Trial Kit & SmartViews Just Got Better

SmartViews  is one of the products that all businesses need because without analyzing your data, how do they know what their current state is and are they headed to their future state.  Companies underestimate the importance of a centralized analytical tool.  Where can you get a user friendly application that is usable from your shop floor users to executive management?

Trial Kit just had a big release

Some of the big things are

o          Not limited to exploding Work Orders…now exploded Quote Masters or Masters and see your lonest lead-time part

o          Technology update – armed for the future with the latest technology under the hood

o          See your scheduled Start & Finish date right in the BOM window; find your critical path issues

Freeman Marine Equipment, an Advantec Global Innovations company, has a reputation built on providing high-quality doors, hatches and windows for extreme-duty use, especially for the Marine industry.  From U.S. Coast Guard rescue boats, to large yachts, fishing vessels, and many other applications at sea and on land, Freeman Marine manufactures products that are often highly complex, for customers often under tight schedules for building or renovating sea-going vessels.

And it is that complexity that makes tracking parts for hundreds of work orders very, very demanding.  We have to understand the total part supply picture, which in the past has been very difficult because our sub-assemblies often go 4 to 6 levels deep, and we have hundreds of work orders in process at any given time.  We needed a tool that could give us an at-a-glance picture of which parts were constraining production, so we could focus our efforts efficiently

It was a very frustrating effort—until we found Trial Kit.  We were dazzled by being able to see the complete, exploded Bill of Material, color coded to let us know which parts needed attention.  After we implemented, our inventory lead commented, “I got rid of our Excel “hotlist”.

One of the aspects of Synergy Resources that delighted us was how responsive they were to requests for enhancements to Trial Kit.  As a production scheduler who has to quote leadtimes, I was particularly jazzed when Synergy let me know they had enabled the program to function with Engineering Masters as well as Work Orders.  Finally—I can use a “live” tool to figure out if there are any really long-leadtime parts, buried 4 levels down, that need to be taken into account when estimating the lead-time for a product!

The technical skill of the Synergy staff, and the professional quality of the Trial Kit product, make it a pleasure to recommend Trial Kit as a vital tool for any discrete manufacturer who, like Freeman Marine, produces high-quality, complex products for the demanding global market.

Tom Huntford

Production Scheduler / MRP Administrator
Freeman Marine


Shouldn’t ERP be Fun?

Playing Tiny Defense the other night, what a silly little game, but fun!

You start out with minimal capabilities, and then as you learn and progress, you gain tools to help in both your defense and offensive tactics and overall strategy.  At the same time, the challenges you face increase in their capabilities and potential threat to your success.

As I was slowly learning the ropes, gaining confidence, making progress, and accumulating more experience and knowledge, the thought occurred to me:

Why shouldn’t ERP be this fun?  Shouldn’t your ERP implementation be able to provide you with immediate feedback as to how your company is doing?  If you have a really excellent implementation of an ERP, you might have a Business Intelligence (BI) tool that is showing you some high-level performance metrics like Sales Bookings, Backlog, Quotes % accepted, On-time delivery, various Quality metrics, etc.  But what about the day-to-day operations folks?  The ones actually making it happen for you on a daily basis?  Shouldn’t they be having fun, too?  Shouldn’t they be experiencing the instant gratification of a job well done?  They shipped an order on-time (or early if the customer will accept it), they received quality parts in the right quantity at the right time from our supplier, they found a way to increase the number of units produced with the same quality in the company’s bottleneck, adding $2/min of throughput to our bottom-line.

Assuming you have a culture where that sort of performance is rewarded, maybe even expected, being able to play the game of improving your company’s performance for the benefit of your customers satisfaction and your stakeholders investment, should be – FUN!

Do you have the tools in place to make working at your company fun and rewarding?



VISUAL Quality

Giving Up the Crystal Ball – Enough is Enough

If driving actual production from a forecast is insane, what should we do instead?

Not using some plan for production would produce even worse results.  How about this?  Let’s stop being afraid of not having enough.

MRP logic, using time-phased netting techniques, begins with whatever quantity we happen to have on hand of an item, adds in existing supply orders, subtracts out existing and predicted demand and predicts when the future on hand balance will dip below zero.  At these critical points, MRP recommends orders to increase supply to prevent the future on hand balance from going negative.  It is designed to prevent the state of not having enough.  This is a fear-based approach.

The biggest fear of material planners in the 1960’s was kitting a complex assembly and finding out they were short even a single part.  If you don’t have ALL the parts, you can’t make it!  This fear was so deep because such shortages were not an uncommon occurrence.  Material planners routinely stashed expensive parts in their desk drawers “just in case”.

The designers of MRP acknowledged both this fear and the fact that predictions of future supply and demand are unreliable in their design, with the inclusion of “safety stock”.  This single data field in the part master is a “fudge factor” that tells MRP to order more when the future on hand balance dips below the safety stock value.  The assumption being that this single, constant quantity will give us sufficient additional quantity on hand to make up for all of the inadequacies of the planning method.

Safety stock is a number that is usually increased and seldom decreased.  Very few planners take the time to re-visit safety stock numbers, unless they run out of a part.  Then the number is updated to a larger quantity to make sure the shortage doesn’t happen again.  Memories of painful consequences when they ran out discourage them from lowering that number.  With so many items having safety stock numbers that seldom get lowered, is it any wonder many companies carry excess inventory?  It’s easy for the folks in accounting to say we have too much inventory.  They never feel the pain of running out and they don’t have to decide which items to cut and by how much.

I propose thumbing our nose at fear and using a confidence-based approach. Instead of starting our planning with whatever we have on hand at the moment, we begin our planning with a starting quantity for each item that is enough to protect us from running out until we can get more.

We begin our journey through the dangers of unpredictable supply and demand toward the goal of on time delivery of everything with our shields of protection at 100%.  As we proceed, our shields are diminished by actual consumption, real demand rather than forecast demand.  When protection remaining crosses a critical threshold, our command center tells us to order more.  When we react to these signals in a timely manner, additional supply arrives in time to prevent us from ever reaching 0%.  We never run out.

In this approach we never have too much of any item, therefore we never have too much inventory in total.  Because we have defined for each item how much enough is, our command center recommends that we order a quantity that gets us back to 100% of enough and no more.  Enough is enough to prevent us from running out.  Too much is more than enough.  We never have more than enough.

So the trick to never running out and never having too much is to define and begin with enough.  Enough is not going to be a single, constant quantity for each item because actual usage is both unpredictable and variable.  So how much is enough?  Come back soon for my next blog post.

Why Manufacturing should end its Love Affair with the Crystal Ball

Our Fascination with Predicting the Future

Some say that the definition of insanity is doing the same hurtful thing over and over and expecting different results. If so, then driving actual production from a forecast is insane. Since the dawn of time (back in the 1960’s when dinosaurs roamed the earth), manufacturing software systems have used forecasting and master scheduling to drive actual production of standard and semi-standard products. Today companies still use this approach and continue to carry excess inventory, experience stock outs and miss deliveries. I will not deny that the introduction of this approach was an improvement in the 1960’s but surely we can do better today than live with the drawbacks of a 50-year old methodology.

Good S&OP discipline calls for the creation of a forecast as a target but a forecast is, at best, a guess of what customers are going to buy and when they are going to buy it. It is always going to be wrong. Customers will always buy more of some items and fewer of others than was forecast. Even when they buy the quantity that was predicted, they invariably do it sooner or later than was predicted. Driving production to meet this forecast is operating under a false assumption.

To make matters worse, there’s yet another false assumption: standard lead times used in the production planning process. That seemingly harmless little data field on the part master that supposedly represents the amount of time it takes to manufacture an item from its components. The amount of time it takes to make something is variable. It depends on a lot of factors like load against capacity, amount of variability in the process, dependability of suppliers and phase of the moon.

ERP systems combine the false assumptions of forecast accuracy and standard lead times to create a production plan that from the very beginning has a very slim chance of meeting actual demand. Since meeting actual demand is what we actually get paid to do, we should be concerned about this. Is that what the folks in development at your ERP software company are busy working on improving? I doubt it. Ask your software rep and he or she will tell you about the latest tool to come up with a better forecast or about “the cloud”. He or she may not even understand what you are talking about.

There is a better way, one that challenges the assumptions that were made by my father and the team at IBM that created the Production and Inventory Control (PICS) model at IBM in the 1960’s which served as the blueprint for what APICS has taught for decades. My next blog post will begin to explain this approach. If you can’t wait until then,

click here to find out more!

Who is Mike Lilly?: Mike Lilly is an expert at improving the delivery performance of Manufacturing companies by applying industry best practices – TOC, Lean, SixSigma, the right software tools, and results-driven professional services. Companies Mike works with typically see dramatic improvements in their ability to deliver on-time to their customers, along with the resultant effects of lower WIP, Raw and/or Finished Inventory, and plenty of freed up cash.

Are ERP and LEAN mutually-exclusive?

ERP companies swear by the operational efficiencies that manufacturers attain with the use of software. LEAN purists will say that no software is necessary to deliver performance improvements.

Who’s right?

In the quest to improve the business performance of your company, where do you look for the best answers? We’ve heard the horror stories of multi-milllion dollar mistakes with ERP gone bad. We’ve also heard of LEAN fiascos that taught our people to neaten up the shop floor, and even move some equipment around, but failed to delivery results. But we’ve also seen the case studies of manufacturer’s who’ve grown their companies 5-fold with the use of the right ERP tools. Likewise, the LEAN case studies – with or without software – are often equally if not more dramatic, in terms of the lead time reduction, cost savings through lower WIP, and deliver performance statistics you could take to the bank.

Are ERP and LEAN mutually-exclusive?

Find out the answer!

Ward Leonard holds first Visual ERP Seminar

On June 14, Ward Leonard Connecticut, LLC, held its first Visual ERP Suite Seminar, entitled “Showcasing Achievements, Leveraging the Visual ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) Suite.”

Teaming-up with Synergy Resources, a professional consulting services firm which has helped Ward Leonard with employee procedures and training for the Visual ERP software, Ward Leonard demonstrated the uses, benefits, and successful results during the last three years.

Attended by 27 people from 12 companies, the seminar presented an educational and enlightening approach toward technically streamlining business growth and efficiency with the Visual ERP software tools.

“Leveraging means updating and getting the latest tools and technically getting our (company) needs met, to revise and improve the basic operations and various employee responsibilities of the company. This allowed us to grow without increasing the amount of support staff,” said Alan Cash, business analyst for Ward Leonard.

Director of Operational Excellence Neil Haggard said that since Ward Leonard has a very complex business, involved with both Navy Department of Defense and the Oil and Gas industries, the Visual ERP system is “flexible off-the-shelf so it allows us to run our business in multiple ways to handle the work more efficiently for each product line.”

Mr. Haggard added that Ward Leonard’s specific needs for the Visual ERP system were to manage and improve the operational business needs of the company by utilizing Visual for quoting, material, scheduling, financials, quality, time and attendance, forecasting and ECNs.

“It’s a truly integrated system from the quote to production and quality performance results. We’ve been aligning our processes and tools so that everyone’s integrated and using the same system at the same time, allowing for more efficient, consistent productivity and results,” said Mr. Haggard.

Yoram Shahar, vice president of operations for Ward Leonard, looks at things not only from a business perspective, but from the “lean philosophy” approach. Lean is the practice and philosophy that targets reduction of wasteful resources and creates value for the end customer.

With a lean manufacturing and production focus, combined with the integration of the Visual ERP Software, the two processes complement each other resulting in added value and efficiency for businesses such as Ward Leonard.

“Through Synergy and Infor (Enterprise Software Solutions and Applications), the Visual ERP Suite Seminar allows us to network with other  manufacturing businesses and technical industries, associates and individuals who can both help us to develop and improve the way we do things in the day-to-day operations of our company and help attendees get some ideas of how they could use the tools to help their business,” said Mr. Shahar.

Joining the marketplace with competition such as G.E., through the Visual ERP system, optimizing their lead times, customization and streamlining how they do things, Ward Leonard has nearly doubled the size of the business in three years, according to Shahar.

Mr. Shahar added that there was a waiting list of businesses and individuals wanting to attend the seminar and (Ward Leonard) plans to have more seminars in the future.

About Ward Leonard CT LLC
Ward Leonard CT LLC provides highly engineered motors, controls and integrated solutions customized to solve difficult challenges for our customers in the Military, Energy and Heavy Industry worldwide. For more than 120 years, our products have harnessed power for complex, technical and mission-critical infrastructure applications in harsh environments. We are dedicated to total customer support and satisfaction, and to delivering benchmark performance, productivity and durability to our customers. To learn more about our products and services, or to speak with a Ward Leonard engineer, visit

Are you growing for growth’s sake?

Growing, of course, is much better than the alternative, but when we are in growth mode, we are often so satisfied (perhaps even thrilled) of that specific direction, that we fail to keep an eye on the bigger picture and the bigger question – is our growth enabling better performance, or hindering it? Are we experiencing growing pains such that our customer service metrics – delivery performance,customer response time, product quality – are all suffering as a result of our company’s rapid growth? Is the profitability of the company also growing in relation to revenue?

Companies that focus on top-line revenue growth at the expense of operational efficiency, may find that the perceived improvements being made aren’t necessarily translating to their overall purpose of better serving their customers and not contributing to as high a stakeholder return the process.

Can a manufacturing company maximize top-line revenue growth while at the same also increase the bottom-line percentage for the best of both worlds?

We certainly think so, click here for the whitepaper and find out why

Why Is Lean More Popular Than Six Sigma And The Theory of Constraints?

I think there is much more in common between Lean and the Theory of Constraints (TOC) than we’d like to admit. As big and broad as Lean is, the real benefit of implementing it the right way attacks the same problem with the same benefits as TOC.

And that is in the Value Stream of the Supply Chain. In fact, if you read “Lean Thinking” by Womack and Jones, the first several chapters discuss exactly this: the tremendous opportunity most manufacturing companies have because they are still manufacturing like we were all taught we were supposed to: Optimize local efficiencies, and maximize people and machine utilization, by processes work in batches. Big batches. Keep people and machines as busy as possible, and by gosh, if material is available, get it out on the shop floor, because the faster we get material out on the shop floor, the faster it’s going to come out as finished product, right??

Unfortunately, no.

Both Lean and TOC address this problem in fundamentally the same way: by implementing “pull” of (ideally single-piece) material, instead of “push”ing batches out to the shop floor, in essence, holding back on the release of material until it is necessary to feed the cell or bottleneck resource.

TOC implements Drum-Buffer-Rope (DBR), which by definition attacks this problem head-on. I think a lot of Lean implementations get stuck in 5S, or stop with one or two Value Stream mapping sessions. If you don’t get to the Value Stream Mapping session where you’re including the bottleneck resource, you won’t see the dramatic benefits as outlined in Lean Thinking.

It’s true: Lean is MUCH more popular than TOC. And it has been for a while. When we released our implementation of DBR in our ERP system VISUAL, it was initially called VISUAL DBR. But then we realized from a marketing standpoint, wasn’t going to fly, so we renamed it VISUAL EasyLean  (

But what it really is, under the covers, is DBR, or Simplified DBR, attacking that usually very big opportunity for improvement. To determine HOW big that opportunity is, like in Lean Thinking, we ask a manufacturing company:

1. What’s the lead time you’re quoting customers for your product? (typically, 6 – 8 weeks)
2. What’s the actual touch-time (direct value-added steps in Lean terms) to make that product assuming any and all material, tools, fixtures, machines, people are at the ready?

Answer: typically “a couple/few days”, sometimes “hours”!

There is so much opportunity out there.

Why Everything You Know About ERP is Wrong

ERP has been the backbone of manufacturing IT for so long that it has taken on its own myths. The trouble is that these myths are now ‘accepted wisdom’, despite being anything but acceptable or wise. Destruction of these misconceptions is long overdue.

Misconception 1: ERP is costly
“For manufacturers with multiple sites, subsidiary companies, international facilities and specialized production processes, connecting systems into an ERP framework soon builds to the point where rip and replace seems the easier option. For those looking to invest first time around, the costs of an ERP expert to analyse and align business processes to match the ERP system and train employees is prohibitive.”

This is simply not true. The technology to connect disparate systems and deliver the information in a clear, meaningful manner is already available. It does not matter if these are cloud, hybrid or on premise so the lower upfront investment options of cloud computing are there for manufacturers looking to expand or invest for the first time. Expensive ERP expertise is a thing of the past. Dashboards and analytics based on familiar, industry standard platforms have replaced complex proprietary options.

Misconception 2: ERP is complex and always results in projects running over time
Manufacturing is a complex industry. Research shows this will only increase. Analyzing business processes and developing software to automate them should eliminate complexity but when it doesn’t, we have to throw time and resource at the project and use brute force to crack the nut.

Now we know better. Firstly complexity is no bad thing – it is a mirror of the business. It enables operational precision and commercial opportunity. But complexity can inhibit innovation so focus on making processes tight and lean before they are automated. As a result, an ERP implementation delivers value earlier and is completed quicker.

Misconception 3: ERP implementations are invasive and disruptive
Connecting the mass of data and information to deliver a working ERP system is a huge task. It is dwarfed only by the ongoing use of ERP that demands software upgrades, training, security patches and a lot more besides. This is a huge drain on the resources of the company.

Wrong again. Intelligent deployment delivers consistent, meaningful information to the end user regardless of the deployment method, so a business can be up and running with ERP in days. A modular, event driven approach means manufacturers can get the capabilities needed in the order they want without disrupting other areas of the business.

Misconception 4: ERP vendors are inflexible and notorious for their lack of support
Some software vendors can disregard the pains of manufacturers, ignoring the realities of budget and IT resource limitations as well. Believing that the software is always right, business processes have to be changed and people retrained.

Well I cannot speak for others but not at Infor. We spend thousands every year researching the issues and challenges facing manufacturers. We spend millions developing solutions to help solve these problems and we are in this for the long haul. That goes for both the software and services.

So why have these myths never been slain before? There are many possible reasons but I believe it is because manufacturing has rarely dared to think differently. Thankfully, this is now changing. Operational directors are not just accepting what the software industry tells them they can have.

Savvy manufacturing leaders now start with an outcome – for example a 20% cost decrease – and ask software vendors what they can do to make it happen. Thinking differently, daring to push manufacturing technology beyond current limits should be encouraged. Destroying myths and accepted wisdom will be a hallmark of those manufacturers set to succeed.

More on Selecting ERP

Why Are A Handful of Leaders Better At Performance Improvements?

Assuming you have effectively answered the 4 questions that every business must continuously ask themselves during and after setting the company’s strategic plan and objectives:

  • “Why” is it important to change now?
  • “What” must improve & what will it mean to our business?
  • “Who” will need to be involved in the execution?
  • “How” will we achieve the stated objectives & how will we measure success?

Then the answer to your question is somewhat simple: You should focus on alignment and visibility.

From the high level strategic plan, a strategic plan must formed for each department and it must align with the company’s overall vision and objectives. Failure to align these plans to the overall vision and objectives of the company will stall or halt progress, Then the management tools must provide visibility of how day-to-day activities support the each department strategic plan and contribute to the company’s overall goals and objectives. Finally, there must be a concentrated effort by management to constantly monitor at both the strategic and operational level to ensure that decisions being made and projects being executed are aligned with the strategy.

What must be overcome is that many companies today are very reactive and focus on the next week, month or quarter. This causes them to lose sight of the long-term strategy. As a result, the strategic plan is no longer practical as progress will be obstructed. The most important part of a strategic plan is alignment and visibility. When the day-to-day management systems are not linked to the strategy then managers (and employees) are not considering strategy when they make decisions. In this case we cannot expect to see progress.

In conclusion, if the long-term strategy begins at the corporate level and if each department contributes their own long-term strategy which supports the overall business strategy and our daily activities are aligned and visible then it is likely an organization will see rapid change that is stainable over time.

More info: