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Top manufacturing ERP best practices for project planning

Before starting a manufacturing ERP implementation, make sure you've reviewed these ERP planning best practices. Perfecting your ERP project team, schedule and budget know will ensure a smooth implementation later.

When it comes to manufacturing ERP, there are a number of best practices that are key to a successful implementation. These include picking the right project team, an open mind, time to migrate data, training, data management know-how and a process for continuous improvement.

1. Pick the right project team. Be sure to include members from relevant business operations as well as Information Technology. This cross-functional team will greatly improve decision-making as you design, implement and manage ERP system across multiple sites, said Simon Jacobson, research director at AMR Research.

2. Be open to new processes. During ERP planning for a roll out, companies often believe that how they set up accounts receivable or schedule their factory floor is absolutely critical to the way they do business. They think that they must have the same setup in ERP as they had before.

No so, according to Bob Parker, group vice president for research at IDC Manufacturing Insights. "Don't fall in love with your own processes," he warned.

3. Schedule enough time to migrate your data to the new system. Where projects get behind most often is in the process of mapping the existing system to the new system, said Parker. You also need to build in time to scrub the data to make sure it's accurate before migration. This is an area that almost always takes longer than people think.

4. Budget generously for training over the long term. What typically happens in ERP planning is that there is a lot of training at the implementation stage. But when personnel changes, new employees don't get nearly the same level of attention and support. Make sure you've got plans that cover training not just at the front end, but throughout the lifecycle of the new system.

5. Understand that the value of ERP is in the aggregation of the information. At the end of the day your executives and knowledge workers are going to get value out of using the information not how it's produced. When you think about rolling out ERP, think about what sorts of decisions are going to be made and give that more of a priority than the production of the information itself.

6. Create center of excellence. What tends to happen in most ERP planning is that business and IT work hard at the outset but neglect to ask how the ERP will meet goals for the long term. That question needs be considered, according to Parker. One solution to this common oversight is putting a support organization in place -- sometimes called a center of excellence -- to track how a system is actually used after implementation and then make recommendations for continuous improvement.

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About the author:
Catherine LaCroix is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore. She covers technology used in business, education and healthcare.

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