Inventory and Materials Management for HxGN EAM
May 2, 2023
Attempting to get a handle on an existing materials management process can justifiably appear to be a daunting endeavor. The sheer number of records involved, the potentially complex data clean up, the standardization of nomenclature and processes that need to happen can seem like a monumental task and a lot of customers somewhat understandably take the ostrich approach – they bury their proverbial heads in the sand, usually until it gets too hard to breathe at which point they usually decide to do the right thing and clean up their material act. As a side note the ostrich adage is a myth. When threatened they tend to stand still and blend in, which might be an even better analogy to the situation we are describing. Fact.
"There is no magic bullet, but a structured, consistent and scope appropriate approach works better than any magic."
Animal misattribution aside, the process to optimize or remedy an existing materials management process in an EAM, when executed properly is not necessarily the daunting task many imagine it to be. There is no magic bullet, but a structured, consistent and scope appropriate approach works better than any magic. The benefits, in terms of financial savings, parts and data availability make for a compelling ROI on such a project. An article in the Material Matters series, Show Me the Money will look at the details of said ROI and anticipated benefits.
Materials Management - What Works
Recognize the good. Realistic evaluation of the status quo is an imperative and often overlooked first step. Users tend to focus on the pain points and underestimate the positives of the existing setup. Chances are there are plenty of things that work or can be fixed easily. Not all data is bad and it can be cleaned and standardized. Transactional history too is valuable. Even if a new approach will result in significant changes, there are a number of options to store and retrieve the data using external reporting solutions. There is user acceptance, demand and understanding for the processes and willingness to improve them. Someone put a lot of effort to load that creative data.
Be honest about the bad. The first step of the improvement process identified the good. Now it is time to name the bad and the ugly. The data…let’s just say that creativity and self-initiative do not always work when setting up a master parts list. The cycle count accuracy is painful, stockouts are rampant as are related shipping costs, the plant shut down because critical parts were not available (true anonymous story, more on that later). Users are not happy with the screens and clicks and would use their creative energies to circumvent the established processes. Side note: never, ever underestimate the creative genius of the users. Like everything else, it can be a force for good or chaos, so try to harness it for the side of light.
Where do you want to be. The first two steps of the analysis are what business schools call “current state”. The next step is the “desired state”. What do you want your materials management process to look like? What are the tangible and intangible benefits you are trying to achieve? Reduce missed opportunities in purchasing (times you bought a part you could have transferred from another location), maintain critical parts availability, control inventory costs, gain control of inventory functions from underperforming vendor, understand material costs for equipment…it is a long list. It is important to prioritize the deliverables for the desired state in accordance with the strategic needs of the company. You do need to justify the project budget and often upper management might have different priorities and needs.
How do you get there. This is the actual “gap” step of business school gap analysis. What do you need to move from the current state to the desired one. Money is a given. There are other resources you would likely need, such as services, core team, custom processes and tools, analytics output. Intangibles, such as strong upper management support are a crucial and often overlooked gap measure.
Material foundation. The steps above are general enough to be applicable to any business scenario. The system design review we will discuss is specific to HxGN EAM and pertains to new installations as well as optimization projects. It always starts with Install parameters review. The Material Foundation Decisions for HxGN EAM article of the Material Matters series will discuss the most important install parameters and multi-org entity settings for HxGN EAM and the impact they have on the materials management process.
Clean up the act. Customers with existing parts list data usually struggle with the idea of attempting to clean up the master material list. Sometimes it is indeed to write it off and start from fresh. Whatever the approach, analysis of the existing data and how it can be leveraged is essential. There are plenty of tools and approaches to help with this task. The Clean it up article will discuss common data clean up strategies we have successfully implemented for our customers and looks at existing tools and recommended approaches. We will also share some of the queries we used for evaluating the data in HxGN EAM.
Names matter. Proper nomenclature and standardization of data is one of the often overlooked aspects of system projects. Accurate reporting and finding a part are just the most intuitive benefits, but the real effects of this effort go deeper and can have significant impact on all materials management processes. It is not necessary to start with a clean slate. It is possible (we have done it a number of times) to implement proper nomenclature on existing data. The Part Names Matter article will go into the details of how to approach this aspect of the project. We will also share some of the approaches we have successfully used with customers in the past.
Make it your own. HxGN EAM (and all major EAM systems) are perfectly capable of handling most material management tasks out of the box. All the same, a system and process will most likely need to be customized to fit the specifics of the company deliverables. The Make it Your Own article will cover our experience and suggestions for typical material management system customizations for HxGN EAM. These days there are a number of technical options, such as seamless Microsoft 365 integrations with active feedback to the EAM, mobile tools and system process customizations that truly transform the EAM capabilities.
Bring it together. A clean, well organized parts catalogue and storeroom data is only the foundation of a good materials management process. In order to be able to perform inventory transactions inside an EAM you need to have the relevant stock and purchasing data so you can keep the processes going. Some customers choose to use the EAM purchasing functions to handle the procurement process; others use dedicated enterprise applications. It is not uncommon to have several procurement systems involved in the process. Integrating an EAM with a procurement application is a relatively straightforward project, and most mainstream applications have well defined APIs for that purpose. All the same, there are a number of intricacies that would need to be considered. The Bring it Together article in this series will discuss the purchasing integration options for HxGN EAM, the key decisions and potential issues that customers should be aware of.
The Data Conundrum. At the end of the day a system is widely measured by users based on the quality of data it can produce. The good news is that these days there are a number of outstanding reporting and analytics options for HxGN EAM (and other major EAM systems). The Data Conundrum article of the Material Matters series discusses the most common report outputs and reporting options. We will talk about Cognos but spend more of our time looking at the external reporting options, as well as common KPIs and benchmarks.
Keep a good thing going. Complacency is one of the primary reasons why a well implemented system often fails in the mid to long term. Material management processes for EAM are no exception. In the Keep a Good Thing Going article we will highlight the common strategies for continuous monitoring and improvement of the materials management process in an EAM and discuss the red flags for potential issues.
The list can indeed look daunting. So many issues to consider, analyze, map out and document. Depending on the nature of the project – new system implementation, roll out in existing system, optimization of current setup the approach and tasks will naturally vary. When working with existing processes in particular, it is difficult to envision all the steps and the support structure for them – data analysis for obsolete records, identifying duplicates, nomenclature templates, etc. The good news is that virtually anything such a project might entail has already been done in one form or another and there are a number of blueprints and guides available. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions or need a template or recommendation. Chances are even if we don’t have it, we will be able to find a solution for you.
Krassi Mihaylova is a project manager and business analyst at Cimmira with over 20 years of experience in the EAM industry. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org