Aero-Med Ltd. is a manufacturer and distributor of medical supplies, drawing on five warehouses throughout the U.S. The company had reached the point where it was outgrowing the capacity of its enterprise resource planning system, according to Sam Nanayakkara, director of IT services. "We couldn't take additional customer requirements," he says. "We had to turn away customers because the system couldn't be modified."
Customers' requirements could be complex and highly specific. They were calling for new products in multiple configurations. The company was forced to tell valued accounts to come back in a year, after it had implemented the new ERP system. "It was the hardest thing for management to do," Nanayakkara says.
The first step in the changeover involved a detailed analysis of the company's needs. That took between three and four months to complete. For help, Aero-Med looked to an outside consulting firm that specialized in supply-chain and warehouse management. The process involved a thorough review of all the company's business processes and interested parties, with an eye toward identifying best practices in key areas.
Aero-Med learned a lot about itself in the process. It discovered a number of operational silos, with various departments unaware of developments outside their own areas. In all, the company identified 465 needs, which it communicated in a request for proposal to some 15 large ERP vendors. From that group it culled a list of three finalists. The processing of narrowing down the candidates took a couple of weeks, Nanayakkara says.
In the end, Aero-Med chose the M3 application from Lawson Software. It met 99 percent of the company's requirements without the need for extensive customization. Among Aero-Med's key criteria was the need for detailed lot traceability, an essential requirement in the medical supplies business.
Switching over to a new ERP system had its challenges, chief among them the people element. Employees had to be trained in new tasks and processes, an effort that is ongoing. The biggest lesson learned, says Nanayakkara, was "stick to the rules and the process.... First, find out what you need, what's important to you, and where you want to go."
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