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Effective MRP needs senior buy in

Over the past year I have been involved in a number of MRP projects; systems to help drive manufacturing operations. Most of these projects have involved working with businesses that have already done the hard work of specifying, selecting and installing the software. Similarly, staff have been trained – it’s all ready to go live! 

So, if a business is still operating in chaos and / or is not achieving the results needed from a system like this, well there’s a problem! But what is the issue? In my experience it is often lack of ‘buy-in’ to the project by senior members of staff.

And yes, this really does make all the difference.


If senior managers are not involved with day-to-day usage of the system, how can they hold people accountable? By being involved, I don't mean undertaking transactions in the system, i.e. raising purchase orders. I mean that they are involved with the flow of information at some level.

If your senior team aren't 'visible' on the system then you risk a decay of standards for your business. Like the empty warehouse windows that get smashed by vandals when minor repairs aren't dealt with*, a lack of management presence doesn't help good system disciplines to be maintained.
I have heard stories of senior people boasting that they don't use their computer system (because they think that either they shouldn't need to or it’s a badge of 'success'). These stories pervade the organisation and it doesn't help users get enthused.

One method to get over the issue of senior member ‘buy-in’ is to use a Sunrise meeting format. Sunrise meetings are a great way of bringing together key players in the business at the start of each working day. Priority data is pulled together and reviewed. If it isn't right then there is a need for action.

The direct use of an ERP / MRP outputs is a great way testing the quality of your system’s data, as well as helping direct business efforts. When a suite of management reports are part of this mix there is even more opportunity for your senior team to get involved. They will soon realise how well the system is working and the impact this is having.

I remember one occasion during my time in Operations Management. There had been a slow uptake in part of our ERP system. I was struggling to get interest from the teams, to help resolve this, so lobbied my boss. After part education, part exploring opportunities and part begging, I brought him round. The end result was a plan.

My boss decided to stop spoon feeding the shop floor with data and make them become self-sufficient; if they didn't use the system they wouldn't get their information. Their system would work, if only they had a reason to use it. This data then fed our Sunrise meetings and it worked beautifully. Our system became both self-sustaining and effective.

When developing your MRP system it is critical that the right senior people are participating in the right kind of ways. In my experience, the projects that have really been painful have been the ones where the senior team have resisted getting involved. Whether they thought it was beneath them, that they were too busy, or something else, all I can report on are the results. And these are bad when the senior team isn't pro-actively engaged.

Inversely, the projects that have gone (relatively) like a dream, have had the right support from the senior team. They understood the benefits of MRP, what they needed to do to create the right environment for it to work, and also how they can use the system for their own benefit.
The results, as they say, speak for themselves.

If your system isn't where it needs to be, and your senior team isn’t fully engaged, then why not try involving them with a Sunrise meeting and see whether that strategy works?


* If you haven't heard of 'Broken Window Theory' and how it affects disciplines and standards, check out this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Broken_windows_theory


Giles Johnston
...optimising MRP systems and re-engineering business processes