An ERP system implementation is a mission-critical activity that a manufacturing company employee might only experience once or maybe a few times during a career. Such an important responsibility is challenging for anyone without a lot of experience so many companies engage some outside ERP consulting help so that they can benefit from the experience of professionals who have been through the process many times before.
ERP consulting services are offered by the large international accounting firms and their business advisory divisions and subsidiaries, by system hardware and software vendors, and by national, regional and local specialty ERP consulting firms. ERP consulting companies might also offer CRM consulting, technology consulting (systems and networks), and business advisory services as well.
Some veteran ERP experts have created their own ERP consulting jobs by offering their services to the community as independent consultants, relying on direct billing rather than collecting an ERP consulting salary from one of the above-listed entities. Rather than seek work with an established firm, for example, this individual will work independently and may eventually hire additional consultants and build a local or regional firm of their own.
ERP consulting spans a broad range of services and assistance, from basic education and training (e.g., What is ERP? How does MRP work? Basics of inventory control, Plant scheduling, etc.) to software-specific implementation and use advice. A qualification you might watch for is an APICS CPIM or CFPIM certification—certified in production and inventory management or certified at the fellow level in the same disciplines. APICS also offers a Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP) designation.
Generally, a consultant should be able to bring an objective view to your company’s situation and needs and offer sound advice based on experience with other companies facing the same issues and perhaps using the same tools and software.
Most reputable ERP consultants have deep experienced in one or more software systems, having worked with a number of implementations of those systems. The best will also be manufacturing specialists as much as (or more than) software or technology experts. Expertise in the specific software functions and procedures is available from the software supplier and from licensed affiliates. The consultant should be more broadly experienced and objective than someone closely associated with a particular software product.
A consultant is not a programmer and a programmer is not a consultant. Programmers carry out specific tasks, creating, modifying or fixing software programs. Consultants offer advice and may actually specify or design programs but will not execute that advice or write the programs. And that is probably the most important thing to keep in mind about consultants—they should not be tasked with responsibility for any specific implementation task (other than delivering education or training). The future users of the system must take responsibility and ownership of system implementation activities and tasks.