Human Designed ERP Systems – Fantasy?

Fast JobWhile watching 60 minutes this week there was a segment that caught my attention. It was about IDEO incorporated. IDEO incorporates human design into business. Founder and CEO David Kelly have created thousands of breakthrough inventions. One of the more notable is the computer mouse.

David Kelly mentioned how his company enhances software using the human design technique. They have observers sit with software users and every grimace becomes an opportunity for improvement. After hearing this I quickly began to fantasize about this happening in organizations that I have observed.

While society has made massive gains in productivity due to software advancements organizations still cling to clunky slow and complex ERP systems.

At the click of a button we pay bills, collect payments, order merchandise, perform price checks and look up product reviews. Even more astounding this can be done anytime or anywhere via smartphone. There are hundreds of thousands apps for your phone, games, calculators, calendars you name it! Everyday new applications are being added.

Knowing all this is available excuse me for wanting more out ERP systems. Based on current technologies today some ERP systems are simply huge boondoggles of inefficiencies.

The marketplace in all other areas of software is becoming much more scalable and interactive. Scottrade brokerage, Quicken and TurboTax are all linked to provide user seamless integration. Compare that to many ERP systems that still require manual entry of customer forecasts rather than creating seamless automatic solution which would save time, money and reduces errors.

A typical ERP user must stumble through multiple menus, down select filter then export to a spreadsheet to obtain simple information such as a shipping report. This is definitely not the least waste way; we can do must better.

Ask yourself (no one else will)…

How quickly can you get this information from ERP system?

Future Shipments

Past Shipments

Bill of materials plus stocking levels

Gantt Charts

Production Plan to Sales Plan Comparison

Produce I.Q.R. Reports (Inventory Quality Ratio)

How about forecasts?

Do you enter by hand or does customer EDI upload automatically

Once entered do you need to smooth by hand or can computer assist?

(After all it’s simply mathematics)

How fast can you find and identify exceptions?

Over draws

Under draws

Aging work orders


Unplanned Withdrawals

Typical Scratch your head issues

While releasing a work order software states “parts missing” but doesn’t tell you which ones. User now needs to perform addition navigation to find out. Wouldn’t it be intuitive to list the missing parts automatically when message is generated?  From there easily (in same screen) navigate to part status, which is the next intuitive step. This is the type of human design I fantasize.

Do you spend time exporting raw data into excel spreadsheets because there are no suitable standard reports to suit your needs. In this 21st century we should have the will and technology to create multiple “canned” reports. Another fantasy?

We spend millions in the manufacturing plant for state of the art machines and solutions. On the other hand ERP systems are allowed to lag decades behind the technological curve. This is costing millions in productivity but hidden in the indirect cost bucket. Most systems don’t need to be replaced simply tweaked to the human factor.

Next continuous improvement event consider staying in the office, give the shop a break.  Events to streamline an improve ERP usage are rare. ERP always seems to be above the continuous improvement radar for some reason. We cannot continue to optimize the shop processes while we continue to ignore and work around the issues and limitations of our ERP software.

You’ll be surprised how much low hanging fruit you will find.

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