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One of the objectives of implementing an ERP was to create a common platform for all our units & depots, enabling them to operate on a similar level.

Back in 2006, we were using a very old type of system that posed a serious challenge – lack of Integration & Control. We had 2 factory locations and around 20 depots pan India. All of them operated independently, maintained separate books of accounts and a separate MIS.

We operate our travel & tour business in India from 53 branches, each of which maintained independent accounts & databases. Such decentralization created a problem – all the branches had control over their independent operations but none of them was aware of what was happening in other branches.

ERP has certainly brought my entire organization on a single database; but it has also resulted in the need to train my existing employees in different fields. Earlier we would have needed special skills for each department because my whole organization was driven by skills of individuals, not by a standard system. Now that I have a standard system I would like to make better use of my manpower. I have realized that a lot of changes are needed to make effective use of InstaNAV – I need to change some of my processes also.

One of our challenges was tracking the inventory and ageing of the inventory in real time. While this was a limitation in our legacy system, Microsoft Dynamics ERP has helped us overcome this to a great extent by providing as and when information of the inventory level across all locations.

Fashion And You decided to move into the Microsoft Dynamics NAV environment about 2 years back. But, unfortunately the entire implementation was always stepped down to the level of just Financial Management and the need to automate Warehouse Management was overlooked – it was still being managed by a legacy systems.

ERP has helped us improve Material Requirement Planning efficiency to a great extent. MRP is critical for us because we follow a JIT system with the customers. We have export consignments; so in order to meet our delivery commitments, we need to plan our production accordingly. If there is a delay in production, we have to airlift the material instead of sending it by ship – that is premium freight. It is an additional cost to the company.

One of the problems that we faced post implementation was to get the users to accept the new ERP system. Over the years, they had grown used to a particular interface on their laptops & computers. If suddenly, they see an entirely different interface – there ought to be some resistance. That was the beginning of a new battle – to get them to use the new system - Gradually, Readily & Effectively.

What is most critical here is to justify the shift. Through various sessions, we shared with our staff members the rationale behind adopting the new system and the benefits over the previous system. We also arranged training programs to make them familiar with the interface & demonstrate new features. Almost 80-90% of my staff has already accepted it; and the rest are expected to follow.

It is rather essential to welcome change in the contemporary business setting. Unless & until we take new initiatives, there is little possibility for business growth. For businesses to grow, we must invent & accept new concepts, new technology, new practices and new approaches. And to accommodate these, one must first analyze who is going to use them and make sure that the users/staff are motivated to welcome the change. In the absence of staff cooperation, no new initiative can be truly successful.

Our main concern from the very beginning – when we talked to Alletec or when we started looking for an ERP – has always been inventory. To get accurate inventory levels at any given point of time has been the main focus area. And a lot of other people at that time told me that “You’ll get everything else from the ERP, but the inventory levels.” So we were quite determined to prove that wrong.

When we started the ERP, we had taken a very conscious decision that we will not do any customization. We didn’t start with a feeling that we will modify it to our convenience. We decided to try and use it the way it is.

When we start something, the first thing we want is to get it moving. But as we move ahead, we realize that maybe we need to pick up. ERP is running automatically, but still there are certain inputs that are required from our side. For instance, we have worked out the shop-floor routing but we have not put in the machine hour working time. So this is yet to be done in the ERP from our side or Alletec’s side together as a team, only then will the desired results come. To achieve this, we need to use the ERP a little more. At the moment if we have defined only the shop-floor, what we probably need to do is define the machine hours, and then the processing or the whole routing or movement of the material has to be defined in more detail in ERP. This is what we have to do to get the desired information.

What shouldn’t be done is bypassing the routing given in the ERP, it’s only then that you can get the results. For example; if we create an invoice without creating a backup, this should not be done. We should follow the system irrespective of the fact that there is a momentary delay; it is worth it. Once there is a mess in the data, you cannot sort it out.

We have been able to get a reasonable amount of inventory information, primarily because we have tried to follow a lot of discipline; but other areas as I said are not moving and need to be worked upon.

Before you embark on the ERP journey, you should be clear on what do you want from it.

I think we started somewhere in 2007. It took nearly 2 years of work. You have to be very flexible because lots of people just abandon it saying that “It should have been done by now, so we are not going to continue.” You need to be very flexible both in terms of time & budget; because many a times, businesses just put the blame on a system or a vendor but the fact is that they themselves were not very clear. Their understanding evolves as time passes – changing their expectations from the system – in turn delaying the process. Evolving needs make a lot of difference to the kind of effort that is required.

SMBs in the e-Commerce space often face the same challenge while implementing an ERP – having a partner who doesn’t quite understand their business, their working model and their solution needs.

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