Selecting an ERP Solution for Contract Electronic Manufacturing

Posted by Jim Tennant on Wed, Sep 24, 2014 @ 11:09 AM

Recently, I had the opportunity to present as a panelist at Definity Partners’ event, “Leveraging Technology to Achieve Business Success.” The event centered on using technology to solve your company’s most challenging business issues. Definity Partners is a consulting firm focused on empowering frontline leaders to run their business and driving sustainable and continuous improvements. One of their areas of expertise is ERP systems, which was the focus for their interactive panel discussion. The companies involved in the discussion were at three different stages in the ERP selection process, and each had their own unique business challenges, which gave attendees a broader viewpoint and a better idea of what to expect on their own ERP selection path.

RBB’s Challenges

Photo of Jim Tennant as Panelist

In the contract electronic manufacturing industry, there are invaluable tools you use on a daily basis. RBB's is our quoting system. We use this technology to quote new opportunities as well as re-quote and update assemblies we have been producing for many years. When deciding on an ERP system, we knew we needed something that would tie closely into our quoting and sales technology and allow these different systems to work together.

Outcome

Definity Partners helped us develop a custom application that married together our quoting, costing and production processes. The outcome is a much more simplified workflow for RBB. Everyone on the team knows exactly where to go when a proposal is in the works and they need to see what stage it’s at. Having this central point ensures that nothing falls through the cracks during our process. 

Key Takeaways from Other Panelists

Although I was a panelist at the event, I learned far more than I contributed from the other speakers, Michael Swartz, President & CEO of Lake Shore Cryotronics and Steve Vitale, President of Midwest. Below are some other points to keep in mind when selecting your own ERP system: 

  • Make sure the technology is a good fit for your company and therefore, in line with your strategic goals
  • “Process” before “Purchase”: investigate and learn all of your real life business processes before selecting a new ERP system. It’s important to understand your current processes before evaluating new technology to add to the mix.
  • Identify “handoffs” in your process; knowing your information transitions are critical in ERP selection
  • Perform due diligence of the real life steps required. Understand the stages of a new ERP system implementation in detail before beginning the journey.
  • Do not under estimate the internal cost of implementing a new system. One veteran ERP survivor estimated the real cost in lost time of existing personnel was equal to the cost of the ERP product and the ERP implementation consultant fees combined.
  • Test the system and test the personnel. Define, design, and execute a comprehensive test of all employees trained to use the new system.  It might be a good idea to tie completion money to a post-training competence level
  • Don’t be afraid to keep what you have. Even with its drawbacks, the system you have may be best for your organization. 
  • Conversely, “that’s the way we’ve always done it” is not reason enough not to change

What challenges does your company face when it comes to technology? What solutions have you found to overcome these challenges?

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Image courtesy of definitypartners.com

Topics: Small Batch Electronics, Contract Manufacturing, About RBB