ERP Go Live on the Shop Floor…Support, Lead and be Patient

Providing sufficient support at ERP go-live is a significantly different problem at a manufacturing plant than it typically is in business headquarters. At business headquarters, a large number of end users work on a computer all day long, they generally have more formal education, and operations are normally only one shift. In contrast, most shop floor personnel do not spend large amounts of time on computers, many never completed or went beyond secondary education, and many manufacturing operations run around the clock, seven days a week. Planning adequate support is a key factor in defining your success at ERP go-live.

The first task for successful manufacturing support is to conduct a head count of the warm bodies you will need on site. The term “warm bodies” is meant to convey the notion that if you want to provide round the clock support, the ERP support team will need to be significantly bigger than the implementation team. You will need to recruit other IT support staff or perhaps business people from other divisions who have already been through an ERP implementation. The critical objective is to make certain that there is always a highly visible person available for shop floor people to turn to.

Allocate Team Resources

Common sense should be employed relating to the size of the plant and the number of support people required. In general terms, your starting point for support complement should be one person per functional area, per shift. If the functional areas affected by ERP are (1) receiving (2) production reporting and inventory movements (3) shipping and (4) quality management, you would start with a mental target of four support people covering each shift. If there are only ten production people working third shift, you likely don’t need four ERP people in support. If the plant is spread out over 250,000 square feet, the amount of time required to get from here to there will probably require that you increase coverage to two or three support people for production reporting. If in doubt, over-man your ERP support teams.

It is likely that your biggest unpleasant surprise will be the unusual and unforeseen ways in which manufacturing can cause transactions to fail. Purists may call this an ERP training problem, but you will be ahead of the game if you set out to make transactions as fool-proof as possible over the long run. Manufacturing will describe a transaction process as a “system bug” if it easily allows people to create problems through inaccurate data entry - regardless of how many times ERP shop floor data was reviewed and approved during blueprint and testing. Designate someone to work with the highest manufacturing leader practical to maintain a consolidated problem priority list, and assign resources to resolve that problem list.

ERP go live support in manufacturing is much more about being there, rather than knowing every answer immediately. If you pick conscientious people who care about the problems manufacturing is having, and you work to resolve problems systematically, you will have a very manageable ERP

implementation.
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Phil Marshall

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Phil Marshall