16 July 2012
We all must tell it like it is
IT – and ERP in particular – needs a fan club in the boardroom, says WM's Brian Tinham
It's a common theme: manufacturer invests in (note, not merely 'buys') IT solution; problems solved; growth and competitiveness assured; everything in the garden rosy. Almost invariably, the transformations cited centre on information visibility (and not just for managers) and automation – leading, in turn, to cost savings and improvements in everything from operations and quality to waste and service.
WSP Textiles, for example, which manufactures billiards cloth and coverings for tennis balls (topical, as Wimbledon draws to a close), is going live with Access Supply Chain ERP software, from mid-market manufacturing software developer Access, following its MBO backed by private equity firm Vespa Capital.
"All the information we need is going to be readily available, and we'll be better able to shape the management information around the needs of the business," states Ewen Hamilton, financial controller. And he explains that priorities such as traceability and quality control will also be handled by the new system, along with automated documentation.
The story is similar at precision sheet metal and subcontract manufacturing firm IDT's Galway-based facility since implanting Infor10 ERP Express (formerly Visual) software. It couches its improvements slightly differently – better customer service and cash availability are its top achievements. But dig down a level and you find that it's the system's provision of real-time information about all aspects of IDT's financial and production operations that's behind the improvements.
Dr John Ryan, managing director of IDT, explains that, as a result, customer requests for quotations are faster and more accurate, since current pricing information is always available. Similarly, IDT has better control of raw materials and parts purchasing, while cash is freed up through more timely supplier deliveries, driven by better planning and communication, which are together reducing investment in stocks and work in progress.
All impressive and worthwhile stuff. The pity, however, is that relatively few in management speak with anything like such enthusiasm for IT in general, but ERP in particular, ahead of any upgrade, migration or system extension. Are they in denial? Has the penny still not dropped? Or is it simply not fashionable to acknowledge the relatively young upstart IT?
Either way, by failing to promulgate the idea that systems can be every bit as important as new plant or continuous improvement, UK managers perpetuate the stereotype of IT as parasitic. And, as a result, they do a disservice to the industry of which they are part.
Brian Tinham, technology editor, WM
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