Road Bumps

By Baselinemag Print this article Print

Brady Corporation CEO Katherine Hudson knew that before she overhauled the "high performance" label-making company she had to look at the people who ran the operation first.

Road Bumps

Data also bit back. Brady's first launch of Eclipse in October 2000 was marred by incorrect master data, which caused a 25% increase in backlogs. In one case, 25 label cards were ordered and Brady sent out 25 boxes. Shipped-on-time performance lagged to 80% for most plants, down from a norm of 95%.

As this went on, Brady was late uploading data to the Variant Configurator, which then spewed out incorrect price quotes. These errors were caught before any major disasters, but it took time to fix. At the same time, workers were putting inaccurate data into the ATP system. Some orders ended up being delivered weeks late.

"There was a learning curve there that took longer than what we thought it was going to take," says Schroeder. "So service levels dropped, and call wait-times increased."

Customers jammed up on the phone during the U.S. "go lives"—the actual initiation of the company's SAP software and its reengineered business processes—and got a recorded message pointing customers to new product information on the company's Web site.

Pete Biocini, president of R.S. Hughes, a distributor and major customer for Brady, said his company weathered the "hiccups."

"There were some abandoned calls and some long call wait-times at first, but those were resolved," says Biocini, who added that he's seen similar problems with other suppliers during SAP transitions. "It's like moving a household, you have to pack and unpack the boxes and a few things get temporarily misplaced."

In later launches, Brady loaded master data seven months ahead of time, made sure the data was accurate, and thus largely avoided repeats of the same problems.

"It's not realistic to say we will have a zero performance dip," says McElfresh. But, "I can count on my fingers the number of companies that had similar success and need a bucket for those that experienced a major dip."

Brady depended heavily on training to drive change throughout the company. For the first go-live of Eclipse, educating workers in all process areas largely failed. From sales reps to accountants to shop-floor engineers, SAP's stringent demand for clean data and unalterable processes left no room for error. If a worker put incorrect information into the master data file, the whole process was affected

In one instance, a factory worker mistakenly typed an order for two yards of label material from a supplier— instead of 200 yards. The mistake led to problems all the way down the production line.

Schroeder says the best single piece of advice the team received from other companies, like Northern Indiana Brass Company, was that you cannot train too much.

"Their message was, set your budget for training, double it, and when times start getting tough, never cut a penny from the training budget," he says.

Brady spent about $1,500 per employee on training at the outset of Eclipse. Despite the initial 60 days of training per employee that was done, "it just wasn't enough," says Cullen. Employees often didn't know what screen to go to, or how to link one product order to another because of the complexities of the new SAP platform.

You also need the right experts doing the training. In many instances, the wrong "subject matter expert" was chosen—either someone with too little authority over a process or who didn't know enough. If the experts weren't up to speed, training suffered, says Global Process Leader Maureen Casey.

This article was originally published on 2002-05-15
eWeek eWeek

Have the latest technology news and resources emailed to you everyday.