By Sheldon Needle
Benefits of Hiring a Consultant
In most cases, manufacturing companies think that they know their business processes, but there are many things that they don’t really understand. A business consultant has the time and vision to force manufacturers to think through their business processes. When companies are busy running their day-to-day operation, documenting business processes is usually pretty low on the list. There is tremendous value in having an outside person understand and document current processes, weaknesses and areas where software support is needed.
As a result of this analysis, the company might decide to re-engineer the business processes in order to get the most from the new manufacturing software. Another benefit to this exercise is forcing staff to justify each work activity performed as necessary to meet the information needs of the company.
Many small manufacturers simply don’t have someone that knows how to put an effective project plan together. With a new manufacturing/erp software implementation this resource is critical! Such a person provides company management with an understanding and vision of a full manufacturing software implementation. The success of the project will be highly dependent on company leadership. The sooner all managers have a common understanding and vision of the project the greater the likelihood of success. A business consultant can help ensure an effective project plan.
Let’s look at understanding and managing data conversion. It takes someone with an IT system background who has "on the job" operations experience. Data cleanup and process discipline need to be in place BEFORE the software implementers come on site. Again, here is a role for your business consultant!
When it’s time for the manufacturing software implementation, the vendor will provide staff to assist you, but the expertise provided could be limited when it comes time to marrying the manufacturer’s environment with the new manufacturing software. A business consultant can be a good resource to connect company information requirements and software set up. At this stage there will be many opportunities to make constructive improvements in the design of the information system.Software implementers may not fully understand and lead these changes. A qualified business process consultant will.
Some years ago, I was hired by a small water bottling company to advise them on a software purchase. This company had a somewhat complex manufacturing operation and an extremely complex sales order process and retail pricing system.
At the time, there were really no off-the-shelf systems that could do the job without ripping the software apart.
I told the company President that they were not ready to make a software selection and that they needed a thorough business process study so that all staff would have a deeper understanding of the issues and application interrelationships before going ahead with a selection project.
He brought me in for several days and I got off to a great start with company staff.
Unfortunately, the company President then decided he could save some money by going without my services.
The end result was not pretty. Due to their utter lack of experience in this complex arena, they decided to work with a VAR of one of the mid-market ERP vendors and spent $200K+ in 18 months “customizing” their off-the -shelf program. The VAR programmer who took the specifications and was doing all the coding had a falling out with his employer and left the company.
There was no one capable of taking over and the entire investment was lost. Six months later their disgusted financial backer shut down the operation.
Using an independent outside manufacturing/erp software/business expert can spell the difference between software success and failure. The key is to find someone who has the relevant experience, is competent, and independent. By independent I mean the person has no financial relationships with software vendors and is able to objectively evaluate alternatives without bringing strong biases to his/her recommendation.