By: Paul Van Metre

There are few more potentially challenging things an organization can go through than an ERP implementation, especially when it includes a total digital transformation, moving to a 100% paperless workflow. Challenging experiences tend to bring out the best, or worst, in people. We’ve been through hundreds of implementations at ProShop. Some were so fast and easy it nearly seemed effortless, finishing in a few weeks. Others were major challenges but did eventually make it to the finish line after much time and heartache.  Unfortunately, we’re sad to say that a few stalled out mid-process and failed completely. What’s the difference between them? Based on our years of experience, it comes down to the customer's team and their company's Emotional Intelligence. Our team, evolving product, and improving processes are relatively constant; so the primary variable is the customer.

We try very hard to only bring on great fit customers to our ecosystem. We’d rather not sell ProShop to a company unless we can nearly guarantee that they will love it, and it’ll be a great fit for them. We'd rather you keep your money if you’re not a great fit, both from an objective and subjective perspective. Here’s what we mean by that.

The cultural health, or lack thereof, is where we’ve seen the most dramatic differences in results with our clients. Here’s a list of key qualities for an organization to have in order to be successful in implementing an ERP System. If your company is going to be going through an ERP change, or any major organizational change, check to see how you compare to these cultural qualities:

Committed - 100% corporate alignment on the mission!  The message is, “We’re doing this and everyone needs to be rowing in the same direction.”  

Aligned - Assist employees in understanding the benefits, goals, and purpose for implementing an ERP. Help them understand how their contribution will have a positive impact on the company. Once your team fully embraces the wisdom of this change, naysayers and saboteurs won't be able to drag the team down.

Organized - Have a well defined list of roles. The roles should define everyone’s responsibility and expectations for getting tasks done correctly on an agreed timeline. 

Open to Change - Things are gonna change! That’s the whole point. Don’t dig in your heels and refuse to be open minded. Have a positive outlook on change to the point that it’s infectious! Be open to listening to new ideas, workflow processes, etc. Nothing stops an implementation dead in its tracks faster than the phrase “we’ve always done it that way.”

Curious - Even though you’ve been in business for years, you don’t know everything - I promise you that! You are going to learn a lot of new things and being curious instead of closed minded will serve you and the process well.

Humble - Be humble in how you approach interactions and be confident that you have things to learn from others, and vice versa. 

Decisive - When things do change, decisions will have to be made. Make them thoughtfully and quickly. You can always change later. Don’t let ‘paralysis by analysis’ stop the progress.

Collaborative - This is a team effort, with everyone on your team, your ERP partner, and others. Come to each interaction with a mindset of open collaboration. Implementation is not a spectator’s sport, it takes teamwork and diving in headfirst into the process. 

Kind - When difficult situations arise, bring kindness to your communication. Name a situation that was better served with anger vs kindness...it doesn’t exist.

Non-Confrontational - Goes hand in hand with kindness. Some people seem to seek out confrontation. They have less fun and have more challenges than those who are collaborative and seek harmony in their interactions.

Proactive - If you see something that might cause a problem in the future, speak up. Your perspective matters and actively sharing it and collaborating on solutions is awesome.

Realistic - This is the hard stuff that you and your team are going through.  There will be things that won’t be fun about implementing a new ERP System. Having realistic expectations and the understanding that everyone is doing their best is really important. Often the “Ah Ha” moments will come later in the process when you understand better how everything ties together.

Lean Mindset - This one is quite practical. You have tons of waste in your current process -  guaranteed! If you have a belief in eliminating waste through lean processes, that will help you make decisions, with all of the above qualities in mind.

I’m a firm believer that everyone always does their best, given their knowledge, the situation, and where they’re at in life. Everyone has past experiences in their life that range from amazing to traumatic.  It’s our life experiences and how we’ve incorporated them, grown from them, and evolved from them that defines how we show up as ourselves today. There is no right or wrong way to show up in the world,but there are ways that will be more effective than others. My wife taught me a great question to ask yourself when faced with how to respond to a situation:  “What is the most effective way to get the outcome I say I desire?” When you can step back, see the forest through the trees and ask yourself that question, and ask it of your company as well, that will generally serve you well to work through the difficult changes in an organization.

By: The ProShop Team

Design engineering and machining are the cornerstones of companies that manufacture products.  Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for a rift to develop between the two departments.  It can feel like an 8-foot brick wall separates the critical functions: engineers throwing designs over the wall to machinists without context and machinists tossing back finished parts without feedback.

The bricks for this wall are laid by a lack of understanding and sometimes respect, between engineers and machinists.  Although both are instrumental to innovating new parts, engineers and machinists have different backgrounds and experiences.  68% of engineers have their bachelor’s degree whereas the majority of machinists went the technical training route with only 17% having received an associate’s degree. On the other hand, many engineers, especially younger ones, have little to no hands-on knowledge of machining.  These educational differences cause each group to look down on the other. To drive the wedge deeper, the average hourly rate of a design engineer is almost 2.5 times that of a machine operator.1,2  These two groups of highly intelligent, skilled people are working toward the same goal but from completely different angles and for different rewards.  This is the basis of misunderstanding and can lead people to feel the need to prove themselves by challenging and even disrespecting the opinions of others.

As you can imagine, this wall creates a litany of problems for the parent company, the biggest of which is that it significantly drives up costs.  When information doesn’t flow between design engineers and machinists both groups develop a blindspot.  Engineers don’t see how their designs impact fixturing, tooling, tool wear, order of operations, or inspection, all of which add cost.  Machinists don’t see the purpose of tight tolerances or challenging features causing frustration and resentment. A poor relationship between departments can lead to a toxic work culture that increases employee turnover, another significant cost.  In order to succeed the wall must come down.

The first step to taking down the wall is establishing good relationships.  Luckily, despite their professional differences, engineers and machinists usually share hobbies and interests outside of work. A great way for the company to catalyze interaction is to host events that fall into those shared interests.  For example, organizing an employee car/truck/motorcycle/boat show over lunch or right after work is a fun way to break the ice and get everyone talking.  Learning to appreciate the individual will lead to a better understanding of their role and responsibilities.

The buck is passed to the engineers because the work starts when they design a part.  Engineers must involve machinists in the design process early and often in order to visualize their blindspot.  Engineers should explain the objective of the project/product and share sketches prior to ordering prototype parts.  Engineers are usually doing project-specific work whereas machinists have seen a variety of parts across the company’s entire portfolio.  When the engineer shares the bigger picture with the machinist, the machinist may identify cost savings opportunities like reusing a component from another product or leveraging an existing program, fixture, or proven process.

This is also a good time for engineers to solicit feedback from machinists regarding opportunities to make changes that make manufacturing easier and cheaper while preserving design intent.  Designing features that align with standard tool sizes or loosening tolerances are examples.  This is called design for manufacturing, or DFM.  Too often engineers hear “We can’t make this part” or “We can’t hold that tolerance” without further explanation.  Collaborative DFM allows machinists to fully engage with the engineer, providing collaborative and constructive feedback on the manufacturability of the part and building rapport. Engineers, in turn, should be open to this important feedback rather than defensive.

This type of communication early in the project life sets the tone that both parties respect the opinion and value the expertise of the other.  That big brick wall is on its way down!  As the project continues in its life cycle, engineers and machinists should continue to work together in this way to optimize the design and drive down costs.  Engineers are data-driven creatures, so quantifying the cost savings of the DFM effort is a huge benefit.  An enterprise resource planning (ERP) system can help machinists accurately estimate set up, run, and post-processing times and analyze the data for various design iterations.  Over time, the ERP system becomes a database to reference when you start a new project, making informed decisions for new parts based on similar parts.

Once you’ve deconstructed the wall, look to hire individuals who will continue the culture of open communication and positive relationships.  If the wall is particularly high or hard to break down, consider hiring a manufacturing engineer and/or a design transfer engineer to operate as a buffer and facilitate communication between design and manufacturing.  Continue encouraging departmental alignment with regular opportunities to touch base or socialize--maybe the car show becomes an annual event!  Developing healthy and productive working relationships will allow the team to balance design intent and manufacturing costs to produce the highest value of quality products.   

References:

  1. https://www.zippia.com/design-engineer-jobs/demographics/
  2. https://www.zippia.com/machine-operator-machinist-jobs/demographics/
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