When I was a young lad studying industrial engineering, nobody could have dreamed that what we were studying would one day be called Enterprise Resource Planning. Well, it's not exactly the same thing, but close enough to make the point. Industrial Engineering is the study of management science: how to make systems work better, flow easier and maximize profits. At its heart, this is what Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) is all about too. And those of us who go ga ga over ERP systems want nothing more than this outcome for our clients as well. My clients are manufacturers of custom architectural stone, and boy do they need what ERP can do for them.
Let's start out by identifying the number one problem facing the custom architectural stone producer when considering how to automate their workflow (i.e. bring in an ERP system)
These products are engineered to order - On the day our customer commits to a price to fabricate a job, they don't really know what they're going to make or how much of it they're going to have to deliver. Peculiar, right? Well, what happens is that even though an architect has designed the custom stone product and 'specified' its performance requirements, our customer has only estimated the overall quantity they have to provide based on the construction drawings. So part of the process our customer has to engage in is the confirmation of the exact design the architect had in mind, as well as documenting exactly how much material is required to be produced. Our customer does this by preparing a series of drawings called Shop Drawings for the architect to review and approve. And not only do these shop drawings need to confirm design intent, they need to incorporate the structural aspects of the product which the producer knows needs to be built into the design so that the product performs safely on the building. There is a lot of information here, and an ERP system is the ideal way to manage this information.
In my examination of ERP platforms, I've found that Microsoft Dynamics NAV is particularly well suited for this approach. The bottom line with NAV is that it is very customizable. You have a lot of flexibility with the code and with the method of processing the order. In this business, it's really about the refinement of information that we need to capture in an ERP system. Starting out with estimated quantities, we need a tool that allows us to capture the information we have at the beginning of the process and continue to develop and refine that information until it's ready for scheduling, production and delivery. Because of complexities in construction scheduling, we also need a tool which gives us the flexibility to produce and deliver partial or phased portions of our orders. ERP is for sure what is required here to manage all this information, and NAV is the best tool we've found to make it happen.
Alan Barr is a partner at PerfectJob ERP Systems. PerfectJob is a proprietary customization of Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2013 designed especially for the custom stone industry. Learn more at
By Alan Barr, PerfectJob ERP Systems