One of the most common questions we get from both prospects and customers is how long does a new ERP implementation take. The answer is simple: It depends.
That’s not an answer most people want to hear. But it’s true. Installing a new ERP system produces many variables that may affect how long the project will take. And since every manufacturer is different, each has their own set of variables.
Since there’s no true answer to how long it takes to implement an ERP system, let’s look at the variables that affect the project length. I mentioned these variables in a blog post a few weeks ago, but let’s expand upon this topic.
Here are four ways time is relative when installing a new ERP system:
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First variable: Seasonality
Some manufacturers deal in everyday objects — things that are important in December as they are in July. There’s never a time consumers don’t need a toothbrush, a vacuum cleaner, a toaster oven or a roll of paper towels. Because there is a constant need for these goods, usually there’s never a time when a manufacturer is busier than other times.
However, there are other manufacturers that have major swings in production due to the seasonality of their merchandise. There are only a few times of year when parkas, plastic Easter eggs, bathing suits, and Halloween costumes are popular with consumers. When production ramps up, most other projects are put on the back burner until things calm down again.
This type of seasonality can be a major variable in the length of time it takes to implement a new ERP system. If a coat manufacturer signs on in September to implement a new ERP system, they may not hit the ground running on the project until the spring because most of the company’s focus will be on the upswing in production. This is a common occurrence, even for seasonal manufacturers, especially for those with an October-to-September fiscal year.
While a manufacturer of everyday goods may be able to complete a new ERP implementation in six months’ time from the time they sign on the bottom line, a seasonal manufacturer may need to work around high production, adding to the length of a project.
Second variable: Availability of internal and external resources
As part of a successful ERP implementation, people from the software partner and the manufacturer must be assigned to the project. Also, both internal and external resources must be dedicated to the implementation to make sure the project goes as smoothly as possible.
But as we all know, despite our best intentions, our personal life can interfere with our work life. Even the most dedicated employee may find themselves with the flu and be put out of commission for a week. If that one person is a major part of the implementation team, it could put the project a week off schedule.
That’s just one week off schedule, but other things can get in the way of more than one person at a time. During the late spring and summer, people with children may be attending graduations or family vacations. During the holidays, we at Practical Software Solutions have flipped our office Christmas party between weekends because employees with children have so many weekends taken up with different parties, Christmas shopping, or school pageants. That’s just a single party — now imagine trying to schedule implementation work with no absences during this time of year.
These types of delays may not be as long as missing an entire season, but it could be the difference between an ERP implementation finishing on time and being a couple of weeks late.
Third variable: Components
Many modern, integrated ERP systems are modular, meaning they can be installed in parts or in whole. This makes it easier to implement a system in stages. For seasonal manufacturers, we often implement the financial component for Sage Enterprise Management first, then when their busy season winds down, we proceed with manufacturing components and other modules.
Also, sometimes smaller manufacturers may need only the manufacturing component. Or, a company may already have the financial component of an ERP system, and after a few years’ growth they want to add more functionality.
If one company only wants to implement one component, and another wants to implement an entire ERP system, they will have vastly different timelines.
Fourth variable: Sophistication of the system and business
As the sophistication of both the manufacturer and the ERP system grows, so does the length of time it takes to implement it.
When a small manufacturer is first starting out, a simple solution (like Sage 50 or QuickBooks) download may have that company up and running within an hour. A medium-sized manufacturer with one large location will need a good-sized ERP system, which will take much longer to implement their software package. A large manufacturer with multiple locations will need even more time to make sure all of its sites are on board with the entire project.
When it comes to determining the time it takes to implement a new ERP system, we would like to tell our customers “it will take exactly 12 weeks to implement any system.” But with all the variables involved in this type of project, it’s impossible to have a standard answer.
However, by having a proper implementation methodology, a customized plan can be worked out to find out how long it would take your company to implement a new ERP system.