Human Error: Who Should You Blame?

Often when we hear the term human error, our minds immediately assume something went wrong by a human. This is not always the case and the phrase is misleading. An error or mistake is never quite so black and white.

The Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

The same goes with your business. If you were to ask the technicians and developers who handle computer systems, they’d all agree with the old adage, “garbage in, garbage out.” Basically, this doesn’t mean the product, the source, or even the person entering the code or information is the problem. Sometimes they are, but not always. The majority of the time an error or faulty flow cycle is caused by errant keystrokes or the environment around the source of the entry.

Let’s take your business as an example. Do you use automation in your supply chain; how about in invoicing and reporting? If you’re like most, you probably use automation systems for several aspects of your business to keep it running smoothly on autopilot. With the world around us moving so fast around us, every second counts.

Ask yourself these questions: How much of your business runs on automation? Do you print invoices for a handful of customers because they require very specific attention and formatting? Annoying, right? Not the customer but the process. Doing it every single time, over and over again. Humans are animals of repetition and habit. That’s how our minds learn to adapt to our environment and the people therein.

But this familiarity also causes blind spots. It’s only natural. Our brains protect us from the dangers around us by monitoring our surroundings constantly, but dangers aren’t always in the form of a wolf lurking up behind you. Oftentimes, the danger is missed information in the mundane tasks. Just think about it. You probably sell items that require specific disclaimers. Why? To display important information to the customer in question. Do your employees have difficulty with certain processes? Do you see mistakes or less-than-efficient results in the same departments and don’t know why? You got rid of the problem makers but you’re still crashing or having the same errors time and time again.

Maybe you’ve even laid off some folks because of it. Maybe they deserved it. Maybe not. The problem is rarely obvious, but always easily remedied. Have you considered you might have a less-than-efficient overall process and management system? Could the company internal dynamic be causing the external errors? Don’t like what you’re hearing? Don’t fret, it’s all growing pains that other successful businesses have experienced before ERP software set them straight.

Read Also: What is an ERP Software?

Take A Step Back

As humans, when we see a problem, we try to fix it. Men are especially bad at this. We’re prone to solve problems and create solutions for everything we encounter during our days. This often gets us into trouble with our spouses and significant others. Women, you know what I’m saying.

A man’s analytical lean is not a bad thing, but it can cause disturbances in the process if left unchecked. That goes for all business men and women. We’re wired as problem solvers. It’s a blessing and a curse. When you’re assessing a potential human error in one of your departments, I challenge you to take a moment to pause and reflect on the full context of the situation before placing the blame on a specific operator, employee, or department.

More times than not, the issue lies not with the human but the environment. This could be the management systems, procedures, outdated technology, inadequate training, lack of and poor communication, or a whole slew of things. It’s never quite as simple as “push this button.” That’s one reason why eyewitness accounts don’t hold up in court. We all perceive our own realities within the same environment, situation, or occurrence. If we can’t be trusted with our own experiences, then how could we assume the answer to a business problem is straightforward?

I hope these questions are getting your wheels turning. In order to thrive in business, we must always maintain an attitude of learning and a teachable spirit. Continuous growth of knowledge, experience, and wisdom is the root of all great businesses. But I won’t leave you with arbitrary philosophies and uncertainties left unanswered.

There is a solution; and yes this one goes against my earlier statement of “nothing is quite so simple,” but in this case, it is. So what is it you might be wondering. ERP software.

Your Preemptive Strike

ERP software, specifically Adjutant, will guide you through the array of procedures, processes, and checks and balances that you set in place. This ensures nothing is left unturned or crucial steps overlooked. Your managers can construct limitations to monitor and control how much someone can spend. It also gives you a powerful tool to investigate any errors that arise.

But that’s the other great thing about Adjutant. It’s your preemptive strike before errors arise, thus saving you the headache and time associated with solving it, and in turn, putting more money in your pocket. As we all know “time is money,” but I’ll challenge you to go one step further. Efficiency, transparency, and omniscient access is the stimulus of money AND a thriving business.

If you’re constantly wasting your valuable time managing the menial tasks and putting out fires, it might mean it’s time for you to look for a better solution. We can help you put a permanent blanket over those problems and prevent them from happening again. Give us a call or schedule a demo today to see how the #1 ERP software can solve more than your problems but propel you to the next level of prosperity.

How To Save Your Field Inspectors 8,000 Hours of Work

Ozzie Paz started working in the Utilities Industry in 2004. He is now the Builder Service Manager for Municipal District Services. He explains how Adjutant helped him and his team of Field Inspectors save over 8,000 hours of work last year.

Utilities ERP Demo

The Field Inspector’s nightmare

When Ozzie started in the industry, the entire inspection was performed on paper. Paper forms caused several errors such as forms getting lost, being indecipherable, and having duplicate entries. Field Inspectors would waste hours of time trying to figure out what happened and what was the next step. Ozzie stated that they often had to go back to the customer’s location and start the entire inspection over. It would not only hurt their productivity but also generate high volumes of paper needing to be stored. “Sometimes we would spend weekends filing papers, and if anybody called, you had to dig through multiple boxes or go into our archives. It was a nightmare,” explains Ozzie.

Utilities ERP Demo

Going Paperless

Adjutant Software was put into place by ABIS, who installed a mobile solution to complete the inspection digitally. Field Inspectors were now seamlessly connected to the office and all files were able to be saved electronically. These files were also able to be sent within minutes to the right person, therefore eliminating several redundant processes at MDS. Inspectors now received

not only complete but accurate information every morning. Searching for archives now only takes minutes instead of hours.
The new processes generated thousands of hours of time savings every year. Ozzie states “we perform over 20,000 inspections a year, and this process saved us an average of 1.5 hours on each of these tasks which would take up to 25% of our time.” This equals to 8,000 hours of work saved every year. Ozzie added, “if you look at our growth, from 2012 until now, we should have already hired somebody; but hiring has been leveling off because of the unforeseen hours saved by Adjutant.”

Utilities ERP Demo

Reports KPIs

By MDS now performing their inspections digitally, this allowed them to not only experience a time savings benefit but also gave them the ability to collect valuable data to build custom reports. They are able to compare the number of inspections performed to their average completion time, thus giving them valuable insight into their current productivity. They have more visibility into key performance indicators such as knowing how many taps were set up each month. Knowing these KPIs allows them to watch trends and set future goals. An entirely new level of understanding about their business has been unlocked by Adjutant, and it only makes Municipal District Services more efficient every year.

How to Get IAS AC472 Accreditation

What is IAS AC472?

Eases and simplifies the process of acquiring AC472 accreditation through built-in automation features addressing most IAS regulations and criteria.
The International Accreditation Service (IAS) provides Accreditation Criteria (AC) for many types of products.

The IAS AC472 (Accreditation of Metal Building Manufacturers) is essential for metal building manufacturers where the building code inspection requirements are enforced. If a manufacturer is Accredited under IAS AC472, the special inspection requirements of the International Building Code, Chapter 17 are relaxed. Most architects do not want to accept “non-accredited” manufacturers because the burden of special inspections falls back on the architect.

What is the Accreditation Process?

In the accreditation process, the International Accreditation Service will verify that the manufacturer has the required quality system documentation, independent inspection agency, material tracking and record system to ensure that the metal buildings produced are reliable.

What Documentation is Necessary?

The quality system must fully document all of the design, fabrication, quality inspection and record maintenance requirements of the IAS AC472 Evaluation Criteria.   There will be a Quality System Manual (either electronic or paper) that instructs the manufacturers personnel how each process is to be conducted, inspected and recorded.  This Quality System Manual will contain all Welding Procedure Specifications, Weld Standards or other means of communicating welding requirements to the welder.

Welding documentation is essential.  Welders must be properly qualified for the process and position of welding they are required to use in production.  These welder qualifications must be performed by an independent Certified Welding Inspector (CWI).   Specialty Plus, LLC has developed systems that can be adapted to your specific manufacturing processes.  The quality system developed by Specialty Plus has been successfully implemented for many small and mid-sized manufacturers to fully cover all elements of the IAS AC472 Program.  Dennis Johnson, the developer of the quality system document is a Professional Engineer, Structural Engineer and Certified Welding Inspector with many years of quality system experience in design and manufacturer of metal building systems.

Independent Inspection Agency

The metal building manufacturer is required to contract with an Accredited Agency that is qualified to provide independent inspection services by IAS.   The Independent Inspection Agency will review your quality system documentation, welder records and quality records. They will  perform a “pre-audit” if requested, to verify that the manufacturer is ready for the accreditation assessment by IAS. Farabaugh Engineering and Testing (AA-715) is one of the most qualified Independent Inspection Agencies.  Under the direction of Mr. Dave Fulton, Farabaugh Engineering and Testing has inspectors that have been involved in the metal building inspection and quality program for many years. Dave has over 30 years of experience in the metal building industry and is a Certified Welding Inspector of both American Welding Society (AWS) and Canadian Welding Bureau (CWB). Farabuagh has  the experience and personnel required to assist your company to become accredited.

Quality Records

Quality records are essential for all phases of design and fabrication of the metal building system for the Accreditation process.  Records will be required for calibration, calibration standards, maintenance, contract documents, change orders, material certifications, quality verifications and training and personnel qualifications.  Adjutant Software was developed by people within the metal building industry to satisfy and streamline the record maintenance and retention requirements of the IAS AC472 Program.  Adjutant software can be implemented to speed material purchasing, receiving, inventory control, engineering design output, erection and shop drawings, material identification and traceability  as well as quality system and maintenance records.

Specialty Plus, Farabaugh Engineering and Testing and Adjutant Software

Together, Specialty Plus, Farabaugh Engineering and Testing and Adjutant Software can provide the most complete, cost effective and easy to implement quality, inspection and information management system for your metal building company.  Visit the following websites for further information on each business and contact information.

www.specialtyplus.net

www.Fetlabs.com

www.metalEZ.com

How HVAC Companies Can Improve Visibility Over Their Inventory

Keeping track of inventory poses a big challenge for many HVAC companies because most don’t have live visibility into their inventory. Oftentimes companies don’t know what inventory items are in the warehouse, what has already been allocated to their service vehicles, and employees will pull inventory from the warehouse that is already allocated for other jobs. They then have to rush order inventory so they can fill customer orders.

Employees also often find themselves at the job site without the necessary inventory, which then triggers a trip back to the warehouse, to another service van to borrow parts, or even to the supply store to purchase inventory. This has a trickle-down effect which results in wasted costs, wasted time in transit, and wasted billable time for the company.

Rush orders are costly, and not understanding what inventory you have leads to multiple orders per vendor monthly. What’s the best possible solution?

The right ERP optimizes inventory control, reduces costs and provides a live look into your current inventory across all locations.

When a business is divided into several departments, sometimes they each will use a different software package to run their operations. An ERP combines these software systems into a single, integrated solution that’s divided into modules. Each department (finance, procurement, warehouse, etc.) will all still get their own module, but the difference is that the modules are now linked together.

ERP (enterprise resource planning) packages can tag, track, and locate every resource a company has, and with this detailed tracking, HVAC companies can accurately manage their inventory wherever it is stored – in a warehouse, storeroom or service vehicle.

An ERP system not only simplifies warehouse operations; it also promotes a culture of collaboration. When a system is linked together, it unlocks complete visibility throughout the entire organization. This facilitates communication and provides a platform where the back office, warehouse, and technicians can seamlessly connect.

This is how an ERP system makes warehouse management more efficient.

When scanner technology is combined with an ERP application, data is instantly collected during receiving, put-away, picking, and packing. Every time the status of an item changes, employees will scan it and update it in real-time. Because this data is only entered once, this helps to eliminate data duplication and cut down on inventory shrinkage. One of the main causes of a company’s shrinkage issues is when they rotate between different accounting, shipping, and manual spreadsheets. Because there isn’t a centralized system, the chances for administrative and paperwork errors increases.

With this more effective way of managing inventory, HVAC companies will always know where their inventory is and there are no questions about if an item is in transit or whether it’s still on site. Because an ERP is also a central source of information, all departments will have access to this live, updated information 24/7.
These are some other benefits of this real-time information:

• Companies can now easily track inventory on their service trucks and can even have pre-loaded inventory the night before. This saves time in the mornings because technicians won’t have to waste valuable hours in the warehouse searching for inventory, which improves efficiency and increases worker satisfaction.

• This also allows companies to increase their service calls per day by 1 appointment because technicians won’t have to pick up parts every morning (they are pre-picked the night before) and there is more accuracy with the inventory items on their service vehicles. This means that they won’t have to waste time driving across town for parts.

• Because ERP systems can often be accessed from anywhere (off-site and from mobile devices), technicians are able to share, store, and view job data while in the field. This gives them a real-time, virtual link to the back office.

• Customer satisfaction also increases because service appointments won’t take as long or won’t require multiple visits for a simple fix; and when you meet customer demands in this way, there is a greater chance of them becoming repeat customers.

An ERP Quickly Identifies Savings Opportunities and Improves Supplier Relationships

Because an ERP is a central source of up-to-the-minute information, employees can now make faster, more informed business decisions. With real-time updates of vendor and inventory information, they can quickly identify savings opportunities. An ERP also provides reliable information for more accurate forecasting.

At ABIS, our complete ERP solution determines potential suppliers of items through commodity groups, previous orders, and preferred status. It automatically requests bids from them based on inventory levels or generated quotes. Because this is a single, integrated solution, it ties together inventory with accounting and every other department within a company. This helps help you find the lowest prices, manage and track your spending, automate purchase orders based on inventory levels, and streamlines your entire supply-chain.

Investing in an ERP means that you have better resource planning, which helps improve supplier relationships. Suppliers really appreciate it when they have real-time information because this helps them gain a more complete understanding of the businesses they serve. By having this greater visibility, they can meet your needs more effectively. Delays in the supply chain will decrease, and the flow of operations will greatly improve.
The Bottom-Line

Keeping track of inventory in real-time can be a challenge for many HVAC companies, but inventory management problems don’t have to overwhelm you.

Business.com states that there is no business too small for an ERP solution because when you have real-time data, transparency, decision-making, and productivity increases. This is the secret weapon that allows every business to appear, act and operate on an enterprise-scale level. This is how you stay competitive!
When you run an HVAC business, taking the time to change and improve your warehouse and inventory management processes will make your supply chain run smoother and will lead to greater efficiency and profitability.

Let our team at ABIS help you. To learn more, please contact us today.

How to Get a Tax Write Off when Buying a Software

Of all the changes made in tax code legislation in the past few years, are any of them actually beneficial to business owners like you? The answer is, yes. One of the best-kept secrets hidden in the tax code serves as a motivator for businesses, and it’s called Section 179.

After starting your business, writing off all the equipment and software needed to run it is an option. However, rather than get the money for the equipment back in small chunks over a span of time (what is known as depreciation), Section 179 allows business owners to write off the entire amount of the purchased equipment and software for the current tax year immediately, encouraging the purchasing of newer equipment and software when it’s needed, and not later.

Simply put, Section 179 encourages businesses and business owners by enabling them to save more money sooner rather than later. And the best part is the limit, which is quite generous. Your deduction limit for business equipment and software purchases, as dictated by Section 179, is $500,000 with a spending cap of $2,000,000 over the year!

Incredibly, Section 179 also allows business to lease their equipment for less money while still deducting its full purchase amount. That money goes directly back into your business’s bank account! This is not a loophole, but part of the code!

Computers and laptops, office furniture and supplies, certain vehicles used exclusively for your business but especially ERP Software qualify under Section 179.

Read Also: What is an ERP Software?

The largest businesses spend exponentially more on equipment and software than $2,000,000, meaning Section 179 benefits most to small to mid-sized business owners! Claiming deductions under Section 179 is as easy as filling out a simple IRS form.

With the year coming to an end, now is the perfect time to invest into a software and take full advantage of section 179. Contact us to benefit from this opportunity!

Grow your HVAC Company by Shedding Light on Your Operation

Growing a garden is fairly straightforward. Plant the seeds in fertile soil, water them, and let the sun shine down to do the rest. By comparison, growing your HVAC business feels like a mysterious magic trick, but really it comes down to almost the same principles.

Step Out of the Dark

You need technical know-how by your service techs to go along with quality parts. These two factors will insure quality work. Think of them as the seeds and the soils. Splash in customers gained through word of mouth and solid marketing and you have the water to make everything flourish. Now all you need is some light on the situation to reveal what sectors of you HVAC operation are powerful and which areas need to be weeded or fertilized.

This seems simple, but that last part feels downright Houdinian for many business owners.

Not All Magic Starts With Abracadabra

Recently I attended my local HVAC association luncheon and learned that less than 15% of HVAC companies are departmentalized. In other words, most companies do not have their GL separated to understand how much revenue comes from their Service side, versus how much comes from new installs of A/C Systems.

More importantly, most HVAC operations not know which side is more profitable.

Sure, many have some sort of vague idea, but managing by gut instinct is not an exact science. Companies that have as little as fifteen technicians can greatly benefit from understanding where their revenues are generated, so this notion you can “just wing it” is not a great idea no matter the size of your HVAC company!

ABIS Can Help

ABIS helps HVAC and other service companies easily decipher where their revenues, profits and expenses come from. By measuring these results, business owners are able to set goals, incentivize behavior, and grow their business.

Business Intelligence is the Goose that Laid the Golden Egg! And you don’t need to plant magic beans or scale a towering beanstalk to cash in.

Jack Of All Trades

As a small business owner, you are already stretched thin in what you have the time to focus on in your business. If you had an ERP (a software solution that integrates otherwise disjointed critical business functions and processes) geared specifically toward your business, you could more accurately control costs and better understand your profit margins.

ABIS allows business owners to incentivize their teams to make incremental improvements in areas that will have a huge impact at the end of the year.

  • Cost Control = Inventory Control and by shedding light on your complete operation from the warehouse to the truck you can keep techs from buying unnecessary inventory or wasting valuable billing hours running from truck to truck looking for parts.
  • Revenues = Understanding and ABIS’s ERP will allow you to ascertain cost per call, gross margin per call, and the loss per call back when a simple inventory item is not on your tech’s service vehicle.
  • What Gets Measured, Gets Controlled, and with a system tailored to the needs of HVAC operations this key information is readily accessible putting light and focus where it needs to be so you can further grow your business.

ABIS connects every department together. From Accounting to Inventory, Logistics, Production & more: handle everything aspect of your business from one software.

  • Wireless Warehouse
  • KPI’s
  • Mobile App
  • Picture documentation in the field
  • Credit Card Processing
  • Google Map Routing
  • Inventory Control
  • Job Costing
  • Automatic Notifications to Customers
  • Document Control

Call ABIS today and learn how we can help you gain control of your business and make your life a little bit easier.

Read more

Five Technology Trends for the Manufacturing Industry in 2018

2018 is here. I don’t know about you, but I feel like it was just yesterday we were exiting the 90’s. Instead, two years from now we will be in 2020 entering a new decade. Time flies, right?

Along with time, technology keeps advancing. It seems like it takes leaps instead of steps and just yesterday I was getting on the Internet for the first time. Now, we are looking at autonomous cars and robots in the aisles of Wal-Mart. Even though these won’t impact your business (yet), 2018 will see it’s fair share of new technologies ramping up in the workspace and it’s important for everyone to be aware of those trends. Why? Because by knowing what’s coming next, you can anticipate, budget for and leverage the right technologies that will keep you ahead of the competition.

From Cloud Technology to Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Business Intelligence (BI), here are five trends that your business should pay attention to in 2018.

1. Supply Chain Optimization

One of the most impacting trends for the manufacturing industry is the technology surrounding supply chain optimization. The supply chain management (SCM) market was expected to generate $13 billion in revenue in 2017. The modern supply chain is composed of an ever-extending network of businesses and connections and with them, came a huge amount of data.

Not only did that data need to be managed, but when simplified, it allowed CEO and supply-chain managers to create patterns and easily identify areas of optimization. The development of new technologies enabled manufacturers to run leaner and more efficient business units. According to Chad Eschinger, managing Vice President at Gartner, “Digitalization is increasing demand for agility and forcing new business models, which is boosting spending in the SCM market.”

By 2021, the SCM market will have generated another $6 billion in revenue and put (at least) as much back in the pockets of their customers. This is one trend you should definitely look at starting or improving in 2018.

2. Intelligent Devices (IoT)

You’ve seen them appear in your house with Google Home and Alexa, on your wrist with the Apple Watch and Fitbit; smart objects will also enter your office sooner than you think. The Internet of Things (IoT) is a trend that has been going on for years now and is only getting stronger every year. It allows us to connect objects to internet and display their usage (for example) in real-time on a dashboard. In the manufacturing industry, you can quickly imagine how this type of data applied to every machine could be valuable to a manager.

In this infographic from i-scoop, you notice some of the many applicable ways to utilize IoT:  Monitoring production flows in real-time, managing equipment remotely, reduce machine down-time, aggregating customer data.

Internet-of-Things-in-manufacturing-the-Microsoft-view-source-SlideShare-presentation-large

In many ways, this reminds me of the impacts an ERP software can have on your business. After all, the role of an ERP is to collect data from every single entry point in your business and display it on a dashboard where you can build your own Key Performance Indicators (KPI) to optimize your business. Regardless, the manufacturing industry spent $178 billion in 2017 into the IoT market and there will be 21 billion connected objects by 2020, so this trend isn’t going away. If you are not ready to look into smart machines yet, you could consider a solution that makes your equipment smart by extracting, processing, and displaying the data back to you.

3. Business Intelligence (BI)

BI is constantly changing, but what hasn’t changed is the heavy dependence on the business process and understanding what elements have the most impact on business performance. By understanding the driving factors of business performance, companies can make better decisions.

In the Big Data world we live in today, BI is ever more important. Remember, every second, over 68,000 searches are performed on Google alone, over 78,000 videos are viewed on Youtube and over 2 million emails are sent. This is the type of data we are generating and able to collect and it goes far beyond personal life. If you could measure the average time to complete a delivery, or to pack an order after it has been processed, would you track it? If you were able to measure how long it takes to perform a task on paper vs on a computer, would you track how much money you could save a year by digitizing your business? You probably would. And you would be right because it would allow you to make smarter decisions, quicker, and that would benefit your business.

In 2018, start looking into Business Intelligence services and solutions that allow you to measure and track your business performance across the board.

4. The Rise of NLP

Natural Language Processing is another branch of Artificial Intelligence, recognizing patterns and working to improve the language of programs by analyzing a body of data and finding relevant connections. In 2018, NLP is expected to become an empowering tool to encourage audiences to ask more questions, benchmark companies against their competition, and ensure your products comply to the current legislation.

Tech Emergence detailed five ways NLP can be beneficial for businesses:

  • Customer service: “How can I keep my customers happy?”
  • Reputation monitoring: “What are people saying about me?”
  • Ad placement: “Who is interested in my product?”
  • Market intelligence: “What’s happening with my competitors?”
  • Regulatory compliance: “Is my product a liability?”

5. Lean Manufacturing

Since the 1990’s, lean manufacturing has been focused on simplifying and standardizing business processes, eliminating waste, and keeping the organization in continuous movement. So, why is Lean Manufacturing still a trend to watch in 2018? Simply because it is a philosophy that is more than ever relevant today with the rise of new technologies.

According to Ultra Consultants, companies who have successfully implemented a lean structure have seen the following results:

  • 50% increase in productivity
  • 80% reduction in work in process
  • 75% reduction in work space required
  • 85% improvement in quality
  • 95% reduction in lead-time
  • 95% improvement in on-time delivery

I think we can agree that those are not bad results. In fact, they are pretty impressive.

So, as we move along with more technology, data, and artificial intelligence, remember, that no matter how powerful those new tools are; they are just that: tools. The real power comes from the people behind them and how companies seize and leverage those opportunities to eliminate waste, improve their organizations, and create growth.

ERP Implementation: A Step by Step Guide to Success

Over the past decade, businesses generated an unprecedented quantity of patents, products, and profit models. This trend of consistent expansion is accelerating—2016 being the record year for International Patent Applications, and the United States trusting the top position for the 39th consecutive year. In order to thrive in this age of explosive growth and competition, businesses must maximize resource efficiency. And, to do this, they must have tools that are in line with the pace of the 21st century marketplace.

Arguably the most important of these tools is an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software package. Industry leaders consider ERP software the cornerstone of their company’s organizational and operational efficiency.  Yet, some business owners and executives consider ERP software cost-prohibitive due to the often-times shocking cost of adopting and implementing an ERP package. However, businesses can avoid many unnecessary costs, and significantly reduce their bottom line, by following a series of steps.

  1. Your ERP Implementation Starts Before Talking to a Vendor
  2. Put Together your ERP Implementation Dream Team
  3. Change the Process, not the Program
  4. Leave it to the ERP Implementation Experts
  5. Understand the Importance of Training
  6. Stick to the Plan
  7. Leadership goes ALL IN
  8. Keep your ERP Implementation Simple

1. Your ERP Implementation Starts Before Talking to a Vendor

An ERP implementation is a capital investment, and when businesses make good capital investments, they realize returns that make the initial costs worthwhile. Just as a business would carefully consider and prepare for any other large capital investment, it is critical to understand and plan for the acquisition of a new ERP software.

Some businesses err by only considering the software’s features prior to making an investment in ERP software. While considering features is important, it is not the first or even the most important step.  Before studying and analyzing the software packages, the company must study and analyze itself.

  • What is the company’s volume of transactions?
  • What are the customers’ biggest frustrations?
  • What is the industry norm for floor production times?
  • Is the company using the most optimal equipment?
  • How can the company improve lead times?
  • What compliance standards is the company required to meet?
  • What is the organization’s turnover rate?
  • Has the company conducted a detailed SWOT analysis?
  • What is the timeline for the project?
  • What is the budget?

These are just a few of the many questions that must be answered before starting the search for an ERP package. For instance, a company might have great sales, stellar production efficiency, and unmatched customer service, but they have no handle on their inventory, forecasting, or procurement.  Without knowing these specific strengths and weaknesses, the company has no way of knowing specifically what they need out of an ERP platform. Likewise, if a company does not understand its competitor’s innovative competitive advantages, they may not be equipped to make a proper ERP selection (one with enough features and automation to keep up with industry trends and norms), and the ERP implementation is bound to fail.

[Insert complete check-list for ERP Software]

Often times, companies decide to implement an ERP software before considering the specific needs of the business. When companies do this, they are often confused at the differences between the half-dozen or so packages that they discover from a web search. Without a clear understanding of the specific needs, strengths, weaknesses, threats, and opportunities, the company risks making a poor investment that will not generate the desired returns, and may actually end up costing the company in the long term.

When companies choose a software that is not ideally suited for their business operations, they end up paying to reprogram the software to accommodate their unique needs. Businesses are often dismayed at the costs of reprogramming an ERP software that does not have the necessary features ‘out of the box’.  In many cases, businesses can completely eliminate custom programming costs by performing adequate research on their own business prior to adopting an ERP package.  Often times, software and consulting firms offer a preliminary engagement package that involves an in-depth needs analysis of the operations and business practices. Although this comes at a cost, this step helps the customer and vendor ensure that the company’s operational needs are met, and the project is planned and implemented effectively the first time around, thus eliminating additional costs in the long run.

[Link above to needs analysis page]

For any investment or purchase, it is always important to define the budget before initiating any purchases. When businesses keep the budget ambiguous, they risk ‘cost creep’ on implementation expenses or cost-features negotiations that often devolve into positional bargaining between parties. Both parties benefit when the budget is legitimately defined and expectations are clearly communicated.  Imagine shopping at a grocery store without knowing how much money is in your pocket. Regardless of whether or not you or the grocery knows how much money is in your pocket, you will leave with only the amount of groceries for which you had money. The same logic applies in an ERP implementation. If you do not define the budget, you may leave the implementation with some features you don’t need while other legitimate needs may be missed because they were not prioritized.

Defining the budget must be connected to the businesses’ self-study. A properly defined budget, and keen awareness of the business’s needs, will help to keep costs down by providing an ongoing line of accountability to the stakeholders of the project.   For example, if an implementation were halfway completed, but the project budget is at 75% capacity, key stakeholders will likely pay much closer attention to project expenditures such as custom programming, meetings, or project management. As important as it is to define a budget internally, it is equally important to agree on that budget with your software provider/vendor. Most software and consulting firms track budget as a key performance indicator. By defining the number with the vendor, it helps to harness accountability—as they will likely determine their success in part based on not exceeding the budget of the project.

2. Put Together your ERP Implementation Dream Team

Although most ERP packages are implemented by a team of project managers and consultants, there is a large amount of responsibility, duties, and workload that must be carried out by the client company. Most implementation firms will always offer to fulfill and execute all the work involved with an implementation, but this only adds hours and cost to the project. With the proper team in place, you can use internal resources from each department to fulfill tasks such as data gathering, data scrubbing, data conversion, SOP definition, testing, etc. Assigning the task of data extraction, scrubbing, and migration alone can eliminate a significant amount of hours and cost from the overall project.  Additionally, having internal team members perform some of the work involved in the implementation will also serve as practice and training for the end users—which will ultimately result in cost savings for support during and after the implementation.

Due to their robust nature, ERP implementations require a large amount of input and commitment from everyone (especially department heads) in the organization. The team must specifically plan for additional resources (e.g. time, costs, personnel etc.) that are directly tied to the ERP implementation. These resources will ensure that the team is successful in day-to-day implementation assignments while not compromising standard operating procedures, and will prevent costly issues like overtime, re-work, and setbacks to the timeline. Most companies form a team involving roles for each core area of their business such as project manager, accounting, logistics, purchasing, etc.  Teams that are organized have better interfacing between the consultants and the team.  Without a properly structured implementation team, bottlenecks, duplication of work, and other communication obstacles arise, usually resulting in cost increases.

[Insert design of perfect implementation team (based on TV/movies characters?)]

One role that can be created specifically for the implementation is the super user role. This team member, usually a manager or key employee, will be involved in every step of the implementation.  Additionally, the super user will usually undergo extra training sessions in order to develop them into a subject matter expert in the ERP.  Throughout the implementation, the company will be expected to perform parallel testing and hands-on practice inside the software. If the company is equipped with a super user, many of the questions, support, re-training, and other miscellaneous implementation tasks that usually deplete budget hours can be resolved internally.  ERP Implementations require extra resources. These resources include organized labor from teams, training for a team lead super user, time windows for practice and ongoing performance feedback.

[Write parallel testing article]

3. Change the Process, not the Program

ERP systems streamline organizational processes, automate communication across organizational levels, increase operational efficiency, increase transparency, forecast cost and profit projections, and optimize resources. All of these functions provide value to the company, and will inevitably make standard operating procedure less resource intensive. The residual resource (i.e. cost savings) from the efficiency provided by ERP software can then be used to expand the business, enhance the product, or provide value-added services to customers.

To fully maximize the return on cost savings, companies should re-evaluate their operating procedures after implementation, and establish new practices and procedures to fully accommodate the new software. The majority of companies that realize cost savings on ERP projects are eager to change, in terms of culture, people, and processes.  Often times, the fatal ideology and mindset of ‘because we have always done it that way’ leads to a change in the software, rather than the process.  Most ERP vendors do not include customizations or program changes in their original proposals. Therefore, any change that involves unforeseen programming will ultimately result in a budget overage.

During the pre-implementation planning stage, when the company defines its business process requirements, a good practice is to come up with a list of ‘must haves’ vs ‘nice to haves’ pertaining to software logic, features, and functionality.  Decide up front what the ‘showstoppers’ are for the company’s operational needs. If the company has performed thorough and ample research in this process, any customizations that are absolutely necessary to the project will be shared and negotiated with the ERP provider in the budgeting and negotiating phase.

[List of ERP Features/Characteristics form to download]

An indirect risk of customizations during the implementation is that it creates a moving target for both the end users and the consultant/project manager. If this becomes a pattern throughout the project, it is inevitable that the timeline and project scope will be compromised, triggering the need for more man hours and another dip into the budget.  If a company has chosen the right partner, their consultant should be able to provide ample work-arounds or alternatives utilizing existing functionality in order to deter the need for customizations.

4. Leave it to the ERP Implementation Experts

As processes change and innovation increases, companies implementing new ERP systems must devote a portion of their budgets to IT infrastructure. Although some of the hardware must inevitably be kept in house (barcode scanners, label printers, workstations, tablets, etc.), many companies are taking advantage of cloud computing, which can dramatically decrease the cost of hardware, personnel, and infrastructure.  In fact, statistics from a 2015 survey show that 90% of companies have moved to the cloud in some capacity.

An ERP, if utilized properly, will generate and require data for every facet of a company’s activity. By housing this data in the cloud, the liability of upkeep, maintenance, virus protection, upgrades, and backups is transferred to the ERP hosting provider. Taking advantage of hosted solutions provided by companies like Rackspace, Amazon, or DigitalOcean will allow the organizations to not only leverage the most innovative technology but also dramatically cut the costs associated with hosting a new ERP software platform.  Traditionally, in house IT departments are responsible for an array of timely duties including database tune-ups, load balancing, backups, virus protections, upgrades, and many other system improvement tasks.  Headaches and time that would have been spent babysitting, implementing, and troubleshooting the IT infrastructure can be dedicated to more mission-critical duties that contribute to not only the success of the ERP implementation but the company in general. 

5. Understand the Importance of Training

The foundation and success of the entire ERP implementation rest on the end users’ ability to use and navigate the software as it was intended. This not only qualifies user training as one of the most imperative steps in the implementation but also one of the biggest cost implications.  ERP firms commonly set aside a specific percentage of the project’s budgeted hours towards training. Depending on the ERP being implemented, courses are usually broken out based on modules and are either priced per course or per user.  Although most implementations may include some padding for re-training, it is likely that any formal training courses that are requested a second time will be billed against the project, thus adding to the original cost forecast for the training portion of the project.  These unnecessary cost increases can be prevented through preparation, accountability, discipline, and cooperation from the stakeholders and end users of the organization.

[ Insert user training post or infographics ]

Assuming the project manager and implementation lead/super user have agreed upon a granular and detailed project plan, there is usually ample time to prepare for software training courses. It is imperative to request and familiarize the team of trainees with detailed training agendas prior to training. This practice allows for end users to brainstorm topics, determine any missing processes/objectives, and populate lists of questions specifically related to their use of the software.  Pointing out unique business situations and processes (and how they will be executed in the software), and initiating conversations between the trainer and other end users will allow the team to come up with proper solutions both in process and software functionality.  If these types of procedural and situational inquiries aren’t addressed in training, they will come up after the ERP has gone live, resulting in an influx of preventable support costs.

“The foundation and success of the entire ERP implementation rests on the end users’ ability to use and navigate the software as it was intended.”

Another crucial part of the team’s preparation will be to acclimate the end users with the software itself. Most ERP providers will issue licenses and user credentials in the first month of an implementation. This lead time allows trainees to begin logging into the system and exploring screens and modules that may associate with their day to day operational procedures and responsibilities. Getting to know the ‘lay of the land’ will allow users time to adjust to the general look and feel of the software. Often times, if end users are seeing the software for the first time during training, their attention is easily diverted to simply analyzing the graphics, nomenclatures, and all around design of the software itself—which usually results in a lack of retention in the core subject matter.

One proactive measure the company can take in order to prevent retraining is to demand mandatory attendance for all assigned courses/sessions. As previously discussed, during the implementation, resources and team members experience the burden of a second workload on top of their tumultuous day to day schedule. It is very easy for a resource to justify skipping out on a training class, or stepping away and leaving a course in order to put out a fire or deal with an operational need.  Although exceptional circumstances may demand this type of behavior, upper-management and key stakeholders overseeing the implementation must make it abundantly clear to all resources that training course attendance is required. If a company makes new hires or does require some re-training during the final months of an implementation, a properly groomed super user should be able to cover most of the subject matter at that point.

Although the actual training is an integral part of an end user’s adoption and acquirement of the software, documentation will go a long way in preventing avoidable support calls and inquiries—which can add very quickly to the overall cost of an implementation. Most ERP providers can provide customers with generic documentation for at least the basic modules of the platform. The most beneficial and proactive approach to documentation would be to formulate documentation and user guides specific to the company and its standard operating procedures. While generic documentation will help, end users will experience more significant benefits from the documentation that represents the activities and functions performed on a daily basis within the company. 

6. Stick to the Plan

Panorama Consulting – an independent ERP consulting service – revealed the average duration of an ERP implementation is 14.3 months. Likewise, the study revealed 75 percent of implementation projects exceeded their initial estimated timeline. No matter the vendor/package, there is almost always an inevitable correlation between the timeline and cost of an implementation. If the company has properly defined the goals around timing and longevity of the implementation and conveyed these figures to the firm, a final go live date can be set to steer the entire project.

One measure that can be taken to ensure the project and its stakeholders remain on pace is a detailed, granular project plan. Although project management, in general, is sometimes notorious for being a waste of time and budget, if performed properly it can actually help drastically reduce costs to the overall implementation.  An effective project plan will include not only detailed tasks/executions required to complete the implementation, but also supplemental dates, assignees, due dates, predecessors, completion percentages, and remarks sections.  If every task required of the implementation has an owner, and a commitment date, it is much easier to promote accountability for all stakeholders.  Psychologically, when a resource sees their name next to a commitment, they are much more likely to fulfill the responsibility, as opposed to seeing the task simply assigned to the project in general (without a particular member of the team being responsible).  Commitment times and due dates will help to organize the schedules and workloads of both the implementation consultants/project managers and the internal resources involved in the implementation.  Without due dates, resources (and even consultants) are more likely to delay or procrastinate in their project assignments until ‘crunch time’.  This type of behavior usually results in an overall bottleneck in the project, an extension of the final go-live date, and increased project costs.

As the timeline changes and grows during the implementation, the project becomes more susceptible to cost drivers and risks.  In the software world (from a retention and education standpoint), it is best to take the ‘strike while the iron is hot’ approach. In an extended project, much of the training and knowledge transferred during the initial courses will be diluted and eventually forgotten, which will require additional hours and capital in the form of re-training and extra courses.

Another unforeseen effect of extending the timeline of a project is the implications of seasonal trends and how they correlate with resource availability, time restraints, cash flow, and other key factors that can smother the success of an implementation.  Take for instance a project that is slated for an April go live. In the initial planning phases, research and collaborative discussions established that April was the month with the least operational volume. Thus, resources and stakeholders would be able to roll out the new ERP during months that were more forgiving in terms of chaos, time, and volume of business.  During the implementation, various setbacks to the project plan and timeline dictated an August go-live (which happens to be the company’s peak month of volume). The risk of a problematic, both in cost and morale, go-live is much greater in this month than the original April target.

7. Leadership goes ALL IN

The implementation of an ERP requires feedback, cooperation, and buy-in from the entire company.  Unfortunately, whether it is derived from reluctance to change, fear of job security or other common emotions that arise from a project of this nature, some team members are not as supportive and enthusiastic about implementations as others.  In fact, it is not uncommon to have employees completely revolt (be it directly or passively) against the implementation. In the industry, these resources have been playfully coined as saboteurs, project terrorists, or troublemakers.  A strong force that can help to eradicate the project of these negative forces is leadership and executive buy-in of the project.

Similar to most team oriented environments, employees involved in an ERP implementation will look to leadership and management when forming their personal attitudes and opinions of the project. In most cases, team members will emulate their manager’s actions and attitudes towards a project in terms of support, buy-in, enthusiasm, cooperation, and optimism. The practice of top down positivity helps spread confidence, willingness, acceptance, and energy across the entire organization—which are all catalysts for a successful implementation. On the contrary, the same holds true for the effects of negativity from upper management – they will spread like wild fire, and most likely much quicker than anything on the positive side of the spectrum.

Although this may not directly add cost to the project, the indirect effects of low morale, lack of commitment, and an overall pessimistic attitude can result in additional costs.  For instance, in a supply chain management ERP implementation there are many departments that must work hand in hand to provide proper data, derive operating procedures, assist in training, perform parallel testing, and roll out the software. Each department acts as a very unique puzzle piece that is imperative to the overall synergy and proper functioning of the software and operation as a whole.

Let’s assume one of these departments, shipping/logistics, is governed by a veteran manager who does not support the implementation and change.  In order to prove his point and display his disdain for the new initiative, he will do whatever he can to stall, disprove, and prevent the project from success. In this case, the resources within this department have also begun to mimic the negative attitude concerning the project. Throughout the implementation, assignments, data requests, meeting invites, training sessions, and other elements of the project requiring cooperation are ignored and even in some cases rejected by the members of the department, including the manager.  Due to the collaborative nature of the implementation, the company cannot move through the project because of ‘one bad apple’.  This bottleneck and behavior eventually lead to an extension of the go-live date, insufficient data, untested processes and procedures, and a possibly cancerous attitude in the company—all of which culminate into excessive costs and overrun budgets.

In the same example, if executive leadership were to get involved, the culpable managers and departments would be counseled and even reprimanded in order to prevent this string of disruptive events. The best approach executive leadership can take when announcing or introducing an ERP implementation is one that conveys “We are getting on this bus. You can either hop on and enjoy the ride, or you will be left behind.” 

8. Keep your ERP Implementation Simple

As organizations make their transition into the age of innovation, many companies make a significant technological jump once the decision has been made to upgrade and automate. Due to factors such as cost, time, manpower, and complacency, most organizations taking on new innovative initiatives are converting from extremely antiquated business practices and procedures.  The ‘if it ain’t broke’ mentality has encouraged practices like tracking production and inventory on handwritten documents, deriving forecasting and procurement data reactively based on assumptions and opinions (rather than true facts and figures), and analyzing company key performance indicators through manually created and maintained spreadsheets.  Over time, teams get acclimated and comfortable with these behaviors, which prolongs and widens the gap between the innovative stage of the company and its competitors.  Thus, once the company finally decides to upgrade, through the adoption of an ERP for example, they most likely want to change almost everything.

Although it is important for an organization to automate and improve all areas of their business, it is important to remember the amount of work and effort required to properly implement a platform as extensive as an ERP.  If too much is taken on during an ERP implementation, there are several risks that not only jeopardize the project but the organization as a whole.  Most ERP packages are broken up into modules. Whether the ERP provider charges by the module, or by the work involved to set up, configure and train on these modules, there is always a cost associated with each module. Taking on more modules than necessary will result in drowning of project resources and time, extended project timelines, and a possible decrease in training retention—all of which are exorbitant costs which will quickly deplete the budget.

Through close communication with the ERP provider in the initial planning phase of the project, you can develop a project plan that will help deter some of these risks, and the costs associated with them.  When first meeting as a company to analyze your company needs, qualify the benefits of each of the modules, and only plan to implement the ones that truly deliver value.  If the list of modules is still somewhat considerable in length and time, a phased project approach will be necessary. In a phased rollout, rather than implementing all of the desired modules in one single instance, small groups of modules and processes are implemented at a time.  This approach provides cost benefits including more time for users to adapt to the system as they go (avoiding re-training and inflated support costs). This approach can also develop super users for later phases (as the users implement phase I, their expertise can be harnessed in the setup and implementation of later phases).

Additionally, by utilizing a phased approach, the company mitigates the risk of possible go-live disasters.  Due to the integrated nature of a fully implemented ERP, any failure in any portion of the software could affect other modules and processes.  If the implantation is all encompassing, there is an added pressure for users and stakeholders to be 100% prepared in all areas of the platform.  If the company has ‘bitten off more than they could chew’, the threat of a go-live rollback (reverting back to the legacy system and planning another go live in the future) becomes much greater.  Rolling back a go-live has immense monetary consequences—loss of implementation hours, loss of business and production due to shut downs, overtime costs from manpower, and additional costs from legacy platforms.  These consequences will inevitably destroy any hopes to stay within the budget of the implementation.  While phasing an implementation out may give the initial impression of added costs, it will most likely eliminate disastrous episodes and costs like these.

While ERP implementations can be intimidating to an organization on many levels, the apprehensions based on finances and costs can be removed by adhering to a proactive approach that follows some of the key areas discussed above.  With the proper planning and attention to these traditional blind spots of an implementation, any organization will not only dramatically decrease the overall cost of implementation, but also likely ensure a successful go live and deployment of the new platform.

Cost of Construction Software

Having the right software for your construction company makes the difference between getting the work done and getting the work done right. But most construction companies are concerned over the cost of implementing construction software in their operations. We’ve put together a list of factors that go into construction software pricing so you can make the best decision for your business.

Company size and User Count

When implementing new software, it’s important to consider how many of your teams or departments you want to have integrated into the program. You may want to include accounting, sales, project management, procurement, and any other area needing visibility into operations. A major factor affecting the cost is your company size and your need for support in implementation and training for employees for long-term success.

Complexity

Along with the size of your company, the complexity of the software required will play an important role in cost. For instance, you may or may not need to integrate as many departments with the software depending on your business needs. Or if your business does custom manufacturing, you might need more modules and more flexibility in the planning process.

On Premise or Cloud-Based

Construction software is considered on premise when it is put into the hands of the company’s IT staff. Companies usually pay a yearly support or maintenance cost. This kind of software generally works for larger construction companies who already have an operating IT staff. Cloud-based construction software works well for smaller construction businesses who do not have the IT staff to run their construction software. Generally, whether cloud-based or on premise options are utilized, the cost really depends on the needs of each individual company, but cloud-based software options generally have a faster timeline for implementation.

Company Goals

Ultimately, what truly matters is that your company reaches its goals. Your software needs should be based on what you would like to accomplish. And getting the right construction software to fit the needs of your business is a must! Not implementing or choosing the wrong construction software holds your company back in the long-term. Construction software is meant to streamline communications and operations so your company is more efficiently racing towards its goal.

Every construction company differs in its needs, wants, and goals. Construction software should be tailored to fit the size and complexity of your business. To get an estimate on your company’s construction software needs, contact us today!

Not Connecting Your Field Reps With the Office is Hurting You. Bad.

Today’s business climate is more competitive than ever, and you need to take advantage of every technology to keep your company on top. It’s one thing to want increased productivity, efficiency, and profits but identifying areas and implementing strategies for improvement is challenging. One area of attention that has consistently given results is in the state of the organization’s communication.

Paper is Killing Your Productivity

Businesses that use representatives who operate in the field, independent of the office, face additional hurdles. These companies face not only the issue of poor interoffice communications but also interaction with employees outside of the building.

Field teams often use paper and pen to track client data such as job descriptions, price quotes, and service deadlines. The representative then needs to re-enter the information into a computer system duplicating their effort and losing productivity. This process can lead to lost data, repeat entries, poor customer service, and lost revenues. This manager needs a software that connects their teams to the office.

Let’s take the example of an inspector at a Water/Mud operating company. This inspector and his team performs 20,000 inspections every year. During every one of them, their inspector writes down the name of the client, the time he arrived and left, the type of inspection he realized and each action he performed on site. If he does 7 inspections a day, he then turns 7 sheets of paper to his manager every evening. When his manager receives each paper from each inspector, he needs to type all this information into a computer system or a software the company chose to handle their customers. This means that the manager spends every day re-entering data from the field team. This is not only counter-productive, it is also bound to create friction on many levels: some forms will get lost, others will be indecipherable, and customers are entered a second times into the system, leaving room for spelling and other errors.

Inspectors and their managers waste hours trying to figure out what happened and what was the next step. At times, the team even has to go back to the customer’s location and start the entire inspection over. It would not only hurt their productivity but also generate high volumes of paper needing to be stored. The team of inspectors could spend weekends filing papers, and if anybody called, they had to dig through multiple boxes or go into their archives. It is a nightmare.

Until they went paperless.

The Game Changer: A Software for the Service Industry

A software for the Service Industry such as a specialized Enterprise resource planning (ERP) software enables a company to manage and integrate every essential parts of their business helping them to become more productive, efficient, and profitable. ERP software allows organizations to integrate crucial areas like purchasing, sales, customer service, planning, but also field reps.

Read Also: What is an ERP Software?

Using a software to go paperless across the entire company from the office to the field is a game changer for our inspectors. They can now use a mobile or tablet directly from the field to perform their entire inspection. Forget the paper, every inspector is now seamlessly connected to the office and every information entered is saved electronically and accessible by the managers in real-time.

When performing an inspection, the inspectors can now pull the customer profile and enter the information relative to the task performed. No more duplicate entries, no more data errors, and no more hours wasted re-entering basic data.

The manager has access to every action performed and can shift his role from a data-entry position to true managerial post. He now has more time to review his team’s performance and steer the wheel in the right direction. How long do inspectors spend at a customer on average? How much do they spend on average for each type of inspection? Which inspection is the most profitable and why? The answer to all these questions and many more are now at the tips of his/her fingers.

With this new paperless system in place, managers can instantly share the right information to the right person or search for archives within minutes, instead of hours. It generates thousands of hours of time savings every year.

ABIS works with MUD/Water district companies. We have heard from some inspectors: “if you look at our growth during the past 5 years, we should have already hired somebody; but hiring has been leveling off because of the unforeseen hours saved by ABIS.”

To learn more about ABIS and how our technology can increase your profits, feel free to Contact Us or Request a Demo.