ERP Systems and Your Pain


Joe Cruse

I wasn't sure where to post this, and this is not a thread to ask for advice on choosing or installing an ERP system, but more of a "tell me about your experience", if your employer is running an ERP system or is getting ready to. Maybe this might be a "share how you survived Go-Live".

For me, the company I have worked for 20+ year now sold to a new group, exactly 4 years ago this week. Soon after they bought us, they let us know they were looking at putting an ERP system in place for us, 2 other sister plants, and corporate. Our plant had been using an IBM AS400 system for probably 20+ years, at that point (anyone else?), and we had an AS400 programmer on the corporate staff. The CEO's nephew is corporate IT Mgr, and was the lead in evaluating, purchasing, and installing an ERP. We make alloy here, not discreet widgets, and a batch process production style does not play well with many systems. They ended up going with Infor's Syteline, and IT, the Syteline vendor, and the location teams (I was on ours) spent the next 2 years moving the project. IT told us EVERYTHING we had was to roll into the ERP, and we would also be shipping product in the ERP. 4-6 months out from Go-Live, the sales manager at corporate, also a nephew of the CEO and brother to IT Mgr, announced that we would be using the Russian-developed shipping software they were currently using to handle ALL shipping activities, and that this software would have to be bridged to the ERP. 6 months later, they announced that we would go live in 30 days, and would be taking both programs live at once, with no thought of starting one first and getting through any bugs with it, and then starting the second one.

The first month was the worst month of my entire working career, with 80+ hour weeks by a group of 4 of us (no one from corporate did this. In fact, I was told by mgt to quit calling the sales staff to have them correct their mistakes). I was looking to go back to working manual labor on a local tobacco farm, or stocking grocery shelves again. Finally, by month 8, it began to jive, as we were able to cajole IT to add this piece or that, lest we not be able to close the financials at month's end. Now at 1.5 years in, we are still not close to everything the corporate officers want from this, but we are operating in it, and no one jumped from the top of the furnace buildings, and even more important, I did not throw a few people off the top. Surprisingly, we did not miss even ONE shipment at any time, which was a testament to the local team here (another site did miss). I know some of our steel customers are using ERP systems now, and the same year we went live, one of the big ones took SAP live at 6-8 US-based plants, and some locations could not ship a single coil of steel in the first week or so. I cannot imaging the frustration...

Anyway, if you want to play along here, or commiserate, or ask about implementation, chime in! I'd like to hear your experience, in either coming into a new job and learning to navigate an ERP system, or your experience in a place that is in implementation.

Joe Cruse


Looking for Reality
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We had several customers adopt ERP systems while we were still paper and filing cabinets. We heard the frustration, and held some emergency stock for them.
Now and again they would come visit us to take a break from their systems.
One of them still gives us two forecasts...the "SAP demand forecast" and "Real need forecast" that have no relation to each other. We are to ship product against the real need.

Seeing all of the pain, we decided to build our own, one sub-system at a time.
Now 6 years in we have a few fully paperless lines, some that are mostly paperless, body count is down 10% and production is up ~300%. No hiccups.

I love to hear the stories and know that we skipped some of the worst of it.
All the same...its been 6 years. Sometimes I wonder if a year of total pain is better than 8 years of constant annoyance.
I remember my first introduction to ERP...a customer informing me that the acronym SAP stood for Stop All Production.


Oh, a subject near and dear to my heart.

I used to work for a small company that built pipe organs. By design, everything we made was custom. At some point, our "IT guy" decided we needed an ERP system, conned the owner into agreeing with him, and contracted with a local consultant to install the SAP Business One system. It was a nightmare from the very beginning. My wife (an accountant) giggled when I told her what we were doing, and proceeded to rattle off a litany of expressions describing her impressions of that system (Sorry A-- Program, Stops All Production, etc.) from when she had been charged with investigating it at another company. All of those things turned out to be true. We raised our concerns with the representatives of the consulting agency, but they assured us that our fears were unfounded. Nine months later, as we were going live, they were berating us for not being ready on their time-line, in spite of our constant complaints of it not working right for what we do. After about 6 months of live operation - and miserable failure after miserable failure - one of the consultants finally admitted that it probably wasn't right for us. He quit that agency a few weeks later, as did our "IT guy". We, of course, were stuck with a system that was too cumbersome for our operation and didn't produce the results initially promised, and were now about $250K lighter in the bank ... a tidy sum for a small, family-owned company.

That company eventually let everyone go and stopped building new instruments. They just couldn't afford to stay in business anymore after 100+ years of being the innovator in their industry. While it wasn't the sole reason for their failure, the financial blow from that fiasco was probably the final straw for them.


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Always try it out in a sandbox first - simulations are cheap to crash, and missed shipments to simulated customer only generate simulated excitement.

No software works for everybody - it's either accounting ware modded so it can be used for manufacturing, or vice versa. And engineering gets their own flavor.

The software is always chosen for the wrong reason - usually because somebody's friend works there.

A bridge can be implemented to transfer data from any system that one part of the company NEEDS to have to the OTHER part of the company that NEEDS to have their own incompatible software. It will work as fast and reliably as any race car, with results just as dramatic when it crashes.

The in-house guy you hired because he knew how to create custom reports in this software will become so busy that his boss says he can't do that any more, but he knows a guy who will do it cheaper than the company who sold you the software. He is good, quick and cheap...which is why he will go to work for the company that sold you the software in six months, and you're back where you started.

The promises they made you about product capability before you bought it will turn out to be all @#$%^&*!, but only after the check has been cashed.

Periodic updates which give you more capability will also destroy the custom reports you had built.

Never go live without duplicating EVERYTHING you do first in a simulation.

Never go live without duplicating EVERYTHING you do first in a simulation.

Never go live without duplicating EVERYTHING you do first in a simulation.


Looking for Reality
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..... and were now about $250K lighter in the bank ... a tidy sum for a small, family-owned company.

That company eventually let everyone go ....... that fiasco was probably the final straw for them.


"The bitterness of poor quality lingers long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten"

What a perfect match...except maybe for the "low price" part...

Joe Cruse


some of the higher ups on our local staff tried to convince corporate to stay with the AS400, and bring over the former employee who programmed in it for us to our corporate IT, and slowly build out what they were looking for in a new ERP. Sure, it's AS400, but it worked. The CEO's nephew wanted latest/greatest at low $$$, so we got an ERP built for making widgets, instead of a batch production process like ours.

They kept the vendor on retainer for a few months after go-live, but when $$$ for mods kept going up, that got dropped. Fortunately, it appears the market is full of fruit, for east European programmers, so they hire one or two and got them worker status to come stateside and learn the 2 programs we run. At least now, our requests for mods are being answered fairly timely, if the software can allow the mod to be programmed.

I'm with you; it's hard to say if a long-drawn out annoyance is better than an acute attack of "awww %^$#%^%^!!!". Well, we've been through the latter; hope we don't have to experience the former.
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