business leaders meeting

By: Thomas Miller and Stephen  Salata 

During the virtual PowerPlex 2021 conference, Thomas Miller, director, and Stephen Salata, manager in Baker Tilly’s Enterprise Manufacturing and Operations Solutions group presented “Optimizing Plex to Maximize Value.” In the presentation, they discussed how companies invest significant resources – both in terms of dollars and people – to implement Plex, but often they overlook opportunities to create additional value.

These  opportunities  include people, process and technology improvements. By utilizing a defined optimization approach, companies can identify gaps in  their  systems and processes,  and  develop and implement plans to address them. In turn, this helps the companies achieve additional value across a variety of critical areas. 

Optimization triggers 

We have highlighted six key warning signs that your company needs some form of Plex optimization to  more efficiently run your business: 

  • Reports require manual intervention – With today’s technology, you should not be spending time manually editing reports either for format or content. Plex has a massive library of reports and tools that can help you get the information you need in the format you require. 
  • Customer order delivery promises are not reliable – You should know exactly when you can ship an order based on your current production schedules,  capacity,  and  raw materials  and inventory. When those factors are not clear, there is room for optimization.  
  • Inventory adjustments are frequent – If you aren’t running an  inventory adjustments  report on a regular basis, you should be doing so. These reports show if people on the shop floor are following best practices or if they are taking shortcuts.  
  • Cost/month-end closing large variance – If  you’re  seeing large variances at month-end, there is likely a root cause (or multiple causes) that should be addressed immediately. 
  • Disparate and external systems are in use – If  you’re  running Plex, you should not need a lot  of other systems to support your business. Plex can help you reduce your IT footprint by eliminating other programs that are redundant  with Plex, or with each other. 
  • Processes require offline tools (Excel, etc.) – If you are performing work offline in Excel,  those activities should be evaluated  to determine whether they can be  performed in Plex. 

Optimization methodology  

If  you’re  interested in identifying and implementing optimization opportunities, we recommend a four-stage  methodology that  begins with  an “assess” stage, followed by “identify” and “prioritize” and finally “confirm.” In further detail, the stages – which can apply to people, process or technology – allow the user to: 

  • Assess  optimization opportunities:  
    - Identify stakeholders for  planning  meetings 
    - Gain common understanding of organization’s goals and objectives 
    - Define  optimization  prioritization criteria 
    - Facilitate stakeholder interviews to  identify  issues, pain points and opportunities 
    - Determine software and methods used to execute process steps 
  • Identify  optimization opportunities: 
    - Document findings from stakeholder interviews 
    - Review key business processes for further assessment areas 
    - Finalize software and systems used to executive process steps 
    - Confirm preliminary findings for potential optimization and improvement opportunities  
  • Prioritize  optimization opportunities: 
    - Confirm  optimization  prioritization criteria 
    - Analyze optimization and improvement opportunities, and develop recommendations 
    - Determine iterative prioritization and finalization of opportunities 
    - Build business cases (if applicable) 
  • Confirm  optimization opportunities: 
    - Develop proposed roadmap and recommendations 
    - Present findings 
    - Confirm recommendations and develop go-forward plans 

Optimization opportunities 

Once you have identified Plex optimization opportunities, we  typically classify  them  into two categories: those that optimize in-use modules and  those  that implement new modules. 

Regarding the optimization of in-use modules,  the issues that we see most commonly  see  are  in areas such as  workflow and security; PRP/MRP  (planning/scheduling); SCAR tie out and inventory imbalances; data cleanliness; and  engineering  routing and BOM structures. We recommend five steps to help you implement key changes in these areas. 

  • Conduct planning workshops to review issues/opportunities –  Find out from the SMEs what pain points they  are experiencing 
  • Review current PCN configuration –  Identify what settings need to be changed 
  • Test PCN configuration changes –  Update the settings and test the changes 
  • Train SMEs –  Make sure that SMEs have the necessary skills and training to  perform  their tasks 
  • Implement changes –  Put the  changes in place 

As far as new modules are concerned, the  opportunities that we see are in areas such as project accounting, IIOT, preventative maintenance, ECR, advanced quality,  and Mach 2. With these opportunities in mind, the  seven steps that we recommend you  take  before  implementing  changes of this nature are: 

  • Conduct planning workshops to review issues/opportunities –  Find out from the SMEs what pain points they are experiencing 
  • Configure PCN for new modules –  Prepare the PCN for new  settings and modules 
  • Review functionality –  Perform pilot runs and evaluate  the functionality to begin  educating the team 
  • Convert data –  Load new data  or update existing data 
  • Perform testing –  Validate  the functionality works as intended, and resolve any issues 
  • Train SMEs –  Train the end users who will be the ones using the  module 
  • Cutover –  Put  the changes in place, and launch the new modules 

When you  evaluate  implementing  new models, consider these implementations within the context of being low, medium and high  level  of effort  opportunities.  

  • Low effort –  Advanced HR, fixed assets or project accounting 
  • Medium effort –  Enterprise financials, IIOT, preventative maintenance, project management and tool tracking 
  • High effort –  Advanced quality, banking integration, Engineering Change Requests (ECRs) and Mach 2 

Whether the opportunities are low, medium or high  effort, the benefits are clear.  Optimization helps make processes more efficient  and  automated,  and helps  companies achieve additional value that ultimately saves them time, energy and money. 

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