Over the years I have been involved in a number of IT implementation projects, ranging from a workflow system that ensured that everyone was working to the same standards through to legal and regulatory training systems.

I remember one time where I was asked to work with an IT company to implement an inventory management system. I hadn’t been working at the company very long, but it wasn’t the first stock control system I had implemented so I felt quite comfortable in running the project.

The company was an ex-public company and as a consequence had a number of areas where it wasn’t as costs conscious as a company which had always been privately owned.  Stock management was one of these areas. The IT company had a proved solution that had been implemented in a number of retail companies so it was confident that it would reduce inventory here too.

So we started looking at the different components and usage to understand what the stock holdings should be. Then we went to one of our divisions to start to implement the system. Not everyone was happy that we were introducing change… some people always have a problem with change…. But they agreed to work with the system in order to reduce inventory. 

The problem was that the industry it was in was totally different than retail and inventory held was to maintain the plant, not for onward selling. Because I was new and the company were there as consultants, we hadn’t fully understood the fundamental differences and as a consequence were trying to fit a square peg in a round hole!!

And of course the system wasn’t designed to cope with the sudden need for parts for maintenance work. It couldn’t cope with the long lead times and the fact that it was actually more expensive to stop the plant than it was to hold the inventory.

So the system failed.

It wasn’t that the system was a poor system, it’s just that it wasn’t fit for the purpose that we wanted it for.

And so we went back to the drawing board. We did what should have been done in the first place. We spoke to the engineers, to the operators, and to the supply chain staff. We understood the problems and requirements and then started a project to ensure that the changes were right for the company.

I took time to help ensure the business understood the need for the changes and engaged with them to implement the right systems for the company. I also took the time to make sure I understood the business and that the changes would benefit the divisions, not make their lives more difficult. Because the stakeholders were involved and understood the value of it, there was less resistance to change.

We set up an ABC classification to grade components around risk, importance, and security of supply. We cleared out all the informal stock locations and created a requisition process and planning system to better control stock. We also implemented a stock rotation system to counteract the problems we had had with stock obsolescence. We wrote procedures so that everyone knew what to do and when to do it. We then implemented training programmes to embed the changes.

In the end, the main success factor was trust. Trust in the system, trust in me and trust between the supply chain teams and maintenance staff, that the stock would be available when needed.

The reason that trust was developed was through active communication. I spoke with each of the different stakeholders in the project and listened to their expectations. I listened to them and understood their requirements. This enabled me to make sure that the systems implemented fulfilled their needs and wants.

The main learning outcome from this was to make sure that one size does not fit all. It is important to understand the problem and to implement a solution that is fit for purpose. Just because someone is singing the praises of a system, it doesn’t necessarily meet the needs of your business. Implementing a system that your peers have recommended may not provide the best solution for you.

You need to understand your processes and workflows. You need to identify different systems and understand how they might help simplify the way you work. By really taking stock of how you manage your business currently. By knowing where you want to develop it further will enable you to implement the right systems for you. It will also set a good foundation on which to grow and scale.

You may think this is too difficult. You don’t like systems and workflow analysis, or you just don’t have the time, then drop me a line and we can discuss where to start!