My New ERP System has Production Planning and Production Scheduling Capability. Why Should I Need Anything Else? (Part 2)

In the previous post, we discussed major potential “gotchas” associated with purchasing advanced planning and scheduling software for production planning and production scheduling from ERP / MRP vendors.  We previously discussed a case where the planning and scheduling software was made available through a “partnership” agreement with a third party vendor.  In this post we’ll discuss “gotchas” when the ERP vendor owns the technology.

A major “gotcha” can occur when the ERP vendor has acquired their planning and scheduling technology through an acquisition of another company.  In recent years there has been tremendous consolidation in the ERP / MRP space.  ERP vendors have acquired production planning and production scheduling vendors.  The acquiring ERP vendors have since themselves been acquired by other ERP vendors, sometimes multiple times.  Often these acquisitions are driven by financial and marketing concerns rather than a desire to build a rational and technically sound product line.

With every acquisition, consolidation of product lines and staff occurs, and application expertise departs.  Due to all the acquisition activity, some vendors have been left with a pile of different applications puzzle pieces.  Rarely do these puzzle pieces fit into any kind of a coherent whole.  Prospective customers interested in the technology are left with applications that aren’t truly integrated, and vendor staff who don’t know their own products.

Another major pitfall involves vendors who have developed advanced planning and scheduling software to cover their competitive flanks.  Typically, these vendors are large and have deep pockets.  While these vendors may be able to assign top notch programming talent to developing production planning and production scheduling software, they still need application experience to know what needs to be developed.  Strong development capability doesn’t translate in a deep base of domain experience or experience implementing with real world customers.  The situation is compounded by the fact that, unlike MRP, there is no published, standard, well accepted, set of product features that an advanced planning and scheduling system should have.  The best planning and scheduling applications have been developed over many years by vendors dedicated to the technology with significant feedback from customers “in the field”.

Vendors with no affinity for the technology often develop applications that look great on the surface.  However, when you dig into them, you find they lack depth and are full of functional holes.  Furthermore, when you implement, you’ll often find that there is no one at the vendor who truly understands the application, or who has the necessary experience to make customers successful.

So as not to get burned, ask the following questions: Will you prototype the planning and scheduling application with my data and show it dealing with my scheduling issues?  Can you show me data moving from the ERP system to the planning and scheduling system and back again?  How will the planning and scheduling application be loaded on my computers?  Can I talk to references that will vouch for the success of the application?  Can I see the resumes / CVs of the staff responsible for implementing?  How many successful planning and scheduling implementations have they managed?

Unsatisfactory answers to any questions should be cause for serious concern.  Be particularly wary of vendors that tell you not to worry about production planning and production scheduling until after the rest of the ERP system is up and running.  Don’t fall for this sales technique often used to hide product weaknesses, or lack of planning and scheduling expertise.  If you are interested in planning and scheduling, make sure the vendor demonstrates the software to you up front, with your data, and shows how the application will solve your real world problems.