The biggest ERP problems you may face

ERP systems are supposed to solve problems and they do most of the time. ERPs are very complex and we all will find ERP problems to fix so we can get the benefits we want and need from these systems. Let’s take a look at the biggest problem I see and a couple of others and what we can do to alleviate those problems. 

Incorrect setup

Every ERP depends on setup parameters and qualifiers. SAP has at least 15 tabs and each tab has dozens of fields so there can easily be hundreds of these qualifiers in your ERP. How you fill in these fields has powerful effects on how your ERP will serve your needs.

Some of the setup fields are only used as defaults. You might fill in your primary warehouse for a particular inventory item and possibly the default bin within that warehouse. These actions cause the warehouse and bin to automatically populate when making transactions for that part number.

You might save a couple of seconds on every inventory transaction any user makes and those seconds add up to real value. If a part is kept in multiple warehouses, each one of those warehouses must be added to a list of available locations for that part. This kind of control prevents transactions in invalid locations avoiding potential discrepancies.

Help your users optimize their efforts to complete their jobs well. Your financial systems might be based on cash payments or accruals. Either is permissible but the controlling setup will change the behavior of many transactions and create defaults in financial statements.

Understand how your business works in all its environments and set up your ERP to match. Often setup qualifiers work in tandem. A setting in the sales order setup section might appear to be correct for your business. Another setting in financial or warehouse setup might seem correct too.

But I have found that some settings have different meanings depending on other settings. These dependencies might be noted in an obscure footnote within an F1 help screen or only noted when you find the right old-timer in the provider’s customer service team who learned about the dependency years ago helping another customer.

Our requirements change from time to time as our business evolves. We made a setup value last year that was perfectly correct based on our needs then. Today we find our buyers are making a decision that seems incorrect and learn that decision is the default based on last year’s setup.

There is no need to change the entire ERP, simply adjust the setup. Many users are not aware of these qualifier fields and we might have hidden them from certain users. We should audit the setup qualifiers periodically to ensure they help our users and do not inadvertently interfere with their work.

Other ERP problems

Data problems can be the result of a problem with basic qualifiers. Many data issues come from a poorly designed transition from a legacy system. Discipline can be a problem for some organizations. ERP requires that users practice discipline - following the rules established by management and entering transactions timely and in a proper sequence.

When a business shows dissatisfaction with its ERP, it can be a management issue. The enterprise should share expectations and have a common understanding of the expectations of its ERP. Regardless of the brand of ERP you use, they all have a common heritage and all will help an organization succeed but that organization has to use the system correctly and not try to fight with it.

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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

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Tom Miller

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