Brunswick Steel examines process needs to ensure a smooth system rollout
ERP implementation- Choosing and implementing a new enterprise resource planning (ERP) system can be a challenge for any shop. Determining what you need and what you want, and how that compares to what a supplier can actually provide, can become a lengthy process. Winnipeg-based Brunswick Steel’s rollout of its new software over the past year is a good example of how it can be done right, serving the interests of all stakeholders in the company.
Brunswick Steel is a metal service centre that over time has incorporated more value-added processing into its operations. Recently this included the addition of fibre laser cutting and increased bending capabilities, alongside its plasma, flame cutting, and sawing services. Although the shop had CO2 lasers previously, the addition of the fibre laser increased the speed and capacity of the shop’s cutting department.
At the same time it also redesigned its shop floor to improve material movement and process flow. Adam Plouffe, now general manager at Brunswick, was brought on at the time for his background in lean and Six Sigma training. The business was soon implementing lean strategies, looking for efficiencies wherever they were possible.
It became clear that the shop’s existing ERP system wouldn’t be robust enough to grow alongside the changes being made.
“The software we had was geared to a service centre model,” said Plouffe. “For stocked goods it worked relatively well, and for sales entry it worked well, but finance had to do everything outside the system. In addition, production had many workarounds because the system didn’t work the way we needed it to. There were also a number of constraints to making changes to that system, which was around 10 years old when we started considering our ERP strategy.”
Basic System Needs
Plouffe had worked with other ERP systems in the past, and though they were more robust than Brunswick’s legacy system, they came with their own limitations.
“You could do virtually anything with the systems that I was using, but you also needed a full-time programmer to manage it,” he said. “You had to manually set everything up on those systems. When we started our ERP research here, we were outsourcing most of our IT needs. One of our first decisions was to look for a system that wouldn’t require any programming expertise. We wanted something that our existing team could handle.”
The other major concern for Plouffe was that he didn’t want anyone to have to do any workarounds.
“Every ERP system I’ve worked with in the past, for one module or another, whether it be purchasing or finance or some other department, involved somebody having an Excel sheet in the background or on the side to look at and reference. I didn’t want that. To fully run a proper ERP system, all the data points need to be entered into the system, and from that everyone needs to get the same visual representation for scheduling and planning purposes. I wanted clear KPIs so we could see immediately how we were doing in each area of the company.”
While Plouffe knew the basics of what he wanted, it was also important that every other stakeholder group explain the outputs that they required.