Infinite or Finite Scheduling?

As an ERP Consultant, I’m often asked which the best scheduling methodology is: Infinite or Finite. Typically, my first inclination is almost always Finite Scheduling.  After all, this type of scheduling provides the most balance and order to the universe.

In the Finite Scheduling world there’s no surprises.  You take the time to key in things like Lead Time, Safety Stock, Resources, Work Centers, etc. It takes a lot of time, effort and money to maintain a Finite Scheduling system.  It tedious because you’re reviewing the same data week after week looking for the exceptions.  If an order is going to be late 4 months from now, this gives you time to communicate with the Customer to let them know.  Very rarely do you use this time to try to rearrange resources to meet the original date:  the die has been cast…the formula doesn’t lie…the order WILL be late, and the customer has plenty of time to find another vendor if they don’t like it. 

However, I’ve come to realize that Infinite Scheduling does have its place and can be extremely useful if everyone understands the concept.  It’s typically for custom manufacturers where a handful of Customers make up a large percentage of Sales.  Your most important customer wants something in 2 weeks?  You make it happen.  Oftentimes by running fast and loose. The math surrounding lead times, due dates and resources are fuzzy at best, because the Supply Chain people are swamped with changing dates and priorities.  Every day is a different crisis.  Overtime for the weekend is decided on Friday afternoon.  In short, it’s messy. The priority is to keep the customer happy; everything else is negotiable.

On the plus side, the profits are great.  Customers love you because you get results.  You’re dynamic and have a team in place that can adapt to changing conditions; in fact, they thrive on it. You’ve learned how to deal with stress and have come to realize that not everything is an emergency…it’s just another Tuesday.  Infinite Scheduling does have its place.  I know I used the word “messy” earlier, but the correct phrase is “secondary factors” and it’s a completely viable and justifiable way to do business. 

So in the end, as with most things in life: it depends.

Happiness

Your life isn’t margaritas on a beach in Jamaica. That happens now and then. Those are exceptions. Your life is how your wife greets you at the door when you come home every day, cause that’s like 10 minutes a day. Your life is how you treat each other over the breakfast table, cause that’s an hour and a half or an hour every single day. You get those mundane things right, those things you do every day. You concentrate on them and you make them pristine. It’s like you got 80% of your life put together. These little things that are right in front of us, they’re not little…

Dr. Jordan B. Peterson

Biggest Obstacle to any ERP Implementation: Data & People

Having overseen multiple IT-based projects, including large-scale ERP implementations, I’m often asked what are the biggest obstacles that I typically come across.  This also seems to be a favorite question during job interviews.  In my experience, there are two areas that you should be especially weary of:

  1. Data.  Big bad data…everyone’s favorite subject. This is further broken down into two subsets:
    • Data Migration.  This is the process of taking data from an existing ERP system and attempting to import this into the new software.  Who wants to key in a list of Customers or Vendors?  However, with schema’s getting more complicated to boost performance, importing data can be difficult.  Even if you have someone that is intimate with the new database, issues seem to crop up when you least expect it. In my experience, companies also seem to take this opportunity to redefine their Chart of Accounts. This means creating a cross reference table that translates the old accounts with the new ones. Again, another potential source of issues.  And then of course, you must properly document the data migration process that explains at least 3 points of validation.
    • Data Integration.  Everyone seems to want their new ERP system to be fully integrated with another popular software product.  Let’s use Salesforce as an example.  Naturally, Salesforce wants to integrate into as many ERP systems as possible, so the integration process must be somewhat generic.  Instead of reading the Customer Table from the ERP system, Salesforce has its own Customer Table and you’re forced to keep these two tables in sync with one another.  And that’s fine.  Until you have 2 other add-on products that also have their own Customer tables…then it starts to get out of control.        
  2. People.  This is the biggie.  In my opinion, people are the biggest obstacle to any project, far outweighing any issues with data discussed above. I would estimate that “People” account for 90% of all project issues.  The people element should always be part of your risk mitigation in your Project Charter.

Why people? Because humans are full of emotions and when emotions run high, they become unpredictable.  They become bolder in their resistance of the new software and often their co-workers are surprised by their actions.  Of course, they want the implementation process to have problems, because then they get to be vindicated.

In almost all my ERP implementations, I’ve noticed that the “average” employee is terrific to work with.  When shown the new software, they’re curious, they’re interested and they’re helpful.  Generally, the troublesome people are executives, super users or those part of the existing IT team.  There are three sources of their discomfort:

  1. Super Users – these people have an emotional attachment to the existing ERP system and can’t seem to make room for new software.  They want to protect their turf and are afraid they won’t be the “go to” person when people have issues with the new system.
  2. IT Department – they’re threatened by consultants coming in and helping with the implementation.  They’ll insist they can do everything the consultant is doing, without spending $100,000.
  3. Executives – these individuals haven’t bought into the new system.  They’re convinced that the existing system is working just fine and there’s no need to spend $2 million on new software. 

When faced with these issues, the process of a successful implementation is what I call blending people with technology.  In a future post, I’ll share some tips on how to deal with each of these groups.