Essential Upgrade, Surprisingly Painless
Few companies relish the thought of implementing a software upgrade…but it’s not always bad news. Dag Tore Wiulsrød, Manager Logistics at Sensonor AS, shares his experience of moving to the latest IFS version, including the factors that helped to ensure a seamless transition…
Written by Dag Tore Wiulsrød, Manager Logistics at SensoNor AS.
First published on blog.ifs.com, 02.06.2021.
Like most manufacturing companies, we must juggle investment priorities. Being candid, investing in regular upgrades, unfortunately, can’t always be at the top of every company’s to-do list. Certainly, when a solution is working well and it has become business-critical, there’s little appetite to leap at upgrades (with the potential for business disruption) if current needs are being well met. Of course, there’s a price to pay for this: eventually, there comes a point when, as a system version approaches end-of-life, it will no longer be supported. In the case of Sensonor, we faced exactly this scenario.
Precision fabrication ensures future growth
Our business designs and manufactures high-precision tactical grade gyro sensors, gyro modules and inertial measurement units (IMUs) for demanding applications in the Defense, Industrial, Aerospace and Commercial markets. Based in Norway, we run our own wafer fabrication facility producing Micro-Electromechanical System (MEMs) gyro silicon dice. To maximize product reliability (our failure rate is less than 0.1ppm!) we also undertake all assembly, test and calibration processes in-house.
To support this, since 1997, we’ve used IFS Applications; but our last system upgrade (to version 7.5) was a decade ago. Since then, we’ve successfully continued to use the system ‘as-is’. However, the version reached end-of-support and our five-year plan indicated significant business growth that would require the latest software functionality. We knew we had to act and, after reviewing our options, decided to continue using IFS by embracing an upgrade.
IFS had already proved itself to be the best-matched system for our company and our complex production. Speaking to our peers running other solutions, it was clear IFS delivers the same or better functionality but was far easier to implement, configure and use.
Implementation: a surprisingly painless journey
Despite an attractive upgrade proposal on paper, we feared that the implementation would demand a lot of our resources. We had concerns around the time it might take, the potential for business disruption, and the overall cost implications of the project and the small risk it might fail. On the flip side, we knew we had to embark on this journey, not least because security and compliance issues were looming on the horizon.
In spring 2020 we chose our IFS partner, Addovation, commencing work in September. There’s no doubt we made an excellent choice – we couldn’t have completed this upgrade without them.
The technical part of the upgrade went surprisingly well. Even though we had to cycle through several incremental versions, it only took a couple of weeks – far less work than the last upgrade a decade ago. The way IFS runs upgrade projects today is far more standardized. Despite the pandemic and restrictions, COVID didn’t really impact the process. We went live on January 6th, 2021 with modules spanning Finance, Supply Chain, Procurement, Project, Manufacturing, Maintenance, Quality Management and Human Resources.
Business impacts – what we’ve seen so far
Sensonor has historically relied on several locally developed IT solutions and tools, but these have never been integrated with the ERP. For example, our Material Resource Planning (MRP) was reliant on extracting data from the previous IFS system and using it in our own tool. At the time, the specific MRP refinements we needed were not available within IFS.
Now, the new planning modules mean we can use it directly for MRP as well as for production planning, with the option to integrate our legacy tools. We also have access to valuable new functionality to exploit in subsequent phases down the line.
Initially, the biggest business improvement we have seen so far is with the latest IFS Finance module. It’s easier to use and more efficient than our own in-house solution. We’ve moved from manual to automated data entry, have powerful search, and are running reports within IFS instead of creating spreadsheets. It’s significantly boosted financial productivity.
Users were at home with the new system almost immediately, reporting it was easier to use with intuitive interfaces. Whilst some functionality is new, the basics remain familiar and are easily applied. We ran some workshops which also made the transition easier.
Planning an upgrade?
For anyone considering a similar major upgrade within IFS, I would offer the following advice. Firstly, spend time on the testing to be properly prepared. We took almost 2 ½ months but it was time wisely spent: you can never test enough.
Secondly, the technical element is not as scary or daunting as you might think. In our case we faced no significant issues whatsoever. Thirdly, find and engage an experienced, competent IFS partner. They will help ensure deadlines are met and the project stays on-track and provide specialist insight into the modules and functionality you need.
One other observation: always try to keep customization to a minimum. From the first introduction of IFS, we have been careful to keep the core system standard, avoiding the additional complexities and cost that can bring, especially around upgrades.
Looking forward to growth
As we increase revenue year by year, in tandem our product portfolio is growing. This increased complexity demands more sophisticated and standardized production planning, material planning, procurement and logistics capabilities, which we now have as result of the upgrade. It will also give us more control and visibility to serve customers efficiently and competitively. Better integration between material planning, production planning and finance will certainly lead to cost savings and more accurate visibility and reporting of operations.
Finally, we know the ability to create and track key performance indicators with detailed reporting will provide a better total overview of our business. Given it’s a solution that effectively works out of the box, I think the module-based approach from IFS is ideal for companies who need extensive functionality and to deliver value quickly. If you are using an older IFS version, don’t procrastinate. Start planning your upgrade today.
About the Author:
Dag Tore Wiulsrød is Manager Logistics at SensoNor AS. He has worked with Logistics and Procurement at Sensonor since 1992 and has 24 years of experience using IFS in logistics management.