Several years ago, I attended a seminar on Lean Manufacturing. It was one of those three-day workshops put on by one of the major lean thought leadership groups. It was a great seminar and frankly, I learned a lot during those three days about manufacturing in general and of course about Lean.
During the introductions at the beginning of the first day, I introduced myself and told everyone that I worked for Cincom Systems, a software vendor offering ERP systems among other things.
The fellow running the seminar jumped right in at that point and let everyone know that you didn’t need ERP to implement lean. Actually, he was very certain about this. Upon reflection, he was downright emphatic if not aggressive in this belief.
I found this to be somewhat remarkable; I certainly had not suggested that ERP was a pre-requisite for Lean. I certainly wasn’t wearing my “Wanna buy an ERP System?” button.
Since then, I’ve written a couple of pieces on the relationship between ERP and Lean and participated in numerous discussions on this point. Lean and ERP are two different things and my seminar leader is probably right that Lean does not depend upon ERP to be successful.
Without getting wrapped up in the “who needs who” and the “what needs what” more thing, let’s agree that Lean brings great value to users of ERP. As more and more people, understand that Lean is not a formula for cost cutting or corporate survival, but rather a strategy to encourage growth and expansion, the role of lean becomes more important to the enterprise.
Here’s an example.
If we look at the evolution of the supply chain, we start with a couple of companies around town feeding supplies into a production facility located in a near by neighborhood. This has developed into a web of many inter-related firms spread around the world all set to produce product in an intricately timed dance that feeds the downstream production process at precisely the right time and in the exact right quantities ultimately ending with finished goods in users hands.
Expecting your ERP vendor to spread their reach from your shop up and down your supply chain is not a realistic solution. To fill this void of expertise and functionality, a new breed of company, Lean specialists, have evolved. Last week, Cincom Systems announced a joint marketing agreement with Ultriva, a purveyor of lean execution tools who has decades of experience in the area of supply chain synchronization of complex processes.
This is great news for users of the Cincom Control ERP solution, particularly those with multiple site requirements. The Ultriva Lean Execution Suite provides an array of functionality that extends from the supply end into the factory and right out to the customer whether an end user or OEM.
This is a level of functionality not available from within the typical ERP solution.
The Ultriva solution provides electronic Kanban loops from the suppliers of raw material in concert with MRP functionality into the lean enabled factory. Work in Process is effectively managed between cells within the facility. Finished Goods are shipped to OEMs, distributors or customers with total control maintained by the Lean Execution Suite.
Since this is what Ultriva specializes in, Cincom customers will work directly with Ultriva personnel to assure total integration of the technology into the ERP system and the production systems as a whole.
Ultriva offers their Lean Assessment Tool to prospective users. This useful utility allows prospects to calculate potential savings using various Kanban parameters. A sort of risk free trial based on real life data.
This is clearly a win/win for users of Cincom’s Control ERP and for any company looking to enhance their operation through the application of Lean techniques. Ultriva is exceptional in its ability to define the financial implications of kanban decisions throughout a supply chain and manufacturing network.