ERP Insights

ERP System Implementation Training

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An ERP system is a tool, albeit an essential and powerful one. It does not manufacture products or fulfill customer orders, nor does it determine what should be produced or purchased and when. Rather, it gathers, sorts, and integrates data, offering analysis and suggestions that users can use to achieve favorable outcomes. Ultimately, the results are driven by the users themselves.

In this article we cover

Include Training in Your ERP Implementation Budget

Buying and implementing an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system will not reduce costs, make better products faster, improve customer service (on-time completion), reduce inventory, or any of the other operational improvements that companies often rely on to justify the expense and disruption such a project entails.

An ERP solution (when appropriately implemented) will almost certainly improve visibility and control, support better decisions, and help keep the plant organized, efficient, and operating smoothly. It will enhance customer service by enabling better communications and supporting more reliable performance (meeting expectations and keeping promises), thereby generating the aforementioned improvements.

ERP Software is a Powerful Tool That Requires User Knowledge

An ERP system is just a tool, albeit a vital and powerful tool. An ERP system does not make a product or fulfill a customer order. It doesn’t even decide what to make or buy and when. It collects, organizes, and combines information and provides analysis and recommendations that users may choose to follow to get those satisfactory results. It is the users that drive the results. And they can only drive those results if they understand how the system works, what the recommendations mean and how to put them into effect, and how to feed and maintain the system to work correctly and provide good information.

ERP System Users are the Key to ERP Implementation Success

Most companies factor in the need and budget that a modest amount of training and education requires when purchasing an ERP system. There are several problems, however:

  • A modest amount” is almost always too little.

  • Many companies assume that the system-specific training included by the vendor with the system purchase is all they need. This is seldom true. Also, vendors tend to scrimp on the training line item when trying to bring the total package price down in order to make the deal.

  • Vendor training is typically focused on the specific functions and procedures that their system handles. That’s fine and necessary. But users also need a more universal understanding of what the ERP software does and how it works. Robots who simply follow the step-by-step procedures won’t do the job. Informed users that know where the recommendations come from so they can make informed decisions about whether and how to implement those recommendations are critical.

For example, would buying a new state-of-the-art multi-axis CNC machine and expecting the operator, even an experienced machinist, to know how to get the most out of the equipment just by reading the operating manual be a wise decision? Of course not.

ERP solutions address the entire business and apply more sophisticated programming logic than any machine control system. General education in how ERP software works should be included in all implementation education plans – even if the primary users are already knowledgeable about ERP. They might not know about the newer refinements and extensions that are included in the new system or in the plan for future system growth.

Related content: Use our ERP implementation checklist along with the knowledge gained here to guide you through the implementation process.

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ERP Training is Essential for Users

ERP User Training is Essential for Implementation Success

When addressing the education and training needs of users, think in the broadest terms. Virtually everyone in the organization is impacted by the system, even those who never touch a keyboard or read a report. They will be asked to do different things and perhaps to do things differently. It will be especially difficult for them to break old habits and accept change if the instructions are simply handed down from the great computer in the sky and may conflict with a lifetime of manufacturing practice (doing things the old way). Be sure to provide sufficient orientation and background to the extended user community to garner their full support and cooperation as you retool day-to-day activities, signals, and expectations.

Spend All of the Allocated ERP Training Budget

It may sound obvious – and perhaps a bit ridiculous – but it’s important to spend all of the allocated education and training budget. Remember that ERP systems are implemented while regular manufacturing operations are ongoing. That means that key people will be scheduled for training and implementation tasks while continuing to carry out their regular jobs – keeping the plant running and the product shipping to customers. Key people will be interrupted during training sessions. They will be called out of class to attend to the emergency-of-the-day or to talk to an important customer, supplier, or service provider. They will be needed to deal with material shortages, quality issues, equipment failures, and other critical situations that simply can’t be ignored or handled by someone else. They may have to cancel out of an entire class because of pressing business needs. It will happen.

The unfortunate result is an incomplete education that can be hard to remedy especially if the class has already been held and there are limited opportunities to reschedule or find another opportunity. Nevertheless, it is vital to find a way to complete the education and training for these important users. Spend all of the education budget and be sure that nobody is left out because they were unable to complete the arranged training sessions for very good reasons.

ERP Implementation is not the End of the Road

ERP implementation is a journey, not a destination. The system installed today will not be the same system being used a year later. The vendor will ship updates (which should definitely be installed and used). And additional functions that were not a part of the initial implementation will almost certainly be activated; people will join the company, leave the company, and change jobs within the company. All will need training and/or education to be able to get the most out of new functions and new responsibilities.

Don’t assume existing users will be able to train their replacements fully. It is unlikely that they will be able to pass on the underlying understanding of the functions and much more likely that they will pass on bad habits or less-than-optimal procedures that have evolved over time. Such a change in roles or responsibilities offers an opportunity to take the new ERP system use to a new level by adding a new resource to your user team who understands the system and how to get more from it.

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