ERP — A continuous improvement resource

By Doyle Sumrall, NTEA managing director

This article was published in the June 2019 edition of NTEA News.

More and more NTEA member companies are entering change mode — actively working to improve their market position in preparation for what’s next during this long-run economic and industry expansion.

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems are a key technology being adopted. With decades of work truck industry experience, I have participated in implementation of several ERP (and other similar) systems and talked with numerous companies about their journey down this path.

Introducing a new technology can be well worth the effort, but isn’t an easy undertaking. The human factor is real — many dedicated individuals worked to create the existing systems that run companies. They feel ownership and pride in them. By their nature, these manual approaches are highly personalized, requiring entry and reentry from person/department to person/department. With ERP systems, you’ll find more information must be entered up front, but reentry needs are nearly eliminated. This is a true cultural shift, which can be challenging to overcome.

Is ERP for me?
The Work Truck Show® 2019 featured an educational session — As a Distributor, is ERP for Me? — where representatives from two NTEA member companies and a thought leader provided their unique perspectives on the topic.

Simon Schroeder, systems analyst and developer at Bob’s Services Inc., is part of an organization that has used such tools for decades and is continually evolving. Jeff Massey, VP/general manager of Buckeye Body and Equipment, has been involved in selecting ERP systems and now oversees implementation. Jason Toschlog, chief innovation officer at Flexware Innovation Inc., helps industries derive insights — not just data — from their systems and, ultimately, realize the productivity improvements they expect from automation.

During his presentation, Massey shared three key insights: (1) Develop a flexible selection plan; (2) Buy it to build; and (3) Bring it online with total involvement. He emphasized these systems offer a multitude of business improvement elements, so it’s important to set implementation priorities based on your company’s needs. Massey said this can be accomplished through creation of a grading system that drives need over want. Using ROI as a constant check helps keep costs in line and ensure you’re on the right path.

Schroeder discussed the decades-long evolution of Bob’s Services Inc.’s single-platform system composed of different modules and interactive software designed to support the life cycle of customers’ make/assemble-to-order requests. He detailed the full integration of activities — managing, building and invoicing orders — an ERP system needs to handle. His presentation concluded with next steps in the company’s quest to provide real-time information throughout the business and enhance continuous improvement efforts.

Toschlog emphasized the need to view ERP as an automation project. He recommended following four key steps (see graphic above), using value stream characterization as a foundation. Toschlog suggested developing improvement philosophies and applying them to all of the steps in this process. He stressed that highly automated processes are difficult and expensive to change. ERP is an active, evolving resource that requires flexibility and full organizational involvement.

While reviewing these helpful presentations, I was reminded an enterprise system is composed of software and procedures — and proper selection and development of this tool is critical to your business. Equally important is to remember it’s driven by the intellectual property (knowledge and innovation) of people in your company.

Visit to view a full recap of the 2019 event and sign up to receive information on the 20th anniversary Show.