I felt that some complex subjects also should be known to more people; hence, I have tried to use the least possible technical language while explaining ERP.
In my software business, we had developed an ERP called DMS, Dealership Management Systems. It was specially designed for vehicle manufacturers’ dealers. I am sure many of you may have used similar software, and a few of you may have taken part in developing such systems. Many of you may have taken part in implementing such systems. World leaders in this field are SAP. After SAP are Microsoft Dynamics, Oracle et al.
Enterprise resource planning (ERP) is the integrated management of core business processes, often in real-time and made easier by software and technology. ERP is usually referred to as a sub set of business-management software — typically a suite of integrated applications—that an organisation can use to collect, store, manage and interpret data from many business activities.
You must be wondering how come I have switched from blogging to share information about a technical subject. But remember that all the grocers, chemists, restaurants, cigarette vendors almost everybody needs ERP. This ERP that I am talking about is not a software. But people track things manually, or they have information in their mind. Every business must know about stock, consumption, money receivable and money payable and many such things.
When I go to my chemist, he still does not use an ERP, anything that is sold by him is noted down in a notebook. I am sure he must be maintaining his daily stock in some chopdi. Every day morning, he must be balancing his stock book, ordering the items. He must be aware of the delivery time and consumption pattern of various items. With this data, at least with my chemists, it is very rare that he does not have required medicines in stock. Or else he must be overstocking it! It will create a problem for him because he may not have money available to pay to his vendors on time. To avoid such situations, these folks are busy from morning 9 am to 11 pm, with a quick lunch break in between. They keep on tallying figures manually what an ERP does automatically.
When I go to grocers, again, it is the same situation. Their shop and Warehouse, I am sure, is always well–stocked. Still, the same story will be repeated with him. One thing is sure you need to do is to keep track of these things either formally or informally. Formal tracking is done by ERP’s.
ERP’s are used by large, medium and small-scale organisations. When the business software started evolving, initially there were separate software modules for Purchase, Sales, Stores, Production, Accounting, HR departments, and so on. In such cases, tracking and interlinking of everything must have been onerous and cumbersome.
IN DMS, when a vehicle is sold by the dealer, its inquiry is the beginning of the process of sell. When the Invoice is created by the vehicle manufacturer, the vehicle is born outside the dealer system. But for vehicle manufacturer’s internal system, it is born when the vehicle is produced, and the unique chassis number is allocated to it. The beauty of the ERP is that once the vehicle is born and dealers use ERP, the unique chassis number is never required to be entered in the system. It is always retrieved from the data available. This number is used to create an invoice on the dealer (Through SAP), to create an invoice on the customer, to create job card in the workshop, to create warranty claim, to create coupon claim. It is also required to process parts orders for accidental vehicles. Any error in punching chassis number would have created linking issue; followed by emails and phone calls and so on! ERP has solved such problems permanently.
We developed the ERP for dealers of vehicle manufacturers. We always got our software approved by the vehicle manufacturers, so that all the business and statutory rules were followed by dealers. I am not going to write about technology or technical aspects or complexities of coding etc.
Our ERP had CRM for basic inquiry management for the vehicles, Sales module for Vehicles and Spares, Workshop management, Accounting, small HR module. For exporting vehicles out of India, the system could handle complete inquiry and Sales aspect. A customer suggested that local dealers should not be allowed access to Export chassis and parts. Export vehicles were sent to the Docks by road. On the way to the docks, sometimes there was a need for workshop support. We had to design a system by which dealers were given access to specific export chassis, based on an incident. It was under the control of vehicle manufacturers.
For a vehicle to be repaired under warranty, it had to be under specific km or engine hours. But in real life, this never happens. Hence, we suggested that there should be tolerance provided for distance travelled or hours of engine usage. There was one more issue in this. Sometimes odometer (it displays the total distance travelled in its lifetime ) was required to be changed in between, during the warranty period. It worked usually, but for the warranty system, we had to store and add old odometer reading plus current odometer reading.
There was one situation which we named a Mudflap incident. After the work was performed in the workshop, invoice created and paid for; the person would say, “Oh! I forgot to tell you about Mudflap change”. Such an issue or something similar was a very common issue, but we always found a solution by tweaking the design!
Following two examples are from the system sold to private workshops. One tricky but the real-life problem had to be handled, especially in the car segment. Many a time the car was sent by the owners with the drivers for repair. These drivers would demand some cash from garages. Now, this is a tricky situation. We created a procedure. If the driver required Rs.1000/, then the system would issue parts worth Rs.1000/ in the Job card. However, the system only included those parts for the billing purpose. But it was never considered in the inventory.
One thing we learned from this system. Users know the use of the system better than people like us who develop the system. One day one of our customers called to thank me. I said that it was our job to provide excellent software. He told me that your new procedure could be used beneficially in engine overhauling procedure. He said, “What we do is when we overhaul an engine, at least 50% parts are reused. We show that these parts are also as “issued” for billing purpose only, though they were reused!” We never knew that we had created this procedure for the engine overhauling purpose — this facility we never provided in the “official” software of vehicle manufacturers for obvious reasons.
There was a misconception about vehicle history. History is for the chassis number and NOT for the customer. Vehicles do get resold, but their history does not change. Many parts get changed during repairs, but chassis number is never replaced.
In the DMS for vehicle manufacturers, we had done a lot of automation. Dealers created purchase orders, warranty claims from DMS to send to SAP. We had created a system by which this processing followed a workflow and was approved by vehicle manufacturers engineers. At this stage, these documents were called SAP ready. SAP ready documents would go to SAP at pre-scheduled intervals and would be updated in SAP. It reduced the workload on the vehicle manufacturer’s staff of punching the data in SAP.
Similarly, a lot of data like Master data, Invoices, credit notes was sent from SAP to DMS. This data was DMS ready at the SAP side and would be pushed into DMS at prescheduled intervals. This data also got updated in ERP on dealer side saving a lot of time in punching the data.
I think I am going a little too much into details but what I want to say is that the software like ERP makes life easy for users, creates a lot of information from the data in the form of reports, minimises errors, makes everything available live! It helps everybody to take decisions on time, thereby providing proper service to customers and helps improve profitability as correct up to date information is always available.
Now in the last ten years or so, EV’s, driverless car systems collect massive data from the vehicles. The voluminous data has given birth to a new field called data science! This is a totally different field as it captures the vehicle data directly. ERP is about the commercial side of the vehicles, whereas data science will purely handle the technical side of vehicles.
To conlude, I only hope that I have tried to explain the process in as simple language as possible. My friends from technical background will of course ask questions but my non-technical friends, feel free to ask me more details.