Discrete Manufacturing ERP & Serial Numbers: It’s Not Always Plain Sailing

“Robert, did you see the latest request from our favorite customer? They want us to assign serial numbers to their products we deliver.”

“That shouldn’t be too hard, Jimmie. I am pretty sure our discrete manufacturing ERP can do that. How about you look through the on-line manuals or help screens to see how it works?”

“OK. We make discrete products and I suppose nothing is more discrete than an individual serial number. I’ll check it out and let you know.”

A couple of hours pass and Jimmie returns. “I found it and it looks simple. The latest order for the model T is for 25 units. We just click a check box on the job to set up serial number tracking within the discrete manufacturing ERP system. If all model Ts were to be serialized, we could also check a box on the part master. We’ll have to decide on a format for the serial number but it looks like it is all automatic once we get started.”

Problem Solved

The next morning, Robert finds Jimmie and tells him that he studied the order requirements and found some new details. Not only does the customer want each unit to have its own serial number but they want to be able to trace the people who worked on the products and go back to their training records. They also want to see the inspection results for each unit with test data for each unit.

Jimmie replies, “that should not be a problem. We already record who worked on a job as well as the inspection and test results for the jobs. Since our ERP has the serial number option we haven’t used yet, I imagine it should all fit together. I will place a dummy order in the sand box database and see how it all works.”

After lunch, Jimmie and Robert get back together. Jimmie says he has bad news. The data is all there at the job number level. But the business’ discrete manufacturing ERP does not distinguish the individual units by serial numbers. It is possible to assign the number at the end of the job as the units move to inventory or at the beginning of the job. Either way, the employee time and test results are only recorded at the job number level.

Now what? Robert says he sure does not want to go to the sales VP with news that they cannot comply with the customer request. They agree to wait until the next morning and try one more brain session.

Real people can always find a way to deliver the business or clients requirements using an ERP system in creative ways.

The next morning Jimmie excitedly says he has the answer. They have always used a production job with the same quantity as the sales order. But for this order on 25 model Ts, they can use 25 production jobs of one unit each. Each job and each unit will have its serial number and all the data recorded at the job level will match the production unit serial numbers. Problem solved!

This isn’t just an imagined story but is a short version of a real-life discrete manufacturing ERP issue that I have experienced with at least two different ERP systems.

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Tom Miller

About the author…

Tom completed implementations of Epicor, SAP, QAD, and Micro MRP. He works as a logistics and supply chain manager and he always looks for processes to improve. He lives near San Francisco Bay in California and can be found on the water in his kayak or on the road riding his motorcycle. Contact Tom at customerteam@erpfocus.com.

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Tom Miller