Using EDI to teach your old ERP new tricks; increase ROI
I first saw it in my client's eyes. That look that says, ‘This-feels-like-it's-going-to-be-really-expensive-and-I-don't-want-to-do-it-but-I-have-to-do-it-and-it-will-be-worse-if-I-don't-do-it-so-what-should-I-do?' look.
It was accompanied by the words ‘upgrade,' and ‘customization, warehouse management system (WMS), and ERP,' and, as I'm hearing more and more, ‘RFID.'
The client, an Indiana-based logistics warehousing company with about 50 employees, was watching their business grow nicely. Executive management knew it was time for an ERP and a WMS and settled on VAI's S2K suite.
Their warehouse operations manager used the opportunity to point out the efficiencies they could gain by simultaneously incorporating handheld RF devices: Now, the valuable data and tools enabled by their ERP and WMS would permeate the organization by putting real-time information into everyone's hands, whether they're in the back office or working the front lines.
In the initial ERP implementation we designed a custom WMS together, necessitating some base software customization to meet the organization's unique requirements.
But, five years later, when they were ready to upgrade to VAI's latest version (one that included an integrated WMS module), the drive was on to minimize the number of customizations required. So, we got creative.
We took their existing EDI data, built some simple, front-end and back-end tools, and using a holistic approach to enterprise computing-the same integrated approach they were using to run the rest of their business-put the pain of multiple, expensive, upgrade-induced ERP customizations behind them.
Rather than extensive modifications to track serial numbers to the bin level, we leveraged functionality referred to differently in the base package than the user nomenclature. The client can even track serialized inventory planned for specific customer orders prior to the item being received into inventory by creating a standalone cross-reference file populated by electronic data.
When WMS spells real ROI
The results speak for themselves: By writing some new standalone programs that amounted to only three percent of the original base objects, their integrated ERP WMS went from 87 percent base unmodified to 99.5 percent unmodified base; going forward, retrofits should be just 10 percent of the modification requirements.
Sometimes customization is unavoidable, that's true. But when have you ever been better off customizing already-complex software versus taking what you already have-some great EDI data, for example-and teaching it a few new tricks?