While the very thought of mentioning lean thinking and ERP systems in the same sentence might have some lean purists rolling their eyes, the use of ERP as a tool to facilitate business processes is critical. In fact “Value Stream Mapping”, the lean approach to mapping a process, has two key elements that are mapped, the physical flow or activities as well as the information flow. It acknowledges the linkage between material flow and information flow. Lean and Value Stream Mapping are about eliminating waste. NAV being a very configurable and flexible system can facilitate in the elimination of waste in your current processes.
While there are probably hundreds of ways in which good ERP (NAV) can help eliminate waste, here are a few examples of NAV functionality that might apply.
Templates: NAV provides the ability to create definition for the setup of master files such as customer, vendor and item. While the templates are very instrumental in implementation they can also be a useful daily tool depending on your business. These master files have many fields, templates allow you to populate the fields you need with default values as well as define any remaining fields that are mandatory for the user to complete. Define as many scenarios that you see benefiting the creation of new master files. Templates provide standardized, repeatable work which is very important to any process, especially with master files that facilitate so much downstream activity.
Quick Entry: The ability to customize a page layout to only show the fields relevant to that user or that process. Creating a sales order could become more efficient by only seeing and populating the fields that are required for your business case. You could also define additional fields that may not be required for creation of the document but may be needed for informational purposes, these fields can be exposed by merely expanding the window of that tab. Again NAV facilitates the process by allowing for standardized, repeatable work.
Standard Purchase Codes: The name even makes this one a favorite for me as you may have noticed my reference to standardized work several times already. Within the purchasing module is the ability to define one or several items and or charges and GL/Accounts that can have a predefined quantity and price all wrapped up in one code that can be assigned by vendor. When entering a PO for this vendor that code can be retrieved and used to populate the purchasing line detail with that predefined information. I could even make a comparison to classic lean thinking by saying this code could represent a Kanban (replenishment at a defined amount) in lean terms. The use of quick entry, as discussed above and this code to populate the PO lines could create a very efficient replenishment signal to the vendor, electronic Kanban so to speak.
The key to using any ERP functionality is that it should facilitate the process, while too many companies let it dictate the process.
- Implement a mapping tool and approach that can be used effectively for your group.
- Spend time developing the process and continue to review for opportunities to eliminate waste.
- When reviewing the information flow and opportunities to improve the process, educate yourself on NAV through documentation, NAVUG and your Microsoft Partners.
- Embrace NAV implementation or upgrades as an opportunity to review processes.
Don’t think of NAV implementation as a destination, think of it as a vital tool on your crusade to eliminate waste through continuous incremental improvement to the process.