This article looks at SAP workarounds with fictionalised stories from experiences over the last 15 years. Each applies to any ERP system, and each one screams SAP Help needed!
A quick note on these stories
None of the stories below was written to embarrass individuals or businesses who may have these issues. The stories are intended solely to provide a visual clue that an opportunity exists.
SAP Help required – Clue #1: Big piles of printouts
The manager of a production facility in Western Europe called for a review of processes in the purchasing department.
A Green Belt was called in to process map the purchasing process from requisition to receipt. The ERP processes appeared to be well understood and working correctly. Inventory transactions were correct, and finance had no complaints. The Green Belt reported to the plant manager that everything was fine and the process should continue without change.
The manager didn’t accept the response. There were too many delays occurring. She ordered the Green Belt and Purchaser to go back and review the process again.
On the second attempt, the following dialogue occurred:
GB: Why is there a giant pile of purchase orders on your desk?
P: Those are all of my outstanding purchase orders.
GB: Why do you need to print all of them?
P: It’s very simple. When a part comes in to be received, the receiving clerk comes to see me. We find the PO that the parts are for, and cross off the items that have come in. That way we know exactly what has come in and what is outstanding.
Comments on “piles of printouts.”
Ok, the writing is corny, (wow Mike terrible) but the situation is real and not uncommon. In fairness to our purchasing officer, you will see versions of this example in every area of business. Further, it’s unlikely that most plant managers would know to look for the issue or even that it was an issue.
I see this approach to managing tasks a lot. In some cases, the individuals are very passionate about their piles of paper, and there is significant sensitivity required.
SAP Help for big piles of printouts
Show the user the one transaction needed to see the list of open purchase orders and train them how to set up their variants.
SAP Help required – Clue #2: Excel files that shouldn’t be excel files
Examples of these excel files include:
- Purchase orders
- Sales order acknowledgements
And the list goes on and on.
Comments on “Excel files that shouldn’t be Excel files.”
An excel based Purchase order when you have any reasonably sized ERP system is a clear sign of a workaround. It’s very likely there are more serious issues beneath.
In this one example it’s likely we would see:
- Associated manual general ledger entries putting unnecessary work on Finance
- System MRP cancellation messages on purchase orders because the team are not working on the system plan
- Excess and obsolete inventory build-up
- Inaccurate cash flow planning
- Incorrect items ordered
SAP help for manual document workarounds
My first suggestion is SHUT IT DOWN! The longer response is probably two articles long. In these cases, a business needs to work on upskilling the individuals and changing the culture. You need to get to a point where the staff understand the danger of such workarounds.
SAP Help required – Clue #3: “MRP doesn’t work”
- Not turn MRP on out of fear
- Ignore MRP completely
- Use MRP partially
In one business, there was a regular complaint among the sales and production staff that required items for production were never on time.
The following issues were apparent:
- Past due backlog was soaring
- On time performance was below 50%
- Air freight costs were extreme and often for items not required for the current order backlog
MRP doesn’t work, and neither does that report. We do things manually. That way we get it right.
Comments on SAP MRP doesn’t work
The above three cases are just some of the clues that indicate that there are problems with the use of SAP or ERP. In each of these cases, there is a massive cost incurred as a result of the workarounds. For resolution, I suggest bringing in either in-house training support or external support to correct the issue.
What are the workarounds that you’ve encountered and what are the clues?
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