Food processing software implementation can be a harrowing experience for any food manufacturer, the go-live phase being considered the most difficult part in the entire process. One reason for this is that most food processing companies opt for the “big bang” go-live method, which involves rolling out all the modules and moving all the departments to the new system at the same time.
Unlike “parallel” and “phased” go-live approaches, the “big bang” method allows manufacturers to avoid repetitive disruptions in the production process, helping them prevent significant financial loss. Though this approach makes sense for most food processing companies, it’s riskier than the other two alternatives. Since the go-live phase can be scheduled well in advance between two production cycles, potential risks don’t relate to recurring downtime, but to:
- Inability to revert to the old system if something goes wrong – Within several hours after a new food processing software solution goes live, reverting to the original system is no longer a viable option. Additionally, since we’re talking about fully integrated software, there is a high risk of damaging the whole company, as specific failures in some parts of the system can affect other areas, paralyzing the entire business activity.
- Loss of critical business data – Exactly what data is migrated to the new system along with the level of detail represents a critical aspect for a food manufacturer. Recipes along with formulations in which the type and amount of ingredients vary based on the desired output, bills of materials, customer and supplier information, pricing data, open transactions, beginning balances, routings, conversion factors, and historical data, including sales history, are vital elements not only for the success of an ERP implementation initiative, but also for business continuity. Since data migration can be done following a “phased” approach, the vendor implementing the software can opt for a multiple-stage migration process, each phase being tested separately to ensure data accuracy.
- Difficulty to perform end-to-end testing – If the individual components of a food processing software solution don’t work well together, the system won’t operate satisfactorily. During the “phased” approach, the vendor can test the system after each phase of the implementation process and address errors gradually. Conversely, the “big bang” approach is more complex, requiring vendors to perform end-to-end testing and fix a large number of issues that may arise simultaneously, which may cause implementation failure.
The main problem with the “big bang” approach is that most issues are usually detected after the go-live date, when food manufacturers start to run new production batches. Since no go-live is perfect, this bold initiative may result in unplanned downtime, with perishable ingredients ending up in the dumpster and huge operating costs added to the production process.
Kellogg Had Three; Hershey Had One
What are we talking about? In short, food processing software implementation failures. Learning from failed implementations is one of the best things food manufacturing CIOs can do to identify potential problems and prevent their initiatives from falling short of expectations.
What did Kellogg and Hershey do wrong? While Kellogg opted for a heavily customized system, which not only demanded intense and costly maintenance but also prevented the company from taking advantage of full system functionality, Hershey’s execs decided to cut the implementation time-frame from 48 to 30 months. The result? Kellogg needed to create a new IT environment from scratch and choose another ERP software solution; Hershey lost multiple orders, totaling $100 million.
How can you ensure a successful food processing software implementation? Here are a few takeaways:
- plan and schedule the entire implementation process, including the go-live phase;
- never cut corners; though taking shortcuts may save you time in the short run, it could cost you a lot if unforeseen system errors occur;
- get ready for testing and downtime associated;
- choose the right vendor, who really understands your business and can walk you through each stage of the implementation process.