One of the Most common thoughts or comments that we have heard over the past year has been "We are waiting for our ERP implementation to stabilize then we are going to look at Lean." While multiple Strategic Initiatives can certainly be a scary thought one without the other may leave you feeling like a crash test dummy.
In the Most general sense of the topic we can assume that ERP/MRP focuses on the Information side of a Value Stream. We all know that Job Shop and Intermittent manufacturing environments produce an obscure amount of information waste and certainly being able to automate and supercharge that part of the Value Stream can and will produce great results for any user if their efforts are aligned correctly. But let's play with the idea for one second, If a car is crashed into a wall with a supercharger, does the result change? Well most likely yes, the damage is much more severe than if it was traveling at a reasonable rate. Similar to this concept ERP/MRP without Lean often times sends information flow slamming into a brick wall. It helps to understand that everything even information is susceptible to a Takt time in one respect or another. Infact often times when activities are performed at a faster rate than they should be we begin to make visible the wastes of Mura and Muri, which in turn causes an organization to fall even more out of alignment.
Likewise it is often Visible when companies attack the Value Stream with such activities as Cycle time reduction and SMED projects but do not address the issues that naturally come with any ERP/MRP implementation, you know the garbage in garbage out principle, you inadvertently create materials that are not as accurately tracked leaving KPI's and Metrics susceptible to inaccuracy. Although Agile concepts can be applied to Networks and Enterprise/Material resource planning systems Organizations most often don't address these major systemic issues. Just think for a second MRP gives us time phased requirements which suggest to the user what they need to produce to fulfill current demand, but these requirements are often driven by inaccurate lead times, non existent wait times and cycle times that aren't even estimated well. The point is this Information side of the Value Stream can receive Lean Concepts and principles too, but only if we address it.
One other Key element that often get's set aside is that information in ERP/MRP is either "informative" or action orientated. What does this mean? Well, we check the system to either gather information and "check things out" or we check the system to receive "exceptions." Exceptions are action orientated promptings that suggest to us something needs to be done, keep in mind these exceptions are based on various elements of data that is placed in the ERP system, if this information is not correct the exceptions may/will create additional waste in an Organization.
In Summary, MRP/ERP applications can and will yield powerful Turbocharged results in many different ways, however unlike Lean it is our stance that it may leave you feeling like a crash test dummy when the initiative is implemented without Lean Strategy and Tactics. MRP/ERP may tell you if a product has become discrepant, sits for to long, or needs to be released, but it will not prevent quality issues like Poka Yoke, It will not correct the exception based message without action and certainly if a routing, process or bill of material is incorrect ERP/MRP can not correct it unless there is action by the user. Although you may end up with a powerful "System" in place quite certainly if the "System" in terms of Organizational system does not have standards and a Culture of Continuous Improvement you will certainly at one point or another slam into a wall.