3 steps for a successful metals ERP system implementation

Tony Barnes
3/31/2021
3 steps for a successful metals ERP system implementation

Giving your metals business a technology upgrade might sound exciting until you think through some challenges you might face. But living with your outdated segregated systems isn’t a viable long-term solution.

You know you need to make the change, but it can feel scary. Alternatively, you can see it as an incredible opportunity to rethink effective ways to lead your metals company into the future.

Step 1: Record existing processes

Recording your existing processes and having a detailed road map for your metals business will help you plan for a smoother enterprise resource planning (ERP) system implementation. But before you document everything, hit pause and save yourself from potential frustrations.  

First, gather your team and ask key questions about your existing processes. If your business is like many metals businesses we’ve worked with, it has grown and changed over time, and so has the metals industry. As you look ahead at implementing a modern ERP system, it’s an ideal time to evaluate how new processes might better support your metals business outcomes and the needs of your customers.   

To do this exercise effectively, begin with high-level processes and then gather your teams to think through the small, detailed processes. Consider questions like:

  • Is this the most efficient process to enter sales quotes for coils, long product, or sheet product?
  • What’s the most effective way to create a slitting plan?  
  • What’s the most efficient process to pick and ship a coil? 

Keep in mind, it’s essential to include your team in the assessment and brainstorming of new processes early on. How often do you hear, “Because that’s the way we’ve always done it?” Rather than allowing your team to remain stuck on this question, frame the conversations about how your processes could increase efficiency, accuracy, and visibility.

As you assess and document your current processes, consider each area of the business independently: sales, purchasing, finance, logistics, inventory, production, planning, and quality. Given that an ERP system will unify every area of your metals business, think through the handoffs between each area. What processes need to be added, and what needs to be changed in order to increase efficiency within your team?

Step 2: Organize and structure data

Over time, a company collects data in many systems, databases, and desktops. As you get ready to implement an ERP system that will give you one source of truth, it’s crucial to step back and determine the way you collect and store data across the entire organization. As an example, do you have a standard way of entering customer records? What about creating a new product in your system?   

To realize the insights a new metals ERP system can deliver, such as identifying your most profitable grade or most efficient cut-to-length line, your approach to data must be standardized. Identify each source of data in your metals company and discuss standards for how new data will be created. Ask questions like:  

  • What attributes and specifications will define products?  
  • How do we organize and structure data?  
  • What level of visibility do we need at the production operational level?  

While this step can be time-consuming and labor-intensive, it will save you valuable time and help reduce stress when you implement your ERP system.  

Step 3: Consider your people and your teams

You’ve invested a great deal of time in recruiting and training the right people, and investing in a modern ERP system will give them the tools to succeed and win. It’s vital to think through how ERP system implementation affects your employees and teams.

When you implement a new ERP system, gaining support from the entire team is crucial, and shortchanging the process can be problematic. It’s not about the software or implementation provider, it’s the commitment from your team that will drive a successful ERP system implementation.

Choose a road map to a smoother ERP system implementation.

Implementing a metals ERP system can help companies experience a long-lasting bump in market share, but the fear of disruption often can make companies delay or struggle with their outdated systems. With the right road map, this doesn’t have to be your reality. Detailing your processes, structuring your data, and giving your team ownership early on will go a long way to creating a smoother ERP system implementation.

We’ve successfully been guiding metals companies through implementations of ERP systems, and we can help you think through the uniqueness of what you need for your metals business.

Don’t delay or defer. Contact us today and let us help you.

Tony Barnes
Tony Barnes
Managing Principal, Metals