Tag Archives: ERP

Notes on Scheduling and Costing in CSI/Syteline

We had some initial struggles getting running on our CSI implementation so we started with one of our smaller operations. We had very little guidance with several nuances with the package (it’s a long story that’s not fit for print) so I’m going to touch upon them here, but, the overarching rule is thus: routers need to be correct so that both costing and scheduling is correct. If the routers are bad, both the costing and scheduling will not work as designed in CSI.

To begin, all manufactured parts in CSI need a router to be setup up in Current Operations and Current Materials. In other systems these are called the “job templates”, though in CSI there is only one ‘true template’. I will point out that this mostly applies to the APS flow in an actual costed environment. I do suppose that it is possible to use a standard costed system and ignore the scheduler and in that case perhaps the ‘Currents’ are not needed. However, I think that is still bad form since the system will then not have a baseline to compare actual production values to. It is possible for the numbers to be compared to the standard but the standard is just an educated guess made by an, no doubt talented, accountant while the “planned cost” that is derived from the router is a ‘guess’ made by production.

Properly constructed routers have another benefit too: if the job cost variance report shows a very odd “planned cost” then that probably means that there is an issue with the router that may show up in scheduling the job. In this way production and accounting get actionable data out of the same single data set.

As well, this planned cost is critical in an actual costed environment. In CSI if a partial job quantity is moved in to inventory, how does CSI know how to cost it since not all the costs have been incurred on the job? The answer: it uses that planned cost. Thus it is critically important that the planned be as close to the actual as possible (think of it like a standard cost that isn’t actually standard). When the job is closed out the difference between the planned and the actual is sent to the inventory adjustment account in CSI. The correct sequence for inventory moves when using actual costing in CSI then is:

  • If the job is being moved into inventory complete, then close the job and move the inventory at the same time.
  • If there have been any partial moves from the job into inventory, then move all the parts as partial and close the job out separately (within the Job Orders form).

I found the operation and tuning of APS itself pretty straightforward with two notable exceptions:

  1. Forecasting does not work. Well, I take that back, there are a narrow set of circumstances where the Forecasting function might work but I’ve been unable to find anyone that it would work for. The workaround for this is to put a bogus sales order into the system that serves as the forecast (and manually deducting the forecast as its consumed).
  2. APS handles Setup times very poorly in that it doesn’t roll the Setup resource group off of the job after the setup is complete. Part of this probably has to do with the fact that CSI has no way to know if a setup is complete. The workaround for this is to put the setup on the router as a separate operation. This can lead to some wonky views in the scheduler since there is no guarantee that the machine being setup is the same one that will be doing the run, BUT, the throughput will be correct.

We also ran into two other issues that were no fault of the package. In one instance, some of our routers were very inaccurate and it was very difficult to get them fixed so the planning people resorted to marking the parts as MRP which forces APS to use whatever lead time it is told. The other issue had to do with a change in methodology since it’s important that the operations are closed out as they are completed, otherwise APS leaves the whole time scheduled. This was something we had to work on with the employees so that they knew when (and when not) to close out an operation.

ERP Evaluation

It was a bit of a slog but we recently finished our implementation/conversion to Infor’s Cloudsuite Industrial (aka CSI, aka Syteline). Our legacy products were JDE, Mas90 (aka Sage 100 ERP), and JobBOSS. Before I get into some of the nitty-gritty I wanted use this post to go over our evaluation process.

First, we arrived at the decision to implement a new package for a variety of reasons:

  1. Our implementation of JDE was running on server software which would soon be completely unsupported, making it difficult for us to secure it and have the package still be usable. It was also prohibitively expensive to upgrade for a company of our size.
  2. We had grown through acquisition so now there were a couple different packages to manage.
  3. We’re an audited company and the accounting functions within the JobBOSS package made an already tedious process more painful that it should be.
  4. In some ways we had outgrown JobBOSS. In particular the scheduling functionality was quite inadequate with what we were trying to accomplish

We started, of course, by evaluating several different packages. It’s interesting and disappointing that these packages all have an easily deployed Demo environment, but none of them will let you touch the package until you purchase it. In lieu of first hand usage we were left with working from a spreadsheet with our criteria on it with various ratings. If a package didn’t meet some criteria, like tracking machine time, it was a deal breaker, while other items, like the ability to track incentive pay, were preferred but not enough by themselves to rule out a package.

As an aside, while preparing for this process I went through various articles on the Internet and some of them said that such checklists aren’t really a requirement since any ERP can be modified to do what you want them to do. This is obviously consultant talk and, more or less, a lie. For instance, some systems didn’t support actual costing, and what would be the fix for that? Rewriting nearly the entire ERP package?

Anyway, this is where the lack of a demo came back to bite some of the contenders since we ended up favoring a package we at least had some first hand knowledge of (having previously owned old plants that used an ancient version of Syteline). All the ERP salesmen were great at running the “executive demo”, but anything remotely specific required a call with a consultant (while aggravating in some ways, at least the team that was selling Syteline was more prompt at doing this than anyone else). Lastly, Syteline was the only package that checked all of our “critical” tasks and most of our important ones.

For the implementation itself we relied on the business skills of the great people at KJC Consulting, but for menial technical work we did a lot of that in house. Although we tried working with an earlier build of version 9 CSI, the later 9.1 version that we went live on was much more user friendly in terms of deployment and we had good luck loading all of our data via the grid views in CSI without having to involve outside parties (there were a few minor exceptions to this, notably loading the item stockroom locations via SQL saved a bunch of time for the physical inventory data load).

Although loading the data is fairly straightforward, getting it out of the legacy systems in a format that CSI could digest was quite a bit more work. For this I relied heavily on LINQ and C# to extract and format the data out of JobBOSS (and the notes from JDE; JDE was close enough in formatting that we were able to use spreadsheets to bring over a lot of the data). I dreamed of cleaning up this code to make it more general purpose, but alas, it is a royal mess, full of workarounds, one-offs (huge pieces of the operation line export had to be dumped and rewritten to the needs of the specific plants), and of course known bugs.

Some of it might be helpful though, so over the coming weeks I am planning to put some code snippets up in case anyone finds themselves in the same spot that I was, just on the off chance that it might help.