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WHAT DOES MY GOLF GAME HAVE
TO DO WITH ERP?
It was about one year ago when the household budget meeting took
place. Yes, just like many companies we were into the year about
two months before we decided to set the annual budget...but better
late than never, right? My main focus was to get the golf appropriation
through, and on this particular day, the "plant manager"
saw it in my favor. . .$500 completely funded. I could hardly wait
for the weather to break.
Being fully empowered, use of the money was at my discretion and
a decision had to be made. Here are some of the facts: 1) golf balls
at the local driving range are $5 per bucket (about 100 balls);
2) lessons are $32 per hour; 3) a set of new irons is about $500.
At the range, that works out to about 10,000 balls and believe me
they would be hit over several months, not in two days! And the
clubs were the really good oversize cavity back two-degree upright
stiff steel shaft custom fit by the local pro. . .and no extra charge
for the fit! What a dilemma.
In evaluating the choices, my main criteria was improving my game,
which is basically measured by my state handicap. This, of course,
is a function of my scores...posted, that is. And only the ones
from tournaments! But there were some intangibles, like the condition
of my current set of clubs. They were bought in 1973 (brand new,
not used) and faithfully regripped each year. These clubs, even
though functional, made me feel a little low-tech when out there
with my chums. If nothing else, the new clubs would just make me
feel better and surely result in better shots.
And then there is the effort factor. Buying the clubs could be
done in a couple of hours on a rainy Saturday afternoon (when I
couldn't play), and the job could probably be delegated to the "plant
manager"! What a deal! The balls, on the other hand, would
take some hard work and effort over many days. Shot after shot.
Practice, practice, practice. Then the thought of lessons occurred
to me. My local pro is a great guy--state "teacher of the year"
once. But session after session. Drill, drill, drill. I knew he
would even expect me to do these drills between sessions at the
range...with the kids. It occurred to me that this strategy would
really take some commitment, involvement, dedication, sacrifice,
and action on my part.
Golf vs. Manufacturing
The whole analogy puts you right in the middle of the decision facing
many manufacturing companies today. They are trying to lower their
handicap--in other words, improve measurable performance--to be
more competitive in the market place. And many times their challenge
is choosing the right improvement strategy: Invest in new technology
or improve the process using the tools we have today? And companies
have limited money and time, just like you and me as we struggle
to improve our golf game. If only there were a magic way to improve
performance and not have to hit all the balls and take the lessons.
Just like new clubs, balls, shoes, and a plethora of golf gadgetry,
numerous technology choices are available to manufacturers today:
new equipment, machinery, manufacturing process technology, and
computer systems. One of the solutions leading the list is ERP or
Enterprise Resource Planning systems. I call ERP a fully integrated
and functionally complete approach to planning and controlling the
manufacturing business process from product conceptualization to
the collection of cash from the customer. It all works together
in the spirit of providing one set of numbers to run the business.
Estimates claim corporate USA will spend $2.6 billion on enterprise-type
systems in 1997. A huge number! (I wonder how that stacks up against
Enterprise Resource Planning systems
ERP is a strategy to get all decision makers on the same page and
to speed the decision process. It is an approach to eliminate redundancy
and to reduce confusion. It addresses the business processes of:
- • Sales and operations planning
- • Delivery promising
• Date management
• Order entry and administration
• Sales forecasting and analysis
• Accounting and finance
• Engineering and product data
• Material provisioning
• Inventory control
• Manufacturing information
• Capacity analysis
• Human resources
It's many processes working together to execute perfect shots.
You can think of ERP as a strategy to "lower the handicap"
of the company.
Technology vs. process. Which strategy is right? Can they be worked
together? Which is more cost effective? Our experience shows that
many times the tools we have today are not quite as bad as we thought.
And that more gain is possible by working on process improvement
than anyone thought possible. Just think of the manager down the
street (certainly not you or me) who every year buys the newest
titanium, biggest oversize stuff money can buy. How much has his
or her game improved? Then think about the person you always want
on your team--you know, the one who is always on the practice range
and on the putting green, building an excellent repeatable process.
Which strategy seems to pay off the most? The clubs or the practice?
Don't get me wrong. If your business tools are incomplete, disconnected,
outdated, it may be time to replace them. In other words, if you
are missing the six iron, the sand wedge, and the string is unwinding
from the hozzle of that pricimmon head driver, half the clubs are
from your brother's old set and the other half came from a garage
sale, it is time to get new clubs! Believe me, in today's day world,
every company owes it to itself to have the right tools. I mean
fully integrated and functionally complete. But the tools are simply
the entry fee to the weekend tournament. To win, the process is
the key. Work on processes. Make them robust. Have one-set-of numbers.
Get information in real time. Have the "system" working
together--from the address of the ball to the final follow through.
From a management perspective it is very tempting to spend money
on the tools, hoping performance will improve. And this should be
done if the tools are out of date. But the real benefit comes from
the hard work, discipline, involvement, sacrifice, and dedication
to process improvement. You've got to spend the time on the practice
range and take the lessons. And you can work the improvement at
the same time you update the tools. It can all work together.
Oh, yeah, about my $500. I got the clubs. I said got, not bought!
The real truth is that I took lessons and worked on my game. Even
though I've played golf for 35 years, my first lesson was right
back to swing fundamentals--basic grass roots process improvement.
And I spent as much time as I could at the range. Well, it paid
off. On the weekend tour, I was able to win enough in prizes to
get the clubs (to replace the ones I bought in 1973!) And the "plant
manager" was really happy for me!
In your company, what is the strategy and focus? Technology or
processes? Are both working together? Make sure you are willing
to spend the time on the range with the pro, and not just spend
John E. Boyer, Senior Consultant of Technical Change Associates,
Inc. (TCA), has 24 years of manufacturing experience working with
companies from all types of industry to develop robust business
processes in parallel with business system implementations. For
more information on how the TCA team can help you improve your business
process performance and sort through your ERP challenges, call (801)
621-8980, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
I call ERP a fully integrated and functionally complete approach
to planning and controlling the manufacturing business process...
The real benefit comes from the hard work, discipline, involvement,
sacrifice, and dedication to process improvement.
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