to the agency's workers. The work orders enable crews to be proactive, since they can highlight budding problems before they progress. Additionally, management can better utilize personnel throughout the province because the Wonderware solution's web-based desktop capabilities mean that maintenance can be performed remotely. Simpson puts it this way: "You can be ahead of problems before they happen. Invensys Wonderware enables you to diagnosis a situation in a timely manner using a remote desktop. The last thing you do is physically go there." So it saves fuel costs, vehicle costs and operator time. The wide-area SCADA system also provides better work-life balance for OCWA's maintenance staff members. Because most corrections are made remotely, workers don't have to travel as much. And when system adjustments are needed, they usually can be addressed during the normal working day, eliminating more expensive, on-call hours. But if alarms do come in overnight, staff can log on to the Internet, make a correction and go back to sleep. The OCWA system incorporating the Wonderware software solution is considered cutting edge in North American water and wastewater management, but the agency is driven to implement further innovations. Plans include expanding web-based capabilities so that customers and partners can log on and see how their systems and services are operating, including performance information and quality measurements. Plus, OCWA envisions expanding its work with small and medium-sized utilities so that all municipalities in Ontario have access to the latest technology for clean water service. OCWA is also partnering with First Nations in Ontario. The agency hopes to be a resource for high-quality water and wastewater services, as well as emergency capabilities. Simpson sums it up: "The most important benefit is that it provides a scalable system for our clients, whether they are small or large. It incorporates the best technology and software available, and gives us the total solution to meet their needs, and meet all regulatory requirements to provide safe, clear drinking water throughout the province of Ontario." And with Invensys Wonderware, that's sure to continue.
THE COMPANY: IMT Partnership, based in Ingersoll, Ont., provides manufacturing, machining and forging services to the automotive, truck-trailer and oil and gas industries, as well as defence agencies, such as the Canadian Department of National Defence and the U.S. Department of Defense. The company's Ingersoll Axle brand is known for a wide selection of truck and trailer axles, including high-quality, customized axles that are delivered within weeks. THE CHALLENGE: IMT's operational excellence depends on IT systems, but the company ironically faced increasing difficulty maintaining the systems that made its manufacturing processes efficient. The software the company used was complex, expensive and did not support changing business needs or plans for growth at IMT. In 2007, IMT acquired a rival forging operation in Champaign, Ill. As it looked forward to integrating this and future acquisitions, it needed business management software that was easier to implement, maintain and modify. THE STRATEGY: After comparing software packages from various vendors, IMT concluded that Microsoft Dynamics AX provided the functionality and technical flexibility that the company needed. It allowed the company to add capabilities - like a new barcoding system for its manufacturing floor - and streamline processes. And because Microsoft Dynamics AX is based on the Windows operating system, IMT can more easily integrate the solution with its other systems, including specialized software for shop floor operations and timekeeping. THE RESULTS: Microsoft Dynamics AX provides IMT with the IT systems it needs to build high-quality, custom products for customers, while keeping maintenance and support costs to a minimum. In addition, the business management software has helped eliminate inefficiencies and created new opportunities for enhancements. Microsoft Dynamics AX brings together sales, supply chain, manufacturing and financial processes. An accountant used to spend at least an hour a day processing inventory changes for reporting purposes. Now, shipping and receiving information is automatically reflected in the system. Another plus: IMT was able to reduce the number of steps needed to place and monitor orders from 16 steps to just two. Microsoft Dynamics AX also increases visibility into operations so that IT managers can make better decisions. By identifying and solving problems earlier, IMT helps ensure its customers receive quality products on time, without any unnecessary waste in resources. For the complete story, visit http://www.microsoft.com/casestudies/Microsoft-Dynamics-AX-4.0/IMT-Partnership/Growing-Manufacturer-Integrates-Processes-Drives-Efficiency-with-Business-Software/4000002193.
THE COMPANY: Ganong is a Canadian manufacturer of gift box chocolates, fruit snacks and sugar confectionery. Operating out of its St. Stephen, N.B. location since 1873, the company was voted one of Canada's 50 Best-Managed Companies for three consecutive years. THE CHALLENGE: Despite being a mid-sized manufacturer, Ganong believed strongly in the value of an experienced information technology staff, and in what a new, fully integrated enterprise system could bring to the organization. Ganong's proprietary, heavily customized HP3000-based application was generally effective in processing the company's business transactions; however, management believed that an improved information management system would enable them to make better, timelier business decisions. Further, the new information system needed to have scalability, stronger order fulfillment, and manufacturing capacity management capabilities. Ganong also recognized that, while their confectionery manufacturing business environment placed them within the realm of needing a process-specific software application, they wouldn't require anywhere near the capabilities offered by most process manufacturing vendors. Instead, their manufacturing processes were aligned more towards a hybrid or mixed-mode style, with requirements for both batch and discrete capabilities. THE STRATEGY: Ganong engaged the IBM Global Services Division in Canada to assist with a formal evaluation of packaged applications. The team investigated several major applications on the market to determine which vendor offered a truly mid-market solution with the best balance of the following criteria: functionality, technology, price, ease-of-use and implementation. Ultimately, Ganong selected Sage ERP X3, knowing that the software solution had the right amount of functional depth and breadth to achieve the company's system objectives and attain the fastest return on investment. Factoring into the decision were the software's integrated automated data collection capabilities, a feature that must typically be acquired from third-party specialists. The Ganong team also liked Sage ERP X3's more technically advanced architecture. THE RESULTS: With Sage ERP X3, Ganong improved accuracy and reduced billing errors, and now tracks off-invoice allowances at a detailed level. Financial reporting is much improved, with easy access to financial and statistical profitability information. The accuracy and timeliness of production recording is greatly improved through the use of the integrated Sage ERP X3's data collection module, thereby improving the production planning process. "This is one feature of the system from which we derived benefits immediately right from go-live," says Marc Lefebvre, vice-president and CIO for Ganong. Since its initial implementation in 2002, Ganong has maximized its investment in Sage ERP X3, extending its usage across the organization and to additional users, and updating the software as new releases become available. A recent software upgrade to Version 5 boosted the functionality of the browser-based interface and added expanded inventory functionality. The browser interface proves ideal for remote users of the software, as well as local users who appreciate the familiar web look. Ganong has also implemented EDI, a process made much simpler due to the flexible architecture of Sage ERP X3, explains Lefebvre.
THE COMPANY: Mitchell Mill Systems Canada Ltd. designs and manufactures material handling equipment used in grain, livestock feed, pet food, fish food, fertilizer, seed cleaning and other industrial processes. THE CHALLENGE: For many years, the company used 2D CAD software to develop its material handling equipment designs. As the manufacturer grew, however, its equipment business included an increasing number of standard products. In addition to improving the development of custom material handling systems, the company's need for a 3D CAD application for realizing greater efficiencies in standard equipment assembly design became increasingly apparent, according to Stephen Mitchell, the company's president. "We have been developing material handling systems for some time, and the part of our business focused on standard product lines has grown to about 50 percent of the total," Mitchell explains. "We began looking into 3D tools primarily to improve our standard equipment development efforts through greater efficiencies in the handling of assemblies. Design reuse and configurable assemblies were important goals, and we also believed 3D would improve interaction with our customers." THE STRATEGY: Mitchell Mill Systems selected SolidWorks Professional software because of its ease of use, sheet-metal design features and large assembly capabilities. Mitchell Mill Systems also values the software's design configurations, interference detection and advanced visualization functionality. Mitchell Mill Systems managed its transition from 2D to 3D in phases, starting all new development of standard equipment in SolidWorks software before moving on to existing design modifications and retrofits, and then to custom-designed projects. The company quickly realized the benefits of visualizing large assembly designs in 3D as part of its CAD migration. THE RESULTS: "Because we can better visualize what we are designing - such as simulating motion to detect interferences - and because it's easier and faster to make design changes, we not only are saving time and money, but also boosting the level of innovation that we design into our systems," Mitchell notes. "With SolidWorks, we can both see where a collision can occur, which eliminates errors and reduces development costs, and explore new ideas, innovative concepts and better ways of doing things." With the implementation of SolidWorks software, the company has also achieved greater efficiency during equipment manufacturing and assembly. "Having a 3D model to work from generates additional efficiencies throughout production," Mitchell stresses. "Working from a 3D model makes it easier and faster to assemble our equipment. In manufacturing, our assembly time has improved since we moved to SolidWorks. "Having the 3D design and the 2D drawing as references gives our production personnel a better understanding of what they are building and manufacturing," Mitchell adds. "There are fewer assumptions and back-and-forth questions, which saves time and contributes to our overall productivity. SolidWorks is a tremendous tool when used properly." By moving to SolidWorks software, Mitchell Mill Systems has improved the quality and effectiveness of its communications with existing and prospective customers. The company uses 3D visuals produced in SolidWorks as part of its sales presentations and proposals, and relies on eDrawings design communication tools to communicate more effectively with customers. "With eDrawings, we can design our systems and send 3D models to our customers so they can visually evaluate the design," Mitchell points out. "Our customers can visualize the design better in 3D, and typically see things in the initial design that they might not have caught in 2D. This capability results in much better feedback from our customers, which translates into fewer customer problems and misunderstandings. "In addition to improving design communication with existing customers, 3D models certainly add pizzazz to our presentations and proposals," Mitchell adds. "More and more of our customers expect to see what a system looks like without trying to envision a 3D image from a 2D line drawing. SolidWorks provides us with the tools we need to secure new customers, and better communicate effectively with the customers we have worked with for years."
THE COMPANY: Incorporated in 1992, and headquartered in Montreal, Que., WeighPack Systems is a packaging equipment industry leader with an extensive, high-quality product line, and leading-edge packaging equipment designs. For more than 18 years, WeighPack has delivered packaging equipment for applications throughout the world, within industries as diverse as food, hardware and pharmaceuticals. "Our core business is the manufacture of weighing and bagging equipment," says company president and founder, Louis Taraborelli. "Our machines process snack food, frozen food, candy, hardware - anything in a bag." While WeighPack's primary market is the U.S., the company is rapidly expanding its international presence with locations in Chicago, Las Vegas and Shanghai, and a new location in Southern Florida. THE CHALLENGE: "We're not a high-volume business," says Taraborelli. "Most of our sales are build-to-order. Our products are extremely variable, and our customers typically require a high level of customization. In consequence, we need to maintain a huge inventory of stock codes and componentry across multiple warehouses and subsidiary companies. We require an ERP that gives us complete control over our inventory, and provides us with real-time financial information." THE STRATEGY: During the early 1990s, WeighPack hired a third-party consultant to research the ERP products available at the time. "We considered several brands of ERP," says Taraborelli, "but there was one product that clearly came out on top. In 1995, we implemented Syspro." Today, WeighPack has been leveraging Syspro for more than15 years. To prospective ERP users, Taraborelli offers a word of advice. "To gain optimal benefits from your ERP system, a company must be willing to make some changes to both workflow and work processes. After making the decision to buy, dedicate a project team to speed the implementation process, and facilitate the necessary changes." THE RESULTS: "We now have a standard platform across all our warehouses and subsidiary entities," says Taraborelli. "Using a centralized server, we can access real-time inventory information from any of our warehouses. We can also access the bookkeeping records of our subsidiary companies, allowing our accounting department to stay on top of our financial health. To get the same level of information without Syspro, I'd need double the accounting staff." Syspro lets WeighPack know to the penny what a job will cost in advance. "We can now predict the cost of a finished product before we do the job. And within seconds of the job being closed, we know the real cost, and can advise our sales department if they need to adjust the price for future business opportunities. "Syspro continually upgrades and revises its software to make use of emerging technologies," Taraborelli says. "Syspro invests in keeping its product leading edge. From my perspective, everyone at Syspro Canada is accessible, personable and interested in the well being of our company." For more information on WeighPack Systems, visit www.weighpack.com. For more information on Syspro, visit http://canada.syspro.com/?//.
THE COMPANY: B.C.-based StructureCraft Builders Inc. harnesses master-craftsmen traditions, sophisticated engineering and modern construction techniques to create complex structures. The company recently demonstrated its engineering and design prowess in building the now iconic roof for the 2010 Richmond Olympic Oval.  THE CHALLENGE: StructureCraft has earned particular recognition for its exposed wood and timber structures. But designing wood structures does have its challenges - in particular, balancing aesthetics and function. Not only did the Olympic Oval roof need to be beautiful, it had to control and dampen echoes, as well as hide electrical, mechanical and sprinkler systems. In addition, StructureCraft co-ordinates and communicates with a wide range of stakeholders on projects, from the project owner and architect to manufacturers and subcontractors. THE STRATEGY: Co-ordinating a project such as this without visual models would be nearly impossible. StructureCraft relied on Autodesk Inventor software, which helped the company to iterate complex design options more quickly, co-ordinate with subcontractors and project partners, communicate designs clearly to stakeholders, and streamline fabrication. To meet the acoustical and aesthetic requirements of the Richmond Oval roof, StructureCraft explored in Autodesk Inventor software the many different options for the pattern that ultimately drove the WoodWave roof panel design. For project co-ordination, Autodesk Inventor incorporated components from other trades and manufacturers into its design. StructureCraft credits the interoperability and extensive user base of Autodesk software with making co-ordination with trades and manufacturers easier, allowing them to efficiently share data with subcontractors. And if an issue arose, StructureCraft could pass along the information to the appropriate trade accurately and quickly. THE RESULTS: By making the data manageable, StructureCraft was able explore design changes easily, and keep complexity at bay. With help from Autodesk Inventor software, StructureCraft completed the Richmond Olympic Oval project on aggressive schedules, meeting the complex design requirements within budget.
THE COMPANY: Magna Advanced Technologies is a division of Magna International Inc., a global automotive parts manufacturer based in Aurora, Ont. The company designs, develops and manufactures automotive systems, assemblies, modules and components, and engineers and assembles complete vehicles. The Advanced Technologies division focuses on the development of new products and technologies - from prototyping to tooling. THE CHALLENGE: The automotive market is very competitive, and has faced many economic challenges in recent years. As a result, "capital is always constrained, [and] companies, Magna included, are always looking to conserve capital expenditures where possible," explains Durward Smith, director of Magna Advanced Technologies. "We need our programs and processes to be running as fast as possible." The company aims to develop new products and technologies that will help make parts faster and better without sacrificing quality. THE STRATEGY: Magna Advanced Technologies chose PowerSHAPE and PowerMILL, from Delcam, to machine parts because the software allows them to easily transition from prototyping to tooling. PowerSHAPE CAD software provides a complete environment to take product ideas from concept to reality. It offers the freedom to manipulate surface form of the CAD model, to build from wire frame and make global changes with solid feature operations and editing. PowerMILL CAM software is designed for the manufacture of complex shapes typically found in the aerospace, automotive, medical device and tool making industries. The solution allows for high-efficiency roughing, high-speed finishing, five-axis machining techniques and fast calculation times, and provides powerful editing tools to ensure optimum performance on the machine tool. THE RESULTS: Paul Miranda, a project leader for Magna Advanced Technologies, and a designer of many of the company's inventive and inspired creations, couldn't be happier with the Delcam solution. "I've used several softwares in the past. PowerMill, by far, is the quickest, easiest to use," he explains.
THE COMPANY: Based in Port Coquitlam, B.C., Wesgar Inc. is one of the largest precision sheet metal manufacturers in Western Canada. The company's slogan, "Artistry in Metal," reflects Wesgar's innovative approach to manufacturing and its overall mantra. Wesgar prides itself on being the premier provider for companies throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico with precision sheet metal requirements. In business for nearly 45 years, Wesgar designs and manufactures products for a wide variety of industries.   THE CHALLENGE: Wesgar began implementation of Epicor's Vantage manufacturing solution in 2008, and moved to the next-generation Epicor 9 enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution in June 2009. "We wanted a modern manufacturing platform that offered better access to data for reporting and customization," explains Troy Richman, IT manager at Wesgar. "We also were looking for improved scheduling capabilities, and the ability to leverage fully integrated financials."     Richman says the move to Epicor took less than three months to implement and go live, and the process was pretty smooth throughout. "Everything worked out very well," he says, adding that one of the biggest challenges was getting users comfortable with the system in a relatively short time period. "We definitely took advantage of Epicor's online educational tools, and the onsite support from Epicor consultants who were at Wesgar for about a week and half."    THE STRATEGY: The company maintains a total manufacturing space of 80,000 square feet, and its 5,000-square-foot assembly cell has the capability to perform simple to complex mechanical and electrical assemblies. Richman explains that the company is "viewed internally and externally as a branch plant for each of our customers." The company's goal is to ensure its customers become the most cost-effective manufacturers in their industry.    To achieve this goal, Wesgar employs state-of-the-art machining, highly skilled personnel and systems, as well as Lean Manufacturing practices combined with Continuous Improvement methods to simultaneously increase the quality, decrease the costs of component parts, and increase velocity to the market. Wesgar looks to Epicor's fully integrated suite of manufacturing and distribution management solutions to help support such initiatives.    THE RESULTS: Among the new features of Epicor that Wesgar is leveraging is the solution's streamlined graphical user interface, which enhances visibility of data by making it easier to drill down for more detailed information, and "right-click" features, which facilitate customized reports. "Users know how to get the data they need. This is very empowering to them, and it saves me a lot of time not having to show each user how to find the information they are looking for," explainS Richman.     Integrated scheduling functionality allows Wesgar to schedule more resources more efficiently than ever before. It vastly improves the visibility and access to schedules throughout the plant, and reduces lead times.     Wesgar has been able to improve its operational visibility and efficiency via Epicor's Material Requirements Planning (MRP) capabilities, which help manage materials consumed, forecast end-product requirements, adjust production as forecasts change, and generate suggested purchase orders to fill anticipated gaps in raw material inventory. For custom jobs, this enables Wesgar to closely manage costing of each set of production; and Epicor's comprehensive Quality Suite automates the regulatory compliance process, helping Wesgar meet ISO requirements.     Richman also says the company has benefitted from Epicor's integrated financials, which provide users with the ability to drill down into financial reports to provide the requisite high-level "big picture" information, as well as access to more detailed information for financial "power users."    "Prior to Epicor, our accounting was mostly a manual process," says Richman. "Now it's all in one place, and we have visibility to all transactions. Our accounting group is particularly happy with the system's support for FIFO (First in, First out) costing. We're also now able to quickly see and track our estimated costs versus real costs, for improved financial control and management of the business."
THE COMPANY: Davis Controls, based in Oakville, Ont., is a distributor, representative and licensed assembler for international manufacturers of instrumentation and control products, offering a range of products for the industrial market. Founded in 1933, Davis employs 50 people in seven offices, working with more than 30 suppliers to serve thousands of customers across Canada and the United States through local sub-distributors and representatives. THE CHALLENGE: In an organization such as Davis Controls, seamless communication and information exchange with the entire value chain is crucial. When the company's sales and distribution began to excel, the organization started to take another look at their internal business processes to insure they could meet competitive pressures, one of which was customer service expectations. Davis Controls was having difficulties wrapping their arms around their growth and accelerated internal processes, putting a real strain on their relationships with customers, partners, suppliers and distributors. The company kept their information in separate silos, and frequently did not have instant access to their own workplace information, leading to timely delays and poor communication. THE STRATEGY: Davis Controls immediately recognized the need to streamline its business processes and consolidate its workplace information for real-time review and analysis across the entire value chain, aiding in customer support. "Integration of both disparate solutions and multiple processes was critical to us, not only between departmental information and function, but between employees, customers and suppliers," states Neil Montgomery, president and CEO of Davis Controls. THE RESULTS: Davis Controls was already using Exact Macola ES for its back-office ERP needs, so the integration with Exact Synergy was an easy transition for the company because it provided what other solutions did not - one holistic view of the company's business operations, and the ability to enhance its existing ERP investment. Exact Synergy's web-based collaboration platform brought together the essential people, processes and knowledge by allowing real-time collaboration between departments, offices, countries and, just as importantly, Davis Controls' outside partners, so that everyone was working with the same, accurate information. "Synergy, by default, breaks down functional silos through its integration of workplace data, while its workflow facilitates function through communication," explains Montgomery. "We have complete management of value chain, financial, workflow, document and project information through an online browser. You can't get more powerful than that." Davis Controls continued to invest in the Exact Software e-business suite, with the purchase of Exact Event Manager, which enables organizations to define the events important to their business and the actions they would like to take in response to these events. This application, along with Synergy workflow, truly provides a complete business operations system for Davis Controls, helping to streamline processes across the entire organization. With Exact Synergy and Exact Event Manager, Montgomery believes the possibilities are endless. "Synergy grows as Davis Controls grows, and has improved our bottom line and increased productivity," says Montgomery. "Bringing the value chain into our organization has resulted in faster customer feedback, true collaboration and greater efficiencies. We can't imagine our corporate life without Synergy." For more information about Exact Software, visit www.exactamerica.com.
THE COMPANY: Backed by 40 years of experience, Drayton Valley, Alta.-based Surefire SCADA Inc. creates web-based hosted SCADA systems that encompass all aspects of industrial automation. The company designs and implements industrial control systems and maintains information technology. THE CHALLENGE: One of Surefire SCADA's customers was looking for a solution to get a fast, reliable update performance. Previous solutions from industry leaders couldn't deliver both. Kyle Chase, a systems integration specialist for Surefire SCADA, describes the dilemma: "One product gave them the reliability, but it could only give updates once every eight seconds, and the customer needed updates every second. Another product they tried provided the performance needed, but it would shut down every day." THE STRATEGY: Earlier this year, Chase found Ignition by Inductive Automation, which included an OPC-UA server, making the entire software system Linux compatible. Having used Inductive Automation software for the past three years with much success, he was confident in trying out the company's newest release for the distillation refinery project. THE RESULTS: After conducting dry runs with the system, Chase has been more than pleased with the results. "The performance is absolutely crazy," he says. "Ignition is actively subscribed to 30,000 tags with updates every second. We can finally monitor all of our tags at the speed we want, with the reliability we need." Chase is sold on OPC-UA and being able to use Linux for control systems. "To me, the move to a true cross platform environment is important," he explains. "This holds many advantages, especially when it comes to system flexibility and security. It helps keep costs down as well." For more information about Ignition by Inductive Automation, visit www.inductiveautomation.com.
Dassault Systèmes, a provider of 3D and product lifecycle management (PLM) solutions, recently launched V6R2011, the latest release of its PLM 2.0 platform, as part of its Lifelike Experience strategy. The release includes advances in collaborative creation with 874 new features, additional collaborative innovation enhancements, as well as an entirely new V6 Academia solution. V6R2011 includes CATIA advancements in systems functionality and content, such as various automotive-focused Modelica libraries, as well as Lifelike Human and Lifelike Conveyor - two new DELMIA production solutions for enterprise resource modelling. V6R2011 also updates Dassault Systèmes' PLM Express offer with new key attributes for the mid-market. A complete list of functionality enhancements in V6R2011 is available at http://www.3ds.com/products/v6/latest-release/.
Imagine waking up one day to find out that your company's supply chain has grinded to a halt, making it impossible to fulfill $100 million worth of orders. This is what happened to Hershey's confectionary manufacturing and distribution operations in 1999. When it cutover to its $112-million IT systems, Hershey's worst-case scenarios became reality. Business process and systems issues caused operational paralysis, leading to a 19-percent drop in quarterly profits and an eight-percent decline in stock price. In the analysis that follows, I use the Hershey's case to offer advice on how effective ERP system testing and scheduling can mitigate a company's exposure to failure risks and related damages.   Here are the relevant facts: In 1996, Hershey's set out to upgrade its patchwork of legacy IT systems into an integrated ERP environment. It chose SAP's R/3 ERP software, Manugistic's supply chain management (SCM) software and Seibel's customer relationship management (CRM) software. Despite a recommended implementation time of 48 months, Hershey's demanded a 30-month turnaround so that it could roll out the systems before Y2K. Based on these scheduling demands, cutover was planned for July of 1999. This go-live scheduling coincided with Hershey's busiest periods - the time during which it would receive the bulk of its Halloween and Christmas orders. To meet the aggressive scheduling demands, Hershey's implementation team had to cut corners on critical systems testing phases. When the systems went live in July of 1999, unforeseen issues prevented orders from flowing through the systems. As a result, Hershey's was incapable of processing $100 million worth of Kiss and Jolly Rancher orders, even though it had most of the inventory in stock. This is not one of those "hindsight is 20-20" cases. A reasonably prudent implementer in Hershey's position would never have permitted cutover under those circumstances. The risks of failure and exposure to damages were simply too great. Unfortunately, too few companies have learned from Hershey's mistakes. For our firm, it feels like Groundhog Day every time we are retained to rescue a failed or failing ERP project. In an effort to help companies implement ERP correctly - the first time - I have decided to rehash this old Hershey's case. The two key lessons I describe below relate to systems testing and project scheduling.  Systems testing Hershey's implementation team made the cardinal mistake of sacrificing systems testing for the sake of expediency. As a result, critical data, process and systems integration issues may have remained undetected until it was too late.  Testing phases are safety nets that should never be compromised. If testing sets back the launch date, so be it. The potential consequences of skimping on testing outweigh the benefits of keeping to a predetermined schedule. In terms of appropriate testing, our firm advocates a methodical process that increasingly simulates realistic operating conditions. The more realistic the testing scenarios, the more likely it is that critical issues will be discovered before cutover.  For our clients, we generally perform three distinct rounds of testing, each building to a more realistic simulation of the client's operating environment. Successful test completion is a prerequisite to moving onto to the next testing phase. In the first testing phase - the Conference Room Pilot Phase - the key users test the most frequently used business scenarios, one functional department at a time. The purpose of this phase is to validate the key business processes in the ERP system. In the second testing phase - the Departmental Pilot Phase - a new team of users tests the ERP system under incrementally more realistic conditions. This testing phase consists of full piloting, which includes testing of the most frequently used and the least frequently used business scenarios. This testing is also conducted on a department-by-department basis. The third and final testing phase - the Integrated Pilot Phase - is the most realistic of the tests. In this "day-in-the-life" piloting phase, the users test the system to make sure that all of the various modules work together as intended.  With respect to the Hershey's case, many authors have criticized the company's decision to roll out all three systems concurrently, using a "big bang" implementation approach. In my view, Hershey's implementation would have failed regardless of the approach. Failure was rooted in shortcuts relating to systems testing, data migration and/or training, and not in the implementation approach. Had Hershey's put the systems through appropriate testing, it could have mitigated a significant failure risk.    Timing Hershey's project timing decisions are textbook examples of how not to schedule ERP projects. The first lesson: do not force an ERP implementation project into an unreasonable timeline. Over-squeezing implementation schedules is a sure-fire way to overlook critical issues. The second lesson: never schedule cutover during busy seasons. Even in a best-case implementation scenario, companies should still expect steep learning curves and operational performance dips. By timing cutover during slow business periods, the company gives itself more slack time to iron out systems kinks. It also gives employees more time to learn the new business processes and systems. In many cases, it is even advisable to reduce orders in and around the cutover period. This tactic is aimed at minimizing exposure to damages caused by potentially undetected errors and less-than-perfectly-trained users. In closing, any company implementing or planning to implement ERP can take away valuable lessons from the Hershey's case. Two of the most important lessons are: test the business processes and systems using a methodology designed to simulate realistic operating scenarios; and pay close attention to ERP scheduling. By following these bits of advice, your company will lessen its exposure to ERP implementation failure risks and related damages.   Jonathan Gross is vice-president of Pemeco, Inc., a consulting firm specializing in ERP implementation. He can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .
These days, small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) need enterprise resource planning systems (ERP) to be competitive. ERP helps companies manage their global supply chains and forecast demand. SMBs, though, are advised to approach ERP very cautiously. Casualties from failed ERP implementations are like bodies strewn across a bloody battlefield. According to some studies, up to 70 percent of all ERP implementations fail. And the consequences of failure can be crippling. An implementation failure reportedly cost Hershey's 27 percent of its market share. Another failure put FoxMeyer Drug - a $5 billion a year company - out of business. More recently, Waste Management claims that a failed SAP implementation cost it $500 million. Two of the major causes of ERP failure are runaway implementations and organizational resistance to change. Failure risk 1: Runaway implementation According to IT research firm, the Aberdeen Group, cost efficiencies drive most ERP acquisition decisions. If the implementation reins aren't held tightly, though, service costs can make this cost efficiency goal unattainable. One reason is that most implementers charge hourly (full disclosure: our firm implements, but on a fixed-fee basis). So the longer a project takes to complete, the more it will cost. To wit, the IRS spent over $50 billion on an out-of-control ERP implementation that took 10 years to complete. One way to keep tight control on an implementation project is to define its scope relative to the costs and benefits. Without proper definition, the scope can creep like ivy up a building. Scope creep happens when a company decides to "ERP-ize" more business processes than is economically feasible. Proponents of widening the scope usually make a compelling argument. They say that integrating the additional business processes will lead to greater efficiencies. They also say that implementation is the right time to do the extra work because consultants are on site and the teams are dedicated. Experience has shown, however, that implementation is seldom the right time to widen the scope (except for dealing with unforeseen items that must be addressed). This is because the incremental costs generally exceed the incremental benefits. These incremental and oft-ignored costs include direct service costs and opportunity costs of delay. With respect to the latter, every unplanned day that an SMB is unable to operate under the new system is a day of lost efficiencies. Failure risk 2: Improperly managed change Stakeholder rejection of the new system and the restructured operating environment are risks that should also be mitigated during the planning phase. A failure to effectively manage these risks could allow certain groups to undermine the project's success. Opponents of change lurk among all stakeholder groups. Common examples include: • A union that objects to revised job duties that fall outside of the collective agreement; • Employees who are afraid of or do not want to learn new processes; • Managers who object to donating their "A-players" to the implementation team;  and • Executives who stand to lose performance-based incentives because of short-term disruptions. By anticipating and addressing possible resistance during the planning phase, an SMB will be better positioned to direct all of its organizational tentacles toward the same goal. In other words, it can focus its efforts on managing the restructuring project instead of having to focus on managing internal conflict. Project plan: An overview A good implementation plan mitigates scope creep with a clearly marked and easy-to-follow road map. It mitigates change resistance by nipping it in the bud. At a minimum, the project plan should address a project champion, include project plan documentation, and define the project teams. A project champion should be assigned to ensure top management's continued commitment to the implementation project. Countless ERP case studies show that an absence of project championship can be fatal. Commonly, an executive or top manager's negative views translate into insufficient resources being allocated to the project. Without proper resources, the project becomes doomed. A project champion is responsible for legitimizing the project among the executives. This person should be a top-level manager who is both fully committed to the project and capable of influencing others. The project plan is a formal document that sets out the project deliverables on a timeline and allocates a specific budget to each deliverable. Each of the deliverables should be reduced to manageable and measurable tasks. At the very least, a well-conceived project plan should include: a project charter; a scope statement; target dates and costs; a reporting structure and staff requirements; and subsidiary plans dealing with scope management, resource management and public relations. A successful implementation also needs to have a strong enabling structure. Project teams should include: a steering committee with executive-level strategic responsibilities; a core team with managerial-level delegation authority; and functional teams with responsibility for implementing the changes. To ensure interdependence and to facilitate timely communications, our firm cross-pollinates each team with a member from the reporting team directly below. So, for example, we would place the ERP project manager on both the steering committee and the core team, and certain key users on both the core team and a functional team. With the commoditization of ERP, SMBs can now reap the informational and economic benefits of integration that were historically reserved for the largest of companies. With proper planning, your company can put itself on the success path that most others have never found. _ Jonathan Gross LL.B., M.B.A., is a lawyer and consultant who specializes in aligning business with IT, selecting IT systems and implementing IT systems. He can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and followed at http://twitter.com/Pemeco.

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