Posted by: Sujoy Das | July 15, 2010

Tea Plantation Software: Common Implementation Problems

I would like to discuss today some common implementation problems with ERP software at the tea estates,  most of which could easily be  avoided with proper planning  at the outset:

Manpower

While an ERP software is being implemented,  the old system whether on a computer or being maintained manually will have to continue. In this scenario, if there is no manpower planning, the staff would have to enter data on the legacy systems as well as enter data on the new system. This would in fact double the work load of the staff and in reality the new system would suffer and would invariably go into a back log of data entry. This is happening in a lot of gardens where we are implementing today.  The solution:  take in a couple of data entry operators on a contract basis for a short period say 2-3 months to assist the existing team so long as the systems are running in parallel. Once the legacy systems are discontinued,  these contract operators would no longer be needed and the existing staff of the garden could handle the work load.

Computer Hardware

This often happens – the garden has a number of old computers which it does not want to upgrade or discard and uses these for running the ERP. In most cases the systems are old, slow, have less memory and poor processing power. The ERP does not run well at all and the garden suffers delays in entry and processing. The solution:  the management should take an inventory of the existing systems to establish if they are suitable for the ERP program or not. If they are not suitable or cannot be upgraded then these will have to be discarded and new hardware brought in.  Further malfunctioning hardware like printers, UPS etc will have to be serviced and set right before the work starts.  Often this decision is taken after running the ERP for some months causing further delay to the implementation process.

Anti Virus

A popular refrain from the garden: I am using a free anti virus off the web, why should I buy a licensed anti virus? For proper security and safeguard of data a good licensed anti virus is needed. Usually the management puts off this decision until the systems are fully affected by virus and then goes in for a licensed product. The result – delays in implementation and possible loss of data as well.

Availability of source data

“I have not taken the census for the last five years so I can’t give you an updated census book” –  a Manager recently informed me.  Before implementation, the census will have to be updated so that employee and dependent data can be correctly processed in the  new system.  The estate should discuss with the ERP company what data is needed to start the system and collect/prepare this data before the software is installed so that there are no delays on this account. We often find that common information like account masters, activity masters, stores item masters are not ready and this delays the implementation process.

Resistance to change

” My old system used to give me reports in a particular way so why wont I get it from the new system” – a very common refrain from the garden! It is highly unlikely that the new system being implemented will  match the old system in every way. There will be differences in setup, differences in the way data is entered, new entry screens to be learnt afresh and new reporting formats which will in all probability give the information which the garden needs but possibly in a different way.  But the sad truth is that the Manager downwards is reluctant to change and learn afresh. So the constant pressure on the ERP company to modify/generate reports to match the old system. The result – delays due to new programs having to be written, additional cost burden on the garden often leading  disputes with the software company and a general feeling that the old system was possibly better than the new one! So what is the solution to this? The garden has to go through the new system with a fine tooth comb before placing the order. If there are additional requirements at the garden end it should be communicated at the time of placing the order. Usually this is not done by the garden and as a result at the time of implementation these issues are raised which further delays the entire process.

Discipline

” I usually ring up my suppliers and get the materials – bills etc come later” a Factory Assistant of  a well known garden informed me.  ” So what will happen in your system? ” he continued. Simple – my system wont work as I have no information regarding quantities and rates, especially rates.  The estate  has to accept that if they want to implement  an ERP system then they  need to exercise some discipline in their operating procedure. An ERP by it’s very nature has certain checks and balances in-built which will need to be followed or the system will not run. If an estate wishes to continue to operate without a  proper  process and controls, then the ERP will not be of much use.

I welcome suggestions and comments on this post from Managers and tea companies on their own experiences with software implementation.


Responses

  1. Great post! Gives the reasons why software does not always work in the tea garden. Keep up the good work!

  2. Dear Sujoy,
    Thank you for this post. I too notice these points almost everywhere where these systems have been introduced by whichever software company.
    I am glad that you have put it down the way you have. It will help companies going in for new systems to use this check list & correct the shortcomings, rather that putting the blame on the software.
    Thanks
    Harki Sidhu


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