Abacus instead of ERP?!

A few years ago at an oriental bazaar: I bought a whole range of items and after intense negotiation, the elderly seller and I agreed on the prices for the various products. Now the bazari picked up his calculator and worked out the total price. However, he didn’t seem to have much faith in modern technology and preferred to calculate his result again using an old abacus.

There are not only people but also companies who do not trust modern technology and prefer to stick with the tried and tested.

Their persistence is usually not visible from the outside. They can be economically very successful and adorn their IT landscape with big names in the ERP industry. The old abacus thinking behind the shiny ERP façade only becomes apparent when you get to know the processes in companies better:

Although a lot of money was spent on the purchase and introduction of the system, many processes are still controlled manually instead of using the automation options of the ERP system. I know companies where the ERP system works as a golden, i.e. extremely expensive, typewriter to create production orders and purchase orders in a cumbersome way. The system is poorly maintained, the data in the system is not trusted and the system’s production or order proposals are not trusted anyway. So the work is done by hand and relies on the experience of the dispatchers, production controllers and operational buyers.

Very often I hear that the ERP system has not achieved the desired increase in productivity in production planning and control, ….where else!

Increased productivity in our planning processes is achieved on the one hand by designing our processes to be as lean as possible and on the other by automating workflows and decisions in the ERP and PPS systems.

It is often the case that when introducing a system, companies have relied on the supposedly tried-and-tested processes of the past instead of taking the opportunity to exploit the modern possibilities of an ERP system. Work steps that could also be carried out directly in the ERP system are completed in an Excel spreadsheet and transferred to the ERP system by hand. Instead of having the ERP system generate order and production proposals, it is better to take a personal look at the stock and order situation of the individual items. Sometimes you don’t even believe the stock values in the ERP system and prefer to inspect the situation on site – a popular strategy, especially when filling silos. A typical and accepted ‘strategy’ is to have the ERP system suggest production and order proposals, but then correct them manually.

We will no longer be able to afford this kind of manual planning work in the future. This is not only for reasons of productivity, but even more so due to a lack of personnel. Demographic change is forcing us to make increasingly efficient use of qualified personnel. If we do not react, a dangerous gap will continue to widen in production planning and control: On the one hand, we are increasingly lacking qualified and experienced personnel for the planning processes. On the other hand, our ERP systems are not sufficiently tuned to compensate for this lack of personnel through automation. So it should be clear what needs to be done now.

Picture of Prof. Dr. Andreas Kemmner

Prof. Dr. Andreas Kemmner

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