Supply Chain Blog

Global Supply Chains: Reliance on ERP data quality & accuracy

Posted by Dave Jordan on Tue, Feb 28, 2012

Everyone in multi-national companies will have experienced the “data request from head office”. Usually arriving at the most inconvenient time, with unclear instructions and no clear reason-why! These data collection campaigns are often managed by the latest rising star in the business and as soon as they move onwards and upwards someone else steps in and repeats the process! Frustrating!

Information ManagementHowever, companies who have invested in globally linked ERPs should not need to use the “rising star” process as HQ will be able to see everything and anywhere on the same network. Units of measure will be consistent as will calculation of S&OP KPI’s and financial measures. Add a currency conversion standard and you can collate global data with a high degree of speed and accuracy. What can happen when you are not using a common ERP? This could mean nothing at all or perhaps the worst case scenarios of a mix of multiple unrelated ERPs AND nothing at all!

A recent project involved collecting data from the regional offices of a global company. Each location was provided with a customised Excel-based data collection sheet and a set of instructions for completion. A selection of what came back?

  • Nothing
  • A screen shot from an ERP
  • A completely different data file
  • An S&OP data file
  • An annual budget submission
  • Partial completion with good data
  • Partial completion but with errors
  • Full completion with good data

Full completion with errors

Perfection was not anticipated – that could even be classed as suspicious - but the variety and quality of responses was unexpected. This was a company striving to make tough global decisions at the top table which could not assimilate coherent information. Repeated prompting and chasing only added to the data fog as data was contradicted or revised or over-written.

I am not suggesting everyone should invest in a 3-letter Germanic ERP system but some degree of consistency is necessary if you want to understand your status quo and measure the success of improvement initiatives and make decisions on global priorities. You need to remove the inevitable reluctance of employees with assets and jobs potentially under review to provide 100% unambiguous and accurate data. I am not a great fan of Excel solutions but in the absence of anything else it can be a useful tool in forcing decentralised teams to provide clean, accurate and actionable data. Such data can then be maintained in a centralised and secure data warehouse but this has to be managed……..

Data consistency and accuracy is paramount for global and regional ERPs to work and start repaying the investment cash but data management is usually foggy at best. Strangely, companies seem to avoid the importance of data until a wide-ranging ERP is on the horizon and then there is a last minute rush to appoint a Data Manager and team to ensure data used in the business actually reflects reality. Such a role might not appear “sexy” but it is one of the most important roles in any company intending to run a coherent global business. Grade the role appropriately and appoint a “data Rottweiler”!

If you’re not serious with data it comes back to bite you sooner or later!

Tagss: FMCG, Dave Jordan, Performance Improvement, ERP/SAP, Supply Chain, S&OP