How Can A Textile Business Successfully Implement Digitisation?

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My observation on MSME textile sector trying to implement digitisation has been the classic case where enthusiasm triumphs common sense. So here are some pointers to make the journey simple, cost efficient, and above all one that will complete implementation.

Internal Processes: Biggest myth or perception, owners, and especially the young, highly educated generation joining the business have, is that some how digitization is the magic wand to achieve what the generations before could not. That is, to use it to implement SOPs and documented internal process flows. You have failed before you start with this approach.

Remember the golden rule, if you can’t put your process flow down on a piece of paper in a manner that a layman would understand, your software won’t understand it either. If the discipline of documenting each milestone step and recording it somewhere in a proper format is not currently followed, the software will start to miss key data as entries won’t happen diligently, this will result in either report not showing up or it will be inaccurate. So process system implementation first is the mantra here. Buying decision: Often the owner and in some cases the head of IT shortlist the options and vendors available. Then call them for discussions. They see the reporting, the hardware requirement, the cost, some references, and the order is placed. Usually a few hefty lakhs are spent, depending on software and vendor. Please, and I repeat, please, involve the departmental or function heads you are buying the solution for. If it’s enterprise wide, then the functional head or a team of heads of main departments. Because trust me, you don’t really know what is going on inside your organisation even though everyone conspires to make you feel you do. Yes, they are not to be involved for the commercial part, but for the functions and use aspects. Involve them in features and ease of use evaluation. It will solve 50% of your implementation woes. Buy the most suitable not the fanciest: Derate your requirements to what are really required for functionality and remove all features that are dazzling but just have cosmetic value. It’s well said, function over form. Remember the 20:80 principal. You will be using just 20% of the features 80% of the time. Don’t go overboard for fancy reporting. If possible evaluate merge of basic ERP with added reporting software like Business Intelligence BI. Today with SaasS and offerings and cloud solutions you can lower capital investment drastically.

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Changes midway are the biggest killer of ERP implementation: 90% of delays in implementation and cost overruns happen because of some change in data entry or reports sought midway to the process or after trial runs. For us layman it seems simple: “Only one line needs to be added, what’s the big deal?” is our usual refrain.

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Trust me, it is not that simple, as thousands of lines of code have to be rewritten. To give you a reference point to textiles, it is like someone ordering a blue and yellow check fabric, then when the grey fabric has been woven, asking for one red thread to be introduced into the fabric. “It’s one red thread after all!”. If it’s damn difficult if not impossible for us, its as bad for the ERP implementor. Try and define your requirements as well as you can, keep it simple, for additional reports go to BI or similar software.

Hire a full time professional for the implementation: Any decent sized business should have an IT budget. It may be high or low. Having a full time IT person when implementing ERP will be an investment, return on which is almost immediate. Leave it to the professionals. Please don’t pretend to be the IT person and try to solve issues you have only googled about. Do understand the unsaid. Its ERP implementation. Not ERP for and by dummies.

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Review, review, review: Have as frequent meetings as you can with the team selected to implement ERP. Review if data is being fed and pull up departments who lag behind in timely data entry. Most good soft wares will have a `no data entry’ tracking report. This can be used to check performance of each data centre. Insist on discussing performance reports that are generated through ERP only. Bypassed excel sheet reporting should be aggressively discouraged. Initially it’s painful but any positive change requires discipline and initial teething aches.

Have commitment not ontent: Finally and honestly, if you are committed to ERP, it will get implemented. If you intend to do ERP, well we know about how best of intentions end up.

Summation: Its not a matter of If, just a matter of when. If you don’t do it yourself proactively, sooner or later the business requirements will force you to adopt digitization. Follow the simple basic rules laid out above and you will soon be a happily digitized organisation.

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